From the Namaqualand flower bloom to the Eastern Cape, South Africa is a country with a hugely diverse array of flowers, so it’s little wonder that tourists flock to the country simply to get a glimpse of these showers of colour. With all that in mind, we present our favourite places to stay in on flower gazing trips.
Hendrikshof at Van Zijl Guesthouses
Surrounded by carpets of orange and purple flowers, this three-bedroom, self-catering old farmhouse is on the outskirts of Nieuwoudtville (380km north of Cape Town), and is the perfect place to stay when you want to see the famous spring blooms. Owner and bulb fundi Hendrik van Zijl restored it in 1994, but kept charming elements like the old-fashioned kitchen, and we sat outside leaning against the old water tank, enjoying the beautiful countryside. Peacocks strut among the colourful flowers and it’s only a short stroll into town. And don’t forget that this is star central. Clear skies and the darkest dark make for great stargazing. But for me, the best is that there is so much to do right on your doorstep.
Nieuwoudtville is unique in that it’s situated on the Bokkeveld Plateau, with four completely different biomes surrounding it. You think the area is flat Karoo, but then you come across winding roads through passes that lead down to a quiver-tree forest and incredible gorges filled with waterfalls. And everywhere you go there are wildflowers, the most famous being the bulbs that produce geophytes. Be prepared to wish
you had stayed longer. – Sue Adams
Kasteelberg Country Inn & Bistro
You never need an excuse to visit the quaint little Riebeek Kasteel. It’s
a year-round honeypot of eateries, interesting shops and friendly people. But, being midway between Cape Town and the heart of the West Coast flower region, it’s an especially good stop over during flower season. At one time it was a mass of spring fynbos itself, but vineyards, olive groves and dairy farms have for the most part taken over the surrounding area transforming the whole Riebeek Valley into a food-lover’s haven. It’s one of the reasons why French-born Julien Debray, co-owner of Kasteelberg Country Inn & Bistro, who has a weakness for fine food and fresh ingredients, is able to produce such a yummy, ever-changing menu. Together he and co-host, former radio personality Allan Barnard, have created a place that’s homely, warm and welcoming.
The inn sits below its namesake, the iconic Kasteelberg mountain, and faces onto the town square. From the enclosed stoep, with a fireplace at both ends, you can have breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner while you watch the town go about its business. There’s a cosy wee bar, six comfortable unpretentious rooms, and a swimming pool. For flower lovers and hikers, there’s the two-hour Carl Thunberg trail, named after the influential Swedish botanist who first climbed Kasteelberg in 1774, starting at nearby Pulpit Rock Winery. Not one to let grass grow under his feet, Barnard has plans to make some changes – as well as a very special offer for guests serious about hospitality. See their website for full details. – Nancy Richards
Daisy Darling Bed & Breakfast
You’ll find this charming B&B run by husband-and-wife team Fran Sexton and Dave Burger, in the centre of town. Fran’s art lines the walls. We stayed in the Evita Bezuidenhout Sweet Suite (named after Darling’s very own legend Pieter-Dirk Uys), complete with Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl repainted to resemble Pieter-Dirk, and a host of other fun memorabilia.
The house, which was built in 1905, has been lovingly restored while preserving its original character, and all bedrooms have air-conditioning. There is a bar and bistro right next door, and it’s an easy walk to many of Darling’s attractions. The six resident cats are always around to welcome you (yes, you will need to enjoy cats). There’s a lovely pool area – a perfect place to cool off after a day out flower spotting. Darling is situated close to three wildflower reserves – Renosterveld, Tinie Versfeld and Postberg in the West Coast National Park. – Ann Gadd
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When I visited Hogsback for the first time, I was enchanted by the quirky town with its English-style gardens. Set high in the Amathole Mountains, the properties are so hidden in the forests that we almost drove past. We noticed the dazzling display of hydrangeas as we pulled into the centrally located Maylodge, but equally impressive were the magnificent trees – Japanese maples, silver birches, oaks, pin oaks, dogwoods, cherries and conifers provide shade and colour in the leafy park. The lodge has six fully equipped and serviced self-catering cottages, sleeping between two and eight guests, all spaced well apart and private.
We stayed in the quaint one-bedroom, en suite Owl Cottage and when we weren’t exploring the surrounds, we sat out under the trees enjoying the bird calls and the tranquillity of the gardens. Manager Viv Lodge was a fount of information on the town and its attractions, explaining that the Maylodge gardens can be visited year-round, unlike many of the other Hogsback gardens that only open their gates during the annual Open Gardens festivities in October. Listening to her descriptions of Hogsback in spring we were sorry to have missed the azalea extravaganza, but there were striking rhododendrons of various hues to admire.
We promised ourselves to return in spring the following year. We did and were again blown away by the riot of colour and how the garden changed with the seasons. The lodge is pet-friendly and very accessible. It’s a wonderful base for families, the elderly and the not so fit who can gently stroll around or just sit and smell the flowers. – Fiona McIntosh
The Post House
It’s the history of Greyton that initially attracted me, as found in the thick 1860 walls of this historic gem. That and the historical, ridiculously cosy bar where the ‘Get that man a Bell’s’ ad was shot.
But this is flower season, for which we have to get outside. The Post House is on the corner of the main road and a dirt track coming down from Bosmanskloof (where a Khoi chief once held sway). From your bedroom, it’s a short walk to the Riviersonderend Mountains and the 2 200-hectare Greyton Nature Reserve. Here you’ll find the region’s precious fynbos showing off its spring colours. Fynbos comprises the Ericas, Restios and Protea families that attract sunbirds and sugarbirds.
The large variety of plant species and the rich animal life are best accessed via a number of hiking trails in the mountains, some linking Greyton to Genadendal. In March and April enthusiasts come seeking large patches of the colourful Erica tenuifolia and Erica equisitifolia, while a wide variety of other flowers abound throughout the year, especially in spring.
Some thick protea forests are found closer to the Genadendal side of the hike. I recommend you hire Hilton Seekoei from Genadendal as a guide. He’s good company and knows the plants and birds of the area. The village offers tourists everything, from a couple of pizzerias, boutiques, a craft brewery, a cycling hub, and always someone to talk to, whether over a beer or a flat white at the Coffee Pod. – Angus Begg
Pat’s Place Guest House
We eased comfortably into the cosy charm of Suite 4, aptly named Gearings Point after a historic site in this seaside town. The guest house with four suites offers bed-and-breakfast accommodation and there is a choice of self-catering options too. Positioned in the centre of Hermanus, it’s a short walk to shops and restaurants, but we came for the flora. In spring, Hermanus glows with yellow blossoms that burst open in every available vacant space. And close-by Fernkloof Nature Reserve, although home to a fraction of the flora of the Cape Floral Kingdom, is special as many different species can be seen growing close to one another.
Step into the garden and find yourself surrounded by a riot of colour – spurflowers, clivias, African lilies, strelitzias and many other indigenous plants combine comfortably with the exotic vegetation. Taking pride of place is the weeping boer-bean that is native to Southern Africa, its red blossoms attracting countless Cape Sugarbirds, one of six bird species endemic to the fynbos biome of the Western Cape. Our hostess Suzanne is married to a third-generation Clark living on the Pat’s Place property, so there’s history in every corner. – Olivia Schaffer
028 312 2937, [email protected], www.patsplace.co.za