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10 Family-friendly Getaways

10 Family-friendly Getaways

Head out to these family-friendly spots that’ll keep the kids happy and give parents some well-deserved down time.

1. Free State – Oaklands Country Lodge, Van Reenen

A tribe of Great Danes sets the tone at Oaklands Country Lodge. Arriving to find Balloo, Moo, Caesar and Angus in repose on commodious armchairs, or reclining on squashy sofas, you know you’re in a place where relaxation is a priority and families can feel at home. An expansive estate amid majestic scenery, Oaklands is mid-way between Johannesburg and Durban and just seven kilometres from the N3 at Van Reenen, which obviates tiresome backseat cries of, “Are we there yet?” At Oaklands, families are spoilt for choice from fishing to swimming and paddling, horse riding to MTB trails (bring your own bikes) and guided hikes, tennis to bird watching, or simply lounging about with the regal dogs; there is no shortage of facilities and activities to suit all ages and activity levels. There are also childminding/baby-sitting services to give parents a break. Add to that outstanding food and top-notch accommodation in the lodge suites or garden suites and it’s easy to understand why families keep returning to Oaklands. – Andrea Abbott

079 529 2314, www.oaklands.co.za

Moorcroft Manor - dam

2. KwaZulu-Natal – Moorcroft Manor, Underberg

I had the privilege of being at Moorcroft Manor for a birthday breakfast and, while it’s a stately hotel, it’s an ideal breakaway for families in a relaxed, country atmosphere. Children of all ages are welcome and families can choose from one of two suites that have inter-leading doors. There’s also a cottage with two standard rooms and a big lounge. Youngsters can get lost in the safety of the huge park-like gardens, and the Drakensberg is within arm’s reach – well, almost. Travel up Sani Pass to the highest pub in Africa, show the kids ancient Bushmen paintings or take up one of many activities offered for young and old, such as horse riding and flyfishing. Summers here are glorious. Winters can be very cold but underfloor heating and welcoming fires create a cosy ambience. Meals are created from local ingredients, and herbs from the garden. – Olivia Schaffer

033 702 1967, [email protected], www.moorcroft.co.za

Waterberg Cottages Limpopo 3 Country Escapes

3. Limpopo – Waterberg Cottages, Vaalwater

Just two hours from Johannesburg, Windsong, Bushwillow and Butterfly Cottages in the Waterberg cater for family groups from four to eleven. Windsong Cottage, the farm homestead built in the 1920s, offers a mix of antique furniture and modern comforts. The family-sized bedrooms, large stoep and a sunken braai area tick all the boxes for a memorable breakaway. I like travelling in a pack, and booked the charming, thatched Butterfly Cottage nearby, with a double bedroom and two sofa beds, as well as the seven-sleeper Bushwillow House, set in bushveld trees. The young ones headed for the sandpits and trampoline, while the older kids took on the jungle gym and tennis and volleyball courts. But the hit of the weekend was the 15m heated swimming pool. There is also birding, biking, canoeing and a bush walk for the energetic, while I opted for a cultural tour and a visit to the Beadle shop for leather and beaded creations. We also took a Star Tour with owner Philip Calcott who is passionate about the dramatic skies over the Waterberg. – Lisa Martus

014 755 4425, [email protected], www.waterbergcottages.co.za

Taaibos cottage

4. Western Cape – Taaibos Cottage, Knysna

I recently spent a few relaxing days at Taaibos Cottage on the Rheenedal road about 15km from Knysna. The cottage is cute, made by combining three thatched rondavels into a one larger cottage with two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and living room, so plenty space for the family. My favourite spot was out on the large deck with its braai area and views over the valley and indigenous forest. Just beyond the deck is a pool, a trampoline and a sandpit. Owners Caron and Eric have cut a handful of trails on the property and their Bushpig Forest Walk was my best – it dips down below the rim of the forest into the indigenous bush where I’ve been lucky enough to spot the Knysna Turaco. Taaibos is also pet friendly, so well-socialised dogs are welcome to join the resident dogs Lizzy and Sebastian on the smallholding. What I love about Taaibos is that it’s out in the country but close enough to town and several beautiful beaches, the latter another drawcard if you have children. I’ve stayed a few times now and used the place as a base to explore Sedgefield, Wilderness, Buffalo Bay, Brenton on Sea, Plettenberg Bay and the Tsitsikamma. – Shaen Adey

083 463 4495, [email protected], www.sa-venues.com/visit/taaiboscottage/

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5. Eastern Cape – Cedarberg Guest Farm, Cedarville

“Look, it’s a zonkey!” We stared at the creature with stripy legs and donkey ears. “Ag, the male donkey got into the herd after the zebra stallion died,” explained Gerrie Nel, owner of Cedarberg Guest Farm on a 4×4 tour to the top of Cedarberg mountain, highest point in the Cedarville area between Kokstad and Matatiele in East Griqualand. “But now a new zebra stallion has kicked him out.” Another curiosity we spotted in the farm camps was white blesbok. Early risers staying in the cottages in the large farmhouse garden can go count sheep with the staff and help milk cows on this working farm. I was content to sit on the deck of my self-catering unit with a cup of hot tea, watching the waterfowl on a picturesque dam with a small island in the middle of it, with inviting chairs at the end of a rickety footbridge. There’s a playground with a trampoline, a sandpit and a house on stilts. Activities on the 900-hectare farm tucked away in the hills include mountain biking, hiking to a swimming hole in the hills, horse riding on the resident Boerperde, 4×4 trails, game spotting and bass fishing. It has reasonable rates and is also pet friendly, so no one has to be left behind. – Marion Whitehead

083 262 5464, [email protected]www.cedarbergguestfarm.co.za

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6. Western Cape – Dreamscape, Plettenberg Bay

On the border of De Vasselot Nature Reserve, 20km from Plett at The Crags, we discovered Dreamscape, a funky, architecturally interesting, self-catering cottage set in a small, private nature reserve called Kuthumba. We instantly loved the modern, industrial feel of this two-level unit, melding Perspex corrugated panels (folded back, they invite the fynbos in during summer) with wooden walls, beams and decks. Accommodating six, Dreamscape is open-plan so it’s perfect for families – on an upstairs platform, a net-draped, four-poster bed and Jacuzzi-style bath share space with a sleeper couch; downstairs a room has two single beds. We toasted the sunset to a soundtrack of chittering birds (listen to nightjars, look out for Narina Trogon) with a glass of sparkling on the upper deck, gazing across the treetops. The next morning, our choice was a nature walk or a dappled forest hike to Nature’s Valley beach, but The Crag’s adventure activities and animal sanctuaries are also close by. – Mariëlle Renssen

083 267 9046, [email protected], www.plett-self-catering-dreamscape.co.za

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7. Limpopo – Sefapane Safari Houses, Phalaborwa

Set on the doorstep of the Phalaborwa Gate to Kruger National Park, Sefapane is a great option for a family bush break without the crazy price tag. The lodge has everything you need to keep children happy – my friends sent their kids off to fish in the dams, ride their mountain bikes and spend hours at the playground with a slide splashing into the kids pool. During school holidays, Sefapane sets up a calendar of children’s activities so that parents can have some down time at the main pool and Calabash Grill restaurant. Twenty Safari Houses are built alongside farm dams in gardens with large bushveld trees and abundant bird life. Sleeping between six and ten, this bush home is built for lazy days spent on the wraparound veranda with its spacious outdoor living and dining areas. But, of course, the main attraction is the lodge’s proximity to Kruger Park with Sefapane offering game drives, bush walks, mountain-bike safaris, bush braais and river safaris. We chose to set our own schedule for a self-drive into Kruger Park for a day of game-spotting and then headed to the animal rehabilitation centre. Sefapane gives you the freedom and fun of a resort with the excitement of the Big Five – a perfect family bush break. – Lisa Martus

015 780 6700, [email protected]www.sefapane.co.za

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8. Western Cape – Woodlands, Between Knysna and Sedgefield

Garden Route gems are precious finds, especially those secreted away from busy towns. Woodlands self-catering is just such a place. Between Knysna and Sedgefield, on the edge of a stretch of indigenous forest, it offers a family suite that sleeps four and has ample room, a braai and deck overlooking the forest. The kitchen is fully equipped with every modern convenience and free WiFi. One additional bed and a travel cot can be set up on request. Having
a forest as a backyard is a highlight, especially for kids. I discovered a short trail that meanders down to the stream and circles back to the guest house. Woodlands is perfectly situated for exploring the area’s quaint country stores and tea gardens, and the Goudveld Forest, where ancient Outeniqua yellowwoods reach skyward and bird life is plentiful. In the forest, explore, cycle, and picnic among the trees – tell the kids to keep their eyes open for the elusive forest elephants. Pets are welcome by prior arrangement. – Ron Swilling

044 388 4626, [email protected], www.woodlandsknysna.co.za

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9. Western Cape – Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve, Outside McGregor

On a hot summer’s afternoon, even the hardy mountain bikers had parked off under the trees for a lazy braai at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve outside McGregor. I strolled along the short hike to the bird hide on a dam, drawn on by signboards with titbits of info about this bit of the endangered Robertson Karoo biome. The tranquillity of Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve, home to 175 species of birds, is its main attraction, and the good news is that you don’t have to leave at the end of the day anymore as CapeNature recently launched four guest cottages. The spacious four-bedroom houses sleep up to eight, they all have thatched roofs and air conditioners. Two cottages have spa baths on the stoep. With the thermostat turned low, they provide welcome relief from the summer heat, while in winter they’ll be a warm treat from which to toast the sunset. Both Robertson and McGregor’s many restaurants and attractions are a short drive away. For kids, a drawcard is the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary just up the road. You can’t miss the sign outside, reading ‘Eat Bray Love’. – Marion Whitehead

021 483 0190, [email protected], www.capenature.co.za

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10. Limpopo – Motswere Guest Cottage, Near Thabazimbi

The secluded, self-catering Motswere Guest Cottage is in the heart of the Marakele National Park. Fully furnished, it has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a veranda and braai area. Wildlife is the drawcard here – we were lucky to see a large male lion prancing around as we arrived. Don’t worry, the cottages are securely fenced and kids can run around. This unit is about 27km from reception and is ideal if you want privacy and to be away from noisy tourists. Note that a 4×4 or a car with a high ground clearance is needed to get here. – René de Klerk

014 777 6928, www.sanparks.co.za

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