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Three fabulous getaways on Joburg’s doorstep

Whether you’re in search of wellness, a bush retreat or fresh farm air, there’s no need for Gautengers to travel far for fun day trips or unique getaways

05 December 2021 - 00:00
A view of the sunset from Rosemary Hill's Cabinville.
A view of the sunset from Rosemary Hill's Cabinville.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

1. FOR FARM LIVING: ROSEMARY HILL

A cabin in the woods is my idea of an idyll. So when I learned of Rosemary Hill’s Cabinville, I had to visit. The outcome of a lockdown project in 2020, it’s a picturesque collection of a cabin and four pods built between towering pine trees where the sunsets are the most beautiful part of the day.

Clever design ensures everything you need fits neatly into small spaces that are thoughtfully decorated. And if the space gets too small, you can make yourself comfortable on the relaxation nets outside your window or pull up a chair on the deck overlooking a small pond.

I’m not the only one enamored by the idea of spending a night in Cabinville — its popularity has grown so much that you need to book well in advance to secure a night in one of its units over the weekend. Part of the reason for this is Rosemary Hill’s reputation as a wedding venue.

The cabin and three small pods in Rosemary Hill's Cabinville.
The cabin and three small pods in Rosemary Hill's Cabinville.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

Situated in Mooiplaats in Pretoria East, under an hour’s drive from Joburg, Rosemary Hill started as a farm and home to a Waldorf school and kindergarten in 1978. Over time it has grown and evolved. It’s hiking, running and mountain biking trails attract visitors over  weekends, making it a fun day trip for those who don't stay over.

There is also an Acrobranch treetop experience, plus horse riding trails which cater for adults and children. To explore the surroundings, the 90-minute Segway tour with a guide is an exciting way to learn about the organic farm’s history and current operations.

The main bedroom in the Big Pod.
The main bedroom in the Big Pod.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

We set out from the maze — a lovely spot for a picnic — and made our way past the resident cows (not on the menu) and rosemary fields. These are harvested and used in all sorts of products produced on the farm. You can steer yourself as far as the Greenhouse Café but we chose to explore this part of the farm on bicycles. 

Much to our delight, we discovered we could take part in a chocolate and wine pairing in the Bushwine Winery and Bar with wines from Late Bloomer Boutique Winery, a small operation based on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.  

Our trip back to our pod was a little more exciting as we tried to out pedal an approaching storm while balancing a number of wine bottles on our handle bars. We couldn’t resist buying a few.

A cycle through the woods at Rosemary Hill.
A cycle through the woods at Rosemary Hill.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

If Cabinville is booked out, Rosemary Hill has plenty of alternative options — equally beautiful and unique. One of its newest additions is The Hideout, a treehouse built around the concept of tiny-house living, found in a secluded part of the forest down the road from the Greenhouse Café.

The only problem with the property is that the more you discover, the bigger your bucket list grows. Once you’ve been, you’ll want to keep going back, if only for a ramble in the woods, a hearty breakfast, or a glass of wine as the day draws to a close.

Rates in Cabinville, including breakfast, start from R1,650 for two people sharing the cabin or a pod and R3,300 per night for the big pod which sleeps six. For  information, visit rosemaryhill.co.za.

Decor in the rooms at Farmhouse58 is clean and minimalistic.
Decor in the rooms at Farmhouse58 is clean and minimalistic.
Image: Sanet Oberhozler

2. FOR A WELLNESS RETREAT: FARMHOUSE58

There are many things to love about Farmhouse58 and an obvious one is its location. Across the road from the Nirox Sculpture Park, 40 minutes from both Johannesburg and Pretoria, you'll soon find yourself in a world far removed from the one you’ve left behind.

The retreat's 22 rooms have been built on the structure of a dilapidated dairy and are both minimalistic and reminiscent of the natural environment around them — a common theme than runs through the space. Guests are encouraged to use the communal spaces; you can  relax in the lounge, grab a book from the library, or express yourself  creatively in the painting corner in the attic.  

As a place where the invitation to visitors is to “reconnect with yourself, others, and nature”, its focus is on holistic wellness. Apart from regular wellness retreats,  guests can partake in yoga and breathwork, or go hiking — a popular pastime on the property.

As the day started casting long shadows across the new lemon, fig, pomegranate and cherry orchards, we set out on a sunset hike to the top of the property with views over the Kromdraai ValleyAt the top of the hill, marking the edge of the property, the Sun (W)Hole sculpture from Moroccan artist Amine El Gotaibi reinforces the idea that everything around us — including ourselves — is made from the earth and will one day slowly disintegrate.

Yet, with the orange glow engulfing the landscape around us and peace setting in, it’s a thought that’s less unsettling and more contemplative. Life is both beautiful and fragile.

At the top of the hill is artist Amine El Gotaibi's Sun (W)Hole sculpture.
At the top of the hill is artist Amine El Gotaibi's Sun (W)Hole sculpture.
Image: Supplied

On our way back, we passed what is referred to as the almost forgotten settlement — the foundations of what’s believed to have been a settlement here in the heart of the cradle of humankind. With excavations, they hope to uncover answers as to who might have lived on these lands many years ago.

We made it back just as the day bid its final farewell. As if on cue, the night critters slowly emerged in a harmonious singsong as the last of the sun's rays were being laid to bed. Nature’s lullaby.

All produce served in the Farmhouse58 restaurant is either farmed on the agri-fields or agri-garden, or sourced from local producers in the area, meaning menus change according to what is in season. They also have exciting plans for pop ups and collaborations, as well as opportunities for guests to forage and co-create dishes with chefs in a soil-to-plate approach. 

A breathwork session at the waterfall.
A breathwork session at the waterfall.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

Sunrise hikes are one way of starting your day, but I  preferred to start mine with a leisurely breakfast ahead of a session of breathwork at the feet of a trickling waterfall.

My visit to Farmhouse58 was done through Curiocity Africa as part of Curious Locals, a new initiative they've launched to promote local tourism.

The overnight stay and sunrise hike,  which runs on Thursdays,  is one of an number of innovative experiences in Johannesburg and Cape Town that  are co-hosted with local guides, creatives, chefs and wellness coaches to encourage locals to explore the spaces and opportunities around them.

Rates at Farmhouse58 start at R1,890 for two people sharing, including breakfast. For  information, visit farmhouse58.co.

The Curious Locals Farmhouse Escape costs R1,870 for two and includes dinner and drinks, an overnight stay, sunrise hike with hilltop coffee, and breakfast. To find out more about the Curious Locals offerings or to book a local adventure, visit curiocity.africa/curious-locals or email marketing@curiocity.africa.

3. FOR A BUSH ESCAPE: DINOKENG PRIVATE BUSH HOUSE

I love bearing witness to the brewing of a highveld storm. It’s a soothing promise when the moody skies turn a bruised grey and the clouds threaten to unleash the torrents they've been harbouring. It is also a fitting end to a sunset game drive in the Dinokeng Game Reserve.

A stone’s throw north of Pretoria, and a little over an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, it’s an underrated destination in which one can experience the bush on Gauteng’s doorstep. Driven by the vision of Tokyo Sexwale, who was at the time premier of Gauteng, the idea behind the opening of the reserve 10 years ago was to develop tourism and boost economic development in the province. 

With the careful introduction of animal species since 2006,  the reserve is now home to the big five — the only reserve of its kind in Gauteng.  As the skies darken on this particular visit, our guide Lovemore Jack points out the new growth from otherwise dead-looking trees, the remnants of a fire that spread through the reserve in 2018. More reason to celebrate the rumbling storm.

We’d been trying to locate elephants in the thicket, already having spotted a female rhino and her calf on our drive, before taking a break to appreciate sundowners and Jack’s game-ranging stories. He tells us that zebra are, in fact, black with white stripes. “But you can’t ride zebra,” Jack says. “They are just flowers to display in the bush.”

With the wind telling us to retreat, it was time to head for cover at our sanctuary for the night: Dinokeng Private Bush House.

The lodge opened at the end of 2018, having escaped the wrath of the fire. It’s a sleek, exclusive use, self-catering bush lodge with luxurious touches like a private chef to cook your meals and daily game drives with Jack, and is located on the northern side of the reserve, which is for private use; the eastern side is open to the public for self-drives and day visits.

Covering 22,000ha, it has plenty of options for visitors who are not seeking out the exclusive use of a bush lodge on the reserve. There is  affordable camping for nature lovers, as well as  self-catering guest houses and luxe chalets.

A storm brews over Dinokeng.
A storm brews over Dinokeng.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

Visitors to the park pay a vehicle entrance fee of R50 per car and conservation fees of R80 for adults and R50 for children between 2 and 12. Visitors wanting to do the self-drive route through the reserve will need to purchase an additional permit, starting from R250 per day (including the R50 vehicle entrance fee).

For more information, visit dinokengreserve.co.za.

Dinokeng Private Bush House, with a family unit that  sleeps four and three suites which sleep two, is available to book on an exclusive-use basis at the cost of R16,500 per night. Book through Perfect Hideaways at perfecthideaways.co.za.

• Oberholzer was a guest of Curiocity Africa, Farmhouse58, Rosemary Hill, and Dinokeng Private Bush House.


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