10 best getaways for celebrations

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 14 June 2019

Whether holing up in a luxury hotel room just for two, booking a beachfront house for eight or taking over a guest lodge for 40, celebratory getaways –  for birthdays, anniversaries or any reason at all – are the best. Here are our top 10.

1. Best Beach Villa

Zinkwazi Laguna, North Coast, Kwazulu-Natal

51 Nkwazi Drive (Not rated on Tripadvisor)

If you’re looking for a private seaside idyll to celebrate a special occasion with friends and family, look no further. After the owner, UK-based Justine Wimble, attended a wedding in Zinkwazi a couple of years back, she and husband Mark wandered into this lagoon-side property out of curiosity, and fell in love. For Justine, the balance is perfect: ‘Close enough to the beach to hear the sea and have easy access, but far enough to feel secluded and protected.’ It’s one of those places that fills you with gratitude that the owners are prepared to share – Justine spared no expense in making an uber-luxurious yet very relaxing home, and there is a lovely live-in couple who knows how to present and maintain the house beautifully. It’s not cheap but given that it’s like staying in a five-star hotel, only more private, it’s really rather good value.

Room Tip All five bedrooms are fabulous, though the main one is the plum choice. The children’s romper room sleeps eight, with its own lounge and TV – a very classy dorm indeed.

Cost From R10,000 (sleeps 10 adults and eight kids). Minimum five-night stay.

Contact 0217900972, perfecthideaways.co.za

2. Best Luxury

Drostdy Hotel, Graaf-Reinet, Eastern Cape

Tripadvisor No.1 of 1 Hotels

If you like five-star luxury, it doesn’t get better than this. But the Drostdy is not just luxurious – it’s classy, elegant, gracious, historic; the Mount Nelson or Oyster Box of the Eastern Cape, at a quarter of the price. The grande dame of the Eastern Cape has been generously restored by the Ruperts and is looking the best it has in its 200-year history. No expense was spared in creating elegant interiors that retain the hotel’s historic character and Karoo surrounds – animal skulls and Nguni skins are offset against delicate embroidered botanicals and Chinese pottery, while the hotel’s original antiques have found new homes throughout. The dinner menu, which celebrates Karoo ingredients, is exceptional (from R225 per person). The service is generally excellent; it’s worth noting that many of the staff are new graduates from the local SA College for Tourism – all from disadvantaged rural communities.

Room Tip The hotel is divided into three areas. I prefer the historic feel of the Ferreira House precinct and colourful Stretch’s Court (which has the best bachelor rooms) to the newer Kromm’s Court. The best room overall? 1704.

Cost From R550 per person sharing B&B.

Contact 0498922161, newmarkhotels.com

3. Best-Value Riverside Setting

Zwakala River Retreat, Haenertsberg, Limpopo

Tripadvisor No2 of 9 B&Bs/Inns

This boho-hippy eco-retreat – home to six horses, five dogs and the irrepressible Denise and Rob Tooley – has breathed new life into the area with a Neighbourhood Food Market, a brewery that serves lunches on weekends, Mina’s Art Cafe (a fabulous special-event venue), swimming and fishing in the burbling Broederstroom River, and a nursery growing indigenous medicinal plants and teas. It has a choice of good-value, off-grid accommodation options, including an old barn and my favourite, the eco-friendly Cob House, with its large firepit outside. The campsite is by far the prettiest camping option in the Magoebaskloof – it’s for exclusive use of one group (max 16), and has an outdoor hot shower and loo with a view – a steal at the rate. Zwakala offers some of the best river swimming in the area, but given that you have to share it with other guests, you may want to take over the whole retreat.

Room Tip Hands-down winners are Legodi Cottage and The Cob House, near the river. Both have two bedrooms plus built-in bunk-sofas next to the fireplace, and donkey boilers to supply hot water. There is also a new smaller camp called Kholo’s, with outdoor and indoor showers and kitchen area. It’s down at the river, best accessed by 4×4, and takes eight people.

Cost  The Cob House and Legodi Cottage cost from R800 per person sharing; less if there are more people (sleep six each). Camping is R150 per person (minimum R450).

Contact 0839808433, zwakalaretreat.co.za

 

4. Best Kruger View

Buhala Lodge, Malelane, Mpumalanga

Tripadvisor No.3 of 10 speciality lodging

This large, thatched house-hotel enjoys the best location along the entire Kruger Park border: perched above a deep, wide and very lush bend of the Crocodile River, with no visible neighbours or fencing, you feel entirely cocooned within the wilderness. In fact, Buhala is fenced into the Kruger, so it seems more like a private concession (though you still have to enter Kruger via Malelane Gate, a 15-minute drive away). Opened in 1994 by Sugar Rhodes, it has always had a gracious, serene atmosphere, further entrenched by the elegant makeover introduced by daughter-in-law Carol. The family is very much in attendance; the service and food are excellent and the whole experience of staying here has a slightly dreamy quality – you might well decide to forego trips into Kruger (the lodge has its own open-topped vehicle and qualified ranger) and just lie around the pool, or curl up in one of the comfortable sofas to watch the wildlife grazing in the garden that runs below the viewing decks to the river. Utter bliss.

Room Tip All 17 are gorgeous; rooms 1 and 3 are the only standard rooms with river views. No children under 10.

Cost  From R2,107.50 per person sharing B&B.

Contact 0832722150, buhala.co.za

 

5. Best for a large group gathering

Stanford Valley Guest Farm, Stanford, Overberg

Tripadvisor No.3 of 14 speciality Lodgings

With 10 en-suite rooms, three self-catering cottages and three family cottages, each with its own stoep and garden and clustered around a large central werf, this is the most fantastic venue. Elsabe Nauta’s decor is a mixture of quirky vintage and contemporary classic, comforting natural textures and an overall pared-down simplicity. Book a few meals at the Manor House, which serves sophisticated farm fare alongside big fireplaces and views of the Akkedisberg through large windows. Good looks, superb service, outstanding food, affordability, proximity to a city – a good checklist for deciding where to have a celebration. And Stanford Valley’s score is hard to beat, with its gorgeous, affordable cocoons and classy communal spaces. You don’t have to take over the whole place, but if you do, you’ll have the most carefree gathering.

Room Tip  All the units are well dressed and have fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. I liked the old-fashioned thick walls of Stables, Pincushion and Erica.

Cost From R1,050 per person sharing, or from R2,000 for a cottage (sleeps four).

Contact 0721980862, stanfordvalley.co.za

 

6. Best Vineyard Escape

Angala Boutique Hotel, Franshoek, Western Cape

Tripadvisor No.5 of 76 B&Bs/Inns

It’s quite a surprise coming to the end of the bumpy dirt track that twists up through the vineyards behind Vrede en Lust to find this contemporary glass box with sweeping valley views and stylish furnishings. The modern design – comprising just 10 rooms dotted in terraced grounds – sits remarkably easy in this natural idyll. Owners Peter and Tisha Cunnliffe clearly see Angala as a place of spiritual regeneration, encouraging the hosting of yoga and art retreats. It’s a boutique hotel, not a B&B (as listed by TripAdvisor), the kind you don’t want to leave, and thanks to the cuisine, you don’t have to.

Room Tip It’s worth booking a luxury room – large and opulent, with a lounge, fireplace, an enormous bathroom that includes an outdoor shower, and by far the best views.

Cost From R2,695.50 per person sharing B&B; luxury rooms from R4,167.50 per person sharing. Rates include a complimentary minibar.

Contact 0218741366, angala.co.za

 

7. Best Mountain Estate

Steynshoop Valley Lodge Hekpoort, Magaliesberg

Tripadvisor No.4 of 14 Speciality Lodgings

Apparently based on the design of an early Transvaal farmstead, but Cape Dutch in character, Valley Lodge comprises a quadrangle of six buildings built around a large central courtyard. Every self-catering unit has Peter Curle’s trademark decor – white furnishings and Cape antiques. The property also features an all-weather floodlit tennis court, volleyball, badminton and croquet, a billiards room and shared outdoor entertainment area with a small fenced pool, braai area and four thatched gazebos, plus there’s a pretty chapel. Taken as a whole the lodge can sleep 20 comfortably.

Room Tip The Homestead – the owner’s personal fivebedroom bolthole – is easily the most luxurious self-catering option in the Magaliesberg, while the open-plan Valley Suite offers honeymoon-level luxury and privacy for a bargain price (no kids allowed in this room). The Corner Cottage is next best.

Cost The Homestead costs R5,900 (sleeps 10); The Valley Suite is R700 per person sharing; Corner and Arbour cottages are R600 per person sharing, the Gatehouse cottages R500 per person sharing. All sleep two (but extra beds for kids can be arranged at R120); prices are for two nights or more.

Contact 0728456846, steynshoop.co.za

 

8. Most Romantic Setting

Kings Walden Garden Manor, Tzaneen, Limpopo

Tripadvisor No.2 of 17 B&Bs/Inns

Created over two generations, the awe-inspiring gardens of Kings Walden have a magical atmosphere that leaves visitors both humbled and inspired by the long-term vision of the matriarchs who sculpted this elevated farm into a harmonious balance of lanes and terraces, lakes and ponds, trellises and columns, statues and mirrors. With expansive views of the distant valley below, every aspect is a showstopper, and every nook has a story attached to it. The magnificent pool (a boon in summer) is an integral part of the garden’s beauty. Best of all, the property is back in the original family’s hands; Bridget Hilton-Barber and brother Brett took over in January this year. There are just five rooms – all huge, with fireplaces, supremely comfortable beds and large bathrooms. You will definitely want to dine here, and the food is good. It’s a wonderful place to celebrate a special occasion, and if you’re going to pop an important question, seek out the pair of sphinxes that guard the ornamental lake and rub their nipples for luck!

Room Tip Book No. 5 and 6, which overlook the pool. (Tucked-away room 4 is no longer available to guests.)

Cost From R1,000 per person sharing B&B.

Contact 0833091837, kingswalden.co.za

 

9. Best Beachfront Hotel

Stanford Valley Guest Farm, Paternoster, West Coast

Tripadvisor No.1 of 1 hotels

When Deon Brand and Simone Jacke opened their unostentatious yet supremely elegant refuge in December 2011, they raised the style bar in the village quite considerably, and created an ambience that is almost preternaturally soothing. The hotel is tucked away on a prime Mosselbank location right at the northern edge of the village, and the couple purchased a further three kilometres of the coast to protect the untrammelled views and halt further development. It offers a full spectrum of pampering to guests in just 14 rooms, five of which enjoy fabulous beach and ocean views. Equally arresting are the two enormous Nature King Suites, with floor-to-ceiling views of the West Coast plains stretching northwards. Even the six Courtyard Rooms, each with private garden space and water feature, won’t disappoint, nor will the food, the spa treatments, the enormous pool or service standards, which are spot on. A stay is worth every cent.

Room Tip The most spacious Ocean Suite is Delphin; the best Courtyard Room (it has a Nature King Suite view) is Selena.

Cost Rooms from R1,350 per person sharing B&B, suites from R1,925 per person sharing. The Nature King Suites can accommodate two teens in the loft for R950 each.

Contact 0217945858, strandloperocean.com

 

10. Best boutique farmhouse

Bartholomeus Klip, Hermon, Western Cape

Tripadvisor No1 of 4 B&Bs/ Inns

This romantic country retreat on a working farm in a fynbos reserve ticks so many boxes – exclusive (10 guests maximum), peaceful and authentic; the farmhouse (which should be listed on TripAdvisor under Speciality Lodgings rather than B&Bs) offers the most wonderful evocation of an earlier era. The house is run by a team of great women, headed by twin sisters Lesley and Louise Gillett, who make it a warm and welcoming place: a fireplace burns all day, side tables groan with high-tea treats, evening drinks and canapés are served in the immaculate garden, followed by a flawless dinner and breakfast experience. The nature drive in an open-sided safari vehicle is surprising – aside from spotting quaggas (the farm is home to the successful Quagga Project), you’ll see baby geometric tortoises (too cute), bat-eared foxes, black wildebeest and fabulous birds. Equally pleasurable is to just stay put in a lounger next to my favourite pool in the whole of South Africa. The farm is 25 minutes from Riebeek-Kasteel.

Room tip Of the four luxury rooms, I like Disa best. For privacy, views and space, the Orchid Suite is well worth the extra cost. There is also a self-catering family option, Wild Olive House (sleeps eight).

Cost From R1,750 pp sharing B&B; from R3,299 per person for full board and activities. Wild Olive from R2,626.

Contact 0224481087, bartholomeusklip.com

 

Images: supplied

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