After spending some time in hectic Johannesburg, the Riverside Sun in Vanderbijlpark (about an hour drive from the city) is the perfect spot to get your water fix and relax for a long, peaceful weekend.
From the outside it looks like a standard upscale chain hotel, but once you walk inside and see the lobby, restaurant, and view of the gardens, you know you’re in for something special.
The lobby is rather spacious, clean and modern, with an indoor fireplace in the middle of the room and cozy chairs scattered around it. If you arrive early, pull up here or the bar for a fruity cocktail to start the weekend right. There’s also an outside balcony with about six tables for lounging at while taking in the fantastic view of the gardens and river.
We arrived right at check-in time and the process was swift and exceptionally courteous. When we got to our rear-facing room we were pleased to see how large it was and that it enjoyed a view of the Vaal river, unlike the front-facing rooms. The bed was super comfy with an extra-fluffy comforter and flawless white sheets. The decor, which consisted of light carpets and plenty of natural sunlight, matched the idyllic-ness of the riverside location. (Note: most of the rooms were remodeled in 2015.)
Outside, there was a playground and a shallow pool, so we knew this was a family-oriented place. However, the manager explained that families mainly come to the Riverside Sun on the weekends, and during weekdays it’s a retreat for business people. We saw people fishing and having picnics on the lawn, and to the right, a large wedding ceremony was taking place as well. It definitely seemed like the right place to be at the time. Apparently the vibe at the hotel is like that pretty much every weekend.
After we settled into our room we walked down to the river, where a pontoon boat and a guide was waiting for us. We had prearranged a private cruise and sailed along the river admiring the beautiful trees, wildlife, and mega-expensive houses of “Millionaire’s Row.” Since it was a Saturday, it seemed that every other house was hosting a braai (that’s “barbecue” for you non-African folks) in their yard. We didn’t have any grilled meat, but we did have a complimentary cooler full of drinks like champagne, cider, beer, and soda, and a plate full of biltong, nuts, olives and sweets. These extra perks made the cruise a more fun and relaxing experience. (Note: A larger cruise boat known as the Liquid Lounge is also available, which can accommodate over 50 people.)
Meals are taken on the lobby level of the hotel, where there is an upscale bar and a buffet restaurant decorated in “farm chic” style that’s always stocked with a giant spread of food. At breakfast there is an abundance of meats, fresh fruits, a waffle bar, two omelette bars, and all kinds of side dishes. At dinner, there is a steak station where you can select your cut and have it cooked fresh on the grill in front of you. There is also an Indian food selection, and the samosas, curry and basmati rice are all of the highest quality — worthy of an upscale standalone Indian restaurant. And last but not least, the dessert bar is stocked with both sinfully sweet and healthy options. When we dined the chef and staff came to our table several times to check on us and make sure we were satisfied with our meals, which we were.
Though the Riverside Sun isn’t the most luxurious hotel in Tsogo Sun’s extensive lineup, it offers incredibly friendly service, a charming location, and an overall fantastic vibe from top to bottom. It’s a guaranteed fun spot to bring kids for watersports or fishing, and there are plenty of amenities available for everybody else as well.