Weekend Escape: The best airport hotel, like, ever
Where to go this weekend
The Dakota Lodge at Rand Airport is a unique airport hotel, built on the side of one of the working hangers which shelters some interesting aircraft including a beautifully restored Douglas DC-3 "Dakota".
WHY GO THERE: For the planes, of course — one of which will take you on a Pratt & Whitney radial engine-powered scenic flip around the city the next day — and the sheer oddness of spending a night next to a cavernous aircraft hangar in, what in the quaint terminology of the early aviation age, would have been called an “aerodrome”.
WHAT IT HAS: Modern double and single rooms with HD flatscreen TVs and a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave. The top-floor dining room has views across the airport apron — the balcony is a fine place to sit with a cuppa and watch aeroplanes come and go.
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Modern and clean. Since it’s built onto the side of a working aircraft hangar, the steel beams and brickwork have been incorporated into the décor and there are rows of airline seats in the reception area, along with models of Dakotas hanging from the roof, photographs, posters and a massive propeller as a centrepiece on the main stairs.
AND THE FOOD: Breakfast is a proper full English. Dinner can be arranged in advance but it’s just as easy to amble across to the Harvard Café for supper. The Harvard gets really busy on weekends — it seems to have become the centre of Germiston’s nightlife — but service was attentive and the food vastly better than it was just a few years ago.
RATES: R660 (doubles), R530 (single). Breakfast is R70pp, dinner R150.
GETTING THERE: Take the M2 East from Jo’burg to Germiston all the way to the T-junction on Refinery Road. Turn right and follow the road past Germiston Lake and follow the signs to Rand Airport. Once through the boom, Hangar 5 is the second hangar on the left. GPS co-ordinates: S 26º 14’ 19” E 28 º 9’ 17”.
CONTACT: 011 824 2143, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.dakotalodge.co.za.
LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: The aircraft — especially Springbok’s DC-3 — are the main attraction. As you approach the airport you will catch glimpses of other Dakotas and DC-4s parked outside hangars and on the east side of the airport are two Boeing 747s belonging to the SAA Museum Society, which made their final flights to Rand specifically for the museum. (The Jumbos are here for good — landing them was tricky enough and Rand’s runways are too short for allow a 747 to take off from.)
SCENIC FLIGHTS: Springbok’s DC-3 is the star of Rand Airport. On the last Saturday of the month, she takes passengers on short scenic flips around Jo’burg. Cost is R450 per person, phone 011 824 2142 to book.