20 Perfect Places
Compiled by Vicki Sleet Additional text Glynis Horning, Laurian Brown, Clare Wiese Photographs Angus Campbell, Mark Williams, Laurian Brown, Jac de Villiers, Lien Botha
Best for... VIEWS
Rockery Nook, Knysna When you stay at this secluded, picture-perfect spot on the Eastern Knynsa head, you feel you could well be on the island of Capri. Overlooking the sheltered waters of the Knysna lagoon, Rockery Nook has an unsurpassable view, and the fact that the waters are just a few steps from the property adds to the magic. The six-bedroom main house is ideal for groups, with a large country-style kitchen and a nautically themed living room. For those seeking privacy, the three self-catering units are ideal – we recommend Lover’s Nook, where the sound of the lagoon waters lapping below you will be music to your ears. Rates from R3 800 per night (main house, sleeps 13); R350 pps (cottages), Contact 083-267-1732, firstname.lastname@example.org, rockerynook.co.za. Ocean Eleven, Hermanus As far as ocean vistas go, this one’s got it all. Situated on West Cliff in Hermanus, the contemporary Cape Cod-styled guesthouse is sophisticated yet easygoing with a sea view for every bedroom (there are 10). Owners Simone and Werner Heunis are young go-getters with great insider knowledge of the hip and happening spots in town and are always on hand to make you feel at home. With a generous poolside lounging space and uninterrupted views of Walker Bay, you’ll be forgiven for never setting foot on the beach while you’re there. Rates: R650 to R800 pps with breakfast, Contact 028-312-1332, email@example.com, oceaneleven.co.za. Wildekrans Country House, Houw Hoek The Overberg has many hidden gems and we’re particularly fond of this one, with its beautifully manicured lawns and vast rose-perfumed gardens. Set just above the Houw Hoek pass, the historic 1811 homestead has been restored to its former glory. Vistas of the rolling Houw Hoek mountains and the sightings of bird and animal life are balm for the weary soul. What also makes Wildekrans unique is the abundance of original South African artwork in the main house and the unusual sculptures scattered across the lawns. Accommodation is in either the Homestead (the main house) or one of the two self-catering Cape Cottages. Children are welcome. Rates: R280 pps with breakfast; self-catering from R170 pps, Contact 028-284-9827, firstname.lastname@example.org, wildekrans.co.za. Villa St James, St James In its day, this side of the mountain was famed for its own Riviera, complete with OTT mansions and a lifestyle to match. This restored national monument has views of False Bay like no other and is ideal if you’re looking for a place for holidays en masse. Accommodating up to 20 people in eight generous bedrooms, it’s a stone’s throw from the beach and just a few minutes from the buzz of nearby Kalk Bay. Rates from R750 per double room to R12 000 per day for the entire villa, Contact 082-784-8000, email@example.com, villastjames.com.
Best for... CITY STAYS
Nine Flowers Guest House, Cape Town Within spitting distance of Long Street, the Company Gardens and plenty of the city’s best restaurants, Nine Flowers Guest House is proving to be extremely popular with both visiting business folk and foreigners who are wanting a taste of urban life. Owners Marrin Hansen and Michael Huellenhagen (both newcomers to Cape Town) set about restoring two Victorian semis over a year ago, and the result is a contemporary oasis in the city. The guesthouse is named for each of the nine rooms they have available, and each room is in turn named after an indigenous flower– a lovely local touch. We’re also impressed by the great rates for singleton travellers. For those with a big day ahead, breakfast is an affair to remember, with heavily laden cheese, meat and fruit platters. Rates from R390 per single room; R600 per double room, Contact 021-462-1430, firstname.lastname@example.org, nineflowers.com. Saffron House, Melville Set in the heart of one of Joburg’s most vibrant precincts, luxurious Saffron House in Melville offers a unique experience for the city visitor. Owner Paulina Schofield has drawn on her travels abroad to create an intimate, yet richly exotic living space filled with colourful Persian rugs, Moroccan lamps, Mexican artefacts and bold, heavy textures. For those seeking a private and decadent mini-break, the eight beautiful bedrooms include bar fridges, satellite television and his-and-hers kimono-style bathrobes – so you never have to leave the room! However, you may want to drag yourself out of bed for the opulent daily breakfasts that are served in the peaceful courtyard garden. Rates: R300 pps with breakfast, Contact 011-726-6646, email@example.com, saffronguesthouse.co.za. The Peech, Melrose With a dearth of contemporary and relatively affordable places to stay in Joburg, The Peech comes at just the right time. Situated in leafy Melrose, this spanking new guesthouse-cum-boutique hotel has 10 luxury rooms, each with its own private entrance. Within walking distance of Melrose Arch and the buzz of Rosebank, it’s an ideal city destination for people who are tired of staying in no frills franchises. Up-to-the-minute facilities include private meeting rooms for corporate get-togethers, high-speed internet access, 24-hour complimentary access to nearby Planet Fitness (great for working off stress after those back-to-back meetings) and newspapers delivered to your door every morning. Rates from R1 050 pps with breakfast, Contact 011-537-9797, firstname.lastname@example.org, thepeech.co.za.
Best for... HISTORY
Islandlwana Lodge, Islandlwana The lodge is carved into the actual rocky outcrop where the Zulu commander stood during the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. Lounging on the balcony of one of the 13 quietly stylish suites with a book about the battle, it’s easy to picture the action unfolding below you. A guided tour with resident historian Rob Gerrard, who will bring this and the battle of nearby Rorke’s Drift thrillingly to life, is a must. Rates from R850 pps, dinner bed and breakfast, Contact 034-271-8301/4/5, email@example.com, isandlwana.co.za. Die Groenhuis, Philippolis Set in a southern Free State village that time almost forgot, Die Groenhuis is a true dorpshuis on the outskirts of town. The oldest settlement in the province, Philippolis also boasts the largest number of national monuments there after Bloemfontein and Bethlehem, offering plenty of eye candy for history buffs. It’s owned and run by the Friis family, so expect country hospitality with plenty of inside information from Mr Friis, formerly the town’s school principal. The house has been sensitively restored and is now a contemporary-styled haven, albeit with many of the original fittings (right down to the ’40s Huisgenoots used as insulation in the ceiling, before the days of ‘Think Pink’!). Expect to be fattened up as every meal is a cornucopia of mouthwatering boerekos– from kudu sausage to succulent lamb chops, tripe and sosaties. This is meat country! And the family’s new property, Die Stal, promises to offer more of what has put Die Groenhuis on the map. Rates from R120 pps with full country breakfast, Contact 051-773-0073, firstname.lastname@example.org, philippolis.co.za. Wheatlands, Great Karoo One of the most historic farms in the Camdeboo, the guest house at Wheatlands is a superb five-bedroom Arts and Crafts house built at the height of the ostrich boom. Staying here is a marvellous trip back into the luxury and peace of the past, with 150 years of family history around you. It’s rather like staying with a favourite grandmother. Enjoy the stillness of the Karoo, starlit skies, and some of the best traditional breakfasts and dinners in the country. Rates: R290 pps with breakfast and dinner, Contact 049-891-0422, graaffreinet.co.za/wheatlands, email@example.com.
Best for... FAMILIES
Weltevrede Farm, Prince Albert Experience authentic rural life on this working farm some 25km outside Prince Albert in the Great Karoo. Two accommodation options are available: either in the Weltevrede farmhouse, an utterly charming homestead that sleeps up to six people, or at De Hoek, which has more facilities ideal for city slickers, including a spring-fed swimming pool. Figs are harvested here from Januaryto May, and trips into the Swartberg mountains and to view the local Bushman paintings are treats not to be missed. Rates from R125 pps without meals (Weltevrede); from R200 pps with meals (De Hoek), Contact 023-541-1715, princealbert.org.za/weltevrede.htm. The Old School House, Matjiesvlei Owners Colin and Bronwyn Lumb gave up the rat race a few years ago and, so far, rural life is treating them well. The Old School House really is the original school house for this tiny valley near Calitzdorp, and though essentially it’s not a guesthouse, the fact that whatever’s been harvested that day is sent up for you to enjoy puts it up on a pedestal for us. Three bedrooms in the no-frills house cater for six people and children are most definitely welcome– highlights of their day will be popping down to feed the pigs or joining Colin as he drives the cattle over the Gamka river for their daily grazing. Rates from R100 pps, Contact 044-213-3996, firstname.lastname@example.org. Southern Cross Guest House, Plettenberg Bay Owners Neill and Suzie Ovenstone have created the ultimate holiday haven right on Robberg beach. This Nantucket-style guesthouse is decorated in cheerful stripes and pretty florals and is filled with sandy feet-friendly furniture, making it the perfect destination for beach-loving families. Each of the seven en suite rooms is as comfy as can be, with French doors that open onto the pretty flower-filled garden, while a private wooden walkway links you to the beach in under a minute. Rates from R395 pps with breakfast, Contact 044-533-3868, email@example.com, southerncrossbeach.co.za. Wild Olive House, Wellington A new addition to the winning formula at Bartholomeus Klip, the Wild Olive guesthouse has been specifically created for families with children. The renovated farm cottage sleeps six adults comfortably, with a bunk room for toddlers. A fully equipped kitchen, dining room and leafy outdoor patio with a swimming pool ensure a relaxing family escape amidst 10 000 acres of fynbos. Baby-sitters are on standby for parents in need of a break! Rates from R500 pp excluding extras; from R700 pps with three meals, game drives and use of all water sports facilities. Children’s rates apply, Contact 022-448-1820, firstname.lastname@example.org, bartholomeusklip.com.
Best for... ROMANCE
White Elephant Safari Lodge, Pongola Debbie and Heinz Kohrs could have taken the obvious colonial decor route in creating this lodge from the ruins of a 1920s farmhouse, but happily there’s not a wooden mask in sight. Cement floors are reddened with oxide, the roof is simple corrugated iron and furnishings are a select blend of beautiful old pieces, some from Debbie’s family. Ball and claw baths in the eight luxury en suite safari tents open directly onto the bush, and you’ll be hard pressed to tear yourself from them, even for sundowners on a pool deck overlooking the glassy blue waters of Jozini Lake and the Lebombo mountains. Rates: Lodge from R2 000 pps with dinner and breakfast, and two eco-activities each day, Contact 034-413-2489, email@example.com, whiteelephant.co.za. Jan Harmsgat Country House, Swellendam It’s a given that the way to any foodie’s heart is through their stomach. And to prove the truth of this, gourmands are always smitten by the time they leave Jan Harmsgat Country House – where the country cuisine has been known to seduce even the most sophisticated of palates. Owners Brinand Judi Rebstein bought the farm and homestead a few years ago and since then have restored both to their former glory. Accommodation is in the refurbished slave quarters and each of the four rooms is a comfy bolthole – perfect for couples wanting a romantic rural escape. A new secluded cottage also promises blissful retreats. Rates from R690 pps with country breakfast; from R450pp (cottage), Contact 023-616-3407, firstname.lastname@example.org, jhghouse.com.
Ballito Manor, Natal North Coast
This glam white-pillared colonial-style boutique hotel was built in the ’80s as the seaside home of rugby stalwart Dr Louis Luyt, and he still lives on the property. The views from each of its 12 balcony suites are superb, as they are from the restaurant, where chef Denbeigh Schlebusch regularly attracts Durban diners celebrating everything from engagements to anniversaries. The smart set stay over and book treatments at the luxury spa, while for the more actively inclined, the newly built 25-metre pool is a great place to work off all those meals. Rates from R1 050 pps with breakfast, Contact 032-946-3290, email@example.com.
Best for... LUXURY
Lynton Hall, Pennington, South Coast For personalised pampering you can’t beat award-winning Lynton Hall, built by sugar baron Sir Frank Reynolds in 1895 and now extravagantly furnished with Victorian pieces. Plump for the Tower Room, a suite up a narrow, winding staircase in a turreted tower. Ask sommelier Gerard le Hodey nicely and he’ll arrange for you to have drinks up there together as the sun sinks. Lynton’s wines have won it almost as many accolades as the ‘deconstruction cuisine’ of its adventurous chef, Richard Carstens, and the service is as warm as it’s immaculate. Small wonder Lynton has been named one of the world’s top 80 hotels in the world by Condé Nast Traveller. It’s also just been voted one of Eat Out’s top 10 South African restaurants. Rates from R820 pps with breakfast, Contact 039-975-3122, firstname.lastname@example.org, hartford.co.za. Alta Bay, Cape Town Situated on the majestic slopes of Table Mountain, offering picturesque views over the harbour and city, Alta Bay guesthouse is the perfect five-star haven. This newly renovated Higgovale villa, surrounded by a lush garden, is for those who value a relaxed minimalist setting within a buzzing metropolitan atmosphere. Whether you choose to catch some sun lounging by the pool or sip a martini in the seclusion of your own private patio, you’ll feel miles away from the stresses of city life, yet totally in the mix with Cape Town’s cool crowd. Rates from R1 800 pps, Contact 021-487-8800, email@example.com, altabay.com. A Room with a View & A Hundred Angels, Melville The castle-like splendour of A Room with a View & A Hundred Angels offers beautiful vistas and much more besides. The 12 luxury suites are personalised with fireplaces, a conservatory and private balconies, while decor in each also includes original artworks. Ideal for city visitors (there’s a private boardroom for meetings), it’s exactly the kind of magical place to retire to after a crazy day running around the busy streets of Jozi. Though the happening spots of Melville are on your doorstep, owner Lise Wallis will also serve you traditional French-style cuisine. Rates from R350 pps with breakfast, Contact 011-726-6646, firstname.lastname@example.org, aroomwithaview.co.za. This article was originally featured in the January/February 2005 issue of House and Leisure.