As our van pulled into the leafy driveway of Rosenhof Country House, after a long journey across the Swartberg Pass into Oudtshoorn, I already felt at ease. Luscious green creepers hung in ropes over the entrance buildings, while the soft trickle of a fountain could be heard in the distance. The reception staff met us in the driveway, eager to get us settled in and tell us all about this refuge from the otherwise arid surrounding landscape of the Karoo.
Rosenhof, a family homestead built circa 1852, lies on the edge of the small tourist town of Oudtshoorn. Other than a very popular annual arts festival, the town is dominated by the ostrich-farming industry. Travellers normally pass through onwards to the Garden Route or back towards Cape Town, and stay for just a few nights. Don’t let my description mislead you however, as Oudtshoorn is an idyllic getaway and my stay at Rosenhof was absolutely lux.
The heritage of Rosenhof is apparent in both its appearance and the traditional hospitality that guests receive throughout their stay. The main house shows off its history with the original yellowwood beams and ceilings, while a tasteful collection of antiques and modern comforts provide an ideal balance for guests looking for both comfort and traditional style.
I was led into a central courtyard, shaded by big trees centred around a large, natural fountain. Each of the opulent rooms faces inwards, with large verandahs promising the perfect place to haul out a book and relax for an afternoon. The rooms could be described more as suites, as each is absolutely massive with a king-size bed, large comfortable sofa and a big bathroom complete with a bathtub designed for a good soak.
The rooms are perfect for a stay longer than just a night or two, with every modern amenity you could desire — and then some. I adore a hotel that has a great selection of wines in the minibar, and Rosenhof is a great example of that, stocking a fantastic selection of South African wine. The décor in the room is more modern than the interior of the main hotel, and with its broad stripes, takes on a more playful twist than that of the antique-laden public areas.
Rosenhof Country House also offers its guests exclusivity, sleeping only 28 guests in 12 rooms and two executive suites. Although I never got a chance to see the suites, they are located away from the main house (for privacy’s sake), and each has its own swimming pool.
After a relaxing afternoon lazing about on the comfortable bed, it was time for a drink in the pub, and dinner in the adjacent Rosenhof restaurant. The pub is small, but big enough for guests to enjoy an aperitif ahead of the gourmet dinner that lies in store just next door.
I enjoyed a three-course meal, each dish presented impeccably, paired with even more South African wine. Each course took advantage of the local seasonal produce available in the surrounds, but centre stage was the lamb, for which the Karoo is known. The lamb has a subtle flavour of the distinct terroir here, with wild herbs cutting through the typical flavour of the meat.
The Bliss Spa at Rosenhof also lives up to its name, offering signature body treatments and the usual assortment of facials, manicures and pedicures. The Bliss packages are well worth looking into during a stay, with a full-day package designed to leave the body nourished and massaged, from top to bottom.
Based on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn, Rosenhof is conveniently close to the out-of-town attractions including the ancient Cango Caves, Wilgewandel Family Farm and the ostrich show farms that are dotted around the area. Other than caving and ostriches though, there are tons of exciting activities such as hot air ballooning, an early morning meerkat safari at Meerkat Adventures, and a range of quad biking, mountain biking and 4×4 tracks.
Another highlight of the area, and a result of its hot, dry climate, is the local olive farms here. The Surval Boutique Olive Estate is only a short drive from Rosenhof, and lies alongside a gorgeous dam thick with flowers in bloom and a view over the surrounding farms. Its restaurant, Su Casa, is both stylish and comfy with an impressive wine cellar. It also happens to be a quiet lunch spot out in the country that I would recommend visiting if you’re in the area.
The town centre of Oudtshoorn is easily walkable, with myriad art galleries, small jewelry stores, designer stalls, deli-type eateries and small bars right off the main street. Local talent, and even artists from out of town, regularly perform around here, giving residents and guests alike a glimpse into the culture of the region and the country.
Staying in Oudtshoorn can seem a little out of the way when perusing maps of South Africa. It’s just under a five-hour drive, or 420 km (260 miles) from Cape Town — or an easier hour-long flight into George, then about a half-hour journey from George Airport. Despite the distance though, this small town, and its surrounding area, is well worth discovering if you’re looking to uncover one of the less-publicised areas of South Africa.