Looking for a waterside holiday, but worried that summer’s receding in the rear-view? Swim upstream and book a room at one of these five fine riverside escapes that are perfect for Autumn adventures.
1. THORN & FEATHER
If secluded self-catering is more your scene, look no further than Thorn & Feather. Set on the Duiwenhoks River, this glorious escape sleeps up to nine guests (six adults, three kids) in three freestanding stone cottages, clustered around the central kitchen and living area. Step outdoors and there you’ll find the real magic of Thorn & Feather: the wide wooden deck — featuring a plunge pool and stone fire pit — offering panoramic river views. From the deck it’s a short walk through milkwoods and reeds to the riverbank. Kayaks, canoes and paddle-boards are provided, but there is also a mooring if you want to bring your boat. It’s booked as an exclusive-use basis, so gather your nearest and dearest for an idyllic riverside getaway.
2. N'TABA RIVER LODGE
For travellers planning a Wild Coast road-trip, Port St John’s makes a perfect halfway stop. Here N’taba River Lodge lies happily sandwiched between towering cliffs, lush gardens and the wide Umzimvubu River. It’s a laid-back spot, with a blissfully chilled resort feel. The kind of place where kids spend their day in the pool, while parents kick back on a lounger. Or, you could get active with horse-rides on the beach, canoe trails and community visits. Either way, you’ll have an array of comfy suites to return to, the best of which offer private decks overlooking the river.
3. UMZIMKULU RIVER LODGE
In the southern reaches of the Drakensberg, Umzimkulu River Lodge offers a soul-filling escape amid the rolling green hills of the Underberg. The Lodge offers eight self-catering serviced cottages, ranging from Giant Cabin (sleeping 12) to the petite Pygmy Cottage tucked into woodland. What’s common to them all is the 2.5km of pristine river frontage where in warmer months you’ll find guests swimming, tubing and fly-fishing for wild trout. Year-round there is horse riding, hiking and bird watching to enjoy and, if vertigo’s no problem, the folks at the Lodge can book you a trip up the vertiginous Sani Pass nearby.
4. PONT DE VAL
A wine cellar in the Free State? River cruises just an hour from the big smoke? Yup, they’re both on offer at Pont de Val, a lifestyle estate that adds a dollop of glam to a stay on the Vaal River. Start by booking into the boutique hotel, with its luxury rooms overlooking the river. Need to unwind? The BelleFoi Spa has you covered with a range of vine-inspired treatments. It all ties in with the surprising centrepiece of the estate, the wine cellar. After years making wine in the Cape, 2020 saw the first wine pressed, fermented and matured on the banks of the Vaal River, in a bespoke cellar overseen by winemaker Tim Hines. Wine tastings are available daily. Feeling peckish? There’s a smart restaurant on-site, as well as family-friendly picnics to enjoy on the lawns.
5. MUDLARK RIVERFRONT LODGE
It’s a dusty road from the N2 to the mouth of the Breede River, but it’s well worth the journey to reach Mudlark, set 3km upstream from the sea at Cape Infanta. This broad estuary offers some of the best fishing in the country, but over the years it’s also become a haven for birdwatchers, kite-surfers, kayakers and just about anyone who can see the value in relaxing on a wooden terrace and watching the world flow by.
If that sounds like you, then Mudlark is a fine choice. Five airy timber-frame rooms — some with private balconies — gaze out over the meandering Breede and surrounding hills of indigenous fynbos. The décor leans towards comfortable, rather than luxurious, with a laid-back riverside charm. Throw in hearty country cuisine and you’ll soon see why Mudlark has been a Cape favourite for decades.