Life is too short for boring accommodation, so, if you’re going to travel, why not try something truly out of the ordinary, such as a wigwam, train, tipi, castle, or a container.
By: Lauren McShane
Depending on where you’re heading these holidays, mix it up at one of these quirky stays guaranteed to delight kids and adults alike.
1. Cherry Glamping, Elgin
Laze in a hammock amidst a secluded forest, dive into the dam on a hot Elgin day, and step out of your fully furnished bell tent to a breakfast of freshly-baked muffins, croissants, and coffee with a valley view.
Enjoy full nature immersion while camping, but with the comforts of a bed, rugs, plush pillows, and lamps indoors. Prepare for body and soul restoration while glamping on this Groenrug estate where your troubles come to surrender to the mountains and wide-open spaces.
Bring your other half or bring many friends – this space works well for everyone. Play cards in the communal lounge beside the fire on cool nights or braai in the lapa on warm nights.
2. Farr Out WigWam and Guesthouse, Paternoster
How does a wigwam stay along the West Coast sound? Waking up to the sounds of birds in the fynbos, walking along pathways of shells, stargazing on a clear Paternoster night, and glamping with every luxury in your tipi — this is the perfect combination of nature and glamping with a difference.
Lovers and friends can indulge in a wood-fired hot tub evening, while kids can enjoy the playground by day and feed the fish in the pond.
When you do eventually leave the oasis at Farr Out, visit the beach, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, or eat out at one of Paternoster’s finest seafood restaurants.
3. The Old Jail, Willowmore
A jail sentence is usually something we all try to avoid, but here in the Karoo farm town of Willowmore, the lovingly restored Old Jail B&B with its Victorian architecture, art gallery (private collection of South African artists), koi dam and swimming pool will have you wishing you never had to check out.
Tucked between the Baviaanskloof and Swartberg mountain ranges with a lush fruit and herb garden and hens laying free-range eggs for your breakfast, you’ll discover how this jail with rooms aptly named Female cell, Awaiting trial and Hospital suite no longer resemble a prison at all, but a natural sanctuary with features such as a unique stone bath, private courtyards, and a Victorian fireplace.
4. Easy for Dayz Hybrid Container Home, McGregor
From Voortrekker Street, this hybrid home appears to be another white-washed McGregor beauty, but turn the corner and discover state-of-the-art design breathing life into this recycled container while blending into the countryside.
Effortlessly simple in its beauty, it has everything you’ll need – a simple space for family and friends to savour their surroundings and rejoice in each other’s company.
Dip in the splash pool on hot summer days, laugh together around board games, and meander through the village for coffee at How Bazaar or a live–music evening on weekends at The Courtyard.
5. Old Willow No.7 Houseboat Charters, Vaal River
Do you want to play captain? Then hop aboard a houseboat and cruise the Vaal River – no special license needed.
Float past tranquil wetlands, savour your sundowners from an upper deck chair, and fish as you go. Braai on board, and fall asleep to the sound of frogs.
If cabin fever strikes, dock at passing restaurants, and the casino resort or golf course. Whatever you prefer, this will be a house boating experience you won’t easily forget.
6. Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa, Knysna
Forming part of a heritage walk on Knysna’s Thesen Islands, the Turbine Hotel was once a power station using wood waste from a timber mill to generate electricity for Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
Today the huge turbines, spotted from far away, along with steep pipes, pillars, and machinery, all form part of the quirky interior with vibrant dashes of colour to balance the industrial feel.
Hop aboard the hotel’s motorised pontoon barge for a champers–and–canapés sunset cruise on the lagoon, or have lunch at the Island cafe. Swim in the pool or shop around the island’s upmarket marina.
7. TiPi Bush Camp, Port Elizabeth
Roam around the Addo Afrique private game reserve amongst ostriches, giraffes, kudus, eland, bushbuck, nyalas, impalas, and so forth (only non-predatory game) and get a good night’s rest in a tipi big enough for four people.
In this malaria-free area of the Eastern Cape, you need only worry about bringing your own clothing, toiletries and food – the tipi is stocked with everything needed for the ultimate bush getaway.
8. Grand Daddy Airstream Trailers, Cape Town
In the heart of Cape Town’s party district on Long Street, another world awaits once you ride the vintage elevator all the way to the top of the Grand Daddy Hotel.
Step out onto the rooftop trailer park set with airstream trailers, each decorated with their own theme and representing a different part of South Africa.
Designed to take you on a “Road Trip” through the country with highlights of trailers such as the Grape Escape in celebration of the winelands, Roaring with Colour capturing various game reserve lodges, Beach House for a visit to Hermanus, Gold Rush for a trip into our rich history, and Bloomin’ Daisies for our flowers.
9. Santos Express Train Lodge, Mossel Bay
Jump aboard a train to nowhere? With seaside views of Santos Beach in the Garden Route’s Mossel Bay, you’ll be overjoyed with this stationary train’s final destination.
With Trans Karoo–style compartments featuring single and double beds, including a dorm room and royal suites transformed from vintage wooden coaches transported from England, families, couples and friends will all find a cabin to suit their stay.
Walk down to the beach or the harbour, or enjoy the sea views from your bed. There’s no need to leave the train for drinks or food as there’s a restaurant and bar on board.
10. Flycatcher Castle, Graskop
A feast for the eyes and the imagination, this castle on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment overlooking the Mantitshi wetland and river will interest art lovers, nature enthusiasts, and those with a playful sense of humour.
Inspired by St Columba’s Presbyterian Church in Parkview, Johannesburg, and Castel Nuovo in Naples, Italy, a stay here is akin to sleeping in an art gallery with doors, windows, and wooden beams sourced from Belgium, the Free State and Jozi among other places.
The owner’s sculptures feature throughout the castle, and the Arabian-style Ruby Royal room is said not to be for the ‘morally hypersensitive’.
Words by Lauren McShane