6 cosy cabins and cottages for a winter getaway

Posted on 21 July 2021

Winter getaways: a crackling fireplace, good red wine, and a cosy cabin. Doesn’t that sound perfect? Yes. That’s because it is. These cottages and cabins all over South Africa have been tried and tested by Getaway journos, and should have you on your way to the perfect winter holiday.

1. Mtentu Lodge, Transkei

Mtentu Lodge. Photos by Teagan Cunniffe

A 40-kilometre dirt road takes you to the river mouth from the R61, south of Port Edward – its location is one of the reasons we featured Mtentu Lodge in our 12 remote camps and cottages around South Africa. Sedans will make it to within two kilometres, but to get to the front door you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle or a pre-arranged pick-up. The lodge’s six thatched wooden cabins, each with a bunk bed and two singles, are perfect for families with kids. Driftwood towel hooks typify its simple aesthetic and commitment to using the natural resources available (responsibly, of course).

Raised wooden boardwalks cross shallow rocky ravines between the furthest units and a central bar, kitchen, lounge and broad, sandy braai boma. Shared flushing loos and gas showers provide some of the comforts of home, while a solar-powered shower enjoys a view right down to the rolling swell of the sea. There is also a small fleet of river-worthy vessels at your disposal.

Rates: A four-sleeper cabin costs between R675 to R850 pp. Self-catering is no longer available, and the lodge operates on a full board basis, including three meals a day with tea and coffee. The cost per child from 3 to 12 ranges between R120 and R230. Children under two stay for free. Keep an eye on their website for special offers which run throughout the year. Payments via cash or EFT only.
Contact: Tel 0838053356, mtentulodge.co.za

2. Saamrus, Magaliesburg

Saamrus, Magaliesburg. Image by Teagan Cunniffe.

The website does Saamrus no justice – this 500-hectare farm offers by far the most private and romantic collection of self-catering cottages in the area and the best views. Owners Chris and Annatjie Geldenhuys have designed and furnished them with great flair in a budget farm-house style; each has its own fenced garden (hurrah, another pet-friendly establishment!) with firepit and braai.

Except for the rondavels, each cottage is 50 metres or more apart. The only drawback is the 4×4 required to reach hillside cottages, or you’ll have to brave it on foot: it’s a 200- to 400-metre trudge uphill, but two strong men are always on duty to help carry for a tip – the staff is wonderful here. But it’s so worth booking one of the hillside cottages! Piet-my-vrou is the closest to base, and very romantic; Olienhout the highest up and most private.

Rates: From R490 per person sharing for 2 people. Extra guest/child sleeping in the lounge is R300 per night. R1,500 per cottage on weekends for singles or two sharing.
Contact: Tel 0724871733, saamrus.co.za

3. The Edge Mountain Retreat, Hogsback

One of the cottages at The Edge Mountain Retreat.

The Edge Mountain Retreat delivers on its name with self-catering chalets perched on the precipice of the Hogsback plateau with breathtaking views of the valley below. Some chalets only have garden views so specify the cliff-facing ones when you book – Thunderstone rondavel definitely takes the cake for privacy and panoramas. If you’re not up to cooking, the restaurant has great variety and is very good value for money.

Rates: From R1,400 to R2,200for the best-view units (sleep two).
Contact: theedge-hogsback.co.za

4. Highlands Mountain Retreat, Golden Gate National Park, Free State

Highlands Mountain Retreat, by Melanie van Zyl.

Golden Gate is dedicated to preserving South Africa’s grassland biome (there are over 50 species of grass in the park) and Highlands Mountain Retreat is perched right at the top, 2,200 metres above sea level. Comprising just eight units – four-family units sleeping four each and four units sleeping two each – these log cabins are tucked into the hills, providing seclusion and unbelievable vistas. All have a fireplace, oil heaters, electric blankets and, during my stay, zebra trotted up the hillside at dusk.

There are seven-day hikes in the park ranging from 45 minutes to four hours. Most depart from Glen Reenen Rest Camp and there is one that starts behind the Golden Gate Hotel. All wind around or up the orange sandstone cliffs, dip into forested ravines and windswept grasslands. You can also do an overnight hike along the Ribbok Trail and a guided hike to Cathedral Cave.

Rates: From R1,805 per two-sleeper unit and R2,900 per four-sleeper family unit. An extra adult or child will cost an additional R530 and R265 respectively.
Contact: sanparks.co.za

5. Makakatana Bay Lodge, St Lucia

Photos by Cameron Ewart-Smith

There’s only one privately owned lodge on the banks of Lake St Lucia, and there isn’t ever likely to be another – making it one of the luxury lodges that are the experience of a lifetime. There are just six luxury wooden cabins, each with large sliding doors opening onto verandas concealed by indigenous dune forest. Three suites (including the honeymoon unit) have views through bush thickets onto the lake, while the others look into the forest – room one has been known as the leopard room ever since a guest woke up to find a leopard gazing in, just metres from her porch.

Rates: From R4,280 per person sharing per night for bed and includes meals, activities, soft drinks, local beers, house wines.

Contact: Tel 0355504189, makakatana.co.za

6. Kameeldoring Tree House, Mokala National Park

Photo by Scott Ramsay.

Photo by Scott Ramsay

There is only one treehouse in all of South Africa’s diverse national parks. In the middle of Mokala, off the beaten track and far from the two main camps, lies a small wooden cabin with a double bed and tiny bathroom, perched halfway up a copse of camelthorn trees. Don’t get a fright if a giraffe pokes its nose into the window while you’re snoozing. It’s basic and modestly equipped, but at sunset, a waterhole in front of the treehouse lures thirsty gemsbok, buffalo, kudu and the elusive brown hyena. At night, it’s just you, your partner, the stars, the flicker of flames and jackal calling at night.

Rates: Self-catering from R1,750 per person sharing per night (low season), minimum stay is two days.
Contact: Tel 0532048000, sanparks.org

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