Five great places to stay in Clarens

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 20 November 2014

Just a three-hour drive from Durban and Johannesburg, Clarens is a charming escape famed for its mountain scenery, quirky art galleries and craft beer.

1. Kalm Guest House

Kalm Guest House. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Setting

Five minutes’ walk from the village centre and in the former orchard-farming region of Clarens, Kalm Guest House is dotted with decades-old fruit trees and the guest house has grand views of Mount Horeb, which looms over the town.

Vibe

Quirky and ornate, it’s more offbeat-design-gallery than lodging. Owner Karen Hickman’s interior design background is present throughout, from the flamboyantceramic firepots to a life-sized Lego man sculpture in the dining room.

Crowd

Spunky couples, young and old, looking for something different. Visitor books are filled with happy weekenders promising to return.

Stay

Choose from two self-catering units with fully kitted kitchens or three large B&B quarters with tea corners and cosy lounges, all individually styled with eye-catching beaded Zebra lamps and South African-designed fabrics patterned with iconic political figures, animals and botany.

Eat

Get to know Karen and her husband Malcolm over an omelette breakfast in the dining room and eat dinner at newly opened Gosto Portuguese restaurant (082-416-3687) on the nearby Market Square.

Highlight

Ask to explore Yours self-catering cottage. Designed around an enormous print of a flying pig, each decorative piece from the purple trophy heads to the vintage car wallpaper is thoughtfully linked back to it by colour, shape or size.

Need to know

If you like the decor, visit Karen’s interior design shop, Kalmer, on the Market Square (next door to Gosto).

Cost

B&B from R600 a person a night sharing.

Contact

Tel 058 256 1232, www.kalm.co.za

 

2. Claridge House

Claridge Country House, Clarens. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Claridge Country House, Clarens. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Setting

The imposing Maluti Mountains and the Klein Caledon River make for unbeatable sunset views at Claridge House, a short drive from Clarens on the road to Fouriesburg.

Vibe

Charming country living in a rustic rosemary-scented setting that’s perfect for winter stews and simple, leisurely days. Light the fire, haul out the board games and let the weekend dwindle away.

Crowd

Big family groups who need jungle gyms and space to tire out energetic kids, and crowds of close friends bonding on a boozy weekend escape.

Stay

Furnished with English antique collectibles, the double-storey, open-plan house has three sumptuous ivory-coloured bedrooms and two small beds for kids. A 10-cup coffee maker, ice machine, roomy fridge and gorgeous outdoor entertainment area make group living a breeze.

Eat

Take what you need from home as there’s no Pick n Pay or Woolworths in Clarens. The general dealer on Main Street stocks the essentials (milk, bread, tinned goods) and some fresh produce. Spruce up meals with country delights from the Purple Onion (058 256 1898) in town.

Highlight

Have an outdoor bath overlooking the infinitely rolling countryside that eventually merges into Golden Gate National Park.

Need to know

Take cash for tipping – the rate includes daily cleaning and there’s firewood on site for a small fee. Also pack DVDs to watch on the flat-screen TV for very wintery days.

Cost

Self-catering from R2 500 a night (sleeps six adults and two kids). Minimum two-night stay.

Contact

Tel 083 973 8108, www.claridgehouse.co.za

 

3. Millpond House

Millpond House, Clarens. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.


Millpond House, Clarens. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Setting

Immaculate pastel-coloured rose gardens and pointed poplar trees separate the main Millpond guest house from the Millcreek self-catering cottages, all within easy strolling distance of the village centre.

Vibe

Pure tranquillity – the only sounds you’ll hear are crested barbets splashing in the birdbath and perhaps the odd car driving by on the dirt road. You won’t be bugged by anyone
as each room has a separate entrance and private garden.

Crowd

Sprightly retirees who recognise the value in the manicured rose garden (almost every Trip Advisor review mentions the blooms) and young parents who’ve left the tots at home.

Stay

Biggie Best fabrics, under-tile heating, ball- and-claw baths and charming garden views from a private vine-covered terrace give the two self-catering cottages a secluded feel. Inside the main house are three big double rooms.

Eat

Self-catering cottages are equipped with two-plate stoves, but if you’re not up to cooking try Mosaic Pizzeria (058 256 1884), a short stroll away, for an unpretentious meal and great service.

Highlight

Walk through the garden and along the quiet surrounding dirt roads to soak up the mountain scenery, then return to the patio for afternoon tea and birdwatching.

Need to know

Take your own firewood, wine and food. Not a place for boisterous children and ask for Millcreek self-catering cottage for the most privacy.

Cost

B&B from R450 a person a night sharing (guest house and self-catering units).

Contact

Tel 058 256 1530, www.millpondhouse.webs.com

 

4. Protea Hotel Clarens

Protea Hotel, Clarens. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Setting

Close to the Market Square and its selection of shops, galleries and restaurants, the Protea Hotel’s position doesn’t abandon beauty for convenience – the poolside mountain views are exquisite.

Vibe

Inside, you could be anywhere in the world. It’s still your typical Protea Hotel and is a predictable stay with great service, but its stylish feel is inspired by the local eastern Free State geology.

Crowd

Foreign and local tourists, from bussed-in, sandal- clad Germans en route to Lesotho to stony-faced business-conference goers and trendy young couples with kids – it caters for all.

Stay

An emerald-green and sombre gold palette dominates the decor across all 70 rooms. Cushy duvets, open-plan showers (but private loo cubicles) and other basic hotel amenities such as kettles, hairdryer, free Wi-Fi and TV come standard.

Eat

The in-house Adamo restaurant serves a delectable breakfast buffet. With the Market Square on your doorstep, there’s plenty variety for dinner. Highlander Bistro (058 256 1912) is the locals’ choice and serves good pub grub.

Highlight

Order sunset drinks on the balcony beside the hotel bar. The mountains, clouds and never- ending landscape make the candy-floss twilight a real treat.

Need to know

Ask – no, beg – for a mountain view, otherwise your Maluti scenery is reduced to an uninspiring parking-lot panorama. Keep an eye on the website for winter specials.

Cost

B&B from R1 560 a night for two adults in a standard room and from R1 660 in a deluxe mountain-facing room.

Contact

Tel 058 256 1212, www.proteahotels.com

 

5. 278 on Main

278 on Main, Clarens. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Setting

At the top end of Main Street, beyond the bustle of the Market Square, 278 on Main sits above a restaurant of the same name in a quiet corner of Clarens.

Vibe

Slow-paced and cosy with piles of blankets and gas heaters for frosty nights. Church bells ring lazily nearby and the long balcony is great for watching locals heading home at dusk.

Crowd

Local families on holiday from Joburg and Durban book the self-catering units and couples of all ages stay in the double rooms, each decorated and named after jewels: Topaz, Ruby and Crystal.

Stay

The three main rooms above the restaurant are spacious with a fridge, morning coffee supplies and comfy furniture, (the Crystal room has an unbeatable view of the Malutis). A ground-floor, two-bedroom, self-catering apartment and another bedroom alongside is ideal for bigger groups.

Eat

Cruise downstairs for a bite in the ruby-coloured restaurant – you won’t regret the oxtail main – or wander further down the strip for a German dinner at Der Roter Hahn Deutsche Restaurant (058 256 1888) or dig into a quiche lunch at The Post House (058 256 1534).

Highlight

Eat pancakes for breakfast and sip a creamy cappuccino at the on-site restaurant – by far the best way to start the day.

Need to know

Guest rooms are accessed via stairs, but the ground-floor suites are suitable for the less mobile. Pack a book to read as the TV has only SABC and eTV.

Cost

B&B from R500 a person a night sharing.

Contact

Tel 082 556 5208, www.278onmain.co.za

 
This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Getaway Magazine.

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