It’s that time of year when love is in the air and the shops have filled their shelves with cheesy gifts. Spoil your Valentine with a weekend away at one of our romantic getaways in Gauteng.
Thanks to the December holiday season, you might be lacking in the leave department. Never fret. Our list of romantic weekend getaways in Gauteng takes this into account – you don’t even have to leave the province to enjoy some peace and quiet with that special someone. Here are some of our favourite spots nearby.
1. Valley Lodge & Spa, Magaliesburg
The award-winning, four-star Valley Lodge & Spa is tucked among towering trees on a private stretch of the Magalies River, just a ‘short right’ after entering the village of Magaliesburg.
We were delighted to find our chalet in a secluded nook near the nature-reserve entrance, with our own river frontage. Our accommodation was surprisingly opulent inside, contrasting with the unassuming exterior – crystal chandeliers, dark wood, faux-fur throws and the modern bathroom, highlight of which was the massive double shower.
After an afternoon lazing at the pool, we enjoyed sundowners on our patio watching African Paradise Flycatchers swoop over the river. Bird life is prolific here and we also spotted hornbills, Hamerkops, and a variety of thrushes and sunbirds during our stay.
As we were within walking distance of the main lodge, we strolled to dinner admiring fireflies dancing on the riverbank and passed a gorgeous country chapel (Valley Lodge is a wedding hotspot). The following day we were pampered at the spa with a couples massage – the perfect way to end a romantic stay.
+2 (0) 14 577 1301; [email protected]
Words Linda Piegl
Since you’ll be in the area, check out the Magaliesberg Ale Trail
2. De Hoek Country Hotel, Magaliesburg
On a misty evening, there’s something Wuthering Heights about the splendid stone mansion of De Hoek, a hotel in the Magaliesberg mountains that could easily star in a romantic novel, as you stroll through the gardens, tramp into the countryside or take afternoon tea on the terrace.
Just over an hour from Johannesburg and Pretoria, it’s ideal for city slickers seeking a quick escape and, with no kids under 12 allowed, is peaceful too.
Its buildings look tastefully old despite being deceptively new, blending olde-worlde charm with modern comforts. Outside the main building there’s a swimming pool and croquet lawn, and inside are lounges, a snug bar, a minstrels gallery with a small library, and twin bedrooms in each wing. For romance, book a superior, deluxe or penthouse suite in the gardens. The meals are a delight, using seasonal produce sourced from the local community. Dinners are candlelit, three-course affairs served in the elegant Conservatory, where the glass doors look out onto the gardens.
De Hoek is close to Sterkfontein Caves and the Cradle of Humankind, and it’s beautiful hiking and biking territory.
+27 (0) 14 577 9600, [email protected]
Words Lesley Stones
Here’s what you need to know about the Magaliesberg
3. Mongena Game Lodge, Dinokeng Game Reserve
You’re advised to book early to secure your chalet on the manicured lawns where zebras graze (the indigenous landscaping is a nice touch).
There’s a lot to do here, on this reserve north of Pretoria. Mongena’s game drives are excellent and, on more than one occasion, I have seen four of the Big Five. Elephant’s often come to drink at the large dam. Sunset boat cruises are also offered, if the water levels on Mongena’s own 28-hectare lake are sufficient, and they’re a must for photographers – look out for Fish Eagles.
The camp itself is not large but is ideal if you simply want to relax. There’s a pool for the kids and the Kingfisher à la carte restaurant, which overlooks a small dam, is perfect for long, lazy lunches or afternoon tea.
+27 (0) 12 711 8920; [email protected]
Words Fiona Zerbst
Since you’re going on a game drive, here are some interesting facts for your time in the bush.
4. Thirsty Falls Guest Farm, Magaliesberg
Switch off all your devices, close your eyes and take in the hundreds of frog croaks and cricket stridulations that welcome you to this remote spot. Open your eyes and view the splendour that is the Magaliesberg Biosphere with the overwhelming presence of the Magalies mountains behind you.
That’s what it’s like at Thirsty Falls Guest Farm, just an hour and a half from Johannesburg (making it the perfect choice for a weekend break close to Johannesburg). Stay in a fully equipped self-catering studio, or one of the bigger cottages dotted around the farm and far away from each other to offer complete privacy. All rooms lead out to patios with stunning views. Jenny Mosley and her husband are gracious hosts. No children under 14 are allowed, so you are assured a peaceful stay, except for the squeaks of the Black Sunbird.
The romance really sets in at night, when a blanket of stars is the only light on this eco farm. The natural pool and beautiful garden provide wonderful relaxation, but there are several trails for the more active couples. Watch your step though, there are African fruit beetles everywhere.
+27 (0) 82 464 7376; [email protected]
Words Carina Borralho
Here are some more nearby Country Escapes all within two hours of Joburg.
5. Askari Game Lodge & Spa, Plumari Private Reserve
A little more than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, Askari offers a romantic, soothing countryside escape to city dwellers who aren’t in the mood for a long drive. I found the surrounding area of Hekpoort slightly depressing at this time of the year, but the kilometres of beige eventually fell away to reveal an inviting lodge at the foot of the Magalies mountain range. Our stay started with a 2.5 hour game drive on which we were so lucky to experience what will probably only happen once – the birth of a giraffe.
After a delicious à la carte dinner, we retired to our deluxe chalet, standard with an en suite bathroom. It was a delightfully undisturbed private space and the lack of sound provided a nice break from hectic city life. I found the room so comforting, I’d actually urge the lodge to rip the provided TV off the wall and remove any other distractions to actively encourage visitors to indulge in as much R&R as possible.
The Askari Spa, on the lodge grounds, is a place of tranquility. It offers a pedicure and manicure lounge, juice bar, swimming pool and hydrotherapy bath. We settled on a 60-minute full-body massage. I’m not one for massages, but my wife told me afterwards that it was the best she’d ever had. As someone who never passes on an opportunity to get a therapeutic rub-down, that’s high praise indeed, which is one of the many reasons we’ve included it in our list of top weekend breaks close to Johannesburg.
+27 (0) 82 416 1340; +27 (0) 83 794 3669; [email protected]
Words Gerhard Horn
A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.