Sure, there are plenty of swank places to stay in Johannesburg, but sometimes you just need to get away from the big city and luxuriate in peace and quiet. Whether it’s a quaint small town or game reserve, there are many options for Joburgers to escape for a long weekend without having to deal with the hassle of getting on a plane, or spending endless hours in the car. Here are five of my favorite luxury lodges and hotels, all within a two-hour drive of Jozi.
The Highlander Dullstroom Country Estate
If it’s relaxation you’re after, Dullstroom is a great choice. This quaint town, well known for its fly-fishing, is the perfect stopover if you’re planning to go to the Kruger National Park. The outdoor enthusiast will love the choice of hiking and field trails available, as well as bird-watching opportunities.
Suites the Highlander are spacious and comfortable, with private patios and wood burning fireplaces, and the hotel also has a self-catering option, the Hobbit Cottage, which is a duplex unit with 3 bedrooms. However, there is no need to cook, because the hotel’s restaurant Chapter 1, is a key attraction. The executive chef ensures that produce is organic and free range as far as possible, aiming to create hearty, country style cuisine. Expect dishes like chargrilled beef fillet with spring onion mash, red onion jam, wilted spinach and a thyme red wine sauce for mains, and vanilla panna cotta with chocolate coated hazelnuts and candied orange zest for dessert. The hotel also stocks a range of over 200 single malt whiskies, which you can take your pick from for pre-dinner drinks, or for a night cap.
Situated in Magaliesburg, an area offering sweeping views, Mount Grace makes for a magnificent country escape. Ten acres of sprawling gardens and bushveld make up the property, making it possible to go for a grueling hike without even leaving the premises.
Rooms are modern and contemporary, with some rooms boasting their own private pools- a real treat. Mount Grace’s award winning spa is a must visit; hotel guests have access to the spa facilities, which are comprised of an oversized Jacuzzi and outdoor rock pool.
Eating options are average- the main restaurant, Twist, offers a buffet at dinner, which isn’t anything to write home about, but the buffet at breakfast is fabulous- on the menu: freshly made waffles with chocolate sauce.
Probably the best value for money option on this list, Kievits Kroon is a hidden gem in an otherwise completely barren landscape. Known as the “winelands of Gauteng”, Kievits Kroon’s accommodation is in the form of quaint Cape Dutch style cottages.
Signature restaurant, Granita, offers a 6 course fine dining experience with wine pairings. The other option is Kingsley’s Restaurant: a buffet and carvery. On my visit, I ate here with vegetarians, and there was close to nothing available for them to eat, apart from side veggies- something for the restaurant to work on.
Kievits Kroon has great specials running constantly, which usually include a half or full day at their decadent spa, with one of the most advanced thermae facilities in all of Gauteng, made up of steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis, plunge pools and Swiss showers.
Another fun thing to do on the premises is enjoy a gourmet picnic on the picturesque lawn- the hotel will take care of everything, including supplying a picnic basket, cushions and a delicious menu which includes wraps, quiches plus a selection of cold meats and cheeses.
Located “where it all began”, in the Cradle of Humankind, Forum Homini sticks to the evolutionary theme throughout the hotel- it is reflected in the artwork and the landscaping. Small walkways, grass covered roofs and natural bodies of water create a natural feel.
The huge suites are extremely luxurious, while blending into the environment. They feature a double indoor and outdoor shower, plus a large oval bath in the lounge- complete with a “bath menu”, allowing one to customize their bath experience.
The highlight of a stay at Forum Homini is undoubtedly a visit to the signature restaurant, Roots, which has made it onto the “top 10 restaurants in South Africa” list many times. Dinner here is a drawn out affair, composed of multiple courses with wine pairings. Fresh, natural ingredients are given a South African flair, with wines selected from South Africa’s top wine estates. The 5 course breakfast is as much of an attraction as dinner, which isn’t so good if you’re starving because portions are tiny and the time between courses is around 20-30 minutes.
Boasting 9, individually designed suites, The Orient is a mecca for design lovers, with décor personally collected by the owner from exotic destinations like Morocco and India. Staying there feels like you’re in a palace or a castle, thanks to intricate wood carvings, marble pillars and high ceilings.
The hotel has an intimate and opulent private cinema on site which seats only 20 people, and screens classic films from around the world. Also on the premises, you’ll find an art gallery showcasing the works of Tienie Prichard, which include sculptures and paintings.
The Orient is home to a renowned gastronomic restaurant, Mosaic. Keeping it in the family, the chef, Chantel Dartnall, is the owners’ daughter, who wanted to design a restaurant that was reminiscent of the early 1900s. She believes in consistency and simplicity, while indulging the diner with all 5 senses- she is well known for her beautiful platings, often using edible flowers.