A best-of-both weekend escape to the Golden Gate Hotel

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 20 March 2018 Tags:, ,

If you like to have the best of both worlds – access to city comforts and exceptional natural beauty in peaceful mountain surroundings – then the Golden Gate Hotel is the perfect springboard for exploring nearby Clarens, with a walk or horse ride and easy hike thrown in.

Golden Gate Hotel

The first-ever fossilised dinosaur eggs from the Triassic Period were found at Golden Gate in 1973. The ancient landscape remains one of the most beautiful – this is the view from the hotel restaurant at sunset. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

With an array of cafes, shops and a great brewery, it’s well worth spending a day in town while you’re in the area. Despite being an incredibly popular weekend destination, Clarens has managed to retain its village charm and is just a short, scenic 20-kilometre drive from the hotel.

 

Plan your weekend to Golden Gate

Cost: Around R1700 per person
Duration: Two nights
Special sights: Butterflies, horses, beer and even snow in winter

Day one

Golden Gate

The hotel rooms echo the landscape of Golden Gate National Park, here you can see the strong resemblance to the prolific Red Grass that grows on the hillsides. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Settle in at the hotel and be sure to open the curtains, where you’ll find amazing views of the iconic sandstone Brandwag Buttress lit up at night. When you check in, book to go horse riding the next day as they require advance notice.

Stay here: The alpine-style Golden Gate Hotel offers the most contemporary accommodation in the park and has the most facilities, including restaurants, a cosy pub, tennis courts and even board games on request. There are simple self-catering chalets (from R1094 for two) on the grounds, but the hotel rooms feel more luxe. The north-facing rooms cost a little more but have the best views. From R1275 for two sharing B&B. Conservation fees R48 per person a day. Tel 0582551000

Day two

Make the most of the generous breakfast buffet, then kick off your morning with an expertly guided horse ride through the grasslands, crossing streams and trotting up small hillocks. You can choose an hour (R100) or two-hour (R155) scenic outride and the guide will cater to all riding abilities (it might be too slow-going for pros). Animals you’re likely to see include black wildebeest, springbok, blesbok, grey rhebok and mountain reedbuck. Keep an eye peeled for butterflies, too, and see how many different ones you can spot – 78 species have been recorded here.

Field guides use horses to patrol the park borders – visitors can also explore the park on horseback; a wooden bridge crossing a stream on the Brandwag hike. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Afterwards, drive into town and grab a light lunch at the Clarens Brewery. The German-style food is affordable and delicious – I always order the sausage bowl (R70 for two), which comes with an assortment of relishes and fresh bread from the bakery at the entrance to town. Aside from beer brewed on site (the tasters are free so sample them all to find your favourite), the brewery has joined the national trend and now distils gin too. (Tel 0829014700, clarensbrewery.co.za).

Spend the rest of the day wandering around town and its various shops and art galleries. Then head back in time to watch the orange cliffs grow golden at sunset from the hotel’s balcony.

Also read: 13 perfect country cottages in Clarens

Day three

The Brandwag hike overlooks the Golden Gate Hotel and only takes about an hour to complete. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Most day hikes depart from Glen Reenen Rest Camp but there is one, the Holkrans Trail, that starts just behind the Golden Gate Hotel. Do it before you head home – it only takes an hour. The path winds up the massive orange sandstone cliffs, briefly dips into a forest along the edge of a ravine, and crosses windswept grasslands before returning to the hotel.

Also read: Get a free trails map to Golden Gate National Park

 

This weekend escape first appeared in the October issue of Getaway magazine.

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The best guide to weekending in Golden Gate; how to go shark diving (without a cage); exploring the high peaks of the Rwenzoris and heritage homestays with delicious food in Kerala.