Have the cameras and binocs ready, and head to these flower havens in the countryside.
1. Smithfield Guesthouse, Creighton Valley
The Creighton Valley bursts into a blaze of orange and yellow when aloes of different varieties put on a dramatic display. Diarise July 2018 and book a return steam-train ride from Creighton.
It takes you through the valley, alongside the Ngogwaan River and past thousands of spectacular aloes, so remember your camera. On a recent trip along this route, we chose to stay at Smithfield Guesthouse. It’s on a working farm with dairy-farmer neighbours, so the atmosphere is relaxed and rural.
The homestead dates back to 1906 and features seven double bedrooms, five of which are en suite, and we stayed in one of the en suite garden cottages. Warm, local hospitality, hearty meals and comfortable accommodation made this a memorable visit. A spacious, colourful garden with the Umzimkulu River in the distance made it a serene setting. Local flora ‘fundis’ happily share their knowledge – and this is also birders heaven. Rates ranged from self-catering to full board – I’m pleased we opted for the latter.
+27 (0) 39 833 1029; [email protected]
Words Olivia Schaffer
You also might like: 4 of the Best Backpackers in KwaZulu-Natal (for very Different Reasons)
2. Grasberg Guest Farm, Nieuwoudtville
A stroll around the farm on one of their three trails was my laid-back kick-start to a day’s flower spotting high on the Hantam plateau, known as the bulb capital of the world for the rich diversity of species that open their pretty petals come spring.
This historic farm north of Nieuwoudtville has three self-catering guest cottages, simply and tastefully decorated in country style. The largest has four bedrooms, but I stayed in By-Die-Dam which can sleep a family of four if you use the sleeper couch in the lounge. It has everything you need to braai, including an indoor hearth in case the weather is too chilly outdoors.
The farm is a floral wonderland, with a succession of different blooms as the season progresses. You can drive the farm roads if you have an SUV, or mountain bike and enjoy the added pleasure of spring fragrances filling your nostrils. For entertainment in the evening, go outside and look up.
The bejewelled skies will shock jaded city dwellers with the sheer density of visible stars, and you realise how aptly the Milky Way is named.
+27 (0) 27 218 1228; +27 (0) 83 772 2918; [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
You also might like: Namaqualand’s Flower Secrets
3. Honnehokke Resort, Hondeklipbaai
Six hours from Cape Town and just outside the Namaqua National Park, lies Hondeklipbaai, so named because of the huge stone that resembles a dog (sort of). There are only a few places to stay in town, so booking is essential during the busy flower season, as it’s a long way on a dirt road to any other town.
The chalets are situated on the outskirts of the village opposite the coffee and cake shop, general dealer (basic supplies) and butchery. That’s about it in terms of shops in Hondeklipbaai, so stock up before you arrive. The chalets themselves are whitewashed self-catering units, each with a private braai area and off-street parking.
Six ‘kennels’ are available, catering for between two to six people depending on the unit, with comfortable queen or double beds in the main bedrooms and snug goose-down duvets. Breakfast and dinner can be arranged prior to your arrival. It’s an easy stroll to the beachfront pubs and the famous hound.
It’s important to note that there is no petrol station in Hondeklipbaai, so fill up in Garies or Kamieskroon. Likewise, there are no ATM or credit card facilities, so bring cash for restaurants, etc.
+27 (0) 82 564 5471; [email protected]
Words Ann Gadd
4. The Old Mill, Springbok
The Old Mill Lodge in Springbok is the perfect base for exploring the spring flowers in the Namaqualand area. The rooms are large and comfortable and the lodge feels like home.
The manager, Gerhard Swanepoel, is helpful and friendly, without being invasive. There are 11 rooms, set in a beautiful, lush garden. The outdoor spaces are inviting and the flowing water feature and koi pond give a welcome cool feel in an otherwise hot and dry area. There are also eleven cats and two very friendly dogs to add to the homely atmosphere. Breakfast is served outside in the garden or in the bright and cheerful dining room.
Just behind the lodge, there’s a pathway up the hill. If you make the effort to walk up there you’ll be rewarded with a lovely view of the town and surrounding areas. This is particularly pretty at sunset.
+27 (0) 27 718 1705; +27 (0) 83 494 1976; [email protected]
Words Des Featherstone
Want to know where the West Coast wildflowers are in bloom? Take a look at our flower report.
5. Papkuilsfontein, Nieuwoudtville
Twenty-three kilometres south of Nieuwoudtville, lies a little piece of heaven, Papkuilsfontein. The farm has six accommodation options, ranging from the romantic Rondekraal to the elegant De Lande. We stayed at the open-plan Rondekraal, made of sandstone with a thatched roof.
It has its own pool and indoor fireplace, together with a kraal (used originally to train horses). In season, dinner is served at the restaurant on the farm. An option, however, is to be treated to a delicious two- or three-course meal, delivered to your cottage by the charming Alrie van Wyk.
It’s set out on the table for you, complete with candles. We feasted on tender lamb shanks, beautifully cooked vegetables and rounded dinner off with a yummy chocolate tart. With the warm glow of a fire, and relaxing in armchairs, it was a night to remember. De Hoop and Gert Boom cottages are made of thatch and sandstone (sleeping a family of four and six or two couples, respectively). The farm boasts its own canyon,
San paintings and 100m waterfall. There are hiking and mountain-bike trails and exquisite flower drives on the farm in season. This is an exceptional stay not to be missed.
+27 (0) 27 218 1246; +27 (0) 72 555 1416; [email protected]
Words Ann Gadd
6. The Lonely Planet, Cederberg
I love remote places. The further into nature and away from people, the better.
That’s why I loved The Lonely Planet at Enjo nature farm, about an hour’s drive from Clanwilliam. On arrival at reception, we were handed a bundle of linen and a map to the cottage. Good signs that this would be unusual. A one-kilometre drive on dirt roads brings you to The Lonely Planet. It’s a rustic cottage, all alone, in an unspoilt patch of the beautiful Biedouw Valley in the Cederburg area.
The cottage itself is at the base of a hill, alongside a stream. The only noise is the sound of nature, and the star-filled sky is undisturbed by light pollution. There’s a splash pool built into the rocky hill behind the house, and the stream has shallow pools where tadpoles swim – a great place for young children to explore.
The cottage itself is basic but functional. It has one main bedroom and a loft with two single beds. There’s a fireplace inside for cosy winter evenings and a braai area outside for warm summer ones. This is a great base for flower viewing when the area comes alive with colour during the wildflower season. The rates are very reasonable and no one disturbs you during your visit. It’s a rejuvenating break from city life.
+ 27 (0) 27 470 0055; [email protected]
Words Des Featherstone
You also might like: 5 Unusual Weekend Breakaways for Offbeat Travellers
7. Van Rhyn Guest House, Namaqualand
I find Victorian and Edwardian-style houses so charming and, when they are beautifully restored and sensitively modernised (particularly in the bathroom and kitchen departments), a joy to stay in. So I was drawn to this lovely traditional guest house in the southern gateway to Namaqualand, less than four hours’ drive from Cape Town.
It’s a great base for wildflower sightseeing as many of the back roads in the area burst into bloom come spring. My initial impressions of wonderful small-town hospitality were confirmed at breakfast time when a group of flower tourists asked to see the staff who made up their rooms – and broke into loud applause to thank them for their meticulous attention to detail. Two inner courtyards provide tranquil nooks to retreat to after a busy day’s sightseeing, and the swimming pool offers relief from the heat.
It’s worth arranging dinner as the hospitable hosts are great cooks and will treat you to the district’s wines in a dining room that doubles as a gallery of paintings by local artists (including a nude by a former dominee, said to be ‘painted from his imagination’). Afterwards, retire to the large-screen TV room to enjoy a DVD of your choice.
+27 (0) 27 219 1429; [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead