What if Buster also wants to pack up and head out on the open road for a weekend away from it all? Simple. Just take him along to any of these pet-friendly country escapes.
1. Western Cape – Bonnievale River Lodge, Breede River Valley
The verdant Valley of Cheese and Wine is blessed with the Breede River as it flows through vineyards and groves around Bonnievale. It’s the kind of scenery that makes you want to stop and stay awhile, and Bonnievale River Lodge, fronting invitingly onto a tranquil stretch of water 3km from the town centre, provides the perfect excuse.
Happily it is pet friendly so the family can stay here with lots of space for kids and dogs. Set amid shady lawns and vineyards, the elegantly furnished farmhouse offers self-catering for four, while adjoining smaller suites can either be rented separately or for a group.
It’s a perfect riverside retreat with individual braai areas, a swimming pool in the vineyard and fireplaces for cold nights. You can hear poultry clucking nearby (safely fenced off) and there are donkeys to amuse the children. Fishing, birding, canoeing, river cruising and wine tasting are just some of the activities in the area. – Marianne Heron. www.bonnievaleriverlodge.co.za
2. Western Cape – Good Hope Farm, Robertson
One of the problems with owning a pet is that I cannot just spontaneously head out of town for the weekend. So pet-friendly places are always on my radar. A recent discovery was the Good Hope Farm on the slopes of the Riviersonderend Mountains, in the Robertson Valley. It’s clear as you drive in that owners Taryn and Tienie love animals. Chickens cluck around the farmyard, magnificent thoroughbred racehorses gaze at you from the stables and Tienie’s shadow, Seun, the resident English setter, soon comes to introduce himself to guests, particularly tail-wagging ones.
The mountain cottages, at the base of a lovely kloof with a waterfall and Bushman paintings, have their own lapa and pool area. They are some distance from the farm buildings, and are generally the preferred location for dog owners. However, pets are welcome at the cottages overlooking the dam if they do not chase the chickens, sheep and other locals. The weekend before we stayed there, Good Hope hosted a wedding at which the couple’s best man was their Border collie. Need I say more? – Fiona McIntosh. www.goodhopefarm.co.za
3. Western Cape – Enjo Nature Farm, Cederberg
In the middle of the Biedouw Valley, 3½ hours from Cape Town, the dog- and child-friendly Enjo Nature Farm is a wonderful escape. The scenery on the drive in, through the rugged landscape and bizarre rock formations of the northern Cederberg, is dramatic at any time of year, but if you go now you’ll be treated to the spring flower display for which the valley is justly famous.
The accommodation consists of five rustic, self-catering cottages at the river. They’re nothing fancy (although you have everything you need), but owner Andrea Conrad makes a stay here really special with her warm welcome and attention to detail – like her handmade bedcovers and (on request) home cooking.
You can wander through the flowers with your pooch, wallow in the river or the farm pool, hire a mountain bike or hop in the car and bumble south out of the valley and down the rough gravel road to the mission village of Wuppertal. – Fiona McIntosh
Woodlands Country Cottages in Kenton-on-Sea is set in a 12-acre fairy garden of indigenous trees, ferns and pretty paths. Within this, there are seven self-catering cottages and holiday houses of various sizes, including a lovely converted pottery studio.
All the lodgings are quite secluded, with wooden decks where you can relax with sundowners, and do some bird watching. You’ll also find romantic outdoor boma baths and the odd hammock. There is a Blue Flag beach at Kenton that doesn’t welcome dogs, but it only takes up a limited section.
For the rest, there are kilometres of golden sand with strange rock formations that are wonderful to explore. Ask about other activities like fishing, canoeing or river cruises. Obviously, your dog needs to be socialised because there are other animals about. Animals are welcome to sleep inside, but not on the furniture. Bring their bedding and food bowls. – Julienne du Toit
5. Western Cape – Blackburn Ravine, Table Mountain National Park
The beautiful indigenous forest in Blackburn Ravine is the highlight of this gentle 5km walk on the mountains overlooking Hout Bay. It’s ideal for dog walkers – there’s even a pooh-bag dispenser at the start. The trail starts at East Fort car park, just before the tollgates on Chapman’s Peak Drive.
The fort itself is worth a quick look before you head up the steps and turn left onto a wide gravel path that climbs gently then contours through magnificent fynbos, around the mountain towards Chapman’s Peak. Once in the ravine there’s a weir for your dog to lap from while you rest in the shade and enjoy the forest and the birds before reversing the route to your car.
Dog walkers require permits for Table Mountain. These are available at major Cape Town Tourism Information Centres, the SANParks office in Tokai and at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre in the Cape of Good Hope section of the park. – Fiona McIntosh
6. Western Cape – Red Stone Hill Holiday Farm, Between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp
Red Stone is situated between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp in the foothills of the Swartberg mountains. As you leave the R62 towards the farm, you enter a landscape of red rocks and lush vegetation. The road that meanders through this beautiful scenery creates the anticipation of a holiday away from it all, and that’s exactly what we got.
The comfy, spotless cottages are far from each other, and the farm is frequently visited by experts in insects, birds, plants and geology, who all contribute to the fascinating information available to guests. There are lovely walks, a sparkling swimming pool, and you can ride the farm horses. Pets are more than welcome in the cottages (except the bedrooms) as long as they’re friendly and don’t chase the resident ostriches. – Petra Vandecasteele
7. Eastern Cape – Die Tuishuise and Victoria Manor, Cradock
There’s a friendly hotel dog called Lambert you may meet as you walk into the reception area of the Victoria Manor to check in. He’s a Dalmatian but his markings are in reverse – white spots on black, except for his tail. Even before Lambert began living his rather charmed life in this street of candy-striped Victorian cottages and the 1850s hotel in Cradock’s Market Street, Die Tuishuise were already pet-friendly.
Many of the 30-odd carefully restored cottages have secluded gardens, perfect for dogs. Cradock is nearly 200 years old, and these houses were where wagon-makers, wheelwrights and whip-makers used to live. Cradock, situated on the Great Fish River, offers plenty of activities.
On Market Street you’ll also find the Karoo Comfort Zone Wellness Centre for blissful massages and facials. You could also go river rafting, flyfishing, or visit Olive Schreiner’s old house, now a museum. The glorious Mountain Zebra National Park is a short drive out of town – but you’d have to leave your pet behind. Meals at the Tuishuise are legendary, with generous breakfasts and great Karoo dinners. – Julienne du Toit
8. Western Cape – Ravenna Mountain Retreat, Route 62
Ravenna Mountain Retreat is situated on a fruit farm 28km from Montagu on Route 62 towards Barrydale. It is home to photographer Laresa Perlman, a passionate animal lover, and a stay at Ravenna is a good opportunity to have some beautiful photographs taken of you and your pets.
The farm offers various routes (one leading to a pretty waterfall) for hiking, walking and mountain biking, and there is a dam that is great to swim in. There are eight self-catering (bed and breakfast optional) cottages with a fireplace, of which some are available to guests with pets (up to two).
But only one family with pets is allowed per weekend, as there are already four dogs on the farm. Ducks, cats, sheep, birds and chickens are all part of the country experience, and your pet must be friendly and well trained. Ravenna charges a fee of R60 per animal per day and requests that you bring your own bedding for your dogs. – Petra Vandecasteele
9. Eastern Cape – Makana Resort, Grahamstown
If you’re planning to visit Frontier Country, the Makana Resort couldn’t be better positioned. It’s on the fringe of Grahamstown just below the 1820 Settlers Monument, a two-minute hop from the centre of town, with its beautiful old buildings, cathedral and Rhodes University.
The resort is extremely well priced and has several self-catering chalets, cottages and deluxe units all recently renovated with their own braai area, and there a handful of camping sites. I recently stayed there and loved the trees, the quiet and the birds singing at sunrise. It was a bit cold so I wasn’t tempted to take a dip in the communal pool. Pets are welcome by prior arrangement, providing owners watch them closely. – Shaen Adey
10. Western Cape – Kloofzicht Estate, Tulbagh
Kloofzicht Estate, just outside the historic Winelands town of Tulbagh, offers a range of farmhouse-style accommodation in a magnificent mountain setting. Its extensive grounds and dams make it a favourite among dog owners. There are two one-bedroom cottages and an open-plan loft above the wine cellar, but first prize is to get a group together and book the intriguingly designed and decorated five-bedroom main house. With its big farmhouse kitchen and ample entertainment areas both outdoors and in, it’s a fabulous place to reconnect with family and friends (bring the kids) or to throw a party. It’s also a popular wedding venue for this reason. All the bedrooms have balconies and/or private terraces should you want to escape the crowd and there’s a huge swimming pool, fishing, a boat on the big dam and an array of nearby hiking and mountain biking trails for more active types. Pretty Tulbagh is a great place to wander around or to grab a bite and don’t miss out on a tour of the valley’s picturesque wine and extra-virgin olive oil estates. – Fiona McIntosh. www.kloofzichtestate.co.za
11. Eastern Cape Karoo – Erin Country House, Middelburg
Erin Country House is on a beautiful Karoo farm conveniently halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town. And if you think it’s just a stop-over place, think again. You’re going to want to settle in here for a few days to take in the surreal arid landscape, the wide horizons, pollution-free air, the famous Karoo sunsets and vast night skies. At Erin Country House it’s all about choice so there’s a variety of accommodation to suit every kind of guest, from the Edwardian homestead in a Karoo garden to modest farm cottages that are fenced to keep your pooch safe. You can also choose whether you’d like bed and breakfast, dinner, bed and breakfast or the self-catering option. Your dog gets to stay at Erin Country House for free, but pets must be pre-arranged. Farm walks will keep them busy and exercised while attractions for you in the district include the historic town of Graaff-Reinet, the Valley of Desolation and the Camdeboo National Park, the picturesque dorp of Nieu-Bethesda, as well as the Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock. Children are also welcome. – Olivia Schaffer. www.karooexperience.com
12. Western Cape – Witkrans Farm, Stanford
If you fancy escaping to the hills with your pets, Witkrans farm near Stanford is just the ticket. The three resident pooches welcome other well-behaved, socialised dogs but there’s lots of wildlife on the property – including a troop of baboons – so visiting canines must not be chasers. Accommodation is in two fully equipped cottages; Buchu sleeps four and Cone Bush Cottage sleeps six. There’s another quaint and pet-friendly cottage on the neighbouring farm, Windheuvel, which sleeps four. You can hike and mountain bike in the area, but this is very much a farmstay with free-range eggs, freshly baked farm bread, jams and home-made wine for sale. Tree houses, a jungle gym, trampoline, a swimming dam with boats, and a ‘zoo’ of rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens that children can pet, make it an equally good child-friendly escape. And if you fancy arriving by horse, you can put your steed into the field to graze for the length of your stay. – Fiona McIntosh. www.witkrans.com
13. Northern Cape – Toverberg Guest Houses, Colesberg
These little historical, restored Karoo townhouses in the travellers’ stopover of Colesberg on the N1, were an oasis for us on our way to the Garden Route, but even more so for our old dog. Toverberg is pet friendly – in fact the whole town is pet friendly – and all the dogs want to say hello as you stroll down the street. We had a perfect postage-stamp garden with a tree for shade and, in true dorp style, we could sit on our stoep, enjoy a sundowner and watch the passers-by. Our Charky was also completely content when we went out for dinner. The owners are quite happy for hounds to sleep inside and most accommodating about off-street parking. A selection of restaurants, a museum and supermarket are all within walking distance of your townhouse. Breakfast can be provided on request. – Sue Adams. www.toverberg.co.za
14. Western Cape – Kunje Guest Farm Koue, Bokkeveld
Dwarfed by the Koue Bokkeveld, at the southernmost boundary of the Cederberg Wilderness Area, the Kunje fruit farm offers visitors beautiful scenery and ample to do outdoors like hiking, mountain climbing, swimming in rock pools in the Middeldeur River, mountain-bike trails, San paintings, stargazing and visiting nearby Clanwilliam. Pet-friendly accommodation is at the rustic, self-catering Geelberg Mountain Hut (although the owners also allow pets at some of the other units by arrangement). There are two rooms with 10 bunk beds each and two bathrooms with showers, while the large entertainment area has a fireplace and includes a kitchen equipped with appliances and basic utensils, crockery and cutlery. There are also indoor and outdoor braai facilities. Geelberg best suits hikers, backpackers and other groups, especially those who enjoy bringing their canine companions with them on holiday. – Karen Watkins. www.kunje.co.za
15. Western Cape – Shamballa Sanctuary, Tankwa Karoo
Soaking in a hot tub serenaded by sunbirds is hard to beat. That’s what you can expect to enjoy at Shamballa Sanctuary, originally named Fort Tierkloof. Very pet friendly, all that is asked of guests is to respect the buck and wild animals on the land by not letting your hounds roam unsupervised. There are plenty of hiking and mountain-biking options here with more than 20km of tracks including the Leopard Ravine Trail. Over 80 species of birds have been identified on the farm and, following good rains, Shamballa is a delight for flower lovers and artists. On most nights meteor showers, falling stars and bright constellations can be seen. No wonder the world-famous Sutherland Astronomical Observatory is only 70km away. Accommodation includes a ‘fort’, previously a shepherd’s stone hut, with views across the Ceres Tankwa Karoo plains rising into the Swartruggens. It has a pool, a fire pit and a braai area. Serenity Lodge is higher up and more luxurious, with a large entertainment area, open fireplace, an eco-pool and outside bath. –Karen Watkins. www.shamballa.co.za
16. Western Cape – Cummings Guest House, Wellington
Welcomed by two well-behaved Chows (who greet your socialised pets too), we claimed the last available en-suite B&B room. Comfortable and with coffee and rusks and a well-stocked mini bar on tap, our room felt like home away from home. The establishment consists of two former private houses, the lush gardens of which have been combined to form a beautiful space, and there is off-street parking. One house has B&B suites and the other, gorgeous self-catering suites with braai facilities and outdoor dining. All rooms have aircon, DStv and Wi-Fi. Cummings is just off the main street of town on the Bain’s Kloof side, but it’s quiet. Even though the house was full while we were there, it never felt crowded and we hardly saw any other guests. We enjoyed the hospitable atmosphere and the staff was friendly and professional. Cummings is an ideal base from which to explore the area, fuelled by a delicious breakfast. Dinners available on request. – Keri Harvey
17. Western Cape – Lilly Cottage, Porterville
Getting to Lilly Cottage is an adventure in itself; the road winding up the mountain pass overlooking Porterville is to be negotiated with caution. It’s tarred, though, so safe for average cars and drivers. The setting on Pampoen Fontein farm is spectacular, peaceful and unspoiled. There is a sprinkling of other holiday cottages dotted around the farm, each built in a different style, but Lilly Cottage was our choice. It’s a rustic little timber house on stilts overlooking a small dam, where we watched antelope come to drink and snack on water lilies. We spent hours at the outdoor braai area under a pergola, and sunned ourselves on the north-facing deck with rocky views. Evenings were cosy in front of the fireplace. Downstairs there is a double room and upstairs a twin room in the attic – both served by the downstairs bathroom. All creature comforts are there and the cottage surrounds are fenced so Jock will be safe. Take along lots of firewood and your walking shoes so you can explore. – Keri Harvey
18. Western Cape – Thabile Lodge, De Rust
The scenic Red Hills were turning vermillion at sunset as we arrived to a warm welcome from resident basset hounds Ben and Basil. Thabile Lodge means Place of Happiness, and is centred around a 110-year-old homestead. We settled into one of the comfortable guest cottages before joining convivial guests for a dinner of Karoo specialites, in the communal area overlooking the pool and sauna. Individual attention is one of the plusses here. Owner Len Bornman says they like to have fun with their guests and there isn’t one night that they don’t play cards or board games with them. This four-star guest lodge is also a perfect spot from which to head out and explore the Klein Karoo. –Marianne Heron
19. Garden Route – Knysna Terrace Boutique Guesthouse, Knysna
Knysna Terrace is known as the White House of Knysna – a sparkling beacon beckoning from across the bay. Owner-manager, Maureen Barnard is a doctor of psychology who knows exactly what people and pets need in order to feel looked after and at home. As part of this, if you are travelling solo, with or without your pet, there is no ‘singles’ fee. Seven captivating suites overlook Knysna Lagoon on Old Cape Road, while the back section of the property has been transformed into a self-catering studio for people travelling with their pets. It leads onto a compact patio with braai facilities and a stretch of grass. The entire area is enclosed to guard against escapee pets (or children). Fresh farm milk and honey can be purchased from Knysna Terrace’s kitchen and Maureen believes in serving locally produced food. A coffee shop is set to open there in November. Nicky Enslin, formerly of Dwarsvlei Country House in Middelburg, Karoo, will be the chef and manager, and says pet treats will definitely be on the menu. – Heather Dugmore
20. Eastern Cape – Letskraal Farm, Graaff-Reinet
It was the summer lawn around Letskraal’s farmhouse that first enchanted our German Shepherd, TwoPack. He sniffed it, lay down on it, rolled ecstatically and then had a long blissful nap in the shade of the grape pergola. He was similarly delighted to find there was a paddling stream within walking distance, and interesting smells among the Karoo bossies. Letskraal was originally the farm of Voortrekker Andries Pretorius.
The electricity-free cottage has space for six people (and dogs), with two, full, outside bathrooms, a beautifully equipped kitchen and a braai area with a view. This is a place where the peace of a Karoo farm sinks into your heart; a small breeze in your face, the lisping song of a windpump, and the delight of being able to see forever. There are walks in every direction, and no livestock to worry about on the farm. – Julienne du Toit
21. Western Cape – Two Oaks, Somerset West
If you’re looking for a good base in the greater Cape Town area, Somerset West fits the bill. Like a country village in parts, it’s backed by towering mountains and close to both beach and the Winelands. It’s also 15 minutes from Cape Town airport and an easy, half-hour drive from the Mother City. I’ve stayed a couple of times at the centrally located Two Oaks B&B, which accepts well-behaved small pets. The red-brick buildings looked unprepossessing when we first pulled up, but host Martin Ries welcomed us warmly. And once over the threshold we entered a lovely garden with plenty of places to sit and read, or dine – there are braai facilities and a shaded area with tables and chairs. Martin’s wife, Marianne, is an interior decorator and her eye for style is apparent in the rustic chic of the en-suite rooms/suites. All are interestingly furnished and decorated and there’s quality linen and niceties like soft fluffy towels. Half of the dozen units are fully equipped for self-catering while the others have microwaves, crockery and cutlery. A hearty breakfast is offered in the farmhouse-style dining room, and the fully licensed Oak Leaf Coffee Shop on site is open for breakfast and lunch every day except Sunday. – Fiona McIntosh
22. Eastern Cape – Huntly Glen, near Bedford
A farm can be a tricky place to take a dog. For a start, there are usually other farm dogs, many of whom do not welcome ‘intruders’. And then there’s the lingering fear that the lovely innocent Rex may become a sheep killer, frighten the waterbirds, or chase the cattle. But we discovered a wildlife-rich sheep and goat farm at the foot of the Winterberg above Bedford, where pets are welcome. Huntly Glen guest house is fenced – a safe space where the hound can potter about and explore – and the fully furnished house comfortably accommodates ten people. It’s also a glorious place for long walks and has a fascinating history, being the farm of Thomas Pringle’s party, part of the original 1820 Settlers. Owner Ernest Pringle is the fifth-generation descendant. There are 200 bird species and good bass fishing in the dam. Anne Pringle offers facials and massages, and Ernest is one of the top lepidopterists in the country. We were fascinated by his legendary butterfly collection and his father’s extraordinary bird’s egg collection, all part of the farm museum. – Julienne du Toit
The SA Pet-friendly Directory is an invaluable guide to pet-friendly venues. Accommodation, as well as places such as cafés, pubs, markets, malls and hiking trails are included. The directory also supplies a wealth of info about services such as doggie daycare and training, kennels and catteries, vets and groomers, even pet-friendly car hire.
More pet-friendly country escapes…