Where the wind’s in their hair, the grass beneath their paws and the freedom of the countryside within their grasp.
Take a look at these seven pet-friendly stays that have all been tried and tested by our contributors.
1. Mountain View Country Guest House, Cradock
Just 24 kilometres outside the historic town of Cradock, Eastern Cape, is Spekboomberg Farm, a working Karoo farm that offers a break from the city, and where pets are welcome by prior arrangement. Our suite had a sitting area with all the mod cons like coffee facilities, bar fridge, complimentary Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV. There are family options at the lodge as well. We opted to cater for ourselves, but if you don’t feel like cooking, you can eat at the lodge. Relax next to the swimming pool, walk on the farm, explore the 4×4 trail on the property, or simply take in the surroundings. Wildlife abounds, including kudu, nyala and other small antelopes, and birders won’t be disappointed – keep an eye out for blue cranes. The Mountain Zebra National Park is a 20-minute drive away.
+27 (0) 82 464 1575; +27 (0) 87 550 1977, [email protected]
Words René de Klerk
2. Outsiders, Nieu-Bethesda
There are certain spots in this world where you can take your dog and relax, ramble slowly around quiet dirt streets, get on nodding terms with the locals, and listen to lambs bleat in the distance. Nieu-Bethesda is such a town. There’s a live-and-let-live vibe here. They tolerate dogs in certain pubs and restaurants. There’s an Honesty Shop along one of the streets. You’re welcome to explore the interesting old cemetery. There are even occasionally running water furrows (leivore). Dogs, especially our hairy German Shepherd dog called TwoPack, love that kind of amenity. He was utterly charmed. Your on-site hosts at Outsiders B&B (two en suite rooms) are Katrin and Ian Allemann, long-time Nieu-Bethesda residents. Their rooms are stripped-down, classy simplicity with comfortable beds, good linen and locally-made craft lamps. If you need a place to unplug and unwind with your dog, this is it.
+27 (0) 49 841 1642; +27 (0) 72 742 7113; [email protected]
Words Julienne du Toit
3. Starry Nights Guest House, Nieu-Bethesda
On the northern (and some might say rather art-heavy) edge of Nieu-Bethesda, you’ll find Starry Nights Guest House, with artists Bronwen and David Langmead to host you. Nearby are nationally famous ceramicists Charmaine and Martin Haines of Ware on Earth. The Road to Mecca playwright Athol Fugard used to live around here too. It’s walking distance from the Bethesda Art Centre with its magnificent handmade tapestries and, of course, the Owl House and the Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre. Many establishments around the town (with the firm exception of the latter two) are pet friendly, as is the guest house. There is a large shared garden, but Bronwen will point out the walks around the village. Her dog Xena may come along if her company is wanted. There are also free-range donkeys, horses, goats and chickens, so take along a leash. Bronwen says that, apart from dogs, “Starry Nights has welcomed a cat on a leash, two parrots and even a tame tree
squirrel who nibbled on a side-table.” The guest house consists of two large, open-plan units with verandas and braai areas looking out onto the garden. And apart from comfortable beds and fully equipped kitchens, you’ll find stunning views of the Compassberg in the distance.
Starry Nights Guest House
+27 (0) 71 875 8521; +27 (0) 83 442 7734; [email protected]
Words Julienne du Toit
4. Houtenrus, Tonteldoos
Here’s an ideal getaway, only three kilometres from the village of Tonteldoos which is just across the border in Limpopo. Don’t expect five-star luxury in this rustic, self-catering, family cottage, but you’re in for five-star hospitality and solitude on a beautiful working farm. We were entertained by bleating sheep and a whistling shepherd, the barking of JoJo the trainee Border Collie puppy, and rolling hills as a backdrop to the crops and cattle of the farm. Our cottage had a main bedroom, a smaller bedroom with a bunk bed, a bathroom and an open-plan sitting, dining and kitchen area with a TV (no DStv) and plenty of games and books. We loved the large porch with a pool table and braai. The large garden is fenced so dogs can roam free, but they’re welcome to join you on jogs and walks around the farm, as long as they’re on a leash. There are kilometres of cycling tracks and a rock pool for swimming. Adjacent to the farm is Verloren Vallei Nature Reserve, a breeding ground for a variety of cranes regularly spotted here. We were lucky to see the Blue Crane and the Grey Crowned Crane on one of our walks. If you’re looking for a bit of ‘high life’, bustling Dullstroom is 37km away.
+27 (0) 82 552 2609; [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
4. Ambleside Cottage, Stanford
We – and our best friend Lady – were looking to escape the madding crowd and were delighted to find Ambleside Cottage, the perfect country getaway. Our self-catering cottage had a comfortable, airy bedroom with a queen-size bed, large bathroom and open-plan kitchen with dining area, and was set in a large, picturesque garden. Our warm-hearted hostess Elsa lives on the property and is available to help with anything. A private entrance, safe parking, spacious veranda and friendly dogs added to our few carefree days. Although in the peaceful part of town – next to the historic Mill Stream – first-class restaurants, shops and the river were all close by. Being adventurous travellers, we enjoyed exploring the Overberg region with a variety of activities, from wine tasting along the renowned Hemel-en-Aarde wine route, as well as gin and craft-beer tastings in the district. There’s also hiking, and whale watching (in season). It’s a place you could call home. Pets are welcome by prior arrangement.
+27 (0) 72 274 4005; [email protected]
Words Olivia Schaffer
5. Roam Private Game Reserve, Swartberg
It’s not every day that a private game reserve opens its doors to pets, which is why Roam Private Game Reserve is such a treat. The 5 000-hectare reserve at the foot of the Swartberg mountains in the Great Karoo has a safari lodge and tented camp along with the pet-friendly Manor House. Spacious and luxurious, with plenty of room inside and out for happy hounds, the self-catering Manor House has three large en suite bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen and lounge with fireplace. Its expansive stoep has a braai and firepit, and splendid views across the Karoo plains and the pool is bliss in the heat. Set as it is in a quiet, fenced-off corner of the reserve away from its resident cheetah brothers and other large game, your pets can be off leads. You also have access to walking and mountain-biking trails (pets on leads in demarcated areas only). The game drives, interpretative bushwalk and the rather daunting excursion of tracking cheetahs on foot – which was
thrilling, just a tad scary – are some of the activities at Roam Private Game Reserve.
+27 (0) 21 712 5284/5; [email protected]
Words Bronwyn Mulrooney
7. !Khwa ttu, Yzerfontein
The first time we stayed at !Khwa ttu, the San Centre up the West Coast, it was in the aptly named Bush House tucked away in an isolated spot in the veld surrounded by nature. The peace and quiet of evenings on the stoep around a braai fire was matchless. A dog at the feet would have made it heaven. The second time, a group of us were in the Guest House up near the Visitor’s Centre, on the crest of a rise with a sweeping view of the wild landscape. On a more recent visit, we stopped for lunch at the old stone restaurant and to visit the carefully curated and designed new Heritage Centre, a combination of three buildings telling the San story. At the entrance and in the restaurant gardens were small watering holes with a tiny tap and a dog statue indicating where to slake your pet’s thirst. So like all other creatures at this soul- and spirit-restoring centre, the name of which means ‘water pan’ in the extinct |Xam language, your Rover is also welcome. Provided, of course, that he/she is well behaved and on a leash if you go walking on the indigenous plant trails, as there are plenty of other animals – eland, springbok, zebra, blue wildebeest, ostrich – on the property. Activities here include e-biking, and one of the twice-daily guided tours that give you an insight into the life, culture, heritage, knowledge and skills of the San people. There’s also a five-tent Bush Camp for the more adventurous.
+27 (0) 22 492 2998
Words Nancy Richards