Clear some space in your calendar and pencil in one of these chic countryside stays.
By: Lauren Manuel
Craving the simplicity of a countryside break with the family, but not quite ready for rustic? As a result of Covid, many farm stays cropped up or reinvigorated themselves offering a unique blend of isolation, luxury, and farmyard fun for the entire family.
Ludas Magnus, Franschhoek
Cycle past olive groves, enjoy a daily jog on the 400m Vitamin C running trail (14 citrus-tree varieties grown), and take a sunset stroll past the Shiraz vineyard. This 500-hectare avant-garde playground in the Franschhoek valley is the perfect space to unleash energetic children and parents longing for a reprieve.
Here at Ludus Magnus, named after a Roman Gladiator school, contemporary sophistication meets 100% off-the-grid sustainability where electricity, water and their own food sources are generated and everything from plum, avocado, litchi, mango, banana, pear and macadamia trees are grown.
Indoors, we relished playing games beside the fireplace in a three-bedroom villa or having a gourmet breakfast prepared in-villa by a private chef. Outdoors, a secluded gourmet riverside picnic awaited – the perfect accompaniment to a warm winter’s day dipping into the Berg River before heading to the private island to sit around the fire.
And as the weather heats up, there’s family fun to be had with river kayaking, tubing, and swimming in the Olympic training pool within a free-flowing freshwater dam. Blessing Gondo and Jason Soules will delight the young ones with a golf cart ride to feed apples and carrots to the estate’s rescued donkeys.
Rosemary Hill, Pretoria
On this organic working farm just outside Pretoria, active families can take to award-winning trails for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. Anyone longing to immerse themselves in nature can rent a bike or take to a path on foot through the farm (5km, 10km and 33km options available).
Families have a plethora of charming and stylishly designed spaces to stay, including the farm’s Old Dairy renovated by interior architect Marijke Hugo, The Farmhouse, The Big Pod, The Condo, the Sunset Villa and more.
Parents will rejoice in the Saturday and Sunday Country Kids activities, including baking, cooking, crafts, pony rides, tractor rides and visiting farm animals. Book a family picnic and find a spot to enjoy it on the farm (gluten-free and plant-based menus are available).
Book a horse-riding lesson at the stables beside the pecan-nut orchard, journey through the herb fields on a Segway, and when you’re not feeling the need to cook in your self-catering accommodation, then pop into the Greenhouse Cafe or the restaurant for a meal or coffee.
A short drive from Cape Town sees you arriving at this working wine farm in Paarl where low impact on the environment is top of mind and the vineyard vision is to explore the lesser-known wine varietals of Portugal, Italy and France.
For families and friends visiting with kids, the luxurious Manor House is booked exclusively as a six-bedroom villa. As the sun sets the mountains aflame, a tractor ride is truly the best way to take in the entirety of the farm, seek out a picnic spot, or just experience a joy ride in true farmyard fashion.
Lay eyes on the farm’s multiple varietal blocks, which make their way into the Brookdale and Brookdale Mason Road wine collections, curated by winemaker Kiara Scott.
Indigenous fynbos has replaced the alien vegetation in efforts to nurture a natural haven for birds and wildlife so bring your bike or take to the paths on foot or horseback and explore 67 hectares of estate past fynbos, streams and vineyards.
At Brookdale, food miles are kept as low as possible with their own organic vegetable gardens, orchards, and homemade fare. With in-house chef Gary Coetzee, mealtimes are an absolute delight with gourmet food and wine pairings beside the fire.
And for the kids, aprons are donned, pizza dough is rolled, and toppings are sprinkled before hot pizzas pop out the oven for the little chefs to enjoy their own handiwork.
Hartford House, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
For a true escape in the heart of the Midlands, Hartford House has undergone a complete renovation but maintains a rich legacy of racehorse breeding and one of Africa’s biggest dairy businesses.
The conference centre once held the old foaling barn – birthplace of many Hartford champions, and the Hartford Chapel preserves the original diary. Checking into the family suite near the lake opens up your stay for trout and bass fishing (including trophy-sized fish), and strolls through their award-winning garden.
Try to spot the several rare wild animal and bird species (birders bring binoculars) that inhabit the estate or go for a cycle or a swim. The owner has relocated his top warmblood sport horse stud, Capital Stud, to the estate along with a world-class Brangus herd, so pre-arranged stud tours are an option.
If and when you need (and parents, we always need) babysitting services and helicopter landing facilities, these are available. Classic wines and horses aside, their award-winning restaurant with garden views awaits, voted number one in KwaZulu-Natal and a regular among South Africa’s top 20 restaurants.
Bakenhof Winelands Lodge, Wellington
Watching the sky change from candyfloss pink into an explosion of stars from the jacuzzi on the deck is the ultimate way to spend your evening as a family once the patio braai done.
Morning misty views over the Hawequa mountains are best savoured with hot coffee made in the retro little kitchen. The jacuzzi suite with stairs leading up to the bunk beds provided ample entertainment for the young guests and soccer and frisbee can be played on the grass area just beside it.
Take a stroll past the vineyards to visit the springbok and bontebok and walk through the spectacular rose garden. Twenty minutes-drive away, you’ll find a coffee shop at the Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop and Weaving Studio where you can feed the alpacas, chickens and goats, and wave at the camels, horses and resident donkeys. All this just an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
FLY SAA flies daily between Johannesburg and Cape Town, and Johannesburg and Durban. Visit www.flysaa.com