Drostdy Hotel – the finest Karoo gem

Posted on 18 May 2019

Earlier this year I wandered through Graaff-Reinet, affectionately known as ‘the gem of the Karoo’ and the fourth-oldest town in South Africa. During my stay I lodged at the five-star Drostdy Hotel, perhaps the finest Karoo gem.

The five-star Drostdy Hotel with its Cape Dutch gables

The Drostdy is over 200 years old, and I was lucky to be visiting when the hot Little-Karoo weather had subsided a bit, with the promise of a few thunder showers. When the rains did come, if only for a few days, I happily spent some hours in my pretty suite and around the boutique hotel’s charming and manicured grounds, inside the restaurant and the cosy library.

After much wandering about town – you can easily walk or bike everywhere – I returned to the Drostdy’s De Camdeboo Restaurant, where I had a hearty supper of venison stroganoff and cous cous. Dessert was a smooth and wobbly berry panacotta with a berry coulis and orange tuille.

My two favourite breakfasts, however, were the generous omelettes and cinnamon-french-toast, croissant with maple-syrup bacon and fresh orange segments.

The Drostdy’s newest sister restaurant, the more chilled out, family-friendly Coldstream, has an Italian-style menu with the best wines brought out from the Cape, tasty pizzas (including vegetarian) and homemade pasta dishes (try the trio formaggio). The space is great for families with children, with outdoor seating and a play area for the young ones. Coldstream recently acquired a gelato machine, which is rather fitting given the Italian-inspired cuisine, and the peanut butter gelato was a favourite – ask for the flavours of the day.

Air conditioning is a welcome luxury in the Karoo, whether you’re experiencing the standard hot and dry climate, or an overcast but humid afternoon with rolling thunderstorms – I did! Fortunately my room came with two air-con panels installed. Graaff-Reinet’s has experienced drought conditions for the last four years so the plugs were removed from my aesthetic white bathtub. The last thing you need during summer in the Karoo, though, is a hot bath, and the spacious and modern shower is the place to cool off. Failing that, you might want to take a dip in the pool, which is at the centre of every courtyard for easy access, and is a great spot to lounge and read a book or your favourite travel mag.

Hotel porter and go-to man Donovan Pieterse is a smiling and enthusiastic asset to the Drostdy’s friendly and attentive staff. ‘I’m on 32,000 steps already!’ he announced proudly one afternoon shortly after beginning his shift. Donovan showed me the Jaguar electric-vehicle charger, a green leap the Drostdy has cared to take into the digital age. On that note, the Drostdy is also a favourite among European luxury car brands who choose to lay their heads here while conducting performance quality evaluations in the dry Karoo environment.

There’s much to do at the Drostdy. If you didn’t head up to the Valley of Desolation at Camdeboo National Park or walk or bike around town, then the Drostdy will have plenty to keep you occupied.

At Africology Spa, where I met Tamara, Nosi and Elsabe, the colourful Africology therapists.

I opted for a full body massage after a drive one quiet Saturday morning, and returned in the afternoon to try out the Himalayan pink rock salt sauna. It was 80°C inside, and I thought I’d stay in there beyond 15 minutes, but I was happy to run back out into the relatively cooler, albeit humid, weather just as fat raindrops started falling and another roll of thunder barrelled through the sky above me.

I visited Graaff-Reinet’s Imibala Art Gallery, right on the Drostdy’s premises. Inside, among the paintings extolling the beauty of Camdeboo plains and Karoo landscapes, I spotted Dylan Lewis sculptures, this time in miniature with some other animals, but mostly leopards like the two in the courtyards. The gallery leads to De Wijnkamer, the hotel’s wine boutique where you can find La Motte, L’Ormarins, Terra del Capo and Antonij Rupert wines among others, as well as De Villiers choccies.

It was the library, however, which occupied many of my indoor hours. Warm and comfortably furnished, I cosied up on one of the leather couches and read up on the history of the fourth Drostdy’s other South African classics. It didn’t even bother me that there wasn’t as much fiction.

If you’re visiting town for the annual Stoep Tasting at the end of May or planning a visit to take in the plunging Valley of Desolation and 100-million-year-old dolerite rock columns, book your stay at the Drostdy. You’re in for a luxurious, peaceful stay with memorable service in stylish surroundings. Visit drostdy.co.za, or call 0498922161

Things to do around town

Image: Gabrielle Jacobs

There’s much to see and lots to do – at your own pace. Visit Camdeboo National Park and spot magnificent kudu, bat-eared foxes and meerkats or even the blue crane, Ludwig’s bustard or Levaillant’s cisiticol. Go hot-air ballooning, bring your bikes and cycle up to the park and around town or visit the art galleries and museums.

Karoo Connections is owned and run by town expert David McNaughton and his family. Born and bred in Graaff-Reinet, David knows just about everything about the town, and even used to work as a barman at the Drostdy Hotel years ago. Karoo Connections can organise anything from nature walks, 4×4 trails and game drives to historical tours of town, uMasizakhe township and Gondwanaland fossil sites. Visit karooconnections.co.za, or call 0498923978.

Images by Gabrielle Jacobs

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