White River is undoubtedly the Style Capital of Mpumalanga. A short drive from the capital of Mbombela, this pretty town in the mountain foothills has fabulous eating, drinking and retail therapy spots, plus great daytrips and action adventure. Here’s the lowdown:
FEEL THE WOW FACTOR The green mountains, plump orchards, colourful roadside stalls and luscious scenery as you head into the cool reaches of White River from the heat of Mbombela. And the sense of style around here since White River is home to assorted interesting farmers, writers, artists, foodies, coffee-heads, conservationists and foreigners. Download the White River App for pretty much everything at your fingertips. wearewhiteriver.com
STAY IN STYLE There’s a Continental feeling to Oliver’s Restaurant and Lodge. European décor; Austrian and Mediterranean influences on the menu. The suites are gracious, the food sumptuous – Oliver’s is known as one of the best in town – and the surrounding scenery glorious. Enjoy a weekend of chilling, eating, playing and exploring. Head for the 18-hole championship golf course or sashay down to the wellness spa and pool.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP The sexiest shopping spot darlings, is the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, high end, chi-chi centre with fabulous boutiques and quirky shops - like designer chocolate, gorgeous antiques, collectible clocks and artisanal gin and craft beer. The centre has a choice of bistros and art galleries and an art cinema here where you can watch movies with a glass of wine and a nibble. Check out the vintage Motor Museum, and if you simply have to stay over, check into the boutique hotel here – Casterbridge Hollow.
QUAFF A COCKTAIL Head for Picasso’s in the Bagdad Centre, one of the iconic spots in town - and try a G&T featuring the new Slowveld Gin. It’s made by Rottcher wineries who also do a mean line in orange wine and have a tantalising outlet in the Casterbridge centre across the road.
ENJOY A LONG AND LANGUID COUNTRY LUNCH Rissington Inn is right on the edge of neighbouring Hazyview and is a longstanding and much loved establishment. They do absolutely delicious country lunches on the veranda overlooking the soft green lawns and bushveld trees beyond.
GET HIGH ON BEER Head up the Long Tom Pass for incredible mountain scenery and a visit to Hops Hollow outside Mashishing (Lydenburg) which claims to be the highest brewery in Africa at 2149m above sea level. Brewmaster Colin Ntshangase is a handsome cricket loving Zulu, who makes five different beers including a Bull’s Bitter which is brewed like traditional bitter ale, so loved in English pubs. He recommends his Mac’s Porter ale for women – he says it has a “malty creamy fullness, smooth as silk”.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL Coffee heads from anywhere will be delighted to discover the range of delicious coffees at Sabie Valley Coffee in the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre. The coffee is grown on their farm nearby, and you can also take a tour and find out how it gets from bean to cup.
TAKE A CRUISE From White River there are various options for discovering the Panorama Route, flagship route of Mpumalanga, which gets you up close and personal with the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world (after the USA’s Grand Canyon and Namibia’s Fish River Canyon. Depending on your route, you can pop into the towns of Sabie, Graskop, Mashishing and Ohrigstad.
GO TOBOGGANING Yes it sounds pretty bizarre, but if you head up the Long Tom Pass to the lovely Misty Mountain, you can go tobogganing in the Slowveld! The Long Tom Toboggan is Africa’s only alpine coaster (sommerrodelbahn) and is the longest toboggan run in Africa with an impressive 1.7 km track. Catch a thrill as you twist and turn through the wild flowers and forest, reaching a speed of up to 45 km an hour.
BUY CONTEMPORARY CERAMICS Bosch Ceramic Studio is set under beautiful old trees and is one of White River’s finest studios. The whole property is a massive gallery both inside and out. There are three Bosches involved – Anton and his wife Hanlie and their daughter Nina. Anton’s work is includes porcelain vases and bowls, wall murals, tiles, ink drawings; Hanlie’s ceramics are hand built pieces and sculptures, as well as tiles, plates, jugs and platters, functional.figurines of dancers and gymnasts, as well as clay heads with otherworldly expressions. Their daughter Nina makes fabulous porcelain jewellery Bosch Studios is a walk-in studio open to the public from 9am to 4pm on weekdays and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.
GO BUSH From White River it’s a short hop into the Kruger National Park (KNP) with its many drives, rivers, camps and bush camps. Get up close and personal with the wild animals, inhale the space and beauty. The closest gates are Numbi and Pabeni. sanparks.org