This story was updated on 23 July 2019.
For a city dweller, the greatest escape is to the rustic charm of a remote farm. Here are some of our favourite farmstays.
1. Karoo Ridge Conservancy, Between Middelburg & Steynsburg
En route to the Karoo Ridge Conservancy, my beloved and I had grand plans to quickly unpack our stuff and immediately set out on a hike. But when we got there we sat on the veranda of the Karoo-style homestead and stared into the distance. Consumed by the silence on this game and cattle farm, and by the setting of the homestead that we had all to ourselves, we sat there for hours, looking out for resident Ngunis, mountain reedbuck, springbok, gemsbok, zebra, red hartebeest and kudu. The guest homestead has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen leading onto an open-plan living area, as well as a veranda with braai facilities. We chose the self-catering option but there is also a catered option with three meals a day. Children and dogs are welcome, and it’s well worth the drive to get there if you love the Karoo.
+27 (0) 87 808 2792; [email protected]
Words Heather Dugmore
2. Olivewoods B&B, Near Cookhouse
It’s an odd and wondrous experience to stay on a Karoo farm that is set high on a hill and deep in a forest. From the road into Olivewoods farmstead, you can glimpse where you’ll be staying – a mere flash of gabled grace among the lush gardens and thick indigenous woodlands of the Boschberg mountains that link Cookhouse and Somerset East. Farmer Brett Wienand is the sixth generation in this district. Most of his work happens down below, on the flatter lands where sheep and citrus thrive. His wife Wendy is a casually excellent chef, and it’s a real treat to eat Karoo lamb while gazing down at the mesmerising view through a frame of green trees. You can stay at the spacious Olive Cottage, which sleeps four and has self-cater options, but there are also several large en-suite bedrooms in the house, in a separate wing. Either way, you’d be silly not to have at least one meal to sample Wendy’s cooking. And the walk up the forest road onto the open plateau at the top is pure natural therapy.
+27 (0) 82 579 5084; +27 (0) 42 243 3533; [email protected]
Words Julienne du Toit
3. Beverley Country Cottages, Dargle
If you appreciate history, value serenity and wide country spaces, this piece of paradise is for you. While the original, stone farmstead dates back to 1913, it was here, in 1847, that the Irish settler Thomas Fannin bought land. Today Kate and Garry Kelly open their relaxed, country lifestyle to those who prefer to journey along roads less travelled. From four well-appointed, self-catering cottages and two comfortable bed-and-breakfast rooms we chose The Dairy Cottage that overlooks a scenic valley. Step out of the two en-suite bedrooms into a central open-plan lounge, kitchen and dining area – and there’s a log fire that promises to beat any chilly night. On request – and at little extra cost – we had dinner and breakfast served in our cottage. Nguni cattle, stately horses, as well as friendly pigs, dogs and fowls add to the ambience of this place you’d like to call home. The Midlands also has activities to suit all persuasions, from picturesque landscapes and prolific bird life to country cuisine and arty crafts, and there’s no better place than this peaceful farm after an exhilarating day of exploration.
+27 (0) 33 940 0972; +27 (0)82 895 4002; [email protected]
Words Olivia Schaffer
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4. Glenside Farmhouse, Winterton
A real farmstay holiday should be on a working farm, where the farmer goes about growing crops or rearing livestock, allowing you a glimpse into everything that goes into bringing food to the supermarket. Glenside is such a farm, where beef cattle roam the grasslands and wheat dances in the wind. The family has lived here for more than 100 years, and the farmhouse dates back to those early days. We stayed in the gracious, comfortable home with high ceilings and wooden floors. It sleeps eight in spacious style, while a wraparound veranda is the perfect place for meals or afternoon tea. Hot summer days can be spent tubing down the river or picnicking on its banks as we did, while birders will be amazed at the variety of species, from babblers to vultures. For mountain bikers there are kilometres of roads on the farm and in the district. We opted to follow cattle tracks over the hills, keeping a lookout for reedbuck or jackals as we pedalled. Just be warned – as a guest you might just be asked to help chase cows out of the mealies.
+27 (0) 84 699 1089; [email protected]
Words Stephen Smith
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5. Mount Park Guest Farm, Southern Drakensberg
As carefree campers, a friend and I often find ourselves in weird or wonderful places and the Midlands offers plenty of both. On this trip our find was wonderful – a 344-hectare beef farm at the foot of the Inhlosane Mountain. Self-catering accommodation here ranges from the well-shaded caravan site with electrical points, to a 100-year-old, eight-bedroom farmhouse; Yellowwood Cabin; Rose Cottage; and two cabins on the bank of a stream. A variety of bird species fascinated us as we strolled along on one of the many, marked walks around the farm. It took us through the property’s indigenous forest, home, we were told, to the rare tree dassie (Dendrohyrax), whose call can be heard at night if you listen very carefully. We weren’t so lucky. Trout fishing is a popular pastime in the Midlands and a small dam provides the opportunity for keen fishermen to cast a line and wait for a bite. This fairyland of green pastures, forests and wetlands is an ideal base from which to explore the renowned Midlands.
+27 (0) 33 234 4601; [email protected]
Words Olivia Schaffer
6. The Herb Cottage, Magoebaskloof
At the heart of a working avocado, macadamia nut and herb farm, nature lovers can find The Herb Cottage. This beautiful four-sleeper takes you off the beaten track and into a lush setting where fragrant acres of rocket, fennel and coriander give way to indigenous forests and the mountains of Magoebaskloof. We unpacked books and hiking boots, unsure of which way the mood was going to take us… a stroll through the herb garden and clouds of butterflies, or a hike along the river to get a look at the elusive samango monkey in the forest? In the end, the tranquillity and silence beckoned and the afternoon was spent in holiday position on a lounger alongside our private plunge pool, pretending to read the latest page-turner while the potjie, brimful with fresh parsley and thyme, slowly simmered on the braai. Two en-suite bedrooms with views of green gardens make it a perfect getaway spot for a family or two couples. If there are just two of you, the Herb Hideaway is a smaller, cheaper option. The decor is clean and classy and I fell in love with the beautiful mirrors made on site at the Glass Art Studio Workshop. – Lisa Martus
+27 (0) 82 335 6803, [email protected]
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7. Mosaic Guest Chalets, Modjadjiskloof
The lush, sub-tropical, kibbutz farm, Alon, in Modjadjiskloof near Tzaneen, lies between the misty mountains of Magoebaskloof and Modjadji. When you book, explain what you are looking for in terms of accommodation, as there are various options for a couple or family and some cottages are more private while others are more central. I fell deeply in love with the soulful views and the funky decor, from delicate glass chandeliers to bright and bold canvas paintings and wall murals. Alon farm has fruit and avocado trees, macadamia and pecan nuts, as well as an organic vegetable and herb garden. I took a walk around the Crown Coffee plantation, 1 000m metres above sea level, with Peter Nel who is justifiably proud of the rich, wild flavour of his artisan coffee, and we had timed our visit to enjoy a music and dance extravaganza at the breathtaking Mosaic Restaurant. From the wooden platform in the branches of the sprawling fig tree or from the pool deck outside, you can see forever into the Lowveld, with a ring of mountains in the distance. It seems the perfect place to celebrate life.
Mosaic Guest Chalets
+27 (0) 83 625 6515; [email protected]
Words Lisa Martus
8. Akkerboom Country Cottages, Tradouw Valley
There are three things I really crave in self-catering accommodation – a beguiling view, well-equipped kitchen and seriously comfy beds. Akkerboom Cottages is on a fruit farm with views to distant peaks at the top of Op De Tradouw Pass. There are three cottages each with a double bedroom en suite, and they tick all those boxes. They are also a great base for exploring Route 62.
There is the friendly Akkerboom Trading Post nearby for meals and for tastings of Star Hill Wines. A stay in the nearby five Killarney Cottages for rainbow trout fishing on three still water lakes is an enticing alternative. At Akkerboom we watched the clouds scudding over the Langeberg mountains at sunset, and enjoyed a blissful night’s sleep, and most certainly will go back.
Akkerboom Country Cottages
+27 (0) 73 126 8907; [email protected]
Words Marianne Heron
9. Middelvlei Wine Estate, Papegaaiberg
The friendly folk at Middelvlei wine farm have a soft spot for wallabies. It’s not that they’re unpatriotic or that they don’t support the Springboks. But these miniature kangaroos are part of the farm menagerie that keeps guests (young and old) entertained, along with the more usual chickens, ducks, potbelly pigs, pygmy goats and tortoises. Middelvlei is famous for real boere-braai lunches at its farm restaurant and wine tasting centre, right on the edge of the Stellenbosch urban sprawl. Not many people realise there’s a small cottage to rent, tucked away behind the lovely old farmhouse. Momberg Cottage used to be a potato shed, farmer’s wife Jeanneret Momberg told us. Not that you’d know it; inside the one-bedroom unit is a large living area with a huge fireplace, kitchenette and an extra bed. It’s at one end of a long lawn; at the other end is an inviting swimming pool where you can lounge with a good book, a good glass of wine from their cellar and in the company of the farm’s friendly hounds.
+27 (0) 21 883 2565; [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
10. Outeniqua Moon, Near Mossel Bay
Just inland from Mossel Bay at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains, Outeniqua Moon is a unique farmstay on a working Percheron farm, heaven for horse lovers, especially if you love huge working horses. Everything here revolves around the Percherons and guests can take Percheron-drawn cart trips or riding lessons. We opted to walk among the grazing Percherons with owners Peter and Christine Watt, as they explained the importance of these equines to farmers in the days before machines. While they’re enormous, they’re docile because they’ve been hand-reared and are treated with kindness. A beautiful experience for us was to have Percherons lie down with their heavy heads in our laps. Outeniqua Moon has both self-catering and catered accommodation on the edge of the Percheron paddocks – so when you wake up the horses are right there, just a short walk through the wild garden where even the decorative fountain features a Percheron. Accommodation is cosy, comfortable and well appointed. Hiking, biking, birding and swimming in the chemical-free pool are also options, but most likely the Percherons will captivate you as they did us.
+27 (0) 44 631 0093; +27 (0) 82 564 9782; [email protected]
Words Keri Harvey
11. The Pastorie, Riebeek-Kasteel
The Du Toit family bought The Pastorie from the Dutch Reformed Church nearly 40 years ago. In 2010 they renovated and transformed it into one of the most beautiful and decadent accommodations in Riebeek-Kasteel. Set in the vineyards of the Du Toit’s renowned wine and olive farm Kloovenburg, The Pastorie is wrapped in brookie lace and is a taste of a bygone era of opulent living. Victorian in structure and classic French in texture, its three en-suite bedrooms take self-catering to new heights. Oh to live on a wine estate… and we could pretend we did for a few nights. By day we ambled among the vines and down the hill into the village of Riebeek-Kasteel, where an array of enticing restaurants, coffee shops and confectionery spots waited. Or we lounged alongside the vast pool edged by roses and added Kloovenburg wine and olives to our sundowners for the full experience. By night we were cocooned in our decadent air-conditioned suite, wrapped in cotton linen. It’s a visit we’d like to repeat as soon as possible.
Visit Rooms in Riebeek to book.
+27 (0) 72 596 6239; [email protected]
Words Keri Harvey
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12. Rietfontein Guest Cottages, Agulhas National Park
If you’re like me and love the idea of being far from noise and activity, Rietfontein Guest Cottages in the Agulhas National Park are the perfect choice. Dating back to the 1740s, Rietfontein is one of the oldest Strandveld farms – the original wall around the property still stands today. I was only too happy to give up the sea view from the main rest camp for the seclusion that comes with this accommodation. About 63km from the park reception in L’Agulhas, it’s great for families or groups. There are four two-bed units, each with their own bathroom and kitchen facilities, and solar panels for lighting, gas for cooking, the fridge and hot water. The property is a birder’s paradise with the fynbos habitat attracting many species. Rietfontein se Baai is only 4km away and is great for fishing or spending time next to the ocean.
028 435 6078; [email protected]
Words René de Klerk
13. Varkenskraal, De Rust
Designed in typical Cape style, this modern cottage on a pretty farm of onions, pumpkins and vines is set against a hill with sweeping views of vineyards, a dam and browsing Brahman cattle. The open-plan, double-volume space has a lounge/kitchen and en-suite bedroom on the ground floor and two single beds up a curved flight of stairs on the upper level. Clay floor tiles, white linen and bright graphic-print cushions give the cottage an uncluttered, airy feel. Varkenskraal Farm is sandwiched between De Rust and Meiringspoort’s soaring cliffs, so there is much to explore. Walk on the farm (kudu and wild pig hide in the kloofs), then enjoy breakfast in De Rust at the Village Trading Post. After peeking into craft shops, drive through the awesome sandstone walls of the poort, stopping to walk the short trail to the waterfall. Meiringspoort is also a gateway to Prince Albert, with its famous dairy, wine and olive farms.
+27 (0) 44 241 2352; +27 (0) 82 452 7061; [email protected]
Words Mariëlle Renssen
14. Weltevrede Wine Estate, Bonnievale
The late afternoon’s golden hour somehow appears more alluring from the stoep of a cottage with a view of vineyards sloping down to the lazy, meandering Breede River. I couldn’t resist taking my camera for a walk along the historic canal that runs through Weltevrede, carrying life-giving water to the nearby dorp of Bonnievale. I was rewarded with bright blooms of red roses enjoying the warm, dry climate of this valley of wine and roses. Weltevrede farm itself is pretty historic. The four well-equipped, self-catering cottages overlooking the canal include Bonnievale founder Christopher Forrest Rigg’s original cottage. Plus winemaker Philip Jonker is the fifth generation of his family to farm here and is still producing vintages from vines his oupagrootjie (great-grandfather) planted. A wine tasting in the atmospheric, old, underground cellar by candlelight kindles romantic notions about wine farms. The restaurant at the tasting centre serves light lunches and cheeseboards, and is also open on Friday and Saturday evenings. After wandering around the farm, I was happy to enjoy the sunset from the stoep of my cottage. This is definitely the right setting to enjoy a bottle of one of Phillip’s fine Chardonnays with your braai.
+27 (0) 23 616 2141; [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead