The more the merrier: 10 low-budget group getaways

Posted on 3 December 2021

There’s nothing better than a big group getaway, with a bunch of friends or family spilling out of every room in the house. One of the best things about a group holiday is that when everyone chips in, accommodation can be really affordable – especially in the low season. We’ve found these lovely places to stay all over South Africa that are perfect for a big group!

Group accommodation in Gauteng

1. Rustig, Magaliesberg

Cost: R220 per person for The Dormitory or Stone House; Heritage House is R375 per person when booking for six (entire house R2250).

Group holiday accommodation - Rustig, Magaliesberg
What a well-chosen name for this lush farm deep within the Hartebeestfontein Conservancy. Towering trees and flowering shrubs punctuate the rolling lawns overlooked by a sprawling restaurant and veranda. There is an inviting 25-metre pool and, given the luxury of the grounds and facilities, the amiable service and great location, Rustig is surely the best bargain in the berg. You could spend the day at the pool after an early morning game drive, but most come for the hikes of three, five or 13 kilometres, or to overnight in the mountain hut, Karee (from R270 per person).

The Dormitory is a double-storey block with six rooms, ideal for a group, but three of the rooms can also be made up with just two single beds – book an upstairs corner room. Nearby basic Stone House sleeps six and is a great budget family option. Heritage House, the original three-bedroom farmhouse, is furnished with antiques and shares one Victorian-style but modern bathroom. It’s not really set up to self-cater (meals can be served to you here, or at the restaurant) but you can braai. Ages 13 and over only.

Group accommodation in the North-West Province

2. Mamagalie Mountain Lodge

Cost: From R375 per person, sleeps 12

Group holiday accommodation - Mamagalie, at Mooinooi

Roughly 100 kilometres from Johannesburg the landscape transforms from highveld to bushveld near Buffelspoort Dam. Here, five secluded lodges cleverly nestled in a valley make up the Mamagalie self-catering collection. Two are designed for couples ‒ River Lodge and Tranquility Lodge, the latter is the most romantic with a private deck and outdoor shower overlooking a stream ‒ while Bush and Forest lodges both sleep four (the tented three-storey Bush Lodge on stilts is great, with great Buffelspoort Valley views). Mountain Lodge is the biggest, sleeping 12, and is perfect for kids to explore the active farm, which has an avocado and lemon orchard, pecan nut and newly planted fig trees and raspberry bushes. Expect to find hornbills floating from the trees and hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra and gemsbok roaming the slopes. Walk in the bush and explore the rock pools in the protected Magaliesberg green belt.


Group accommodation in the Western Cape

3. Gifberg Holiday Farm, Vanrhysndorp

Cost: From R300 per person when booking for three or more

Group holiday accommodation - Gifberg, Vanrhynsdorp

Given that there’s a countrywide drought, a rooibos farm tucked beneath the armpit of the Northern Cape seems like a foolish place to come looking for water. Dusty and dry, most farms nearby have had to pump water up the plateau at an eye-boggling cost. Not so at Gifberg Holiday Farm. Here, after a short hike, you can while away the afternoon at a number of beautiful rock pools. Tuinhuis is the best of the six chalets: sleeping six, it’s private without being remote, and hunches under a rock face with such vibrant lichen patterns that it looks like a rock painting. The furnishings are fairly utilitarian, but you won’t be spending much time inside: the farm is covered with hiking trails and rock art. Make plans to visit during flower season, when they have guided walks and stargazing sessions.


Group accommodation in KwaZulu-Natal

4. Thrums, Southbroom

Cost: From R300 per person, sleeps 6

Group holiday accommodation - Thrums, Southbroom

Located in South Ridge Road, Thrums was one of the very first cottages to be built in Southbroom, and as such enjoys a plum position: elevated enough to enjoy those enormous blue horizons yet a few strides down the hill to Granny’s tidal pool. Very much an old family cottage, Thrums was bought by the granddad of the current owners ‒ siblings Rose Stephenson and Charles Anderson ‒ back in the 1960s. They clubbed together to renovate the house a few years back, opening up the central living space and kitchen. There are outdoor patios, one with a braai, and two bedrooms flanking this easy living space. Ballito-based Rose attributes the decor style to her sister-in-law Luan, and it’s thoughtfully eclectic, keeping a sense of its old beach cottage roots but not falling prey to the mish-mash of hand-me-downs and bargain-basement furniture that typifies too many second homes. Of the five bedrooms, four have sea views; three are en-suite while two bedrooms share a bathroom. There is also an extra games room downstairs.


5. Rock Shandy Beach House, Southbroom

Cost: From R334 per person, sleeps 12

Group holiday accommodation - Rock shandy, Southbroom

We love the space and the rustic atmosphere of this large, luxury self-catering house. The downstairs living area has been opened up to create an open flow between the interiors and the generous pool deck. Of the five bedrooms upstairs, three have sea views (the main bedroom is a showstopper); a tiny courtyard bedroom deals with overflow guests. It’s a stylish beach house, pretty much unparalleled on this stretch of coast. Serviced daily by Edna, who can also babysit.


6. Ngoye Lodge, Mtunzini

Cost: From R600 per person, sleeps 4

Group holiday accommodation - Ngoye Lodge, Mtunzini

Unexpectedly spacious in this small coastal town, Ngoye Lodge is ideal for a fun group get-together in an outdoorsy environment. It’s set on a wide green lawn with a lengthy swimming pool out front for hot summer days. The open-plan design and large windows create an easy flow and its style is contemporary, with SA arts and crafts and plant-filled vases. When you’re finished dining at the outside table or playing on the foosball machine, you can head to the beach, just a few minutes’ drive away. If you’re lucky you might even spot one of Mtunzini’s famous palm-nut vultures. Ngoye sleeps 10 in five bedrooms, and should you need more space your group can spill over into the more private Nguni Cottage, a tastefully furnished two-bedroom house where Jacob Zuma once rested his head while attending a nearby wedding ceremony.


7. Mseni Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso

Cost: From R448 per person, sleeps 10

Group holiday accommodation - Mseni Beach Lodge, iSiMangaliso

Behind the smooth pinstripe beach that decorates Sodwana Bay is a jungle: a deep, clotted tropical mess that swallows the idea of sea-view accommodation whole. Well, almost whole. Peeking out of the coastal thicket is Mseni Beach Lodge, one of only two places to stay inside the Sodwana Bay section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Its log cabins are glowing after a recent facelift (it’s under new management), with further upgrades planned, but the best, by far, is Sea View House. It’s as close to the beach as you’re going to get. The upstairs balcony has a view over the ocean and a large gas braai. Inside, there’s a bright open-plan lounge and fully equipped kitchen area and downstairs, fresh, white-linen bedrooms make for great afternoon naps.


Group accommodation in Limpopo

8. Hamasha Bushcamp

Cost: From R1200 per person when booked for six

Group holiday accommodation - Leshiba Wilderness, Hamasha Bushcamp

Melanie van Zyl’s grandparents were among the first visitors to Leshiba Wilderness and their stories of mountain biking past rhino, bonding with friends over the braai and birding up in the clouds on the 2600-hectare reserve have tickled her travel taste buds for years. Her own visit to off-the-grid Hamasha Bushcamp did not disappoint and the owners still remember my granny and grandpa. The self-catering eight-sleeper camp is perched on the edge of the world in an amphitheatre of cliffs and mountains with breathtaking views of the Hamasha Gorge. The camp consists of two cottages sleeping four each, a central kitchen and lounge area with a fireplace. There’s no cell reception or electricity and the camp runs on gas, just like it did 20 years ago.


Group accommodation in the Eastern Cape

9. The Sullies, Morgan Bay

Cost: From R600 per person, sleeps 10

Group holiday accommodation - The Sullies, Morgan Bay

Just an hour’s drive from East London, the stylish double-storey The Sullies beach house overlooks a lush lagoon alive with birds in Morgan Bay. White hammocks adorn the deck and a 10-minute walk takes you straight to the beach ‒ a beautiful bay fringed by dramatic Wild Coast cliffs. The open-plan kitchen includes a Nespresso machine, gas stove, icemaker, two fridges and daily housekeeping so catering for 10 is a breeze. There are three spacious and chic en-suite double bedrooms and two kids’ rooms with enough bunk beds to sleep six. Basic supplies are available from a store nearby, but if you’re not one for cooking on holiday, check out the Morgan Bay Hotel for a variety of meals and sip daiquiris on the deck while gazing at the ocean.


10. The Kraal, Mpande Beach

Cost: From R180 per person

Group holiday accommodation - The Kraal, Pondoland

The Kraal is unreal. Set in The Kei, in deep rural Pondoland, is a collection of traditional Xhosa huts at the ocean’s edge. Wearing shoes and locking doors are unnecessary here. This rural accommodation gets its water from the sky and energy from the sun and also has a large wood-burning oven for delicious pizzas. Whale Hut is great for families, while Eagle Hut is better for bigger groups, sleeping up to eight. There is a kitchen downstairs which can be used by all guests. The Kraal grows its own veggies and any extras are sold to guests. The local shop stocks basics and also grows vegetables to sell. I bought a dozen oysters from a woman on the beach for R25. You can also enjoy a Xhosa meal at Kholeka’s restaurant in the village.


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