There’s nothing better than a big group getaway, with a bunch of friends or family spilling out of every room in the house. One of the best things about a group holiday is that when everyone chips in, accommodation can be really affordable – especially in low season. We’ve found these lovely places to stay all over South Africa that are perfect for a big group: and they’re all under R400 per person!
Group accommodation in Gauteng
1. Rustig, Magaliesberg
Cost: R180 per person for The Dormitory or Stone House; Heritage House is R333 per person when booking for six.
What a well-chosen name for this lush farm deep within the Hartebeestfontein Conservancy. Towering trees and flowering shrubs punctuate the rolling lawns overlooked by a sprawling restaurant and veranda. There is an inviting 25-metre pool and, given the luxury of the grounds and facilities, the amiable service and great location, Rustig is surely the best bargain in the berg. You could spend the day at the pool after an early morning game drive (R250 per person including breakfast), but most come for the hikes of three, five or 13 kilometres, or to overnight in the mountain hut, Karee (R170 per person).
The Dormitory is a double-storey block with six rooms, ideal for a group (up to 36), but three of the rooms can also be made up with just two single beds – book an upstairs corner room. Nearby basic Stone House sleeps six and is a great budget family option. Heritage House, the original three-bedroom farmhouse, is furnished with antiques and shares one Victorian-style but modern bathroom. It’s not really set up to self-cater (meals can be served to you here, or at the restaurant) but you can braai. Ages 13 and over only.
2. Kingfisher Lodge, Waterberg
Cost: From R320 per person a night, sleeps 10
Within earshot of the trickling Palala River, Kingfisher Lodge is a spacious bushveld home in the Waterberg just three hours’ drive from Joburg. It’s one of three accommodation units in the Palala River Lodges collection and consists of a three-bedroom farmhouse with a cosy fireplace that takes centre stage in the open-plan living area and two en-suite rondavels nearby. It can accommodate up to 10 guests and has an on-site pool and a bird hide a short walk from the lodge. Pack a picnic and go for a drive to find the perfect spot in the 300-hectare reserve. There are many scenic lookout points, 4×4 routes, waterbuck, giraffe and warthog to spot or just unwind on the lodge porch with a view of the Waterberg hills and harrumphing hippo for company.
Group accommodation in the North-West Province
3. Mamagalie Mountain Lodge
Cost: From R325 per person, sleeps 12
Roughly 100 kilometres from Johannesburg the landscape transforms from highveld to bushveld near Buffelspoort Dam. Here, five secluded lodges cleverly nestled in a valley make up the Mamagalie self-catering collection. Two are designed for couples ‒ River Lodge and Tranquility Lodge, the latter is the most romantic with a private deck and outdoor shower overlooking a stream ‒ while Bush and Forest lodges both sleep four (the tented three-storey Bush Lodge on stilts is great, with great Buffelspoort Valley views). Mountain Lodge is the biggest, sleeping 12, and is perfect for kids to explore the active farm, which has an avocado and lemon orchard, pecan nut and newly planted fig trees and raspberry bushes. Expect to find hornbills floating from the trees and hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra and gemsbok roaming the slopes. Walk in the bush and explore the rock pools in the protected Magaliesberg green belt.
Group accommodation in the Western Cape
4. Driftwood, Paternoster
Cost: From R340 per person, sleeps 10
Most of the houses on the wide curve of beach that runs north from Voorstrandt restaurant to Long Beach are built to accommodate eight guests comfortably. Of these, Driftwood easily trumped the contenders thanks to a happy combination of great style and value for money. Owned and designed by architect and designer Paul Versfeld, it shows, and because it can sleep up to 10, the rate is only R340 ‒ R400 per person. Given the phenomenal beachfront location in one of the most popular coastal villages in South Africa, you are looking at a real bargain. The fact that it’s pet-friendly is the final clincher. There are three double rooms downstairs, of which the best has the sea view. The large upstairs master bedroom has two single beds, so it’s ideal for a couple with young children.
5. Gifberg Holiday Farm, Vanrhysndorp
Cost: From R190 per person when booking for six or more
Given that there’s a countrywide drought, a rooibos farm tucked beneath the armpit of the Northern Cape seems like a foolish place to come looking for water. Dusty and dry, most farms nearby have had to pump water up the plateau at eye-boggling cost. Not so at Gifberg Holiday Farm. Here, after a short hike, you can while away the afternoon at a number of beautiful rock pools. Tuinhuis is the best of the six chalets: sleeping six, it’s private without being remote, and hunches under a rock face with such vibrant lichen patterns that it looks like a rock painting. The furnishings are fairly utilitarian, but you won’t be spending much time inside: the farm is covered with hiking trails and rock art. Make plans to visit during flower season, when they have guided walks and stargazing sessions.
Group accommodation in KwaZulu-Natal
6. Thrums, Southbroom
Cost: From R300 per person, sleeps 10
Located in South Ridge Road, Thrums was one of the very first cottages to be built in Southbroom, and as such enjoys a plum position: elevated enough to enjoy those enormous blue horizons yet a few strides down the hill to Granny’s tidal pool. Very much an old family cottage, Thrums was bought by the granddad of the current owners ‒ siblings Rose Stephenson and Charles Anderson ‒ back in the 1960s. They clubbed together to renovate the house a few years back, opening up the central living space and kitchen. There are outdoor patios, one with a braai, and two bedrooms flanking this easy living space. Ballito-based Rose attributes the decor style to her sister-in-law Luan, and it’s thoughtfully eclectic, keeping a sense of its old beach cottage roots but not falling prey to the mish-mash of hand-me-downs and bargain basement furniture that typifies too many second homes. Of the five bedrooms, four have sea views; three are en-suite while two bedrooms share a bathroom. There is also an extra games room downstairs.
7. Rock Shandy Beach House, Southbroom
Cost: From R375 per person, sleeps 12
We love the space and the rustic atmosphere of this large, luxury self-catering house. The downstairs living area has been opened up to create an open-flow between the interiors and the generous pool deck. Of the five bedrooms upstairs, three have sea views (the main bedroom is a showstopper); a tiny courtyard bedroom deals with overflow guests. It’s a stylish beach house, pretty much unparalleled on this stretch of coast. Serviced daily by Edna, who can also babysit.
8. Irv’s Place, Southbroom
Cost: From R200 per person, sleeps 11. There’s also a resident caretaker/ cleaner fee of R150 per day, depending on numbers.
This is one of those wonderful original South Coast gems ‒ a single-storey bungalow with a green palisade garden gate that leads you through a ribbon of indigenous forest directly onto Southbroom beach. The pounding breakers are a constant lullaby but the forest precludes any real sea views (if this is important, then nearby Thrums is a better bet). Unrenovated, Irv’s is still fairly basic in design, but owner Sally Strachan has furnished it well ‒ better than anything comparable on Park Drive, the road that hugs Southbroom’s beach. Irv’s Place is extremely good value given the beachfront location, style and space: sleeping up to 11 in five bedrooms (three en-suite plus one family bathroom; one bedroom has three beds). The lounge-dining area opens onto a small covered veranda and private shady garden with a short path that leads to the beach. The main beach, with resident lifesavers, is a five-minute walk from here.
9. Ngoye Lodge, Mtunzini
Cost: From R350 per person, sleeps 10
Unexpectedly spacious in this small coastal town, Ngoye Lodge is ideal for a fun group get-together in an outdoorsy environment. It’s set on a wide green lawn with a lengthy swimming pool out front for hot summer days. The open-plan design and large windows create an easy flow and its style is contemporary, with SA arts and crafts and plant-filled vases. When you’re finished dining at the outside table or playing on the foosball machine, you can head to the beach, just a few minutes’ drive away. If you’re lucky you might even spot one of Mtunzini’s famous palm-nut vultures. Ngoye sleeps 10 in five bedrooms, and should you need more space your group can spill over into the more private Nguni Cottage, a tastefully furnished two-bedroom house where Jacob Zuma once rested his head while attending a nearby wedding ceremony.
10. The Hatchery, Amatikulu
Cost: From R166 per person, sleeps six
Ignore your first impressions as you drive up the road to The Hatchery and see ramshackle buildings that were once part of a prawn farming operation. The 10 rooms are neat and quirky in a prime location overlooking the banks of the Amatikulu River. A communal kitchen and the Gin Tank (a shared pool) make staying here a social affair but multiple braai areas and a sundowner chill-out spot give you space to do your own thing. (There is also a cottage with its own kitchen which sleeps eight). If you feel the need to be active you can fish in the lagoon or paddle to the river mouth. Make sure you visit the famous Prawn Shak, a 20-minute walk away along Amatikulu Beach, where you can feast on endless courses and tequilas.
11. Little Wing Teepee Camp, Underberg
An unusual tented camp that’s six months old, this self-catering teepee homestead is best booked as a group. Four tents each sleep two comfortably (squeeze kids in on single mattresses) and face a central firepit-cum-braai area beside a trout-filled dam. You can walk along the river below the property, hike in nearby Cobham Nature Reserve (R40 pp and kids R20), or tackle Sani Pass ‒ both are roughly 20 kilometres away. The area is great for mountain biking, or hop on a horse for R150 each (kids get pony rides for free). Tents are spacious and have bohemian touches such as dream catchers. There’s electricity, gas heaters, extra blankets and a fully kitted communal open-air kitchen, but bring towels. The camp is close to a main dirt road, but it exudes a secluded feel.
12. Mseni Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso
Cost: From R303 per person, sleeps 10
Behind the smooth pinstripe beach that decorates Sodwana Bay is a jungle: a deep, clotted tropical mess that swallows the idea of sea-view accommodation whole. Well, almost whole. Peeking out of the coastal thicket is Mseni Beach Lodge, one of only two places to stay inside the Sodwana Bay section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Its log cabins are glowing after a recent facelift (it’s under new management), with further upgrades planned, but the best, by far, is Sea View House. It’s as close to the beach as you’re going to get. The upstairs balcony has a view over the ocean and a large gas braai. Inside, there’s a bright open-plan lounge and fully equipped kitchen area and downstairs, fresh, white-linen bedrooms make for great afternoon naps.
Group accommodation in Limpopo
13. Hamasha Bushcamp
Cost: From R375 per person when booked for eight
Melanie van Zyl’s grandparents were among the first visitors to Leshiba Wilderness and their stories of mountain biking past rhino, bonding with friends over the braai and birding up in the clouds on the 2600-hectare reserve have tickled her travel taste buds for years. Her own visit to off-the-grid Hamasha Bushcamp did not disappoint and the owners still remember my granny and grandpa. The self-catering eight-sleeper camp is perched on the edge of the world in an amphitheatre of cliffs and mountains with breathtaking views of the Hamasha Gorge. The camp consists of two cottages sleeping four each, a central kitchen and lounge area with a fireplace. There’s no cell reception or electricity and the camp runs on gas, just like it did 20 years ago.
Group accommodation in the Eastern Cape
14. Uitkyk, Eersterivier
Cost: From R300 per person when booking for ten (base rate of R1 400 for two adults)
Uitkyk sits on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean about five kilometres off the N2. This is not your average flop-around-on-saggy-couches holiday home. It’s smart, more French Provencal than beach-house white but it’s comfy and has all you need. The X-factor is the sweeping deck which feels like you’re suspended in mid-air with the ocean just there. You can spend your entire holiday on this deck. There are three bedrooms, all with fantastic bed linen, and the master bedroom has doors opening out to the ocean. Activities include beach walking, swimming, bungee jumping and swinging a golf club at the course up the road ‒ but it’s also okay to just sit and enjoy the view.
15. The Sullies, Morgan Bay
Cost: From R380 per person, sleeps 10
Just an hour’s drive from East London, the stylish double-storey The Sullies beach house overlooks a lush lagoon alive with birds in Morgan Bay. White hammocks adorn the deck and a 10-minute walk takes you straight to the beach ‒ a beautiful bay fringed by dramatic Wild Coast cliffs. The open-plan kitchen includes a Nespresso machine, gas stove, icemaker, two fridges and daily housekeeping so catering for 10 is a breeze. There are three spacious and chic en-suite double bedrooms and two kids’ rooms with enough bunk beds to sleep six. Basic supplies are available from a store nearby, but if you’re not one for cooking on holiday, check out the Morgan Bay Hotel for a variety of meals and sip daiquiris on the deck while gazing at the ocean.
16. The Kraal, Mpande Beach
Cost: From R190 per person
The Kraal is unreal. Set in The Kei, in deep rural Pondoland, is a collection of traditional Xhosa huts at the ocean’s edge. Wearing shoes and locking doors are unnecessary here. This rural accommodation gets its water from the sky and energy from the sun and also has a large wood-burning oven for delicious pizzas. Whale Hut is great for families, while Eagle Hut is better for bigger groups, sleeping up to eight. There is a kitchen downstairs which can be used by all guests. The Kraal grows its own veggies and any extras are sold to guests. The local shop stocks basics and also grows vegetables to sell. I bought a dozen oysters from a woman on the beach for R25. You can also enjoy a Xhosa meal at Kholeka’s restaurant in the village.