Looking for an affordable weekend break near Joburg? These 12 self-catering cottages and cabins were some of our favourites last year. They’re all under R400 per person per night and come endorsed by our Getaway journos and contributors.
Also read: Top 32 weekend getaways near Johannesburg
Please note that all prices below are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before travelling.
1. Bird’s Haven Guesthouse, Parys
Cost: From R300 per person (sleeps six)
Contact: Tel 0823845260, birdshavenguesthouse.co.za
Bird’s Haven is an ideal winter escape for busy Joburgers. Leave after work and 130 kilometres later, arrive in Parys. Park under the old pecan nut tree and enter the cosy double-storey home – owner Petro Lottering will have the heater going for you. The quirky, vintage-style two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage can sleep up to six people. It’s good value for money, with attention to detail such as milk in the fridge, rusks beside the tea, coffee and sugar, big bars of soap and fresh towels, plus load-shedding gear such as solar lights and a gas cooker. There’s also an oil heater, plenty of warm blankets plus an electric blanket, hot-water bottles, big baths and piping-hot water to fill them with. The private garden and peaceful veranda is great for morning coffee with the birds. Kids and pets are welcome.
2. Botshabelo Guest House and Farmyard, Groot Marico
Cost: From R280 per person per night sharing
Botshabelo Guest House and Farmyard is a good choice for adventure junkies and outdoorsy types who also like their comfort. You can go bird-watching, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, swimming and water-skiing at the nearby Marico Bushveld Dam. Each suite has its own entrance, veranda or wooden deck and fully equipped kitchen.
Also read our guide to Groot Marico: the wisdom in Bosman Country
3. Cheerio Trout Fishing & Holiday Resort, Magoebaskloof
Cost: From R425 per unit (sleeps two) to R1300 per unit (sleeps up to six)
Three of the five cottages are face-brick, and the design-conscious may balk at the lounge furniture: but if you’re on a budget and have an active family, these eight spotless cottages offer an affordable escape and facilities for fishing and various children’s games. The cottages ‒ dotted about the well-maintained lawns above the trout dams ‒ are each completely unique in style and configuration, and well represented online. (Don’t confuse Cheerio Resort with neighbouring Cheerio Gardens; aside from the latter’s famously beautiful garden, it has a fabulous special-event venue as well as two self-catering cottages. If you aren’t looking for resort facilities and prefer privacy, the larger of the two ‒ the original home of Sheila ‘Box’ Thompson, who established the gardens in the 1940s ‒ is basic but very comfortable; fireplace; pretty garden; sleeps seven; R1100 per night.)
Room tip: Cheerio Trout Fishing & Holiday Resort’s two-bedroom Forest Cottage (sleeps 4) enjoys the most private location and has nice views; alternatively Grandpa’s Cottage (sleeps 4 or 5) is private and has a great outdoor dining area; Beefwood Cottage (sleeps 4 to 6) has a forest setting.
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4. Kingfisher Lodge, Waterberg
Cost: From R260 per person a night (sleeps 10)
Contact: Tel 0825708474, jembisa.com
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.
Also read: a roadtrip through the Waterberg
5. Lindani, Waterberg
Cost: Self-catering R265 per person in the tented camp; from R425 per person in other lodges (kids aged 4–12 half price)
Contact: Tel 0836315579, lindani.co.za
With its own bushveld back garden, a gorgeous rock pool and an almost-guaranteed squadron of warthog mowing the lawns, Lindani is a self-catering, back-to-nature family escape that doesn’t disappoint. It’s 275 kilometres from Johannesburg and the accommodation options range from four-sleeper cottages and an eight-bed tented forest camp to the enormous 18-sleeper, four-house Motseng lodge complex. Spend time on the easy hiking trails, hire bicycles and cycle past wildebeest, zebra, eland and giraffe, or pack a picnic and stop at one of the five riverside sites to have a splash and cool down (one spot even has tubes for the lazy soakers). Owners Sam and Peggy van Coller put quality first and most of the self-catering units have good gas stoves and braais, dishwashers, a potjie pot and trusted-brand electronics. Thoughtful details such as 50 kilograms of firewood, mammal, bird and reptile guides as well as a variety of games for rainy days are the cherry on top. There is a farm kitchen that has a variety of freshly prepared meals made to order (think stews and quiches), and if you’d rather braai, at least order the milk tart for pudding and farm bread for morning toast. Trust us. With additions such as an after-meal washing up service from R30 and high chairs and cots available, it’s the kind of place where mom and dad can take it easy and make some memories with the kids.
6. Mahem Guest House and Bokmakierie Cottage, Wakkerstroom
Cost: R275 per person a night, with discounts for longer stays
Mahem Guest House and Bokmakierie Cottage sit on the edge of the Wakkerstroom with a view over the wetland and you can sometimes hear the call of the grey crowned crane in the early mornings (Mahem is the Afrikaans name for this bird). Both self-catering, they are set a little apart from each other. Mahem is bigger with four bedrooms, a lounge with a centre fireplace, and an enormous kitchen, while Bokmakierie caters for two. The homes are basic, but you’ll have everything you need.
Also read: what to do and where to stay in Wakkerstroom
7. Mosiac Guest Chalets, Magoebaskloof
Cost: Zion R1650 a night (sleeps six), Le Chaim R2400 a night (sleeps six)
At the end of a long rutted track, on the Modjadjiskloof side of Tzaneen, is an interesting collection of people from all over the world living and working together on the edge of a hill looking back at Magoebaskloof. There are currently three Mosaic Guest Chalets on offer at the multi-functional Alôn farm/artist retreat/wedding venue/occasional theatre/school ‒ essentially a hive of productivity that welcomes like-minded visitors to simply unwind or learn more about the way of life here. Cottage interiors are comfortable and artsy ‒ a great deal of love has gone into creating them, from the paint-technique wall finishes to the artworks and furniture, much of it produced on the farm. The large restaurant/function area is lovely (filled with mosaic work) and opens onto a deck with a huge pool. It’s also where you can ask Peter, who harvests and roasts the coffee grown on the farm, to prepare what may just be the best-tasting cup of coffee you will ever have ‒ a nutty, wholesome, healthy flavour, much like the atmosphere. He also offers coffee tours.
Room tip: Choose Zion or Le Chaim, both three-bedroom chalets. The well-dressed, spacious Zion is a real bargain but only has one bathroom. Le Chaim has two bathrooms and the most wonderful view from its shaded timber deck.
8. Magoebaskloof Birders’ Trogon Cottage, Magoebaskloof
Cost: Weekdays R290 per person (sleeps two sharing); weekends/school holidays R350 per person. Minimum two-night stay on weekends (three for long weekends)
At the end of one of the many rutted roads that wind their way down the lush mountainside, surrounded by a very private wild garden, is this romantic little cottage. Every room has incredible views of the lush green surrounds. The bedroom has two huge cottage-pane windows and even the bathroom has a great view (don’t you just love a toilet with a view?) as does the kitchen: doing the dishes (it’s not serviced) will have you happily mesmerised. A small, sparsely furnished rectangular lounge (with large fireplace) opens onto a tiny patch of lawn with a kettle braai. At the back there is a DIY plunge pool (filled on arrival) and a properly plumbed outdoor sunken bath, surrounded by verdant greenery; nothing but air between you and the wild mountain rising beyond. A wood-burning donkey geyser supplies hot water. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to strip off and stay naked.
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9. Riverstill Guest House, Groot Marico
Cost: From R275 per adult per night and R130 per child under 12 per night. There’s a midweek special (Monday to Thursday) of R200 per person per night for a minimum of two nights
The Riverstill Guest House lies deep within a valley. Get up early and head to the river to experience the peace. There’s also a labyrinth for private meditation and tree walks can be arranged. Besides being knowledgeable about almost everything, owner Jacques du Plessis is also quite the cook and prepares healthy, wholesome meals. There are four rustic cottages spread out on the farm.
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10. Riverman Cabin, Mpumalanga
Cost: R350 per person, kids under 12 half price
Contact: Tel 0832779143, rivermancabin.co.za
Seven comfortable self-catering country cottages ‒ six with fireplaces and one with a grand antique coal stove ‒ nestle around a series of trout-filled dams. Choose from the more isolated two- to four-sleeper log cabins (a favourite was the private Wiggly Stone) or one of four brick cottages, which are more closely situated and can sleep two, four and bigger families of 10. The open-plan units are comfortably equipped, including a microwave and braai, or eat at Mine View, the on-site restaurant. Its signature trout dish is an affordable R80, and you don’t have to do the dishes (a housekeeper costs an extra 100 bucks, so you do the maths). There’s no television and terrible cellphone reception ‒ both of which are a good thing. Bring games to play around the fireplace, take undemanding walks on the working sheep and cattle farm or drill a few golf balls at the driving range. The owners plan on making their own mampoer in the near future. Here, you’ll be warm in winter.
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11. Stone Tin Lodge, Mpumalanga
Cost: From R350 per person if you’re 10 guests (R2500 a night for six people, R250 per person extra)
Contact: Tel 0716700680, stonetinlodge.co.za
Sunlight streams in warming Stone Tin Lodge during the day and come nightfall, a large central fireplace heats up the open-plan lounge, dining and kitchen area, which is tastefully decorated with pale wood finishings, navy fabrics and Nguni-skin rugs. Set on a private farm about 30 kilometres on the Lydenburg side of Dullstroom, this spacious three-bedroom country home overlooks two trout-filled dams surrounded by rolling hills and is completely off the grid, running primarily from solar energy and gas (there’s a generator too, just in case). Each room in this corrugated iron and stone retreat has a basket filled with thick blankets, an en-suite loo, and the main room has a gorgeous ball-and-claw bath. Throw a fishing line, look for blesbok, black wildebeest and zebra on an easy hike or if it’s really cold out, surf DStv, snuggle on the couch and take in a movie. The road is not suitable for low- slung sedans (we made it in a VW Polo, but swore most of the way as rocks jut out from the road) and get supplies from Dullstroom on your way – local trout from Millies is always a win. Pack filter coffee for the Bodum French press, bubble bath, firewood or bring cash to buy from the very obliging farm managers for R50 a bag.
12. Zwakala River Retreat, Magoebaskloof
Cost: The Cob House or Legodi Cottage is
R1400 per night (R700 per person for two, R350 per person for four, R234 per person for six). Camping is R120 per person (maximum 16 people), with outdoor hot-water shower and a single flush loo with a view
This boho hippy eco-retreat ‒ home to three horses, five dogs, four chickens and the irrepressible Denise and Rob ‒ has breathed new life into the region with the quarterly Neighbourhood Farmers Market featuring live music and great food under the trees, Mina’s Art Café (a fabulous wedding/music/special-event venue, top left), a choice of good-value, off-the-grid accommodation options, swimming and fishing in the burbling Broederstroom River, and a nursery growing indigenous medicinal plants and teas. Given that you might have to share swimming access with other guests, you may prefer the privacy of Herb, Trogan or Thora Boloka cottages, but this is the best river swimming and may suit the more gregarious. Or better still, take over the whole retreat.
Room tip: Hands-down winners are Legodi Cottage and the latest and nicest addition, The Cob House. Both are two-bedroomed units near the river, located just beyond the campsite. The Cob House also has a large outdoor fire pit. (The campsite is for exclusive use to one group. It’s by far the prettiest camping option in the area and a steal at the rate). Both cottages can sleep six (four in two bedrooms; two more on the built-in bunk-sofas next to the fireplace).
A donkey boiler supplies hot water.
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