20 stays worth dreaming about this spring

As winter makes way for spring, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about your next escape.

Whether it’s a romantic weekend away, an affordable group getaway with friends, an escape with views to uplift your soul or a tranquil hideaway, this list has something for you. These stays have all been tried and tested by our accommodation expert, Pippa de Bruyn. Here are 20 stays worth looking out for this spring.


Best Bed & Breakfast

1. Watercolours House, Simon’s Town

Splendid views fill each generously proportioned space with light and beauty; waking up in any one of the rooms, you’re tempted to just forego all arrangements for the day. There is a great pool with the same stunning view, and three communal decks shared by just 12 guests (these will not include children as the B&B does not take under-16s). Located in Murdoch Valley, above the road that winds its way to Cape Point, the house has been purpose-built by owners Sharon and Gary Leih to maximise views, space and privacy, and is very tastefully furnished. Sharon is a great hostess, leaving guests to enjoy their peace and privacy but very hands-on should you require advice or bookings. Together with Residence William French, Watercolours sets the bar for five-star hospitality in Simon’s Town.
Room tip: There are only six rooms here; not one dud. If you like the flexibility of self-catering, then book the garden room – it has a kitchenette and dining area, it’s own garden with private seating and sea view, and costs slightly less.
Cost: Doubles from R1000 per person sharing B&B.
Contact: watercolourshouse.com

Best views

2. The Barn House, Prince Albert

Surrounded by mountains, Prince Albert is blessed with views, but the one from Barn House is quite surreal: farm fields dotted with fey-looking angora goats and the Swartberg Mountains outlined against that intense blue sky. The Barn House was built as a home for a family rather than for rental; it’s very well furnished with a lot of character, including some fantastic art. Aside from the stoep, the natural pool is a highlight here. Set away from the house, with a built-in braai and shaded dining table as well as an outdoor shower, it’s a very private set-up, screened by olive trees, with the same amazing mountain view. The Barn House is in close proximity to and managed by neighbouring Dennehof (see next page), where Ria Steyn is on hand to advise on anything from restaurant bookings to tours.
Room tip: It has three bedrooms (two en-suite) but the bed configuration will suit two couples and two children rather than six adults.
Cost: From R4500 (sleeps six).
Contact: dennehof.co.za


Best Value

3. Orchard Stay, Bastiaanskloof

Guy and Tammy Nieuwoudt completed this purpose-built house on the family fruit farm near Wolseley in September last year. They were aiming to cater for the surge in demand from guests attending weddings in the area, but it’s been equally popular with families looking for a relaxing weekend break. Hardly surprising; they’re finished and furnished it with great taste, it’s privately located (entirely surrounded by pear orchards) and has a deep wrap-around veranda that overlooks a small dam.
You can swim in the dam but most residents slip into the eco plunge-pool built on the edge – adjacent to it is the ingenious hot tub. While the eco-pool is heaven-sent in summer and Spring, the hot tub – fuelled by a wood burner – is possibly the best place to be stargazing this winter.
Room tip: Both bedrooms are en-suite. The twin beds can be turned into a king-size for couples; it also has a third pull-out bed.
Cost: From R1400 for two, plus R250 per person extra (sleeps four – or five if one is a child).
Contact: orchardstay.co.za


Best views

4. Moongazing Cabin, Bainskloof

Perched high above the patchwork farms of the Breedekloof, in the 660-hectare Mt Bain Private Nature Reserve, this is the kind of view that encourages contemplation.
The rustic wood cabin is a delight – simply furnished with a few lovely touches such as kelim rugs; the open-plan living-kitchen area is centred on an enormous fireplace (with potjie to use on it supplied) and opens onto a shaded porch with a table, built-in benches and a day bed to dream away the day on. This is very much ‘glamping´ – there is no electricity, aside from a plug point for phone or laptop (no hairdryers – if you can’t live without this, Moongazing is not for you!). There is a small solar-powered fridge and the shower has a gas geyser. Lighting at night is supplied by solar jars.
Room tip: There are two small bedrooms, one up steep stairs and tucked into the eaves; the other has two single beds. You have to bring your own bedding and towels.
Cost: From R950 a night (sleeps four).
Contact: ninemountbain.co.za


Best River Swimming

5. Rivers Own Guest Lodge, Bainskloof

Overlooking an enormous swimming hole, replete with palmiet- covered island, Rivers Own is a great option for a large group wanting a sublime aquatic holiday right on the banks of the Witte River. It’s not fancy but given how many it sleeps and the stone’s- throw proximity to this extraordinary river, very good value. Bizarrely, there is a swimming pool as well, and the sprawling lawns offer a space the size of a soccer field – great for kids to romp about on. For those who love to braai there are two options, both wind- protected (one indoors). It’s very secure – behind a fence and gate, with an on-site janitor and the owner living right next door. Note that Calabash Bush Pub is 400 metres away, so there may be noise on some nights.
Room tip: The three en-suite bedrooms are identical, ideal for three couples, plus a new en-suite back room sleeps four and an open-plan sleeping room o” the lounge fits five.
Cost: From R4000 a night (sleeps 15). Rate negotiable for groups of only two or four people.
Contact: riversown.com


Best of farm cottages

6. Rietpoort Cottage & Kliphuis, Parys

You’ll more than likely find Gert Prinsloo where I did, tinkering with tractors and other large-scale agricultural equipment in his workshop, adjacent to gabled Rietpoort Cottage and opposite Kliphuis, the stone stable block he has artfully turned into an open-plan, five-sleeper cottage. He takes my unannounced arrival completely in his stride, showing me both with quiet pride, beaming when I exclaim at their immaculate condition. It’s an old-fashioned kind of place, with solid furniture and farm-style decor, but the real standout is the braai areas. Located among huge boulders and shaded by trees, the Kliphuis braai feels like you’ve set up camp in the sweet spot, while Rietpoort Cottage’s circular firepit commands a great vantage across the dam. The dam is the start of six hiking trails, their contour-like loops demarcated in different colours. Gert hands over the trail map with a sorrowful look when I say don’t have time to tackle one. ‘It’s the real reason to book here,’ he says.
Room tip: I slightly preferred the two bedroom Rietpoort Cottage. Note that rates are charged per person rather than per cottage, making this a real bargain if you’re travelling as a couple.
Cost: Cottage R400 per person (sleeps six), Kliphuis R450 per person (sleeps five). Children R300. Single rate R600.
Contact: rietpoortcottage.co.za


Best value seafront cottage

7. The Milestone, Simon’s Town

What joy to wake up in this 1920s timber cottage and step onto a lawn that cuffs boulders dropping directly to the ocean, or sit outside and watch the lights flicker on across False Bay. You’re five minutes’ drive from the centre of Simon’s Town but once you’ve stepped through the garden gate, the tranquillity and seclusion is remarkable. It’s close enough to the nature reserve that you’re likely to encounter some kind of wildlife: on terra firma, genets, mongooses or – if you’re very lucky – porcupines and caracal; in the water, otters, penguins, dolphins and seals. The cottage is very cute: simply furnished and well equipped (the kitchen looks brand new), with a wonderful protected braai area and outdoor seating. Named after the stone next to the garage that marked the 25-mile point from Greenmarket Square in central Cape Town, Milestone is also very good value. The minimum-stay stipulation could be off-putting if you’re looking for a weekend break, but once you’ve arrived you’ll never want to leave – so just take the extra time off already!
Room tip: There is only one double bed; third bedroom has a bunk bed.
Cost: From R2200 (sleeps six). Minimum four-night stay.
Contact: themilestone.co.za


Good luxury value

8. Blue Water, Simon’s Town

Gorgeous interiors and beautiful views, this recently renovated house is located en route to Cape Point. There is a swimming cove, Fisherman’s Beach, three minutes’ walk away. Extremely good value, given the luxury finishes and furniture.
Cost: From R3900 (sleeps six). Minimum two-night stay.
Contact: perfecthideaways.co.za


Best riverside guesthouse

9. Moontide Guest Lodge, Simon’s Town

This month owner Maureen Mansfield flies to London to pick up a new trophy – it’s the second year running that Moontide has been awarded ‘Best Luxury Hideaway’ by Luxury Travel Guide, but then Moontide is no stranger to awards. It’s partly to do with the setting: shaded by 400-year-old milkwood trees, the guesthouse is right on the banks of the inviting Touw River (great for swimming), with canoes and a pedalo available for guests, and a three-minute stroll to the beach. It’s a sprawling homestead comprising just eight en-suite rooms – some freestanding – all with their own garden entrance and private seating area. The breakfast setting on the terrace overlooking the river is as popular with birds as it is with guests – there is a birding checklist in your room. Note that six rooms are under thatch – if you’re allergic to grass this is not the place for you, but birders and bargain hunters alike flock to this riverside gem; occupancy during the last low season was anything but, so book early.
Room tip: Treetops, a timber cottage perched above the guesthouse, and Boathouse, right on the river, are most popular. Stone Cottage and Milkwood are my favourite family options.
Cost: From R580 per person sharing B&B, from R310 per person extra in family rooms.
Contact: moontide.co.za


Best Bargain on the beach

10. Wilderness Beach Cottage, Wilderness

Step through the garden gate directly onto an empty beach, or gaze at the horizon from your private table wedged into the coastal vegetation, the rolling breakers literally a stone’s throw away. On Sands Road, this self-catering spot enjoys the ideal beachfront location, but another reason it scores 9.6 on Booking.com is the irrepressible owner. Glamorous Dutch-born artist Nora Frings was born to spoil: she welcomes each guest in person, and stocks the house with wine, tea, coffee and rusks, top-quality towels and gowns, plenty of wood for the fireplace and charcoal for the braai. The house is flamboyantly decorated but scrupulously clean and equipped with everything you could possibly require – there’s even a dog bowl waiting with water for your best friend. Nora’s instructions: ‘Have fun, relax, make yourself as comfortable as possible and use everything you want, darling.’ It sleeps eight but due to the unbelievably low rate it is as often booked for a couple’s break. And therein lies the rub – availability is scarce.
Room tip: There are three bedrooms inside the house, which share one-and-a-half bathrooms, and a fourth bedroom that is separate from the house with its own entrance and shower.
Cost: R2200 a night (sleeps eight).
Contact: wildernessbeachcottage.co.za


Greatest views

11. Wilderness Bushcamp, Wilderness

This is the family home of John Pfaff, the surfer-developer who helped shape much of Wilderness. It’s a nine-hectare property atop the hill, offering the best vantage point in the area. Over the years the Pfaffs built a number of timber cabins, and since John’s passing the family home is also available: three-bedroom Aloe House comes with a pool and 360-degree views, plus a studio and suite. All are self-catering and there is also a ‘lapa’ area with braai and pizza oven. The cabins are showing signs of age but are clean and neat, the collection is well managed, and for this price you’re getting an absolute bargain.
Room tip: Honeymoon is a most romantic choice, tucked away at the end of the boardwalk, with views of the beach and sea down below. Lagoon View is the highest cabin.
Cost: Aloe studio from R650; cabins and Aloe suite from R700 a night (all sleep two). Aloe House from R1500 a night for two (sleeps six) plus R100 – R250 per person extra.
Contact: wildernessbushcamp.co.za


Best all-rounder

12. The French Cottage, Clarens

Located about three hours from Joburg, this double-storey stone cottage is on the five-hectare remains of one of the original three farms that pre-dated the development of the village. It feels rural – sprawling grounds are dotted with established trees; a river path meanders to a large overhang; the striated cliffs of the Rooiberge and a natural waterfall are literally in your backyard – yet it’s a 15-minute walk to the village square. The open-plan kitchen/dining/living area and main en-suite bedroom are upstairs, with cute cottage-pane windows filled with views of your rural idyll. This upstairs level is reached via an external staircase, while the two downstairs bedrooms each have their own entrance directly from the garden, and share a bathroom. Like the ideal life partner, it’s gorgeous both inside and out – the original owner was an interior decorator – and affordable. Lovely Julia Brownlee believes in keeping the cottage occupied, so it’s one of the cheapest stays in Clarens.
Room tip: It’s possible for a couple to rent out only the upstairs level, and Monday to Thursday Julia charges R1000 a night for this, making it the most affordable romantic pied-à-terre in Clarens. Maybe even the country!
Cost: From R1560 a night for four, R390 per person extra (sleeps six).
Contact: 0722910685, wheretostay.co.za

Best value

13. Stone Hill, Magaliesberg


This 75-hectare property has eight self-catering timber cottages, each freestanding and located 20 metres or more from the next, so not quite as private as Saamrus (below), but still offering much more space than most. Each has a small fenced garden with a private outdoor shower; ‘… and here’, owner Caroline de Villiers grins as she picks up an additional handheld showerhead, ‘is the one for your dog’. She and Mark Morgan love their dogs, and they understand how difficult it is for people with four-legged children to find neat-as-a-pin accommodation that accepts and welcomes the extended family. The cottages aren’t particularly stylish or luxurious but they are scrupulously maintained and very comfortable, with thoughtful touches that include anything from plasters and earbuds to easy-to-use recycling bins and well-lit, smoke-free braais. There’s a five-kilometre trail for socialised dogs (with benches for owners to enjoy the views), a small shared pool, and the Magalies riverine area at the bottom of the property is where happy canines get muddy before heading home for that shower. Travel time from Joburg city centre: 1h15
– Melanie Van Zyl.

Cost: One-and-two-bedroom cottages from R1400 for minimum two people. Minimum two-night stay on weekends and longer for special holidays.
Contact: stone-hill.co.za


Best bargain farm stay

14. Della Vigna Cottage, Riebeeck Kasteel

A few minutes’ drive from the village, on Welgevonden fruit farm (just the other side of the R46), this rustic two-bedroom self-catering spot overlooks a reed-fringed dam filled with birds. The cottage is small but you are surrounded by big views and so much space; there are manicured lawns and shade trees, a circular firepit and mobile braai, a jetty from which to birdwatch, and – the pièce de résistance – a gorgeous plunge pool, its location and design so discreet it almost looks part of the dam. Remote and private yet safe (security patrols at night), with all the essentials that count, for a very affordable price – ‘So everyone can receive its blessings and peace,’ says warm owner Sonja Vlok. The cottage is understandably booked months in advance, so call now.
Room tip: There are two bedrooms sharing a bathroom. If Della Vigna is full, Obiekwa (see Worth a Look below) also has a gorgeous setting.
Cost: From R350 per person (whether one or four people).
Contact: dellavignacottage.co.za


Best budget choice

15. Deck Plek, Vermaaklikheid

The latest house in the River Magic portfolio, Deck Plek is by far the most enchanting. Access is by boat only, so be prepared for a bit of a derring-do as Kyle the property manager ferries you, guests, luggage, supplies and dogs across (yes, praise be, four-legged children welcome). As the pitched roof with its extended veranda and large downstairs stoep hoves into view against the dense green surrounds, you’ll know it’s going to be a fabulously relaxing break. Kyle built the shade structure above the outdoor dining table as well as the upstairs deck. Interiors are simple but spruced up: enter a spacious kitchen/dining/lounge area, with three downstairs bedrooms and a small bathroom (with a tiny shower space, the biggest drawback of the house); upstairs is a large loft (with four single beds and a partitioned-off double bed) and separate loo. There’s an outside shower (nicer than the one indoors) and fabulous river views from all the outside areas. You are fairly far upstream (around 12 kilometres from the river mouth and beach), meaning the bird life and sense of privacy is unparalleled.
Capacity: Sleeps 12 in three bedrooms and a loft (more suitable for children). It includes a canoe and rowing boat.
Cost: From R750 a night for three, plus R250 per person extra; minimum stays on weekends and over Easter. The compulsory cleaning fee is R300. Ferry there and back, free of charge, once per booking.
Contact: vermaaklikheid.co.za


Best value romantic break

16. Umlambo River Cottages, Kirkwood

Angela Taylor built her four self-catering cottages on the fifth-generation Davis farm with privacy and exclusivity in mind, locating each on a slight rise above the banks of the Sundays River, and planting wide, lush flowerbeds on either side of groomed lawns. This means each cottage effectively has its own private garden, and you enjoy an unobstructed view of the reed-fringed river from your private veranda. Each cottage also has its own kayak and floating jetty-deck, three of which are furnished. The cottages comprise a large room with a king-size bed and armchairs centred on the large picture windows, plus a separate bathroom, kitchenette and braai area. Given all this, the other word that leaps to mind is a bargain – you’re getting so much for such an agreeable price, you’ll want to pinch yourself.
Room tip: I’d pick Pygmy or Malachite for their privacy and decks. Brown-hooded and Pied make a great family unit when booked together (twin beds available).
Cost: From R300 per person sharing self-catering (R100 extra B&B).
Distance from Addo Park: 30 minutes.
Contact: umlambo.com


Best resort

17. Breakers, Umhlanga

Umhlanga’s beachfront is lined with great resorts, but the reason Pippa loved this slightly later addition (built in 1982) is its location: bordering directly onto the nature reserve, it forms the edge of the concrete jungle that Umhlanga has become and provides access to and expansive views over what’s left of the original jungle. There are loungers set up to look out over this dense subtropical tangle, as well as a host of the usual classic resort facilities. The three swimming pools (including a lap pool) are set in attractive gardens; the loud music played is less so. There are a variety of accommodation options – you can book a hotel room but it’s cheaper, and the decor far superior, to book an owner apartment through one of the agents. Of these there are a number of bedroom configurations, some more attractively furnished than others. The only possible drawback is that it’s a bit far from the retail centre and nightlife; little kids love the facilities and daily entertainment but for teens it’s a bit far from the action. Some may say that is no bad thing, but if you know there’s nothing worse than being saddled with a grumpy teenager, Cabana Beach or Umhlanga Sands (the two Tsogo Sun resorts) are a better bet.
Room tip: I thought Chas Everitt had the best selection of Breakers apartments (515, 228 and 212). Umhlanga Accommodation had cheaper options, not as well dressed but functional (here my preference was for 418). Most of these sleep four people but there are two-sleeper options.
Cost: From R1100 (for 418, sleeps four).
Contact: umhlangaaccommodation.co.za, Chas Everitt lighthouse.co.za

Best contemporary beach house

18. Whale House, Arniston

If you want to be a lob from Roman Beach and enjoy wrap-around sea and harbour views, and prefer modern interiors, then Whale House is a class-act choice. If you go between September and October, you might spot a few whales. This airy open-plan beach house, on an elevated foundation, has been artfully renovated by its Franschhoek-based owners to create a main living space upstairs with large glass windows and sliding doors onto a large deck, really making the most of the elevated views. On the same level are two en-suite bedrooms. Very sensibly they have created two more bedrooms downstairs (sharing a bathroom) on either side of an open-plan TV lounge with fireplace, making this a cosy hideaway for kids. By far the best option on sought-after Harbour Street.
Room tip: There is only one double bed. Suitable for families travelling with children old enough to sleep on another level (downstairs).
Cost: From R2700 (sleeps eight). Minimum stay three nights (in season, seven nights).
Contact: 0833055140, arniston-letting.co.za


Best value large house

19. Shooters Hill, 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 generously proportioned, uncluttered, simply furnished house, with the two bedroom wings centred on the large open-plan kitchen/dining/lounge area and doors opening onto a deep, shaded veranda with great views. Sleeping arrangements comprise three en-suite bedrooms furnished with queen beds and wood-burning fireplaces, plus a fourth en-suite kids ‘dorm’ bedroom.
There is a large built-in braai on the veranda and the open kitchen – facing the view – is ideal for gregarious cooks. The hotel is a trundle down the road if you don’t want to cook, or feel like nipping off for a spa treatment. Pets are allowed by prior arrangement.
Room tip: The bunk bedroom can accommodate six children in three double bunk beds.
Cost: A flat (and reasonable) rate of R4180 (sleeps six adults and six kids). Maximum six adults.
Contact: dullstroomreservations.co.za


Best for a group escape

20. Whipstock Guest Farm, McGregor

The dirt road that leads out of McGregor is a cul-de-sac truncated by the majestic Riviersonderend Mountains. A signpost eight kilometres out leads to this green oasis on the banks of the Konings River. It’s a most delightful collection: three freestanding self-catering cottages and three B&B rooms (each with its own fireplace, Weber and garden entrance). There is a large communal kitchen-dining room – a truly welcoming space to gather and cook – and a separate entrance communal lounge centred on a huge hearth. There are plenty of board games and books, a pool table and a farm dam for swimming and canoeing. Whipstock sleeps a total of 22; eight of those ideally children (four in two bunk beds and four in single loft beds). It’s understandably popular for special celebrations but is also a great choice for those doing the Boesmanskloof hike – call Gail and Dennis Koortzen and they’ll fetch you from the trailing end, then take you back the next morning after breakfast for the 16-kilometre return hike to Greyton. This is definitely the most charming of the overnight spots geared to hikers.
Room tip: Having said that this is great for a group, the privately located Barn, also with a fireplace, is a very romantic bolthole. Of the three B&B rooms, I loved number 1.
Cost: From R280 per person sharing (children half price).
Contact: 0730423919, whipstock.co.za