The best way to capitalise on the cold weather during the chilly season is to head off somewhere charming for a few days to reconnect with yourself and indulge in a good book, great wine and a breathtaking view.
We’ve selected 10 winter-friendly escapes around South Africa that’ll appeal to all sorts of travellers, from bush lovers and country mice to urban sorts and even beach enthusiasts.
shambala zulu camp
WHERE: Shambala Private Game Reserve, Vaalwater, Limpopo, 011-292-6030
WHY WE LOVE IT: With its rare abundance of water, green veld and diverse species, Shambala is the ultimate African paradise. The Zulu-inspired huts are situated on the river bank, with the prolific bird life creating a calming oasis. Each hut is quite secluded, with luxurious and spacious interiors, and the complimentary Molton Brown toiletries certainly add to the lavish bathing experience.
X-FACTOR: Being surrounded by the open plains of the African bushveld at sunrise is magical. The lodge also offers bush walks and picnics.
hog hollow country lodge
WHERE: Askop Rd, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, 044-534-8879
WHY WE LOVE IT: Within a short drive of a number of exciting outdoor activities and wildlife sanctuaries, Hog Hollow Country Lodge offers travellers a uniquely beautiful spot at which to stop and unwind. The lodge, which comprises 16 suites and a three-bedroom, double-storey villa, is perched on top of a valley in the Tsitsikamma forest. Breathtaking views and botanical surroundings provide a quiet and tranquil environment, making it the ideal escape for those in need of a little R&R.
X-FACTOR: The hands-on management team is ready to assist with organising outings, from horse rides and bungy jumps to massages and dinner bookings, at all times.
the cottage at montpellier
WHERE: Upper Waterfall Farm, Franschhoek, Western Cape, 083-235-1348
WHY WE LOVE IT: A favourite with the HL team, The Cottage at Montpellier offers understated elegance and attention to detail – from the two luxurious en-suite bedrooms to the fully equipped kitchen, not to mention the 360-degree views. Guests can unwind on cold winter nights in front of the fireplace.
X-FACTOR: The location is perfect for visitors wanting access to Franschhoek wine farms and popular restaurants while still offering solitude. It’s a fantastic getaway.
jamala madikwe royal safari lodge
WHERE: Madikwe Game Reserve, North West, 082-927-3129
WHY WE LOVE IT: While the magnificent setting is enough to impress, it’s the effort Rodney Steyn and his team put into making guests feel comfortable that really wins you over at Jamala Madikwe, from the memorable refreshments offered on the game drives to the splendour of the spacious villas. The lodge and five villas are situated at the edge of a watering hole, where sights are best enjoyed from the main lodge’s viewing deck or while relaxing in a hot bath in your own villa.
X-FACTOR: Dining is a gastronomic highlight, with amazing creations by Nico Verster, who deservedly earned the Safari Awards Best Safari Cuisine award in 2014 and 2015.
WHERE: 180 Kloof Rd, Bantry Bay, Cape Town, 021-430-3200
WHY WE LOVE IT: With its commanding Atlantic Ocean views and years of acknowledged luxury (including its closed-to-the-public exclusivity), the Ellerman House boutique hotel has long been a popular address with overseas visitors. Its look is inspired by the colours of the ocean and the flora surrounding the property. Common areas, bedrooms and suites have been given a contemporary, fresh look that provides the perfect backdrop for the outstanding collection of South African art.
X-FACTOR: Little touches such as the pantry with its array of delicacies baked in-house and available free for guests around the clock, the bottle of Inverroche Gin to enjoy at your leisure, the exquisite flowers that decorate your suite – these all combine to create a first class experience.
thunzi bush lodge
WHERE: Maitland Rd, Port Elizabeth, 072-597-4810
WHY WE LOVE IT: If it’s a first-class self-catering experience you’re after then you’re in luck here. Nestled between thickets of indigenous coastal forest, the luxury raised wooden chalets at Thunzi Bush Lodge are kitted out with the latest fittings and quality comforts. Although only a short drive from the city, the lodge is rural enough to allow you to get in touch with the great outdoors and put the surrounding hiking trails, beaches and fishing spots to good use.
X-FACTOR: The private balcony of each chalet is the place to be, whether you are bird-watching or relaxing with a bottle of good wine surrounded by nothing but the glow of fireflies and the calming sound of nature’s nightlife in the distance.
WHERE: Voor-Paardeberg, Paarl, Western Cape, 021-790-0972
WHY WE LOVE IT: Sometimes you find a place that calls to mind all the romantic images that the words uttered by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa evoked: ‘I had a farm in Africa’. Staart Farm is obviously not in Kenya but its majestic setting at the foot of the Paardeberg mountain, its historic homestead – all ‘big, thick whitewashed walls, colonial verandas and comfy sofas’ – and grand interiors certainly make you feel that South Africa is an amazing place.
X-FACTOR: It sleeps 10, has huge lounge areas inside and out, and, as a working farm with cattle, horses and sheep, it’s great for kids. There’s a vineyard, olive grove and magnificent vegetable garden.
menlyn boutique hotel
WHERE: 209 Tugela Rd, Ashlea Gardens, Pretoria, 012-425-9580
WHY WE LOVE IT: Considered design and a celebration of art, wine and food is the focus at the Menlyn Boutique Hotel. The new building, with its contemporary design-centric suites and abundance of glass and concrete is an exciting addition, and the Black Bamboo restaurant downstairs pulls in a discerning crowd every night. Whether you’re a capital-city local looking for a night away from home or a style-savvy out-of-towner, you’ll be impressed by the emphasis on modern comfort here.
X-FACTOR: Under the guidance of innovative executive chef Pellie Grobler, the hotel’s restaurant Black Bamboo is outstanding in its own right.
WHERE: Dinokeng Game Reserve, Pretoria, 0860-888-862
WHY WE LOVE IT: This bush getaway just 100km outside Joburg is a rare find. Perched atop a hill in Dinokeng, Greens Camp consists of two spacious stone and thatch buildings connected by a terrace that takes in the view over the surrounding veld with its roaming zebras and giraffes. You’ll find a swimming pool and a long table in the shade for hot summer days as well as a fire pit and little extras, such as electric blankets, for wintry nights. TV and internet access have been traded for a library of books so be assured that a true escape is in store.
X-FACTOR: There’s something about eating pizza straight from a wood-fired oven under the stars.
WHERE: Meiring Street, Prince Albert, 087-820-5974
WHY WE LOVE IT: As the name (prayer house) suggests, this delightful establishment was originally an old church. Although renovated into a comfortable two-bedroomed cottage, with stylish grey walls and white-painted door and window frames, it’s lost none of its magical charm. It’s filled with artworks and tasteful antique furniture including a large table for country-style lunches and the perfect sofa for curling up with a book.
X-FACTOR: Bid Huisie is all about peacefulness and the covered patio, with its view of a fragrant lavender rock garden, is an ideal spot to enjoy a glass of wine and mountain views.
Find 8 other local winter escapes in our July 2016 issue.