Farm stays are popular for a weekend adventure in South Africa, offering opportunities to see a working farm in action and experience country life. Accommodation ranges from rustic converted sheds to luxurious retreats and guesthouses with vintage furniture, pools, and verandas overlooking the African bush. These rural getaways offer a hands-on experience of the agricultural lifestyle, through touring the fields with the farmer or just wandering the vineyards with your camera. Whether you hit the hiking and mountain biking trails or just lounge on the stoep, farm stays are a unique way to see hidden corners of South Africa, and sleep peacefully under starry skies.
Halfaampieskraal nestles in the gentle green hills of the Overberg, a rural region lying between rocky mountains and Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost point. In August, the undulating fields shimmer lemon and gold when the canola blooms. The luxurious rooms on this working farm occupy a string of outbuildings, including the former schoolroom and blacksmith’s forge, all with thick clay walls and down duvets courtesy of the resident geese. No need to scour the kitchenette for a tin-opener – all meals are served, and the foodie town of Stanford is nearby. As its name suggests, the Overberg is located over the mountain from Cape Town, 100 miles east via Sir Lowry’s Pass or the coast road.
Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm
Papkuilsfontein’s remote location is the arid and mountainous Bokkeveld outside Nieuwoudtville, a sleepy hamlet with red-dirt streets, around 220 miles north of Cape Town. The four stone cottages, guesthouse and corrugated iron cottage, each telling its own story through exposed beams and period furniture, offer a comfortable farm experience. All have romantic features, from neighbouring sandstone ruins to a pool in the style of a farm dam, and many activities are offered onsite. A waterfall crashes into the 180m-high canyon after rainfall, which also turns the fynbos into a tapestry of wildflowers in spring. With San rock art, hiking trails and farm tours on offer, the 6,000-hectare property makes an excellent getaway.
Langfontein Guest Farm
Langfontein (‘Long Fountain’) is an oasis in the Karoo semi-desert, 30 miles west of the town of Graaff-Reinet, the historic ‘jewel of Karoo’. The stately manor house, built by a Boer politician in 1860, and three farm buildings have been restored to evoke a bygone era. Dot’s Cottage is a cosy option for honeymooners with a fireplace and veranda gazing at the mountains; and 1830 Cottage, a historic gem opening onto a lawn, caters to families and small groups. With a pool and hiking trails, the farm is a wonderful retreat among the Camdeboo Conservancy’s mountains and koppies (outcrops).
Kogman & Keisie Guest Farm
Named after two local valleys, Kogman & Keisie sits blissfully on the edge of Montagu, the quaint country town at the meeting of the Breede River and Little Karoo regions. The Langeberg range’s famous rock climbing routes and hiking trails are reached through the back gate; in the other direction, the spire of Montagu’s Dutch Reformed Church rises above the rooftops. The farm showcases organic practices, including a bio-filtered swimming pool and indigenous plant nursery, and the young owner Petrus Jansen offers fascinating tours. Accommodation is offered in self-catering cottages and a guesthouse with Hobbitesque towers, all exuding rustic chic.
Ganora Guest Farm
This sheep farm is way out in the Karoo, in the foothills of the Sneeuberg range near the artistic outpost of Nieu Bethesda. The tiny town of dirt roads and irrigation channels is famous for the Owl House, a cottage filled with spooky concrete owls by ‘outsider’ artist Helen Martins. Ganora itself offers a range of attractions, including a fossil museum, San rock art, hiking in a canyon with a resident pair of Black Eagles, a medicinal plant walk, and meerkats undergoing rehabilitation. Attractive whitewashed rooms occupy converted sheds, workshops and sheep kraals.
Rosedale Organic Farm Bed & Breakfast
Famous for its 600-plus elephants, Addo Elephant National Park occupies a citrus-rich area. Indeed, the local Dumbos were once addicted to the oranges and grapefruits fed by park rangers, and fruit is now forbidden in Addo. Many of the lodges around the park are situated on former citrus farms, with orange and lemon trees dotting their grounds. Rosedale is a working organic citrus farm, offering a squeeze of agritourism alongside elephant spotting in the park. Owner Keith leads farm tours, and breakfast features Rosedale’s own orange juice. Accommodation is in modern cabins overlooking a natural swimming pool, and Hazel’s Organic Restaurant, which serves goodies from its permaculture kitchen garden, is next door.
Blue Gum Country Estate
This four-star guesthouse is located on a working wine and olive farm, beneath the Kleinrivier Mountains in the Overberg. Offering country hospitality and stylish rooms to complement the stunning views and fresh air, Blue Gum has two restaurants and a swimming pool. Guests can borrow a mountain bike or visit the pretty town of Stanford, but often prefer to simply gaze down the lawn at the 140-year-old blue gum that inspired the estate’s name.
Dirk se Huisie
This dinky 19th-century cottage is decidedly lacking in mod cons – there is no electricity, and the kitchen and shower are gas powered. But the reward for roughing it, and for venturing out there on gravel roads through the Olifants River Mountains, is total relaxation. Days begin with a mountain view from the shower, and continue on the hiking trail to rock formations, followed by a dip in the farm dam, and sunset views all the way to the Atlantic coast. With few other distractions (apart, conveniently, from one of South Africa’s highest wine farms, Tierhoek), this is the place to finish that book. Dirk se Huisie is 120 miles north of Cape Town, between the Cederberg range and the coast.
The eponymous owner of this farm is Albertus van Zyl, whose family has tilled this wild mountain valley for nine generations. It feels a long way from anywhere, but the town of Ashton is only 2½ miles away, with the Robertson Wine Valley’s estates just beyond. The farm itself offers hands-on agricultural activities, including beekeeping, winemaking, and turning fruit from the orchards into preserves. For a mellow experience with a view, hop in Albertus’s tractor-trailer for a bush braai and wine tasting among the vineyards. Accommodation includes two self-catering cottages and the 17th-century farmhouse.
Reedsdell Country Guest Farm
This 1,100-hectare chunk of mountain terrain is located in the Witteberg range, the southern-western spur of the mighty Drakensberg. The rugged landscape is captivating, with montane grasslands and streams jumping with wild trout overlooked by sheer cliffs and circling black eagles. Given Reedsdell’s remote location in the Eastern Cape Highlands, spending a few days here is recommended; activities including nature walks, fly fishing, and skiing at nearby Tiffindell fill the time. Accommodation is a restored stone barn with an open fireplace and views of snowy peaks from the lounge.
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This article was originally published on June 24, 2015.