1. CRYSTAL BARN COUNTRY ESTATE
“Hidden gem” might be a cliché but it describes Crystal Barn in Fort Nottingham perfectly – it’s relatively unknown still and with its vibrant colours, eclectic decor and surprises around every corner, it’s a little jewel. It’s a wedding venue, guest house and restaurant and whether you’re staying for a few days or popping in for coffee and cake, it’s a treat.
Gorgeous rooms are sumptuously decorated with touches like saris embedded in the floors, wrought ironwork, vintage enamel advertising signs and crystal chandeliers and the food is heavenly. On New Year’s Day there will be festivities including live music, food stalls and fun for the kids. You’ll all be delighted by the setting on the lawns beside the dam watching the fluff of bunnies who call the shade of the plane trees home.
January 1, from 11am, R70 entrance.
2. ABINGDON WINE ESTATE
Abingdon is a unique spot in this part of the world – a working wine farm which was the first to produce a certified estate wine from KZN grapes in 2007. In the dozen years since, Abingdon wines have won a multitude of awards and recently the restaurant was named Best Kept Secret in the American Express Dining Awards 2020. Pop in for a meal of harvest boards and tapas-style dishes, which prove the award was well deserved, and enjoy a leisurely tasting of their reds, whites and bubbles. Be sure to book, the secret’s out! On clear days, sitting out beside the vines or around the fire pits is grand and, in cooler weather, a spot by a roaring fire in the restaurant is divine.
3. KARKLOOF CANOPY TOURS
There’s something about being in the countryside that makes you want to get out and get the blood moving. There are plenty of gorgeous walks in the Midlands, but for those who fancy something more adventurous, there’s the Karkloof Canopy Tour. You’ll be hooked up to a safety harness and then let loose to whizz through the forest on a series of 10 zip-line slides, the longest of which is 200m, which run between 12 platforms. A rest on each platform allows the guide to point out interesting aspects of the surrounding environment and you’re sure to see plenty of the prolific birdlife. It’s safe and suitable from anyone from 6 years and up.
4. FORK ‘N CLEAVER AT NETHERWOOD
Netherwood’s Blueberry Hill Café, a popular spot in Nottingham Road, has been joined by sister restaurant The Fork ’n Cleaver. Billed as a farm-to-fork steakhouse, the hormone-free beef is raised on the farm and is served with homegrown produce. The Cut of the Day menu features inventive dishes and, by all accounts, it’s a conscious carnivore’s dream.