This story was updated on 9 April 2019.
With so much going on in South Africa at the moment, you might feel it’s a good time to take a break…
This is a mixture of weekend breaks close to Johannesburg – and when we say close, we mean less than 2 hours. We also took the liberty of separating these getaways into categories. So if you’re looking for a weekend filled with romance, or a much-needed change of scenery with the kids in tow, we’ve got it all. We even included a few where your four-legged friends can come too. There’s something for everyone.
Game drives, luxury and spa treatments
You also might like: 6 Best Spas & Retreats in South Africa
1. Thirsty Falls Guest Farm, Magaliesberg
Driving time: 1h 30 min (90km) from Johannesburg
Price: From R450pp per night sharing (a minimum of a 2-night stay required)
Contact: 082 464 7376, [email protected]
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.
2. Riverview Spa, Muldersdrift
Driving Time: 40 min (30km) from Johannesburg
Price: Double rate R640pp sharing. (Add R140pp for dinner and dessert of the day included)
Contact: 083 419 6807, [email protected]
Fancy sipping bubbly while sitting in a Jacuzzi overlooking the Crocodile River? In the Cradle Moon Conservancy at the foot of the Zwartkop Mountains, Riverview Spa is the perfect bush retreat just 30 minutes from Johannesburg, and 20 minutes from Pretoria. A wildebeest welcomed us and a flock of Grey Louries (Go-away Birds) squawked at our arrival.
The spa celebrates nature, rather than interferes with it. Each treatment area is secluded, along meandering pathways between trees and hills. Choose a Jacuzzi, sauna or steam-room session between treatments, or enjoy an Indian head massage on one of the many chairs scattered over grassy hills facing the river.
When all that relaxation works up an appetite, enjoy home-made muffins, scones and quiche, and other carefully prepared dishes. The malva pudding is highly recommended. Everyone goes above and beyond to ensure all the guests are relaxed and treated like gold. There are seven charming garden cottage units, each with one or two double bedrooms, perfect for a weekend escape, or for guests at weddings in the surrounding area.
Words Carina Borralho
3. Askari Game Lodge & Spa, Plumari Private Reserve
Driving time: 1h 30 min (75km) from Johannesburg
Price: R1 580pp sharing
Contact: 014 577 2658/9, [email protected]
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.
Words Gerhard Horn
4. B’sorah Luxury Tented Camp, Broederstroom
Driving time: 50 min (47km) from Johannesburg
Price: R1 320 per unit per night
Contact: [email protected]
For us, the dream life is about falling asleep to the sound of frogs and a stream in front of our tent, enjoying peace at night, and bird chatter at sunrise telling us it’s time to get the kettle going. We found all this on a weekend break at B’sorah Luxury Tented Camp, ten kilometres west of Broederstroom and an easy hour’s drive from Gauteng.
We opted for one of the four eco-friendly luxury tents and had round-the-clock hot water from a ‘donkey’ and solar power. Tents are serviced – excluding Sundays – and, when pre-arranged, a hot breakfast is available most days at the farmhouse. Picnic baskets can be ordered for any meal, should you wish.
We hiked the two trails on the 1 600ha farm, soaking up the fresh air and endless small attractions like insects, spoor, plants and game such as impala, nyala and warthog. Evenings were enjoyed with a glass of wine and a crackling fire while appreciating the good life.
Words Riaan Hattingh
You also might like: 8 Magnificent Glamping Spots in SA
A room with a view
You also might like: 5 Best Stays for the Whole Family
5. Thabela Thabeng, Venterskroon area near Parys
Driving time: 1h 30 min (125km) from Johannesburg
Price: Price on request
Contact: 056 818 1116, [email protected]
What could be more unusual than staying in a chalet perched on a cliff in the middle of one of the oldest meteorite impact craters in the world? We had come to the Vredefort Dome just outside Parys to get away from the city, and this was perfect.
We sipped our sundowners on the balcony of our self-catering chalet, Eagle’s Nest, and watched the cliffs turn the colours of the sunset as a lone eagle drifted by. Albie de Villiers, who manages this resort and is passionate about the place, took us on a walk past old gold mines, interesting plants and butterflies, and a cave scattered with Stone Age tools.
We had everything we could wish for – a comfortable bed with a view to die for, a well-equipped kitchen and complete privacy and silence. There is yellowfish fly fishing or canoeing down the Vaal River but, even better, some time to sit back in the silence and get away from it all. It’s hard to believe this weekend break is so close to Johannesburg!
Words Sue Adams
6. Chicama Country Spa, at Glenburn Muldersdrift
Driving time: 30 min (30km) from Johannesburg
Price: Price on request
Contact: [email protected]
Situated at the Glenburn Lodge, Chicama is a 30-minute drive out of Joburg or Pretoria that takes you unexpectedly into deep countryside and the Cradle of Humankind.
There, in the shadow of the Zwartkops Mountains, and on the banks of the Blaauwbank River, the lodge and spa have been established to take full advantage of the natural surroundings and wildlife sightings, such as the pair of eland we spotted on a hike.
The spa has ten treatment rooms, two with private hydrotherapy baths, and a heated pool. There’s also a couples’ treatment room with a private Jacuzzi. Wine is the central theme and wine-based therapies, known for their antioxidant properties, are offered. I indulged in a decadent red-wine back, neck and shoulder massage plus Merlot hydrotherapy treatment. A combination of herbs, fynbos and salts are wrapped in a cloth, infused with warm wine, and used in a massage to exfoliate the skin.
The hour-long spoil is followed by a hydrotherapy bath into which you tip about 100ml of real Merlot and then soak blissfully for 30 minutes. Friendly staff, delicious meals and comfortable river-bank accommodation (complete with an Italian coffee machine), make for a memorable stay close to Joburg.
Words Linda Piegl
You also might like: 4 of the Most Expensive Lodges in South Africa
Pet-friendly breaks close to Johannesburg
7. Aloe River, Parys
Driving time: 1h 30 min (120km) from Johannesburg
Price: R1 600 per night for the Entire Guest house – Sleeps up to 8 guests.
Contact: 082 561 6669
The little dorp of Parys on the banks of the Vaal River is an ideal weekend getaway for Joburgers due to its proximity – about an hour and 20 minutes on the highway. There are several pet-friendly places to choose from, but this time we stayed at Aloe River.
The spacious, self-catering, three-bedroom house is on the far side of Parys, away from the hub of antique shops and restaurants, and near to the bridge over the Vaal. Great for family weekends, a breakaway with friends or even a romantic getaway, the house is kitted out with every appliance, every item you might need for your stay, from board games to detergents and candles – which came in handy during load shedding (yes, even in Parys).
Morning coffee took place on the large stoep, reclining on the comfy wooden bench with my two dogs sprawled alongside. Afternoons were spent at the pool and braaing on the Weber while the pups tore around the large walled garden or took over the loungers to snooze. Hiking and walking trails for you and Fido are available on nearby farms – we enjoyed a scenic river walk at Otter’s Haunt 2km outside Parys.
Words Linda Piegl
8. Lavender Lake Farm, Magaliesberg
Driving time: 1h 10 min (70km) from Johannesburg
Price: R500 per person sharing
Looking for weekend breaks close to Johannesburg that are cloaked in history? This farm is apparently one of the only farms left standing following the scorched earth policy of the Anglo-Boer War. Today the farmhouse from that era is surrounded by orchards, a dam and fields, and there is a recently built, upmarket, self-catering cottage. It has chandeliers and arty colours, and is equipped with every creature comfort for you and your pet, as well as some luxury extras like Twinings tea, Jacobs coffee and Lavender Lake toiletries.
Throw open the French doors onto the wraparound stoep, settle down with a sundowner and gaze out through the game fence at the mountains. You might even see the farm’s friendly Ngunis nibbling on berries, to the utter amazement of your pooch. Evenings call for braaiing or lighting the fire pit. The large garden is fully enclosed and you have exclusive use of the dam for fishing and canoeing, while Fido is invited to cool off among the reeds. Lavender Lake allows dogs to run free on the farm and happily puts the Ngunis in their paddock if you’re worried your Jack Russell might stir up some trouble.
Words Linda Piegl
You also might like: 8 budget friendly bush breaks