This story was updated on 3 September 2019.
Escape to the countryside for a unique getaway.
With all the Easter holidays and some school breaks falling in April, we thought we’d focus on the family. Here are 9 spots to enjoy some much-needed family time away.
1. Crawfords Beach Lodge, Chintsa East
As I bounced on the trampoline at Crawfords, my childhood memories of holidays at Eastern Cape beach resorts bubbled up – endless swims in warm lagoons, boating adventures, and jostling for a turn on the trampoline with new friends in the gang of youngsters who visited year after year with their parents. Dad went fishing but, for mom, the best thing was the wonderful meals that materialised without her having to set foot in the kitchen. Now that’s real relaxation. And it still is at Crawfords where the Crawford family’s roots in hospitality go back more than 50 years, so they know how to keep guests happy. Mark and Carey Crawford are third-generation owners at Crawfords Beach Lodge, just a short walk through dune forest to the sea. Quality food and friendly service are a given. Apart from the lure of beach walks and swims on the long curve of Chintsa Bay and in the lagoon, activities include tennis and volleyball, dune boarding, standup paddling and surfing lessons with a resident coach. There are programmes with organised activities for kids during the school holidays, and nannies available to babysit. The rest of the time there’s a child minder on duty in the playroom. Or you could just relax at the pool and keep a casual eye open for dolphins, bury your nose in a book in the adults-only lounge, or indulge yourself at the in-house spa. Accommodation ranges from comfy suites for couples, to villas large enough for a family of six. The buffet meals are great value and the sign above the counter in the dining room reads ‘Our happy place’. It was at breakfast that I understood what they’re getting at; it’s the first time I’ve seen slices of rich, dark chocolate cake presented as part of the breakfast buffet.
+27 (0) 43 738 5000;+27 (0) 63 4222 673; [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
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2. Thunzi Bush Lodge, Port Elizabeth
This little gem, set in a coastal forest adjacent to the Maitland Nature Reserve in PE, has plenty to offer, especially for active families. For a start, each (rather large) wooden chalet is in its own exclusive corner of the forest, which means your neighbours can’t hear your boisterous kids. The chalets all have private bomas – enclosed ‘forest rooms’ complete with braais and wooden benches for alfresco meals. When lit up at night, these outdoor rooms are simply magical. There is also a play area with a giant chess set, the Lazy Lizard pool, forest walks, and a couple of frog-filled dams with lily pads, old-school row boats and complimentary sandboards, which are an absolute must if you plan to tackle the enormous sand dunes at Maitland Beach just around the corner. We did and had a morning of sandblasted, windswept fun. Hands down one of the highlights at Thunzi is its picnic menu. Pick a picnic that suits your family’s tastes, and it’ll be delivered – along with blankets and cushions – to a private picnic spot in the surrounding bush. The food is great, and the best part is, you’re off the hook for lunch (and dinner, if you’re lucky).
+27 (0) 72 597 4810; [email protected]
Words Bronwyn Mulrooney
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3. Yellowwood Forest, Morgan Bay
On the river, 1.5 kilometres from Morgan Bay beach, Yellowwood Forest is a gorgeous family getaway. With friendly staff and funky public buildings and signage, the owner-run retreat has a magical feel. While we stayed in a small log cabin, friends chose the Cob Cottage, a large, hand-built, mud house that sleeps four, where they enjoyed the birds and the views from the big upstairs room. Their kids were housed on the ground floor and ran wild on the extensive grounds. A range of self-catering accommodation options – including grassy, shaded campsites, backpacker dorms and quaint huts – cater for different budgets and demands, so it’s ideal for anyone wanting an eco-friendly escape. There’s hiking and canoe and bike hire on site, along with a tea garden serving the best pizzas along our coastline, as well as a range of activities including horse riding, golf, surfing and abseiling nearby. But most holiday visitors seemed happy to spend family time chilling and going to the beach. Out of season, well-behaved dogs are allowed by arrangement.
+27 (0) 43 841 1598; +27 (0) 84 852 2601; [email protected]
Words Fiona McIntosh
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4. Stoffels Rus Self Catering Log Cabin, Hanover
Take the family to the Gariep Nature Reserve in the Northern Cape and relax in the Karoo surroundings. The self-catering log cabin is one of many accommodation options on the property. This quaint house has two bedrooms that sleep four. It is fully equipped for a family, but you can also book meals at the guest house if you want a night off. The owner is a passionate conservationist and declared his farm a nature reserve, which is slowly moving from farming to conservation. Hippo now grunts in the Seekoei River that runs through his property, while buffalo and antelope are abundant. Arrange to go out on a game drive, or watch the wildlife from the comfort of the veranda. For now, much of the game is in large fenced camps to encourage breeding, so youngsters might appreciate the easy viewing. Blue Crane is among more than 200 bird species found on the property. We spotted resident owls in a large tree next to the cottage. Pack your bicycles or explore the farm on foot.
+27 (0) 82 567 9211
Words René de Klerk
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5. Bonnievale River Lodge, Bonnievale
On the banks of the Breede River, Bonnievale River Lodge in the Robertson Wine Valley is a great place to chill with the family. The lodge and campsite are three convenient kilometres from Bonnievale, although as you suntan next to the river surrounded by birdlife aplenty, you could be miles from nowhere. There are grassed and shady campsites along the river bank, with wooden decks on the upper-level sites. We stayed in The Farmhouse that comfortably sleeps five in two bedrooms. It’s spacious, well-appointed and ideal for a family if camping is not your thing. Various other self-catering options are also available. There’s very much a family vibe, with no music allowed, but canoes to hire, a small jungle-gym, donkeys to pet (they like apples), and if you don’t want to swim in the river, there’s a pool. Fish can be caught on a catch and release basis – I watched two large carp being reeled in. The place was teeming with birds when we were there, giving us a beautiful morning chorus. Bring bug spray.
+27 (0) 81 799 2152; [email protected]
Words Ann Gadd
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6. Die Kliphuisie, Bonnievale/Swellendam
We wanted to unplug for a weekend with the family without the intrusion of cellphones or television, and this rustic, pet-friendly cottage proved the ideal escape. Roughly two hours from Cape Town, Die Kliphuisie is on the banks of the Sonderend River, surrounded by the Sonderend mountains. There are several trails on the farm and our mornings started early with a long walk, with Jackson our staffie leading the way. Guests also have the use of a four-man kayak to explore the river, and to fish and birdwatch, but Maria and young Daniel were happiest cavorting on the grass in front of the cottage. Die Kliphuisie sleeps four with a double bed and a sleeper couch in the lounge. The kitchen is fully equipped and there is a fireplace and an outside braai. Although there is no Eskom power, an outside donkey boiler provides hot water on tap. In the evenings we had dinner on the stoep and watched the sunset, before moving inside to do puzzles by candlelight.
+27 (0) 84 517 6853; [email protected]
Words Daniel Olivier
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7. Langebaan Country Estate, Langebaan
Cards on the table, I’m not a golfer. Nor ever likely to be. So when I was invited to join friends at the Langebaan Country Estate famous as a golf destination (18-hole course, 18- and 9-hole mashie courses, driving range, foot golf, Putt-Putt and more), I took along a good book. But one should never make assumptions, and while golf may be the hero sport, a swimming pool, tennis and netball courts, bowling green, bicycle hire and fitness gym are also available. Blow me down if they don’t also have their own Parkrun trail on the property, and host both the annual Weskus Marathon and Mountain Bike Challenge. And although there were no smalls in our party, little ones were well catered for with a dedicated entertainment centre with pool table and other fun stuff, a giant trampoline, outdoor jungle gym and an art and reading room. Quite literally something for every member of the family, and for any not feeling spoilt by sporting choices, there is a spa for pampering. Accommodation is family friendly with fully equipped self-catering, serviced apartments, lodges and suites with television, Wi-Fi, braai facilities and washing machine. If you prefer to eat out, there’s the child-friendly Horizon restaurant and Blaze bar at the Clubhouse, and Breeze Café at the Halfway House. If you fall in love with LCE life, you can also move into one of the permanent residences, and Langebaan the town is just a few kilometres away.
+27 (0) 22 772 2112; [email protected]
Words Nancy Richards
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8. Onrus Caravan Park, Onrus
One visit to Onrus Caravan Park resulted in many more carefree camping holidays at this budget-friendly, wellkept campground. We have recommended it to like-minded family and friends, who have also made return visits. On our last sojourn we took our grandchildren – now they keep asking when we can go back there. The sites are protected from the sea breeze and harsh sun by milkwood trees and dense bush, and are spacious, which means fellow campers’ pegs and guy ropes did not intrude. It’s ideally positioned on the coast, stretching from Haarderbaai to Vermont, giving us many happy hours at Davies’ Pool – a natural, safe rock pool – not even 100 metres’ walk away. On a grass terrace at the beach, there was gym equipment for those who felt the need to exercise while on holiday. Restaurants and shops are close by, as is the cliff path with its spectacular seascapes and rocky outcrops. Fishing, mountain biking and hiking are among the many activities here. Children on roller skates and bicycles made friends with ease, and the camaraderie between fellow campers ensures that, when appropriate, there was no shortage of adult company.
Words Olivia Schaffer
9. Lilla’s Landing, Paternoster
On the white-sand beach of Paternoster, the 8-sleeper Lilla’s Landing is a gorgeous getaway spot for the family and friends. Offloading our baggage from the car on a windy afternoon was easy through the inter-leading door between the garage and downstairs section of Lilla’s Landing – the exercise was weatherproof. All settled, we lit a roaring fire and watched a classic pink Paternoster sunset with one eye. We braaied and sat on the front stoep till late – enjoying the stillness and sounds of the sea very close by. Back in the house, there are two well-appointed bedrooms with a shared bathroom and a guest loo on the lower level. The kitchen is well-equipped and user-friendly, with everything needed at hand, and there are magnificent beach views from the dining table. With the huge stack doors folded back, there is not even glass between you and the beach. Upstairs has two large and comfortable en suite bedrooms with private balconies to enjoy 180° sea views. The house is ideal for beach and sea lovers.
Words Keri Harvey
Looking for more family stays? Take a look at these 5 Best Stays for the Whole Family.