24 beautiful budget weekend escapes from Johannesburg

Posted on 11 April 2024 By Nelson Kalula

These are the best, beautiful and budget friendly weekend escapes from Johannesburg – plan your escape from the city now.

Just four hours drive or less, these are the top budget bush breaks, breathtaking mountain views and country escapes all screened and reviewed by the Getaway team.

Please note that all prices below are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before travelling.


1. Lindani, Waterberg

Cost: From R305 – R630 per person.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: lindani.co.za


With its own bushveld back garden, a gorgeous rock pool and an almost-guaranteed squadron of warthog mowing the lawns, Lindani is a self-catering, back-to-nature family escape that doesn’t disappoint. It’s 275 kilometres from Johannesburg and the accommodation options range from four-sleeper cottages and an eight-bed tented forest camp to the enormous 18-sleeper, four-house Motseng lodge complex. Spend time on the easy hiking trails, hire bicycles and cycle past wildebeest, zebra, eland and giraffe, or pack a picnic and stop at one of the five riverside
sites to have a splash and cool down (one spot even has tubes for the lazy soakers).

Thoughtful details such as
 50 kilograms of firewood, mammal, bird and reptile guides as well as a variety of games for rainy days are the cherry on top. There is a farm kitchen that has 
a variety of freshly prepared meals made to order (think stews and quiches), and if you’d rather braai, at least order the milk tart for pudding and farm bread for morning toast.

Also Read: The 20 Best Restaurants in Benoni

2. Kingfisher Lodge, Waterberg

Cost: From R410 per person
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: Tel 0825708474,  jembisa.com

Within earshot of the trickling Palala River, Kingfisher Lodge is a spacious bushveld home in the Waterberg just three hours’ drive from Joburg. It’s one of three accommodation units in the Palala River Lodges collection and consists of a three-bedroom farmhouse with
 a cosy fireplace that takes centre stage in the open-plan living area and two en-suite rondavels nearby. It can accommodate up to 10 guests and has an on-site pool and
 a bird hide a short walk from the lodge. Pack a picnic and go for a drive to find the perfect spot in the 3000-hectare reserve. There are many scenic lookout points, 4X4 routes, waterbuck, giraffe and warthog to spot or just unwind on the lodge porch with a view of the Waterberg hills and harrumphing hippo for company.

Also Read: The 20 Best Restaurants in Alberton

3. Bontle Tented Camp and Campsite, Marakele National Park

Cost: From R1175 for two people in one tent.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: Tel 0147776928, www.sanparks.org

Bontle Camp

These beautiful tented camps are more chic than any other SANParks establishment I’ve visited with crisp white linen, great kitchen facilities and evenly spread apart surrounded by Waterberg bushveld for privacy. There’s the chance that white rhino will come trotting past and I woke up to impala chomping fresh shoots in front of the chalet. It is quite common for game to wander through too. Marakele offers a good alternative to Kruger. You also don’t have to compromise on game, with elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and a variety of the more elusive species such as tsessebe and sable occurring in the park.

Also Read: The 20 Best Restaurants in Randburg

4. De Kunst Huisje, Bela-Bela

Cost: B&B from R500 per person
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 2 hours.
Contact: Tel 0140017238, dekunsthuisje.co.za

De Kunst Huisje is an expertly curated guesthouse. Most visitors bypass the actual town of Bela-Bela in a hurry to holiday in the surrounding Waterberg bushveld, but one night spent here will prevent such an oversight. The old farmhouse is immediately striking from the roadside, with red door and window frames and enormous wooden carved chickens settled on the stoep. As its name suggests De Kunst Huisje (‘The Art House’) is filled with artworks, from quirky and antique to modern and classical. Big oil paintings adorn the black lounge walls and a vintage display case shows off collections of old tins and ceramics in the kitchen.

Although it’s not the most picturesque settlement at its city centre, the surrounding leafy suburbs in Bela-Bela are quiet and idyllic. It’s the perfect base to explore the bushveld or visit the hot mineral springs the town is named after at Forever Resorts, about a two-minute drive from the house (from R80 a person).


5. Hamasha Bush Camp, Soutpansberg

Price: From R640 per person (sleeps eight).
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 4 hours.
Contact: Tel 0114831841,  leshiba.co.za

Mountain bike past rhino, bond with friends over the braai and bird up in the clouds on the 2600-hectare reserve. Off-the-grid Hamasha Bushcamp is a self-catering eight-sleeper camp 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.


6. Mosetlha Bush Camp, Madikwe Game Reserve

Cost: SADC specials from R1895 per person sharing for all meals and two game drives
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 4 hours
Contact: Tel 0114449345, thebushcamp.com


The cabins at Mosetlha Bush Camp are relatively open so you can soak up the night sky.

Mosetlha is easily the most affordable option for South Africans in Madikwe and provides an authentic bushveld experience being unfenced except for a height-specific elephant wire that prevents them from pulling up trees around the lodge. The camp sleeps up to 20 in stilted log cabins that have canvas blinds, which can be rolled up to sleep with the starry skies. Food is homely matching the camps down-to-earth and unpretentious feel cooked over the fire and on gas.


7. Manyane Resort, Pilanesberg

Price: From R230 per camp site per night (with power, up to five people)
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 2h40.
Contact: Tel 0145551000, manyaneresort-pilanesberg.com


It might be a fraction of Kruger’s size, but at Pilanesberg Game Reserve, near Rustenburg, you stand a chance to see not only the Big Five, but also rare species such as cheetah, wild dog and even brown hyena. While there’s a variety of accommodation options, Manyane Resort is ideal for families who love to camp. It’s large and has ample shade and power points, as well as a swimming pool, restaurant and small shop. The tented camp is also decent at R920 for two.


8. Saamrus Guest Farm, Magaliesberg

Price: From R420 per person (dogs get to stay for free!)
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 2 hours
Contact: Tel 0724871733, saamrus.co.za

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 Magaliesberg 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.

With the exception of Suikerbos and the rondavels, all cottages are open-plan with well-placed fireplaces; showers are over large custom-built bath tubs. Walks include a riverine area, indigenous forest and grasslands, and there’s a shared (small) communal pool. The only drawback is the 4X4 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 are wonderful here.


9. Cradle Valley Guest Lodge, Cradle of Humankind

Price: From R650 per person
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 45 minutes.
Contact: Tel 0796973039, cradlevalley.co.za

Cradle-Valley-Guesthouse - Melanie van Zyl

Cradle Valley Guesthouse is a lovely farm-style stay with ducks in the garden and décor that’s rustic and easy on the eye. There are twelve stylish and tastefully furnished bedrooms all with patios and horses neigh in the paddocks nearby.

Also read: The Getaway guide to the Cradle of Humankind.


10. B’Sorah Tented Camp, Magaliesberg

Price: From R1200 per tent (sleeps two).
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 1h10.
Contact: bsorah.com

B’sorah is a family-owned 1600-hectare farm, criss-crossed by hiking and biking trails, romping warthogs and families of cows. The four luxury tents offer all the pros of camping with few of the cons. Tents are spacious and have running water, a large and comfy bed and a full outdoor kitchen. Best of all, the tents are already pitched and guests needn’t bring anything but food to eat and the clothes on their backs. The Swempie Honeymoon Tent, only R30 per person more than the standard tents, offers a sweeping view over the bushveld with luxurious furnishings and an oversized shower and bathtub. Book early as the Swempie tent is often reserved for weeks in advance.

Time moves slowly at B’sorah, and one of the most gratifying things to do is light a fire, sit on the deck and sip a beer while listening to frogs sing in the trickling stream. More ambitious visitors might go for a bike ride or hike, perhaps climb the small hill near the tents and watch the sun go down.


11. Stone Hill, Magaliesberg

Price: One- and two-bedroom cottages from R1400 for minimum two people. Minimum two-night stay on weekends and longer for special holidays.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 1h15
Contact: stone-hill.co.za

This 75-hectare property has eight self-catering timber cottages, each freestanding and located 20 metres or more from the next, so not quite as private as Saamrus (below), but still offering much more space than most. Each has a small fenced garden with a private outdoor shower; ‘…and here’, owner Caroline de Villiers grins as she picks up an additional handheld showerhead, ‘is the one for your dog’. She and Mark Morgan love their dogs, and they understand how difficult it is for people with four-legged children to find neat-as-a-pin accommodation that accepts and welcomes the extended family. The cottages aren’t particularly stylish or luxurious but they are scrupulously maintained and very comfortable, with thoughtful touches that include anything from plasters and earbuds to easy-to-use recycling bins and well-lit, smoke-free braais. There’s a five-kilometre trail for socialised dogs (with benches for owners to enjoy the views), a small shared pool, and the Magalies riverine area at the bottom of the property is where happy canines get muddy before heading home for that shower.

Room tip: I liked Cabbage Tree Cottage for its more private location but all share the same features: open-plan lounge with a log fireplace, well-equipped kitchen, full bathroom, shaded patio and Wi-Fi


12. Glenogle Farm, Magoebaskloof

Price: From R700 per person for two and R475 per person for four.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: 0832598321, glenogle.co.za

You’ll have three handsome horses as your neighbours at The Stables luxury self-catering cottage on Glenogle Farm. Flanked by pine forests, the stylish farmhouse has an industrial, modern feel (free Wi-Fi) and was designed by a local architect. The four-bed space is also exceptionally cosy and was built around the stables beside a grassy paddock. A beautiful spiral staircase leads upstairs to the bedrooms, from a living area sprinkled with lovely old furniture, generous leather couches and hydrangea bouquets picked from the farm gardens.

There’s also a big fireplace with plenty of firewood to keep you going on colder days, and on warmer ones there’s a dam for splashing in or to fish trout from. In season, you can pick your own berries for R50 at nearby Blueberry Heights farm, but it’s worth visiting the Mountain Café on the premises anyway for fresh, seasonal food. Go for walks or bring bikes to cycle the mountain trails.

Also read: 12 of our favourite farm stays around South Africa.


13. Wolwekrans Eco Lodge, Schoemanskloof

Price: The lodge is from R2800 for two nights. It sleeps four in two bedrooms and you can pop two kids in the lounge.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: Tel 0790370651, wolwekrans.com 

Situated on 120 hectares of bushveld on the dramatic Schoemanskloof escarpment, the two private self-catering cabins are perched high up for optimal isolation and views. The spacious two-bedroom accommodation is simple yet stylish, with crisp white linen and natural stone walls complementing the chalet’s off-the-grid profile. The landscape includes forest, with clear water springs for swimming, and sprawling acacia plains. Only high-clearance cars are recommended for the bumpy mountain road (or arrange a transfer) – pets are welcome too.


14. Kaapsehoop Horse Trails, Kaapsehoop

Price: From R330 per person to R500 per person (cottages sleep up to 12). Horse trails from R315 an hour.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: 0761080081, horsebacktrails.co.za

It’s an hour’s drive from Nelspruit to Kaapsehoop, climbing 800 metres into the soaring pine plantations of the Drakensberg escarpment. Emerging into open fields, you’ll see the first free- roaming horses. Owner Christo Germishuys advocates natural horsemanship, a philosophy that requires plenty of space and uses coaxing and communication for training. Riders as young as six are welcome on his guided one-hour trail, with longer excursions available for experienced riders. The farm itself is scattered with seemingly ancient equine artefacts, some conceivably discarded for generations, others maybe just set aside for later use. These continue inside the four charming cottages, with old kit vying for wall space above solid farmhouse furnishings. Each cottage is equipped for self-catering, but be sure to have at least one meal at the Gypsy Caravan Café, where chef Mike Kay serves delicious 10 meals on his fabulous sunset stoep.


15. Stone Tin Lodge, Dullstroom

Price: From R2800 per night for six people.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3h30
Contact: stonetinlodge.co.za

Stone Tin Lodge. Photo by Villiers Steyn.

Sunlight streams in warming Stone Tin Lodge during the day and come nightfall, a large central fireplace heats up the open-plan lounge, dining and kitchen area, which is tastefully decorated with pale wood finishings, navy fabrics and Nguni-skin rugs. Set on a private farm about 30 kilometres on the Lydenburg side of Dullstroom, this spacious three-bedroom country home overlooks two trout-filled dams surrounded by rolling hills and is completely off the grid, running primarily from solar energy and gas (there’s a generator too, just in case).

Each room in this corrugated iron and stone retreat has a basket filled with thick blankets, an en-suite loo, and the main room has a gorgeous ball-and-claw bath. Throw a fishing line, look for blesbok, black wildebeest and zebra on an easy hike or if it’s really cold out, surf DStv, snuggle on the couch and take in a movie. The road is not suitable for low-slung sedans and get supplies from Dullstroom on your way. Pack filter coffee for the Bodum French press, bubble bath, firewood or bring cash to buy from the very obliging farm managers for R50 a bag.

Also read: 13 brilliant accommodation finds in Dullstroom.


16. Wooly Bugger Farm, Tonteldoos

Price: Half Hog from R600 (sleeps two); Sedgehog from R1050 (sleeps four); Ginger Quill and Blue Dunn from R1200 (sleeps six adults, or four adults and four children). Minimum two-night stay.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: woollybuggerfarm.co.za

Unless you’re in a 4X4 you’ll curse the road to Woolly Bugger – 22 kilometres of bumpy dirt to the one-donkey village of Tonteldoos, and another seven kilometres beyond – but within minutes of arriving at your stone cottage, breathing in the big 360-degree views, the resentment dissolves.

I loved everything about Woolly Bugger (referring to the most commonly used fishing fly, though there are plenty of sheep about too): just four rustic, simply furnished cottages share the 270-hectare farm, each located for privacy and views, and surrounded by wild cabbage trees and proteas. You’re left to enjoy the peace but any requests are seen to by Jono, a warm, intuitive host who recently completed a small, communal, shaded dining area replete with braai, toilets and a circular splash pool with built-in seating – the ideal gathering spot if you’ve booked more than one cottage.

There are plenty of walking and bike trails, two trout dams (with kit to hire), archery, a treasure hunt for kids and there’s even a couple of pub options in Tonteldoos. It’s pet-friendly too. And then there’s the price…

Cottage tip: Half Hog is the most affordable, romantic bolthole you could hope to find; I also loved Hedgehog, with its slide-and-fold door that opens onto expansive views.


17. Cpirit Country Haven, Dullstroom

Price:  Studios are from R875 (sleep two); Fisherman’s Cottage 1 is from R2600 (sleeps six); Fisherman’s Cottage 7 is from R1750 (sleeps six); Barn House is from R3500 (sleeps eight). If you book two nights you can stay a third on the house (this does not include long weekends and T&Cs apply). Serviced daily.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: cpirit.co.za

Seven clicks down the bumpy road to Tonteldoos, and a further one-kilometre drive into the farm before these pretty cottages hove into view. Bar perhaps the large open-plan Barn House, which could prove tricky to heat in winter, the Cpirit cottages are very compact and cosy. All are dressed in the same strong, simple decor theme of stoep-red and gunmetal-grey offset with touches of white, deep red, chocolate brown and stone.

With rickety staircases or steps into unexpected spaces, there is an overall rustic, boho charm that won’t suit city slickers who like finessed finishes, or couch potatoes (no TV, but fireplaces aplenty). Fisherman’s Cottages 1 and Barn House are set apart from the original farmhouse, which has been converted into four studio suites.

Along with adjacent Fisherman’s Cottage 7, these four studios share a fairly intimate space, so ideally (though not necessarily) should be booked with friends. Book all seven and the farm us yours: a great venue for 28 guests, with a covered outdoor lapa, a function shed with a large open fireplace, two dams and peaches, pears, figs, plums, crab apples or walnuts to forage for in season.

Room tip: Compact Fisherman’s Cottage 7 (two upstairs bedrooms, one downstairs bedroom, all sharing one bathroom) is a good-value family option. If you are two couples, I’d book Studio 4 and 5 which face the view.


18. Fairview Towers, Clarens

Price: From R500 per person, minimum R2000 a night
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3h30
Contact: fairviewestates.co.za

Ever seen a fluffy South American alpaca? Or watched a flock of these llama-like animals grazing from the towering top of a renovated grain silo? Time to skirt the Maluti Mountains, behold the highlands encircling Fairview Estates – a mere half-hour drive from Fouriesburg – and unpack your bags. An eighteen-month overhaul and plenty of angle grinder blades later, two sturdy silos that once stored cattle feed were cleverly joined with red face brick and transformed into a four-storey holiday home. The towers sleep eight people in two master bedrooms containing queen-sized beds sheathed in white percale linen with electric blankets. The kids bunk on the ground floor. A wooden staircase spirals up the left side of the cylindrical silo, climbing past the bedrooms and homely open plan kitchen/living area toward a magnificent outdoor lapa equipped with a gas braai, pub-style bench and astonishing hilly views.


19. Her Majesty’s Apology, Harrismith

Price: R300 per person and R150 for kids over five (sleeps six). Single guests only pay R300.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: 0827571310, safarinow.co.za

Set in a gorgeous garden filled with flowers, this renovated sandstone farmhouse is a real beauty just 17 kilometres off the N3. It was burnt down during the Anglo-Boer War and rebuilt as part of British post-war reparations, hence the great name. Each room has a mesh-covered door leading onto the shady, vine-covered stoep and the whole place is cared for with fresh flowers displayed in each room.

The bright and airy farm kitchen overlooks a cattle field and horse harrumphing nearby, but host Angie Bester can also provide fresh home-made meals or a picnic basket I eagerly had seconds and thirds of her creamy savoury tart and mango salad. Angie also knows the best mountain-bike routes nearby, with scenic options on old farm roads and more technically challenging ones.


20. Highlands Mountain Retreat, Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Price: From R1400 for two people.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: Tel 0582550962, sanparks.co.za

affordable accommodation near johannesburg

Highlands Mountain Retreat is perched right at the top, 2200 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.

Also read: 16 mountain cabins for getting far, far away.


21. Basotho Cultural Village, Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Price: From R870 for two people.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: sanparks.org

The Basotho Cultural Village lies on the eastern side of Golden Gate and is quieter than other camps being off the main transit road. It also has excellent views over the plains, which are commonly inundated with Springbok and Blesbok herds. Kick off your weekend with an expertly guided one-hour horse ride. The trail winds through grassland, crossing streams and trotting up small hillocks. Capable guides cater to all riding abilities so don’t worry if you’re not a pro! Animals you’re likely to see on the ride include Black wildebeest and Burchell’s zebra. Keep yours eyes peeled for butterflies to see how many different ones you can spot – 78 species have been recorded!


22. Yvonne’s House, Ficksburg

Price: From R1000 per night (sleeps four to five).
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3 hours
Contact: rosendalinfo.co.za/yvonnes-house

Yvonne's House.

You don’t need to know who Yvonne Short is (a food fundi and author of Kitchen Safari) to know that Yvonne’s House has been built and equipped by someone who loves to cook. The kitchen is huge, embracing most of the living area that it overlooks. Beyond, through the large window-walls is the scenic valley and farm dam backdropped by mountains.

Yvonne’s House was designed by architect Daniel van der Merwe, the man co-credited with leading the charge to Rosendal some 15 years ago (along with actor Chris van Niekerk). A compact version of the contemporary barn-style architecture that Australians such as Glenn Murcutt are so good at, this is a simple, well-proportioned pitch-roofed house with a deep veranda. Yvonne spared no expense on her interiors, which are elegant and comfortable, and the dining room and views invite long, lazy luncheons with friends. The house accommodates four (two bedrooms on either side of the house), plus an extra guest in the lounge. If you want to increase the size of your dinner party, call Elmo Goosen (0827761310), who handles rentals for most of the best houses in Rosendal.


23. Dragon Peaks, Champagne Valley

Price: From R670 per person.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 4h10
Contact: dragonpeaks.com

affordable accommodation near johannesburg Dragon Peaks Champagne Valley - Melanie van Zyl

Set in the charming Champagne Valley this sprawling, family-owned mountain resort effuses a relaxed and casual holiday atmosphere, where regulars come back every year to unwind. Home to the Drakensberg Boys Choir too, the 1000-acre resort has just completed the addition of 16 fresh self-catering units. Modern, but simple with slick finishes the new open-plan, self-catering apartments are generous on space, facilities (like gas stoves and flat screen televisions) and views – number 132 has the very best though, with an un-obscured look at the dramatic Cathkin Peak.

All units are perched on a lake and you can hear the Red-knobbed coot and other water birds splashing about in the reeds going after small bass. It’s peaceful, save for the trotting of horses with excited riders bobbing on their backs, and there’s an easy riverside walk close by. The resort has also invested in solar panels to supplement electricity on fair weather days. It’s the kind of place where you can do as much, or as little as you like with hikes, tubing and pools, but I highly recommend taking the scenic helicopter flight if you can afford to treat yourself (R950 per person).


24. Berghouse and Cottages, Bergville

Price: From R495 per person self-catering, R630 per person B&B or R820 per person DBB.
Travel time from Joburg city centre: 3h15
Contact: berghouse.co.za

Vaughn and Chantal Piccione offer you the best of both worlds: a well-equipped cottage – decorated for comfort and with country charm – along with the option of having the most delicious breakfasts and dinners delivered piping hot to your terrace or fireside dining table. This combination – the privacy and space of your own cottage, together with the service you’d get from a well-run guest house – is a winner, along with the easy hospitality of the Piccione family.

You could spend the day just lolling around your cottage (très romantic, with double beds in front of log fireplaces), enjoying the occasional visit from the free-roaming miniature horses, but the 500-hectare estate beckons seven kilometres of river frontage, three dams, plenty of trails and fabulous mountain views in every direction.
Cottage tip All eight cottages are delightful but Phezulu (sleeps two) and Thokomala (sleeps 12) have the added benefit of the most unimpeded mountain views.

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24 beautiful budget weekend escapes from Johannesburg
These are the best, beautiful and budget friendly weekend escapes from Johannesburg - plan your escape from the city now.
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