At these ten options for South African farm accommodation, you can sit on your stoep and watch animals graze in the distance or get up with the sun and see what life is truly like on a working farm.
10 options for farm accommodation in South Africa
1. Halfaampieskraal, Overberg
People arrive at Halfaampieskraal thinking they’ll use it as a base to explore the area around Napier and Bredasdorp, but most end up spending all their days beside the swimming pool or in the lounge of this bizarrely beautiful farmhouse. It’s so fabulous, it’s hard to believe this is a working goose, Merino sheep and wheat farm.
The old farmhouse has been given a new lease on life with remarkable antique pieces, paintings and decorated with colourful murals and a perfect stuffed peacock with all its feathers intact stands proud in the corner. The lounge extends onto a porch the length of the house where pot plants flourish in between wooden loungers; this is the perfect setting for a cold G&T from the honesty bar.
The meals at Halfaampieskraal are half the reason guests return again and again. Think mutton pies, creamy baked mushrooms, green bean salad, roasted vegetables topped with burnt sage and a bottomless stack of thickly sliced farm bread. If you’re staying for more than one night – which you should – you might be lucky enough to tuck into a seafood paella fresh from the fireplace that warms up the dining room in the evening.
The en-suite rooms are just across the yard from the main house in renovated farm buildings that now feature heavy velvet curtains and antique lampshades instead of livestock and hay bales. You might find that you sleep much better here than at home – not just because the beds are higher and longer than normal, but also because your duvet is filled with the soft white feathers of those geese you met earlier.
Tel 028 452 1744, www.kraal.biz
2. Papkuilsfontein, Nieuwoudtville
On a hot afternoon on the Bokkeveld Plateau, the sun sits white in the sky. A windmill moans as it turns in the heat. It’s the only sound you hear while floating in the clear, cool water of the cement swimming pool. Behind you, dassies scurry on the craggy sandstone rocks.
There’s beauty in the stark landscape of Papkuilsfontein, a sheep and rooibos farm in the Northern Cape where Jaco and Alrie van Wyk will entertain with an arsenal of stories (ask about the time lightning struck so hard a cow had a heart attack).
The family started farming here in 1838 and they have restored the historic cottages set two kilometres from the farmhouse not only to host guests, but also to leave behind another story for generations to come. Solar and wind power keep the farm running while gas powers the geyser, stove and fridge. All three cottages are fully equipped to self cater.
It’s tempting to spend all your time on the stone porch or in the hammock under the eucalyptus tree, but you have to explore the rest of the farm, starting with a bowl of slow-cooked oats and stewed fruit, an omelette and strong coffee up at the main house.
Fuelled up, take the marked hiking trail to Oorlogskloof Canyon. Start at the cottages and wind through fynbos and renosterveld, over sandstone rocks and between plates of yellow spring flowers.
A three-course dinner is delivered to your cottage just after sunset. It changes daily, but if the lamb shank and vegetable pot pie is anything to judge by, you’ll always be scraping the bottom of the pots for more.
Tel 027 218 1246, www.papkuilsfontein.com
3. Boskloofswemgat, Clanwilliam
Dragonflies dance on the surface of the Jan Dissels River, but they quickly scatter when someone leaps into the large natural swimming hole or races downstream on a colourful inflatable.
Life in the Boskloof Valley settled along this river as far back as 1930 when the first building was constructed. Back then it was a pig farm and generations of the Nieuwoudt farming family gradually built seven more small houses for workers and families on the riverbank. Today, the pigs are long forgotten, cattle roam the fields beyond the river and the cottages have been restored to sleep four to eight guests each.
Huge wild fig trees loom over and shade the verandas in front of each of the green-roofed cottages. The self-catering kitchens are similar in set-up and each is equipped with a two-plate stove, fridge, microwave and oven.
Langhuis has a private swimming hole, while the other cottages share the main swemgat in the river. Take your dogs to join in the fun – the friendly Lab from a neighbouring farm will enjoy the company, but keep an eye on your flip-flops and takkies as this hound is a sly shoe thief.
The only time you’ll actually need your shoes, though, is to explore beyond the river. A four-hour hike up the steep hill behind the main house will have you staring out across the northern Cederberg, but you can also explore the area on horseback, mountain bike or 4×4 (organised through the farm).
Whatever you do with your day, tanning on the sandbank or lazing in a camp chair while a fire crackles, it’s best ended with a refreshing swim and a sosatie under the stars.
Tel 027 482 2522, www.boskloofswemgat.co.za
4. Houdenbek, Koue Bokkeveld
It’s early morning in the Koue Bokkevled, the Sandvlei Dam is bathed in golden sunlight and the farm is already alive with activity. The modest farm shop opens its doors and a few workers make a quick stop before heading to the onion and potato fields on another part of the property. Others disappear into the apple and pear orchids and kids run down to the main road to catch the school bus.
Your temporary home is close to all of this, right beside the main house in a restored early 19th century barn that was built by the farm’s founders. The beds are new, the covers soft and the kitchen has everything you need to make decent meals and plunger coffee.
Take out your mountain bike to explore one of the three trails traversing the farm. They range from 10 to 40 kilometres and while the longest of these is the most challenging, the single-track that winds through a pine forest makes it worth the effort.
Not a cyclist? Explore the farm on foot with the nine kilometre Heiveld Arch Trail and get to hike in the Cederberg without having to worry about crowded footpaths. The arch itself is particularly beautiful and it’s easy to climb up and enjoy the view across the rows of mountains beyond.
Make a point of stopping at the rock art site marked along the route. It is believed to have been a shaman site and the figure painted in red has both feminine and masculine features. Spend the afternoon cooling off in the river or lounging on the shady lawn in front of your cottage.
Tel 083 661 9912, www.houdenbek.co.za
5. Snyderskloof, Matjiesfontein
To get to Snyderskloof you have to pass through three farms. Each time you stop to open a farm gate, you get a little further from the N1 highway and deeper into the Karoo. Your destination is the distant hills, which look more like mountains standing tall above the anklehigh rocks and Karoo bossies.
Fluffy clouds that seem to have been copied and pasted as far as the eye can see provide an impressive view from your stone cottage built against a hill. Here, it’s just you, a windmill and the three workers who look after the small-scale sheep farm – there’s really is nothing to bother you for miles. It feels as though you have this patch of succulent Karoo all to yourself, even when the owners come to spend the weekend in their private house nearby.
There’s no electricity, but that doesn’t mean the cottage is roughly rustic. A bright red kettle sings on the gas stove and a gas fridge keeps the milk fresh. There are three colourful sets of mugs and saucers for endless cups of coffee and pack food for your whole stay, because once you’ve settled in, you won’t want to make the 45-kilometre journey to Laingsburg for supplies.
In the two bedrooms, old bed frames are weighed down by thick mattresses and new covers that resemble a traditional laslappie kombers (patchwork quilt). Heart-shaped bunting adds colour and eco-friendly soaps stand beside the shower’s exposed copper pipes.
While away the quiet Karoo days in the pool out front and spend evenings around the fireplace before blowing out the candles and staring up at the undisturbed, star-speckled sky.
Tel 083 462 0850, www.snyderskloof.co.za
6. Brakdakkie, Prince Albert
When Lance and Kerrigan Speirs bought a 3 800-square-metre section of a smallholding on the outskirts of Prince Albert, the previous owner, a hoarder, left them with rooms full of junk. However, to the Speirs, the rusted meat grinders, tools and soap tins weren’t junk, but things to collect and use to decorate the house, garden and three guest cottages.
Previously a donkey shed, tool room and dairy barn, the cottages carry their past only in the small windows and thick walls. The interiors are entirely refurbished in white for a bright, fresh feel. Each cottage has a private patio and splash pool, so it never feels like you’re on top of your neighbour.
Take a moment to appreciate the windmill. Lance spent years collecting all the pieces needed to build it, and when he finally climbed down to look at his handiwork, the entire structure fell over, almost killing him. His second try at erecting it was more successful.
Walk around to the back of the main house and you’ll find the veggie garden. During summer you can see anything from pumpkin, pomegranate, chillies, baby marrow, lettuce or apricots growing here, but it’s only for making jams and preserves for the local Saturday market.
Two of the cottages sleep two people each and the third sleeps four. They have only kitchenettes, but you’ll find a list of Prince Albert’s restaurants (all about a 10-minute walk down the road) on the table when you arrive. Follow the map or simply walk down the town’s broad main road and pick one along the way.
Tel 079 185 3554, www.wix.com/karooluigi/brakdakkieguestcottages
7. Lowlands Country House, Cradock
You’ll struggle to believe you’re in the heart of the Karoo, only 30 minutes from Cradock, when you sit back on the shady lawn at Lowland’s Country House with a slice of Anne Bowker’s vanilla and gooseberry cake, birdsong wafting down from the trees around you.
The farm is on the banks of the Great Fish River and even though Anne and husband Dave live across the yard in a cottage, it feels like they’re welcoming you into their home. You’ll often hear her pottering in the kitchen, as staff trundle past in the tractor, overseeing the sheep, maize and pecan nut activities on the farm.
If you prefer privacy, stay in the self-catering Manor House, about four kilometres from the main house. It has a big farm kitchen and sleeps 12 guests in four rooms. The grass out front and the ping-pong table will keep kids entertained and a short walk through maize fields will bring you the Great Fish River for a swim.
You can walk just about anywhere on the 11 000-hectare farm, and the surrounding farms all belong to the same extended family, so you can even explore the open fields and river paths you’ll find beyond the gates.
Anne prepares all the meals at the main house. Order them specially if you stay at the Manor House and don’t feel like cooking. If you’re lucky, there’ll be Karoo lamb on the menu, but anything coming from her oven is bound to be delicious. And don’t even think about saving space by skipping the bread – farmer Dave is also an expert baker and makes it fresh every day.
Tel 071 393 3354, www.lowlandscountryhouse.co.za
8. Langfontein, Graaff-Reinet
The Karoo has two luxuries: space and silence. And the folks at Langfontein strongly believe these shouldn’t be meddled with. Staying here means you’re left in peace to read, go for picnics or learn more about life on the wildlife and cattle farm in the hilly surroundings of the Camdeboo Conservancy.
The farm specialises in breeding rare roan and sable antelopes – some are sold at auctions while others remain in the large camp on the farm – in an effort to increase their numbers. Hitch a ride with one of the workers to the enclosure and see them at feeding times (the only time people are allowed inside the camp).
When revamping the cottages, the owners, former city dwellers, decided on three very important things that any holiday home should have – big showerheads, comfortable beds decked in crisp white linen and good coffee. Everything else you need for self-catering is on hand, but if you let them know in advance, you can join them for a hearty breakfast in the manor house.
You’ll find the 1830 cottage just a short walk across a bouncy lawn. The original farmhouse and another cottage are about five kilometres away and ideal for cosy, secluded winters, plus at this time of year you’ll get to see the disease-free buffalo, also bred here, come down to feed in the nearby pastures.
Take your mountain bike along to explore the gravel roads that run across the farm, past rivers and along the mountains of the conservancy or walk the five-kilometre river trail, swimming as you go.
Tel 082 781 9015, www.langfonteinfarm.co.za
9. Boesmanskop, Oudtshoorn
Exploring the grounds of Boesmanskop is like getting lost in a secret garden. As you pick your way between overgrown bushes and push apart low hanging branches, you’ll discover a tiny wooden bridge and a dam hidden in the foliage. It’s a child’s dream come true and a magical setting for a weekend away.
A contrastingly neat patch of lawn surrounds the swimming pool. Nearby, you’ll find one of the two double guest rooms in a freestanding building alongside the main house, where owner Tinie Bekker still lives and where his parents lived before him.
The second en-suite room is above the entertainment room, but while heavy curtains and low-hanging velvet lampshades go well with whisky and snooker downstairs, upstairs is spacious, light and airy. Slide open the wooden-framed windows and enjoy a striking view of vineyards and the Swartberg mountains beyond.
Apart from supplying grapes to Calitzdorp Cellars, the farm also produces milk and tobacco, but you won’t see the fields and pastures unless you tie your laces and explore beyond the rooms and pool area.
Rooms have only a small kitchenette, so rather than struggle to cook your own food, request your meals for an extra fee from Tinie. Breakfast is on the leafy veranda, where you can pick the grapes growing above your head, and dinner is in the old dining room. The decadent desserts match the elegance of the high-backed chairs, dark wood dining table and silver engraved with Tinie’s grandpa’s initials.
Tel 044 213 3362, www.boesmanskop.co.za
10. Landmeterskop, Stanford
Waking up to see sheep grazing outside your front door is a sure sign that you’re on a working farm. They love the pastures outside Landmeterskop’s converted labourer’s cottages and if you forget to close your garden gate, they might even come up to your doorstep.
After a strong cup of plunger coffee, the first thing on your agenda is to collect your breakfast eggs. You can buy the farm’s free-range eggs, but picking them out of the chicken coop is more fun. If you have kids, let them milk the British Alpine goats before strolling back for a late breakfast on the stoep.
The rest of the day is yours to enjoy as you please. If it’s summer, the best place to spend it is up at the swimming dam or in a paddleboat on a larger dam a short walk away. The Overberg creates a fine backdrop.
For uninterrupted vistas of the farm, go by car or on foot and take the 4×4 or the SUV road across the farm to a viewing point – remember to head back down in time to feed the ducks. The rowdy quacking might be alarming, especially to small kids, but they quieten down as soon as you throw them a handful of corn kernels.
Prepare dinner in your fully equipped self-catering kitchen or on the braai. The two labourer’s cottages are identical and sleep four people each, while the recently renovated homestead is big enough for 11, making it ideal for families.
If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Don Carlos, the resident llama, but he is usually out in the field keeping predators away from the sheep – he’s a surprisingly brave protector.
Tel 028 314 0479, www.landmeterskop.com
This article first appeared in the June 2014 issue of Getaway Magazine.