It might still be winter, but the wildflowers are getting ready to put on their annual springtime show. We’ve already seen the Hessea cinnamomea pop up on the Cape Peninsula and soon it will be the West Coast and Namaqualand’s turn. In preparation for this spectacular event, we’ve compiled a list of wildflower accommodation for you based on our contributors’ experiences, so you can book knowing that the beds have been tried and tested by the Country Life team.
The Lonely Planet Cottage at Enjo Nature Farm, 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.
Enjo Nature Farm: 027 482 2869
Words: Des Featherstone
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.
Van Rhyn Guest House: 027 219 1429
Words: Marion Whitehead
The Farmhouse Hotel, Langebaan
Overlooking the Langebaan Lagoon, the Farmhouse Hotel was originally a historic farmstead and is now a four-star hotel with facilities that include the Farmhouse Restaurant (popular with locals for its three-course Sunday lunches), Legends Bar, gym, spa, a terrace overlooking the lagoon, perfect for enjoying leisurely breakfasts, and Tannie Jane’s Spens (pantry) where guests can buy home-made condiments, treats or a fresh seedloaf from the Farmhouse kitchen. The hotel has its own boatyard for visiting sailors and the yacht club is nearby. The ruggedly beautiful lagoon is largely unspoilt and offers scope for bird watching, hiking and water sports. The hotel is also ideally situated as a base for exploring the West Coast during the spectacular spring flower show every year. There’s a range of accommodation, including spacious en-suite rooms with fireplaces and lagoon views, the Crash Pads and Traveller’s Rooms that would suit kite surfers and other adventurers, and the cottage and the villa for families or groups.
The Farmhouse Hotel: 022 772 2062, [email protected]mhousehotel.com
Words: Keri Harvey
Traveller’s Rest, Cederberg
Nature lovers who are satisfied with the basics – and, of course, the great outdoors – will love Traveller’s Rest on the Pakhuis Pass near Clanwilliam. These affordable, rustic, self-catering cottages will appeal to people who want to get away from the rat race. Almost perfectly free of cellphone reception and surrounded by the craggy rock formations characteristic of the pass, this is the place to escape from noise and city demands. A ‘flower hotspot’ in August/September, depending on the rains, it’s one of the best areas for a variety of blooms, according to farm-owner Haffie Strauss, who has lived in the area for 74 years. She suggests you plan your visit to coincide with the Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show in late August/early September. Wander through nature’s colourful garden in the day, or walk the Sevilla rock-art trail, and at night laze around your cosy fireplace eating home-made bobotie and eland stew.
Traveller’s Rest: 027 482 1824, [email protected]
Words: Ron Swilling
The Merry Widow Country Retreat, Hopefield
If you’re in search of spring flowers, or a weekend of R&R, take a turn-off to The Merry Widow Country Retreat. It’s down Church Street where the blue facade and punchy yellow hibiscus blossoms welcome you. The historical building has been converted into a B&B with four large suites that still have their high ceilings and thick walls. The decor is different in each, but has been given the same attention to detail seen throughout the establishment. There’s the Traveller’s Room which is simple in cream, the red-walled Moroccan Room with a canopy bed, the cosy Family Room and the stunning Stone Cottage with a king-sized brass bed. All the rooms lead onto the large garden planted with more than 100 trees, and roses in many colours. In August and September the town of Hopefield is flanked by spring flowers and driving the Hopefield to Velddrif road can be quite spectacular. But before you head out, enjoy an excellent breakfast served on the covered terrace up at the main house. Weekend guests can expect to be joined by locals, and day visitors are attracted by both the tasty fare and the Country Mill Saturday Farmer’s Market which is held in another fine old building on the premises. On the West Coast ‘the more the merrier’ applies to The Merry Widow too.
The Merry Widow Country Retreat: 022 723 1528, [email protected]
Words: Keri Harvey
The Longhouse, Clanwilliam
As a photographer I travel often and when I find a gem to stay at, I want to share it. The Longhouse guest house in Clanwilliam is one such gem. The owner, Cheryl, told me she had no intention of buying a guest house, but en route to buying a washing machine, a For Sale sign caught her eye. Intrigued, she ventured in and that was it. Sold. With the same enthusiasm she renovated the early 19th century thatched-roof cottage. It’s easy to fall in love with the place, ask Michel, who arrived on a business trip, fell in love with the place – and Cheryl – and never left. He happens to be fluent in French and German and speaks a little Italian, a useful skill in tourism. After sitting outside and sharing a glass of Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc with other guests as the moon lit up the beautiful garden, I snuck off to my room, beaten to bed by Liquorice the resident black cat. Having just left my feline friend at home I was comforted to have him curled up for the night. In the morning Cheryl’s two boisterous puppies escorted me to breakfast; no surprise that The Longhouse is pet friendly. It’s also a perfect base during flower season when carpets of wildflowers abound in the area – some of the most beautiful and rare in the world. And if you manage to get here in late August/early September, the spectacular Clanwilliam Flower Show is a must-see.
The Longhouse: 027 482 2018, [email protected]
Words: Shaen Adey
Fernkloof Lodge, Hermanus
The West Coast is most folks’ choice for flower-spotting. But if you enjoy the unusual, a trip to the Overberg region comes highly recommended. A friend and I took off on one such adventure and discovered Fernkloof Nature Reserve, home to a fraction of the flora of the Cape Floral Kingdom but, we were told, there is no other place where so many different species can be seen growing in such close proximity to one another. Apart from splendid fynbos, the reserve offers a 60-kilometre network of trails with spectacular vistas, and excellent birding. We spent two exciting days exploring the Kleinrivier Mountains, and two comfortable nights at Fernkloof Lodge. Our accommodation in the well-appointed African Colonial Suite, overlooking Hermanus Golf Club, was on a bed-and-breakfast basis. The lodge has two additional suites, one suitable for a self-catering family of four. Attention to detail prevails in this four-star guest house, with gardens, a pool and hospitality. Five minutes from the mountain, beach and town, we congratulated ourselves on this splendid choice.
Fernkloof Lodge: 028 3122 975, [email protected]
Words: Olivia Schaffer
Draaihoek Lodge, Elandsbaai
Night was falling and we had nowhere to lay our heads. Every door we’d knocked on had proved futile – either there was no room, or the place was too ghastly to consider. Seeing the entrance to Draaihoek about 20 kilometres from Elandsbaai, we drove in to find a paradise of luxurious cottages and a superb manor house. The restaurant compares with the best and, although we were late, the chef created a gourmet meal just for me, the sole vegetarian there. Draaihoek’s private nature reserve is within a vegetation transition zone between the Cape Peninsula and the Namaqua floral kingdoms, which gives flower spotters the best of both those worlds. Nearby are flowerscapes like those around Clanwilliam and in the West Coast National Park, and the dazzling, flower-spangled fields on either side of the Sishen-Saldanha Railway Line. You might though want to just stay put, exploring the Strandveld spring flora. Take time too to stroll across the white dunes to the deserted beach where you might spot Heaviside’s dolphins that, like many of the flora, you’ll see only along the West Coast.
Draaihoek Lodge: 022 952 1170, [email protected]
Words: Andrea Abbott
Kranshuis on Gifberg Holiday Farm, Vanrhynsdorp
I usually head up the West Coast to celebrate the arrival of spring at well-known flower hotspots like the Biedouw Valley, Cederberg or the West Coast National Park. But last year I decided to drive to the high mountain wilderness of the Gifberg. A drive with flowers flanking the national road and masses of white and yellow daisies on the plains at the bottom of the mountain. At the pet-friendly Gifberg Holiday Farm, the floral display wasn’t limited to daisies and the more conspicuous species; the fynbos was blooming, as were colourful bulbs. This accommodation comprises four self-catering cottages, a large self-catering house and a campsite. Plus a coffee-deck, swimming pool, fabulous hiking and rock pools. We stayed at Kranshuis, a quaint cottage that sleeps six in one double, and two twin-bedded rooms. We enjoyed a private braai area, facing a rocky cliff. It has everything you need for a comfortable stay.
Kranshuis: 027 219 1555, [email protected]
Words: Fiona McIntosh
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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.
Grasberg Guest Farm: Mandie Kotze 027 218 1228 or 083 7722 918
Words: Marion Whitehead
The Old Mill Lodge, 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.
The Old Mill Lodge: 027 718 1705, [email protected]
Words: Des Featherstone
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.
Honnehokke Resort: 082 564 5471, [email protected]
Words: Ann Gadd
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.
Papkuilsfontein: 027 218 1246 or 086 573 1246; [email protected]
Words: Ann Gadd
Skilpad Rest Camp, Namaqua National Park
I’ve stayed a couple of times at the Skilpad Rest Camp with its four self-catering chalets, and it remains in my memory as the vantage point for one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. It’s quiet here, and I love returning for this reason. But, of course, once a year Namaqualand becomes flower central and attracts as many tourists as bees to enjoy the show. Around the chalets there are lots of daisies and mesembs, but I prefer an amble along the coastal section of this 700km² nature reserve. There’s lots more variety here, but most tourists will stay around Skilpad to enjoy the orange and yellow fields of flowers it’s famous for. This section of the park is quieter and, with the Atlantic bashing against the rocky shoreline, it’s my favourite place to enjoy spring. Back at my chalet, I like to watch the sunset from the enclosed patio and then sit by the fireplace with a glass of red wine. The chalets have fully equipped kitchens and braai areas, but the closest town is tiny Kamieskroon, where you can only buy the very basics, so bring the extras with you.
Skilpad Rest Camp: 027 672 1948, [email protected]
Words: Petro Kotzé
Groenriviersmond Farm Accommodation, Namaqua National Park
“I’m sorry sir, we’re out of petrol,” said the petrol attendant in Garies. In order to circumvent a long and potentially dangerous detour via Bitterfontein, I called our host and she promised to have 30 litres of petrol waiting for us when we arrived. This is the type of warm hospitality you can expect from authentic Namaqualander couple, Kolie and Elrien Nieuwoudt, no matter what you ask of them. Groenriviersmond is primarily a self-catering establishment but, being on motorbikes, I’d asked Elrien if she could provide us with a braai pack and salad each. Again, she delivered more than was asked for and for far less money than we’d expected. This oasis, complete with quiver trees and a well-established succulent garden, is the ideal base from which to explore the rugged West Coast dirt tracks and flower hotspots of Namaqualand in spring. It’s just 4km from the coast and offers four self-catering rooms, a three-sleeper, B&B unit, a basic backpacker’s hut (sleeps two) and four campsites. Each of the self-catering rooms is en suite, powered by gas and solar and has its own braai facilities. Pets allowed by prior arrangement.
027 531 1012, [email protected]
Words: Nick Yell
Goegap Nature Reserve, Springbok
This small provincial reserve has an amazing succulent garden at the info centre which is worth visiting throughout the year, but the carpets of spring flowers are spectacular if you get your timing right. Staff very considerately label a selection of wildflowers in bloom, so you can learn the names of the plants. The statuesque kokerbome or quiver trees (Aloe dichotoma) make wonderful photographic subjects too, so I always end up spending hours with my camera here. Thatched bomas scattered around the valley provide shade for picnics, as it can get hot during the day, even at the tail-end of winter. There’s a 4×4 route through the hills surrounding the central plain for those with the time
to venture deeper into this tranquil, arid landscape. A new addition to the campsite near the main gate are two self-catering cottages, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. They’re solar powered and have gas stoves – and you can’t ask for starrier skies over your braai at night.
027 718 9906, [email protected]
Words: Marion Whitehead
Kamieskroon Hotel, Kamieskroon
Canadian master photographer Freeman Patterson once told me that I’d meet anyone who mattered just by sitting on the veranda of the Kamieskroon Hotel. We were having a drink on the said stoep at the time, which was a hive of chatter with happy flower tourists swopping tips on their sightings of the day. The photographic workshops started by Freeman and Colla Swart more than 30 years ago helped put the stark beauty of Namaqualand on the map and has brought the world to kuier at this dorp’s striking doorstep, just 21km from Namaqua National Park’s floriferous Skilpad section. The country hotel has been the go-to place during flower season ever since, even though the two photographers have retired from giving workshops. There are more good flower-spotting routes near the sleepy village of Kamieskroon. Take a trip over Kamiesberg and Studer’s passes to Garies; drive west over Grootvlei Pass to Hondeklip Bay; and try the Arakoop/No Heep detour to Springbok. The hotel keeps a good table and is a comfortable, old-fashioned country inn with 24 en-suite rooms that have been renovated. There’s also a camping site for the more self-sufficient types. – Marion Whitehead
Kamieskroon Hotel: 027 672 1614, [email protected]
Words: Marion Whitehead
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Die Hantam Huis, Calvinia
What makes this Northern Cape town of Calvinia one of the perfect regional stopovers for the annual spring flower season is its location, its charm and the warm welcome from the folks at Die Hantam Huis. If you base yourselves for a few days in one of their beautifully restored, self-catering Karoo guest houses (there are eight), you are within striking distance of iconic Namaqua spots like Loeriesfontein, Nieuwoudtville, Vanrhynsdorp and even, for the long-range thirsties among us, the Tankwa Padstal down south on the Ceres road. But don’t forget to leave at least one day to explore the town of Calvinia itself. There are few more fascinating, quirkier museums in the province than the local one, there’s a flower reserve just outside the village and, yes, a selfie taken at the World’s Biggest Postbox is a must. And then in the evenings, return to your cottage, fire up the braai and open the first bottle of something interesting. Or, if there is no urge to prepare supper, just stroll across to the central Hantam Huis restaurant and be served a superb selection of local dishes.
Die Hantam Huis: 027 341 1606, [email protected]
Words: Chris Marais
The Ark at the Williston Mall, Williston
Veteran daisy-spotters will tell you that if you book your Namaqua adventure in advance, there’s a fifty-fifty chance of finding vast fields of flowers. Those who come purely for the sight of Namaqualand in full bloom might end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. “You should have been here last week,” the locals say. “It was glorious.” Unfortunately, these newborn blomme await the pleasure of no man. So to avoid ‘daisy disappointment’ plan stopovers, like at the overnighter, Die Ark Gastehuis at the Williston Mall. The ‘mall’ is everything you’d expect from a middle-of-nowhere attraction: hospitable, unusual, creative and downright funny. The Mall precinct offers lovely rooms, drink and meals, and owners Pieter and Elmarie Naudé will make a booking at a self-catering cottage nearby if that’s your preference. If you time your visit for the first week of September, chances are you’re in for a bonus: the Williston Winterfees, where the legendary Nama Riel dance is celebrated.
The Ark at the Williston Mall: 053 391 3659, [email protected]
Words: Chris Marais
Mountain View B&B, Springbok
Springbok is ideally situated on the Namaqua Flower Route and provides easy access to the surrounding towns and the Goegap Nature Reserve, as well as the Namaqua National Park (even the drive there boasts quiver trees and spectacular roadside flowers in season). At Mountain View B&B you are warmly greeted by Maggie Cornelissen and shown to one of 12 well-appointed rooms or the self-catering flat. The rooms are uniquely decorated and the balcony provides good views as the name suggests. In flower season the mountain that butts right up against the house can have magnificent flower displays. Cool off in the pool after a day’s sightseeing, relax in the elegant lounge and meet new friends.Mountain View is close to the centre of Springbok yet feels miles from the town bustle. A short hiking trail from the lodge provides an elevated view of Springbok.
Mountain View B&B: 027 712 1438 or 082 895 7665, [email protected]
Words: Ann Gadd
Tankwa Tented Camp, Stonehenge Farm, R355 between Calvinia and Ceres
If you’re looking for good value accommodation and a crazy bar in the middle of an occasionally flowering desert, Tankwa Tented Camp fits the bill. It’s off the R355 that links Ceres and Calvinia on a road that should not be taken lightly. It can be a tyre-eater. But the rewards are great if the rain gods and flower fairies conspire to create drifts of daisies along the roads. Not far from the camp, you may also see some unusual artistic structures left in the middle of nothingness after AfrikaBurn festivities. As the name indicates, accommodation is mostly under canvas, each roomy tent with two beds, a bedside table, a lamp and not too much else. Ablutions are communal and hot water is supplied (mornings and evenings) via a donkey boiler. Alternately bring your own camping stuff, or opt for one of five en suite chalets. In addition to something lekker at the Onverklaar Bar, you can also find a box with the oddest trinkets and treasures. And don’t miss the nightly sundowner on a nearby hill.
Tankwa Tented Camp: 071 078 4400, [email protected]
Words: Julienne du Toit
Kothuis Self-Cater Cottage, Vosburg
The most direct route between Gauteng and the flowering Namaqualand is via Vosburg, a town wedged neatly between Britstown and Carnarvon. The Kothuis is right in the middle, where the soundtrack at sunset includes the sigh of a windpump and the odd sheep bleating. This is the perfect place to get into a Karoo state of mind before heading to the flowers. The Kothuis is snug, has a fully-equipped kitchen, a spectacularly large and private stoep with braai area, and inside, two comfortable bedrooms sharing a bathroom with enormous shower. Outside, the old wagon shed has been transformed into an en suite bedroom with an old enamel bathtub. You can shop for basics at the agricultural co-op (and visit the butcher in Britstown on the way). Or order something from Erika’s Karoo-Winkel up the road. Just give them a bit of warning.
Kotbuis: 072 234 8877, [email protected]
Words: Chris Marais
Photography Marion Whitehead; Des Featherstone; Keri Harvey; Ron Swilling; Shaen Adey; Olivia Schaffer; Andrea Abbott; Fiona McIntosh; Ann Gadd; Nick Yell; Petro Kotzé; Julienne du Toit; Chris Marais; Supplied
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.