It is the month of love and time to bring out the bubbles and celebrate in an extra-special place. Take a look at our top romantic hideaways in South Africa.
1.Namibia, Cascade Island Lodge, Zambezi region
The golden light of sunset reflected off the water, while flocks of birds flew in to roost as we listened to the grunting hippo. Sitting on our private deck under an ancient jackal-berry tree with gin and tonic in hand, we toasted life in Africa before dining under a starlit sky. We were lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of water rushing over the rapids. This was one of the most relaxing stays I’ve had in the last few months, and I’d forgotten how beautiful this corner of the world is. And how wild. With only four large villas – each beautifully but simply decorated and with a private plunge pool and outside shower on the water’s edge. The private island lodge offers an exclusive, yet affordable wilderness escape where you’re spoiled at every turn. Fishing, bird watching and other guided activities are offered, otherwise you can simply unwind and recharge your batteries. There’s no light pollution, and no noise. Romance doesn’t come better.
2. Western Cape, The Last Word, Franschhoek
My first choice for a romantic getaway is here in the heart of Franschhoek, where you’ll be enchanted by understated elegance and attention to detail. From the charming wisteria, rose and bougainvillea-lined path to the picturesque setting, this five-star, intimate hotel really resonated. There are 10 en-suite bedrooms, and we booked into one of two with a private pool. A stylish living room opens onto it and we soaked up the sun in our sheltered spot. Positioned away from the crowd, we enjoyed French Provençal living and personalised attention. Apart from a sumptuous breakfast included in the rate, we chose to experience the many restaurants in this, the country’s food-and-wine heartland. Activities include anything from boutique shopping, hiking and mountain biking, to a historic tour of the town with its beautiful architecture, chocolate and cheese tasting, championship golf courses, and wine tasting on horseback. It’s a place where memories are made. – Olivia Schaffer
021 794 6561, [email protected], www.thelastword.co.za
3. Karoo, Koesnaaitjie, Sutherland
Check in to Koesnaaitjie just outside Sutherland. Here you’ll have all that the shepherd has, plus cosy comfort and an atmosphere of rustic romance. The little cottage is on a farm surrounded by the vast Karoo. There’s just one bedroom with a bed dressed in white linen, and a small stonework bathroom alongside, adorned with candles.
Koesnaaitjie is named after a Karoo succulent and is a little place for cocooning, away from the busy world.
Making it even more romantic, Koesnaaitjie is off the grid, so candlelit evenings are absolutely the norm, with a fire for a braai or just for atmosphere. We braaied local Karoo lamb chops for supper and dined outside. After supper
we headed off to town for a stargazing evening, to stare into deep space through telescopes, see twinkling Sirius and the rings of Saturn. In the morning there is only birdsong and the rustle of wind, and we watched the sun rise over the rugged landscape and illuminate vapour trails in the sky. After a home-cooked breakfast, we mustered our energy, packed cameras and headed out to SALT to see the biggest telescope in Southern Africa. – Keri Harvey
023 571 2607, [email protected]
4. West Coast, Just Rest, De Bult Paternoster
The name evokes a feeling of calm, and the house encourages serious quiet time. On a hillside overlooking a boulder-strewn point with the Atlantic Ocean just below, this classic West Coast cottage is breathtaking. It’s spacious, gorgeously appointed, and fitted with a queen-size bed. Arriving in the early evening on a still summer’s day made the experience idyllic. We sipped iced tea on the private veranda and felt cosseted from the world. The view of boulders and brightly painted fishing boats heading out to sea felt strangely European, but then much of Paternoster village is reminiscent of a romantic Greek island with postcard-pretty houses. Later in the evening, we curled up on the spacious couch and played games as the sun set crimson over the sea. A soak in the oversized stone bath was thoroughly relaxing but waking up and looking out to sea with gulls circling overhead really felt like we’d used our passports to be here. Most of the village restaurants are a short walk away, but we dined in on fresh seafood along with sea views. The kitchen is well equipped to make cooking easy and the countertop dishwasher kept it all really simple. Kicking back, chilling, stretching out in the sun with a thick book and watching the tides and the fishermen, made a weekend away feel like a full summer holiday in a romantic and comfortable setting.– Keri Harvey
022 752 2048, [email protected], www.stayinpaternoster.co.za
5. Free State, Omega Mountain Luxury Retreat, Clarens area
A pleasant 15 minute-drive from Clarens towards Fouriesburg in the Eastern Free State took us to four self-catering cabins set against a hill, with splendid views over the Mohokare River onto the Malutis. Each unit is fully equipped with everything needed for a relaxing break, including its own Jacuzzi and a gorgeous fireplace. The spacious cabins cater for four and are extremely comfortable for two, and serviced every day. We fell in love with the concertina doors that open up the entire front of the cabin – bedroom, living area, Jacuzzi and shower – to enjoy the fresh air, the utter peace and quiet, and each other. For those who so wish (we didn’t) there’s DSTV. There are kilometres of track to explore from the cabins, and a pleasant hike took us down to the river to see Lesotho close-up (the uphill journey is quite a walk). Our neighbours brought along their 4×4, quad bike and dirt bike and we never saw them during the day. Just make sure you bring all your food, drinks and charcoal, as the closest shops are in Clarens. – Riaan Hattingh
082 824 8825, [email protected], www.omegaclarens.co.za
6.Western Cape, Dune Ridge Cottage, Paternoster
A beach view for treasured memories, moonlight on water, going to sleep to the sigh of the surf… what could be more romantic? Perched above a secluded beach, Dune Ridge Cottage is a honeymoon hideaway with a 180-degree sea view. It’s the last beachfront dwelling at the south end of the traditional, whitewashed fishing village of Paternoster. The chic interior of this fisherman-style cottage with all modern conveniences has a blue and white theme and a veranda overlooking the beach. We were spoilt by the enticing treats nearby – delicious breakfasts in the four-star Dunes Boutique Guest House, pampering at the Dunes Beauty Clinic, or a fish feast for two at Gaaitjie’s restaurant on the shore. – Marianne Heron
022 7522215, www.paternosterdunes.co.za
7. Namibia, Sossus Dune Lodge, Namib Naukluft Park
There are 25 desert chalets in this wilderness camp ranged along the base of a bouldered outcrop but, linked by a very long wooden boardwalk, they still feel exclusive. We loved the wood, reed and canvas it was built from, in the style of traditional Ovambo homesteads. A massive metal door opens onto natural furnishings and net-draped four poster beds, and we couldn’t drag ourselves away from the 180-degree panorama of desertscape, red dunes and rugged hills. We spent the best afternoon reading from loungers with a splendid view, and enjoyed the pool alongside the restaurant and bar, set on the rocky hillside. We were able to reach the Sossusvlei dunes before sunrise, and could easily have made our return journey after sunset Sossusvlei dunes Sossusvlei dunes – a privilege not allowed to the general public. The lodge also arranges its own guided nature and sunset drives, and walks to Sesriem Canyon. – Mariëlle Renssen
021 422 3761, www.nwr.com.na
8. Northern Cape, Oranjekom Gorge, Augrabies Falls National Park
Underneath the deck of the Oranjekom lookout, our isolated cottage had spectacular views of the gorge below. The unit is situated about 10km from the rest camp, so we were guaranteed absolute silence when darkness fell and spent much of the night stargazing. With the fire lit and a glass of wine in hand, we watched the full moon rise over the gorge. The accommodation comes with a double bed, a gas stove and is fully equipped with all the necessities. Large glass sliding doors offer views overlooking both ends of the gorge. The shower and ablution facilities are separate from the main unit, but are still easy to access. Augrabies offers much more than just the waterfall and the unit was the perfect vantage point from which to explore the rest of the park. Apart from the breathtaking views, we were lucky enough to spy gemsbok, eland, red hartebeest and the
Hartmann’s mountain zebra.– René de Klerk
054 452 9200, www.sanparks.com
9. Guesthouse Willowmore, Sophie’s Choice, Eastern Cape
Sophia van der Merwe’s self-catering guest house on the outskirts of Willowmore is as stylish and romantic as her restaurant and antiques shop. We found a delightful house with chandeliers, roses, a fountain with cherubs, quiet stoeps overlooking a fresh flowering garden, a huge bed with fine sheets and mohair blanket, Lindt chocolates on pillows, large bathrooms, and peace. This is where Sophia lived when she had just fallen in love and married local legend Pepi van der Merwe. It exudes old-fashioned romance. There was no need to spend time cooking either, although there is a beautiful braai area and a well-equipped kitchen. Sophia will deliver a light dinner to your door if you’d like. Otherwise The Willow Historical Guesthouse with its authentically Karoo dinners (and breakfasts) is only a block away. There are lovely day drives around Willowmore, but this is also the kind of town you can explore walking hand in hand, while greeting the friendly locals. And there’s a place on the main road that stocks very decent wines.– Julienne du Toit
073 140 5630, 044 923 1117, [email protected], www.sophieschoice.co.za
10. Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, Karoo
In the remote Great Karoo, surrounded by the Sneeuberg mountains, this tranquil spot is perfect for time away with a loved one. Arid vegetation gives way to steep mountain slopes, up to a plateau where we saw the more unusual black wildebeest and mountain zebra. It certainly must be one of the most panaromic spots in our country to have a sundowner. I was impressed by the level of care we received on the game drives, which included hot snacks cooked on a portable gas stove. The en suite rooms in the Cape Dutch style Manor House are spacious, but we preferred the secluded, whitewashed cottage near the pool. We loved the king-size, four-poster bed with fine linen and mosquito nets. Authentic Karoo fare is served at a private table set in different spots in the indigenous garden throughout the stay, with paraffin lamps casting their glow at evening meals. If you feel like the company of other guests, you can dine at Camdeboo Manor. – Gillian McLaren
049 891 0570, [email protected], www.mountcamdeboo.com
11. Western Cape, South Hill Vineyards Elgin
Taking in an open-air concert at the magnificent amphitheatre at the Paul Cluver estate in Elgin Valley is one of my favourite summer treats, but after an evening of festivities I’m always loathe to drive back to Cape Town. So for my most recent visit, I checked in to the lovely guest house on South Hill wine farm just down the road. What a find. The six en-suite rooms in the spacious main villa can be booked on a B&B basis. Groups who want to party can book the whole place, which comes with an
open-plan living area, spacious well-equipped kitchen, pizza oven and braai area, all on a self-catering basis. All the
rooms open onto private patios with gorgeous views over the vineyards and surrounding mountains, and there’s a big pool and lovely garden. This seclusion means that it’s a great spot to chill but, if you’re feeling active, there are easy hiking and mountain-biking trails on the farm, as well as access to the scenic Lebanon, Paul Cluver, Oak Valley and Cape Pine trails. I’m almost reluctant to pass on the best-kept secret of South Hill lest I never get a booking there again, but if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, check out the Pumphouse Honeymoon Cottage on the side of the dam. Just perfect.– Fiona McIntosh
021 844 0888, [email protected], www.southhill.co.za
For concert details visit www.cluver.com/summer-festival-program
Check out our top 4 luxury romantic stays this month.