￼Here are 12 must-visit spots that’ll ￼get you away from the crowds and close to simple pleasures and (if you’re lucky)￼ some delicious home-made food.
1. The Red Shed
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
GPS S34° 1.229’ E25° 27.082’
This spot on Bushy Park Farm comes with something exceedingly special – eight kilometres of pristine beachfront. It’s a functioning dairy farm, and there’s some small shellfish industry. It’s as pastoral as you could dream of, sectioned-off pastures of acid-green fields and sweet brown and white cows grazing placidly about. What I loved most is the remarkable birdlife that proliferates in the garden, boosted by the coastal strip of unspoilt vegetation. Waking up in the morning was like plugging into nature’s most musical soundtrack; exquisite and a startling reminder of what life sounds like outside urban environments. An unconventional farm stay – essentially a glass box with two king-size beds and a bunk bed on a mezzanine level and two double sleeper couches on the ground floor – it’s best suited to a family or close friends. There’s a pool, a tennis court, beautiful gardens and even a trampoline. It was designed as a playground for the owner’s kids. They’re now grown up but the playground remains, luckily, for the rest of us to enjoy.
– Sonya Schoeman
Do it: From R770 for two; rate increases per additional person (sleeps 10). 0836506171, airbnb.com/rooms/9120180
2. Cobb Cottage
Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape
GPS S33° 31.457’ E23° 55.390’
Being in this cottage makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, where things were simple and life was spent observing nature’s cycles. Set in the Baviaanskloof, deep in a remote valley, there are no passers-by here – it’s utterly private and quiet. The structure is plain adobe made entirely from organic materials and has a bedroom with a double bed and open-plan lounge/kitchen. It’s charming and sweet, and fully green, with solar panels for the lights, paraffin lamps and gas appliances, plus there’s a quirky outdoor bath. Some sheep are run on the former farm, but for the rest you’ll hear nothing but jackals and birds of the night calling after dark. The hike up to the Cedar Falls Kloof ends in one of the best rock pools I’ve ever swum in. Take hiking shoes that allow for kloofing, and start early – the heat can get fierce. It’s owned by Willem Maganie and Marta Humat, who were born and raised here. Marta can make delicious roosterbrood and sour bread, plus you can buy some of the delicious honey from the farm when it’s available.
– Sonya Schoeman
Do it: R980 for two sharing. 0749394395, gobaviaans.co.za
Napier, Western Cape
GPS S34° 25.298’ E19° 47.105’
More of a smallholding than a fully productive farm, Taim-Go-Loer is still an authentic farm stay in the fertile Overberg region. Owned by Ilze Vos and Marlene Cockerell, the accommodation is a spacious two-bedroom home with peach-pip floors and a dreamy open-plan stoep, with an enormous fireplace, facing the wheat fields. Chickens have the run of the kitchen and there are two donkeys that’ll come braying for apples and carrots. Cell-phone signal is sketchy and there’s no television, so bring books and games. It’s simple but very comfortable, with a mixture of old furniture pieces and antique collectables. Thoughtful touches include filter coffee, rusks and milk, plus salt, pepper and oil – the things one always overlooks when packing. Ilze also runs the Napier Padstal in town, which is a great spot to eat at tables beneath a thick covering of grapevine. Grab a home-made takeaway for supper at the farm.
– Melanie Van Zyl
Do it: R375 per person, kids under 13 are R195 (sleeps four). 0834575027, overbergfarm.co.za
4. Rietpoort Hertberg
Victoria West, Northern Cape
GPS S30° 57.O45’ E23° 13.25’
If ever you find yourself cruising the N12 through the Karoo Highlands, look out for Rietpoort. This historic family farm is about 30 kilometres from Victoria West on a quiet road to Britstown, and chances are you’ll see something here you’ve never encountered before. The dolerite outcrops dotting the farm brim with petroglyphs (carved by the San) dating back to the Stone Age period. Something that really will blow your mind is the ‘Bushman’s Piano’, a stack of igneous volcanic rocks formed from silica-rich rhyolite. ‘Play’ the individual rocks with a stone and five bell-clear musical notes will resound across the Bo-Karoo plains, taking you back to a time of moonlight trance dances. Starry skies, endless hiking trails and day-long MTB excursions are part of the Rietpoort package. Once you’ve had your outdoor fill, tuck into local lamb, home-made bakes or other boerekos favourites. The house itself dates back to the early 1800s, with yellow wood floors, pressed metal ceilings and thick walls affording a welcome escape from the extreme climatic conditions. Rietpoort is a ‘green’ farm and runs completely on solar and wind energy, with a strong fountain providing ample water to this lush Karoo oasis.
– Jacques Marais
Do it: From R330 per room, R900 for the cottage (sleeps six). 0832714663, placesforafrica.com
5. Avocado Cottage
Melmoth, KwaZulu Natal
GPS S28° 37.255’ E31° 23.776’
I’ve always loved watching wind ripple through sugar cane, and from Avocado Cottage you can see it from your bedroom window. Originally a 100-hectare plot farmed by owner Henk Maritz’s mother, Euodia (the first female farmer in the area), it’s expanded another 300 hectares into neighbouring land. Avocado Cottage is one of the farmhouses available for stays: a double-storey brick building looking out over the cane fields, with large spaces inside, an ample kitchen, covered stoep and fireplace. There’s a dam in the valley below with wooden decks for sundowners, and Henk’s wife Riana often invites guests for a braai. The farm also has 55 hectares of avocado trees – some of its orchards were planted about 30 years ago. The packing shed is a beast, capable of processing up to 60 tons of avos per day. It’s surprisingly fascinating and worth visiting in season (June to November) to see the endless green snake of these creamy fruits being readied for market.
– Teagan Cunniffe
Do it: From R850 for two. Rate increases per additional person (sleeps seven). 0826512837, airbnb.com/rooms/12800736
6. Tierhoek Cottages
Robertson, Western Cape
GPS S33° 42.719’ E19° 47.355’
‘Dust spoils plums!’ warns a sign as you drive along the dirt road winding up into a crease in the Langeberg mountains. From this dirt road, tracks peel off to each of the five farm cottages dotted around Tierhoek, a working fruit farm. Quince Cottage, tucked deepest into the valley, is the most private – as long as you don’t count the trio of friendly donkeys that roam the adjacent mountainside. Sleeping four, it’s the most typical farm cottage. For a big family or a group, Fig Tree House is the one to book. Modern, spacious and with panoramic views, it sleeps 10. There’s a sweeping lawn that would suit a boozy game of croquet just as easily as piggy-in-the-middle. All the cottages have a private plunge pool, a fireplace and fresh farm eggs in the fridge courtesy of chickens which spend their days ‘skoffeling around for goggas’.
– Kati Auld
Do it: Quince Cottage is R1 160 for two and R260 per person extra, Fig Tree House R2800 for four and R260 per person extra. 0236261191, tierhoekcottages.co.za
7. Roodeport Farm
Clarens, Free State
GPS S28° 25.733’ E28° 28.864’
Just 15 kilometres from Clarens on a good gravel road that cuts past sandstone cliffs, Roodepoort Farm has four different accommodation options in big-sky country. The largest, Lara’s Homestead, has the most authentic farm feel with retro signage, Nguni- skin rugs and an old Aga stove in the corner. This is the original Roodepoort House built in 1883 that has sweeping views of the valley and can take up to 10 people. Angus cattle are bred on the farm and beans, soya and maize grown. When I stayed I also saw sheep sleeping in a barn a little way below the farmhouse. Despite its pastoral homage, Lara’s is a sleek and modern space with concrete finishes. It has five spacious bedrooms, two comfortable bathrooms and the lounge area has
a fireplace beside the dining room. Of the three cottages, the smaller two flank Lara’s and are ideal to rent if you need more beds. Tackle the hiking or mountain-bike trails on the farm, otherwise Clarens is close enough to explore if you feel like it.
– Melanie Van Zyl
Do it: From R700 per person for two and R350 per person for four. Minimum two-night stay. 0824475999, roodepoortfarm.co.za
8. Her Majesty’s Apology
Harrismith, Free State
GPS S28° 10.715’ E29° 7.753’
Set in a gorgeous garden filled with flowers, this renovated sandstone farmhouse is a real beauty just 17kilometres off the N3. It was burnt down during the Anglo-Boer War and rebuilt as part of British post-war reparations, hence the great name. Each room has a mesh-covered door leading onto the shady, vine-covered stoep and the whole place is cared for with fresh flowers displayed in each room. The bright and airy farm kitchen overlooks a cattle field and horse harrumphing nearby, but host Angie Bester can also provide fresh home-made meals or a picnic basket I eagerly had seconds and thirds of her creamy savoury tart and mango salad. Angie also knows the best mountain-bike routes nearby, with scenic options on old farm roads and more technically challenging ones. There’s a pool and dam for swimming and blue cranes regularly fly over the farm. Here, you’ll find kindness, heart and quiet that make it hard to leave.
– Melanie Van Zyl
Do it: R300 per person and R150 for kids over five (sleeps six). Single guests only pay R300. 0827571310, sleeping-out.co.za
9. Corrie Lynn Cottage
Dargle Valley,KwaZulu Natal
GPS S29° 30.779’ E30° 6.751’
Walking along the green hills of this farm in Dargle, mist cloaking the landscape, you’d swear you were in Ireland itself. Corrie Lynn was established in 1882 and the amiable Fowlers have been in residence since 1948. The 350 hectares are home to a 160-strong herd of Nguni cattle, sheep and crops (grown by Robin’s cousin). The lodge sleeps 18 and is great for bigger groups, but to me the smaller cottage takes first prize. It’s set up on the hill, covered prettily in wisteria that flowers in spring. The house was converted from labourers’ quarters and it’s simple and down-to-earth. An indoor fireplace for winter, wooden furniture (handmade by Robin), two bedrooms and a long, undercover porch with views over the farmland for you
to soak up, or from which to listen to the howling of jackals at night. Bring your (socialised) dogs for a walk to the large bass-filled dam, and if you run out of bread and jam, the farm stalls of the Midlands Meander are a short drive away.
– Teagan Cunniffe
Do it: R800 for two in the cottage, plus R320 per person extra (sleeps four). 0332344447, corrielynn.co.za
10. Kaapsehoop Horse Trails
Berlin Plantation, Mpumalanga
GPS S25° 33.461’ E30° 43.906’
It’s an hour’s drive from Nelspruit to Kaapsehoop, climbing 800 metres into the soaring pine plantations of the Drakensberg escarpment. Emerging into open fields, you’ll see the first free- roaming horses. Owner Christo Germishuys advocates natural horsemanship, a philosophy that requires plenty of space and uses coaxing and communication for training. Riders as young as six are welcome on his guided one-hour trail, with longer excursions available for experienced riders. The farm itself is scattered with seemingly ancient equine artefacts, some conceivably discarded for generations, others maybe just set aside for later use. These continue inside the four charming cottages, with old kit vying for wall space above solid farmhouse furnishings. Each cottage is equipped for self-catering, but be sure to have at least one meal at the Gypsy Caravan Café, where chef Mike Kay serves delicious 10 meals on his fabulous sunset stoep.
– Chris Davies
Do it: From R330 per person to R500 per person (cottages sleep up to 12). Horse trails from R315 an hour. 0761080081, horsebacktrails.co.za
11. Klein Nektar Wine & Olive Estate
Montagu, Western Cape
GPS S33° 47.512’ E20° 7.047’
I’ve mentioned the small cottage on this farm before, but this time it was the just- opened, exclusive-use Manor House that caught my eye. New owners Kai Daehnke and Alan Coles, fresh from sailing the world, have plunged into farm life with relish. You’d never expect to find so much space and quiet in the middle of Montagu, or the abundance of fresh offerings from this micro-farm. Five hens, pampered to an inch of their soft brown feathers, produce mounds of eggs in repayment. There are Chardonnay vines, a fruit and citrus grove, olive, almond and pecan trees and organic veggies – the produce is on offer in season to guests. The two-bedroom guest house is stylishly decorated with modern and antique finds, and a recent house-warming gift of a rare bar billiards table. The shaded patio drips grapes and the look out over the pool onto the Langeberg mountains, with the sound of sheep bleating in the distance, is the perfect accompaniment to your wine. It’s a taste of farm life with all the comforts of a luxury stay.
– Teagan Cunniffe
Do it: From R1900 for two. R650 per person extra (sleeps four). 0715062810, kleinnektar.com
12. Glenogle Farm
GPS S23° 54.197’ E29° 59.836’
You’ll have three handsome horses as your neighbours at The Stables luxury self-catering cottage on Glenogle Farm, about three-and-a-half hours from Joburg. Flanked by pine forests, the stylish farmhouse has an industrial, modern feel (free Wi-Fi) and was designed by a local architect. The four-bed space is also exceptionally cosy and was built around the stables beside a grassy paddock. A beautiful spiral staircase leads upstairs to the bedrooms, from a living area sprinkled with lovely old furniture, generous leather couches and hydrangea bouquets picked from the farm gardens. There’s also a big fireplace with plenty of firewood to keep you going on colder days, and on warmer ones there’s a dam for splashing in or to fish trout from. In season, you can pick your own berries for R50 at nearby Blueberry Heights farm, but it’s worth visiting the Mountain Café on the premises anyway for fresh, seasonal food. Go for walks or bring bikes to cycle the mountain trails.
– Melanie Van Zyl
Do it: R700 per person for two and R475 per person for four. 0832598321, glenogle.co.za
This story first appeared in the April 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.
Our April issue features a guide to the Otter Trail, the sunniest roadtrip in SA, and 12 awesome farmstays.