Dullstroom – Best Places to stay

Posted on 4 August 2022

Want to avoid the year-end beach crush? This small town of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga has fabulous countryside views and excellent fishing options, and it’s an easy drive from Joburg. Pippa de Bruyn scouted the best places for your next stay.

Why Dullstroom?

It’s close to Joburg: Head out directly from work and (256 kilometres later) you’re in Dullstroom for dinner.

It’s SA’s premier fly-fishing destination:  Most accommodation in Dullstroom offers fly fishing and typically the first booking query is: ‘When last were your dams stocked?’ Mavungana, SA’s largest fly-fishing outfitter, is on the high street and offers kit-to-hire, on-site casting tuition and advice.

The surrounding landscapes are extraordinary: I focused on accommodation choices outside of town because, for me, that’s the real drawcard: huge vistas reminiscent of the eastern Free State but more undulating, the rolling hills pelted in thick yellow grass that turns emerald in spring, the savannas broken only by the occasional mirror-like dam or copse of trees.

It has excellent restaurants: A restaurant that is highly recommended is Mrs. Simpsons. Mrs Simpson’s has been serving the Dullstroom community and visitors since 2005.

It has the largest whisky selection in the southern hemisphere: Blends, blended malts, single malts, bourbon, straight rye, straight wheat; Scotch, Irish, Japanese, American, Indian, Australian, Welsh, Belgian, Canadian, South African … you’ll need a very long weekend to work your way through the 1100 whiskies and 30 tasting menus at Dullstroom’s cosy bar, Wild About Whisky.

Accommodation is abundant: There are a lot of fuddy-duddy tartans, frilly canopies and scalloped tie-backs, but what Dullstroom tends to lack in decor it more than makes up for in setting. There are many places to stay and likely plenty still available. Dullstroom Reservations has the biggest and best stock: over 160 properties, and a well-versed staff adept at matching expectations.

Best-value large house

1.  Shooters Hill

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

This family holiday home is located on the 890-hectare Walkersons Private Estate – the low-key residential development that now surrounds the hotel – and enjoys a prime position on a hillock overlooking the pretty hotel and dams.

It’s a big, clean, and simply furnished house with two bedroom wings on either side of a large open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room with doors that open onto a deep, shaded veranda with great views. There are three en-suite bedrooms with queen beds and wood-burning fireplaces, and a fourth en-suite bedroom for kids that looks like a dorm.

On the veranda, there is a big built-in braai, and the open kitchen, which faces the view, is perfect for social cooks. If you don’t want to cook or want to go get a spa treatment, the hotel is just down the road. Pets are allowed if you make plans ahead of time.

Room tip: The bunk bedroom can accommodate six children in three double bunk beds.
Cost: A flat (and reasonable) rate of R4 780 (sleeps 10).
Contact: Shooters Hill

Best for views, value, romance…

2. Woolly Bugger Farm

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

Pictures: Teagan Cunniffe.

You’ll hate the road to Woolly Bugger if you’re not in a 4×4—it’s 22 kilometres of bumpy dirt to the one-donkey village of Tonteldoos and another seven kilometres after that. But as soon as you get to your stone cottage and take in the big 360-degree views, your anger goes away.

Woolly Bugger is named after the most common fishing fly, but there is also a lot of sheep there. There are only four rustic cottages on the 270-hectare farm, and each one is set up for privacy and a good view. Wild cabbage trees and proteas grow all around. You’re left alone to enjoy the peace, but Jono, the warm and intuitive host, takes care of any needs. He recently finished a small, communal, shaded dining area with a braai, toilets, and a circular splash pool with built-in seating, which is perfect if you’ve booked more than one cottage and want to get together.

There are plenty of walking and bike trails, two trout dams (with kit to hire), archery, and a treasure hunt for kids and there are even a couple of pub options in Tonteldoos. It’s pet-friendly too. And then there’s the price…

Cottage tip: Half Hog is the most affordable, romantic bolthole you could hope to find; I also loved Sedgehog, with its slide-and-fold door that opens onto expansive views.
Cost: Half Hog, Marabou and Royal Wulff from R950 (sleeps two); Sedgehog from R1 700 (sleeps four). Minimum two-night stay.
Contact: woollybuggerfarm.co.za

Best luxury group getaway

3. Spring Valley Retreat

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

It’s been awarded ‘Best Fly Fishing Waters’ and ‘Biggest Fish’ at the Dullstroom Classic Fly-Fishing Competition, but even if you don’t lift a rod you’ll be delighted you washed up at Jan Wilken’s 150-hectare farm. Spring Valley is a sprawling exclusive-use home, yet offers the space and privacy of a small lodge: you have a choice of five separate en-suite cabins strung along the lake, each with identical layouts and lake views, making this a very democratic choice for a group sharing the cost of the getaway.

It’s also excellent value for friends travelling solo, as there is no punitive single-rate hike. They’re the kind of bedrooms that invite lazy morning lie-ins while the more gregarious gather in the communal Club House, with its open-plan kitchen/lounge/dining room opening onto a deeply shaded deck where there’s more seating and a braai with a view. There’s even a splash pool (rare in Dullstroom), walking trails, picnic tables and canoeing… Well-behaved pets that won’t chase the resident zebra, blesbok, antelope and wildebeest are welcome. Understandably, it’s very very popular.

Room tip: Extra single beds for up to five children can be added
Cost: R800 per person (minimum six adults) and R350 per person for ages 6 to 15. Minimum two-night stay. Serviced daily.
Contact: springvalleyretreat.co.za

Best special-occasion splurge

4. Walkersons Hotel & Spa

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

I was happy to see that this wonderful five-star country hotel hadn’t changed much. It’s no longer owned by the Walkersons, but the staff has been serving guests for years, so it still feels warm and personal. The setting is beautiful: a group of stone buildings in a valley about 10 minutes east of town look out over many dams and weirs. The food is good, the decor is warm and cosy, and the spa menu is the best in Dullstroom (but it’s very popular, so book ahead).

The hotel seems to be able to accommodate everyone, from couples looking for a romantic weekend away to tour groups going to Kruger to corporate drones on incentive trips. In the winter, the hotel is filled with cosy fires. There are four fireplaces in the dining rooms alone, one in the bar, and another in the lounge. When you go back to your room after dinner, there will also be flickering flames to keep you warm.

Room tip: I personally prefer the original Lakeside Suites – perfectly spacious, under a thatched pitch roof (rather than the ceiling), with both bed and wingback chairs centred in front of the fireplace.
Cost range: From R2950 – R4100 per person sharing / R3990 – R5690 single per night
Contact: walkersons.co.za

Best historic cottage

5. Watersmeet Cottage

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

If Woolly Bugger sounds too far away and Kinloch’s Inverness sounds too old-fashioned, check out this lovely two-bedroom option on Walkersons Private Estate. It is on the side of a hill. This is one of the original stone buildings on the farm. It is next to Patsy and Andrew Allen’s home and has its own entrance covered in creepers. It has a comfortable open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area with a fireplace and plenty of wood. This area opens onto a covered stoep and has great views of the estate valley below.

The main bedroom has a queen bed and an attached bathroom. The second bedroom has two single beds that can be put together to make a king bed, and there is a bathroom across the hallway. The cottage is decorated in a traditional English style, and the walls are covered with Patsy’s paintings, which are realistic watercolours of local birds, trout, bush scenes, and Nguni cattle. Patsy is self-deprecating and talented. If you’re interested in taking a painting class from her, just ask.

Room tip: I preferred the two-bedroomed cottage but there is also a self-catering studio (no views) that sleeps two.
Cost: Watersmeet Cottage is from R2800 (sleeps four). Feathers is from R1600. Minimum two-night stay.
Contact: https://watersmeetdullstroom.co.za/

Best old-fashioned cottage

6. Inverness at Kinloch Farm

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

There are three cottages on Kinloch Farm but Inverness stood out as much for its outside spaces – a front stoep with views as well as a protected back garden, both furnished with tables – and the fact that each bedroom has its own fireplace.

I also liked the classic cottage decor: the collection of fish plates on the wall above the lounge fireplace, the old-fashioned armchairs and the cosy atmosphere. It’s like visiting an old aunt’s cottage: a bit frilly but there’s a disarming, authentic charm here, and the gardens and surrounds are pretty, with rolling lawns centred on a large pond surrounded by fat geese, a bird hide, three dams (one of them stocked with bass and ideal for float tubes).

The catch limit is also quite generous for a weekend: three fish per cottage. (Note: if this kind of style appeals to you, then Apple Blossom, also booked through Dullstroom Reservations, is another quaint nostalgia-inducing gem.)

Room tip: If you require a third bedroom, book Stirling, a separate en-suite room located 150 metres from Inverness.
Cost: From R2 660 for Inverness (sleeps four). Minimum two-night stay.
Contact: Air Bnb

Best in-town option

7. Big Oak Cottages

Dullstroom’s surroundings are too beautiful to base yourself in town, but if you require an overnight stop here en route to the Lowveld or you’re just keen to focus on the dining and functional, well-designed and well-equipped self-catering units.

Located in a quiet cul-de-sac and built under an oak tree in the large back garden of the Gibbons family, the four cottages (two semi-detached units) are within walking distance of the main drag with its restaurant and bar choices.

Each unit sleeps two in a king or two in a king or two twin beds against a double-volume stone-clad wall, with an efficient wood-burning oven to warm the cottage, a kitchenette with a two-plate gas stove, fridge and microwave, and a patio with a four-seater table. Generously, the Gibbons will take one-night bookings even on weekends.

Room tip: Each of the two semi-detached units has an interleading door between them, so can be booked together to accommodate a group of four.
Cost: R650 – R850 per person sharing (sleeps two to four)
Contact: dullstroomreservations.co.za

Most quirky collection

8. Cpirit Country Haven

13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom

Pictures: Teagan Cunniffe.

Seven klicks down the bumpy road to Tonteldoos, and a further one-kilometre drive into the farm before these pretty cottages hove into view. Bar perhaps the large open-plan Barn House, which could prove tricky to heat in winter, the Cpirit cottages are very compact and cosy. All are dressed in the same strong, simple decor theme of stoep-red and gunmetal-grey offset with touches of white, deep red, chocolate brown and stone.

With rickety staircases or steps into unexpected spaces, there is an overall rustic, boho charm that won’t suit city slickers who like finessed finishes, or couch potatoes (no TV, but fireplaces aplenty). Fisherman’s Cottages 1 and Barn House are set apart from the original farmhouse, which has been converted into four studio suites.

Along with adjacent Fisherman’s Cottage 7, these four studios share a fairly intimate space, so ideally (though not necessarily) should be booked with friends. Book all seven and the farm us yours: a great venue for 28 guests, with a covered outdoor lapa, a function shed with a large open fireplace, two dams and peaches, pears, figs, plums, crab apples or walnuts to forage for in season.

Room tip: Compact Fisherman’s Cottage 7 (two upstairs bedrooms, one downstairs bedroom, all sharing one bathroom) is a good-value family option. If you are two couples, I’d book Studio 4 and 5 which face the view.
Cost: Studios are from R1400 (sleep two); Fisherman’s Cottage 1 is from R4200 (sleeps six); Fisherman’s Cottage 7 is from R2800 (sleeps six); Barn House is from R5600 (sleeps eight).
Contact: cpirit.co.za

Worth a look

Field & Stream : Those wanting to fish in running water, or just wanting to defrag (no cell phone reception) in an affordable self-catering cottage in beautiful surroundings, look no further. This 1 000-hectare farm, nine kilometres from Dullstroom on the road to Tonteldoos, has five self-catering cottages sleeping up to 10. The decor isn’t great but the cottages are neat and clean and score high on privacy, peace, views and price. There are two pet-friendly units. Clay-pigeon shooting is on offer. From R1740 (for two). fieldandstreamsa.com

Ilanga Game & Fishing Lodge : This well-designed, well-furnished house on Dullstroom Country Estate (about 20 kilometres from the village, mostly on bumpy dirt) has four identical large en-suite bedrooms. It’s located on a hilltop with awesome mountain views and surrounded by grasslands ‒ a stunning, wild location with fishing dams and free-roaming antelope, but some might find it a tad bleak, especially when the wind gets up. From R2500 to R4 100 depending on numbers (sleeps eight). dullstroomreservations.co.za

In town:

Foxhill Guesthouse Perhaps not the best choice for light sleepers as it’s fairly close to the main road (ideal if you’re here for the restaurants and bars), but these four boudoir-style bedrooms ‒ each with its own entrance off the garden; most with fireplaces and open-plan bathrooms ‒ are cosy little nests you’ll be delighted to clamber back to after a night out. From R990 per double room. foxhill.co.za

Mrs Simpson : With three bedrooms plus a loft space for kids, this is ideal for a group or families wanting to stay in town. The face-brick exterior is pretty dire, but open the door and the fresh American-country-cottage style totally transports you. From R450 per person. Minimum two-night stay on weekends. dullstroomreservations.co.za

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