South Africa’s second-smallest province, Mpumalanga, is also one of its most visited, with a plethora of blockbuster sights, from the wildlife of the world-renowned Kruger National Park to God’s Window — a sweeping panoramic vista of a dramatic river canyon. But the fertile province, which is covered in lush vegetation and thousands of hectares of litchi, citrus, mango and avocado farms, has a more off-the-beaten track treasure: macadamias.
South Africa is set to overtake Australia as the world’s biggest macadamia producer, and most of these delicious nuts are grown in sub-tropical Mpumalanga, making it the country’s nut capital. With the increase in macadamia farms over the past few years (there’s an extra 500 hectares being planted each year) there’s been a growth in macadamia tourism. Away from the crowds of the province’s more well known attractions, you can stay in charming guesthouses on macadamia farms and stroll through the orchards, enjoy dishes cooked with the nuts at local farm-to-table restaurants and even get macadamia spa treatments. Going on a macadamia safari is a wonderful way to experience the pastoral beauty of this green corner of South Africa.
Where to stay
Highgrove House near Hazyview is a beautiful 64-hectare avocado and macadamia farm that is undoubtedly a highlight on any nut-inspired trip to Mpumalanga. Accommodation is in elegant English country-style rooms spread throughout the lush property (book the Orchard Suite for your own private sauna and outdoor swimming pool), and the deep veranda is just the spot for sipping on a gin and tonic in the afternoon as you look out onto the huge garden and pool shaded by towering trees. Tours are offered of the farm with the owner – and you’ll be able to pick your own nuts. You can also visit a nearby factory to see how the nuts harvested from the farm are processed before being shipped off around the world. The spa at Highgrove uses products made with macadamias – including a scrub made with the farm’s produce – the nuts, avocado and honey. And then there are the nutty culinary treats: snack on homemade macadamia nut-studded biscotti in the room and roasted herb-flavored macs with your evening drinks. The three-course dinners are served each evening in the formal dining room feature the nuts too – think macadamia-nut roast rack of lamb, steak with a creamed macadamia sauce, butternut and macadamia soup and macadamia-chocolate brownies.
For a nature-lover’s romantic place to stay, Summerfields Rose Retreat and Spa near Hazyview is a winner, with 12 tented rooms linked by wooden walkways on the edge of a river under trees. Each room has an open-air bathroom where you can soak in a bubble bath looking out at the trees. The retreat is set on a macadamia, litchi and rose farm – you pass the nut trees as you drive in – and macadamias find their way onto the menu in dishes such as a caramelized pear and Gorgonzola cheese salad.
The family-friendly Sheldon Guest Farm is a great option if you’re travelling with kids. It’s set on a small macadamia farm near White River, with self-catering two-bedroomed simple but cozy cottages, a play area with a jungle gym and trampoline and activities for the kids, such as tractor rides, fishing in the dam and horse rides through the macadamia trees. If you’re on a romantic getaway, the honeymoon suite is lovely and features a spa bath.
Also close to White River, Country Lane Lodge is a quiet and homely family-run B&B on a 15-hectare macadamia farm. There are 10 comfortable rooms (some of which have their own private patios) to choose from, some in the main building and others in a separate building overlooking the tranquil garden, shaded by palm trees.
Stay in the Macadamia Suite – the most luxurious on offer at Nut Grove Manor, a 1920s colonial farm house converted into an intimate guesthouse on a 2.3-hectare nut farm, just outside of White River. The suite sleeps four people, has a fully-equipped kitchen, spacious bedrooms and an outdoor shower. There are also three other nuttily-named Pistachio, Cashew and Pecan suites (if Macadamia is booked up). Relax in the manor house’s lounge or on the swing in the landscaped garden, or take a dip in the pool to cool off in the humid Lowveld heat.
Where to eat macadamias
Dotted throughout Mpumalanga are farm stalls (country shops selling homemade produce like jams and biltong – the South African version of beef jerky), many of which offer delicious macadamia products. You’ll find the nuts roasted and salted and covered in flavorings such as Mozambican peri-peri spice, covered in Belgian chocolate and ground into a creamy butter (perfect for spreading on toast with some farm jam).
Shautany Chocolatiers has particularly good chocolate-covered nuts (as well as other homemade chocolate treats), while you can buy bags of nuts at The Nut Tree – both shops are in the stylish Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre just outside of the town of White River. If you want to buy farm-fresh macadamias head to Ivory Macadamias on Kudu Farm near Barberton.
Relaxed country restaurant Fez, located in the Baghdad Centre opposite from Casterbridge, offers macadamia soup and an incredibly indulgent macadamia and maple syrup cheesecake alongside a rather incongruous combination of Moroccan food and sushi.
The chef at Zest Restaurant, just outside the provincial capital of Nelspruit, incorporates macadamias to create dishes such as a pulled pork wrap with pickled ginger and toasted macadamias and a chocolate, macadamia and fig tart.