LEKKERWATER BEACH LODGE
You may curse the rutted road that runs to De Hoop Nature Reserve’s Potberg gate but, as the 4x4 transfer to Lekkerwater Beach Lodge crests the rise of ancient dunes, you’ll agree that the journey is worth every last bump. At Lekkerwater, cast adrift on a private concession in the eastern reaches of the reserve, seven bright and airy suites cling to the pristine shoreline. In each a secluded deck offers a quiet space to reconnect and recharge, while the main lodge promises inspired Cape-coastal cuisine and idyllic sundowners on the wraparound terrace. If the weather’s fine, look forward to seaside dining. At Lekkerwater, days are filled with beach picnics and fynbos walks, while at low tide resident naturalists lead shoreline meanders to discover the rich intertidal ecosystems. In summer you can swim and snorkel in tidal pools while dolphins cavort in the waves. Wintry weather brings dozens of southern right whales to the shallow waters. Whatever the season, Lekkerwater promises a beguiling coastal safari, with luxurious touches in all the right places.
If it’s spa indulgence you’re after, look no further than Brahman Hills in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, perfectly positioned for travellers leaving either Joburg or Durban on a Friday afternoon. This popular retreat, set in the Blue Crane Nature Reserve, offers an array of accommodation options — self-catering cottages, luxury hotel rooms, and the charming Springholm cottages set on the lakeshore. Wherever you lay your head, you’ll want to spend your days in the spacious Healing Earth Wellness & Transformative Spa. Here treatment rooms overlook the lush hills of the Midlands, while the revamped facilities deliver a modern aesthetic that neatly dovetails with the innovative menu of wellness treatments. Watching your budget? Keep an eye out for the good-value spa packages.
There’s no shortage of glitz and glamour on the Garden Route, but for a memorable forest escape à deux, the quirky caravans of Treedom Vardos are hard to beat. Here, on a forested hillside a short way outside the town of Wilderness, two vardos (Romani-style caravans) offer a charming getaway for couples. While the accommodation is cosy, each vardo manages to squeeze in a double bedroom, kitchen, and en-suite bathroom. And there’s more living space outdoors, with a private garden, fireplace, and glasshouse lounge and dining area. During the day, chances are you’ll opt to spend most of your time on the soporific daybed, hand-crafted by a local artisan-artist. If not, you can book a private session in the secluded hot-stone sauna, followed by a dip in the heart-shaped pool. If you want to explore, on the doorstep you’ll find scores of lakes and beaches, lush woods for “forest bathing”, and tannin-stained rivers.
Set less than an hour’s drive from Joburg, Lethabo Estate’s 60ha of wilderness straddle the Crocodile River, with an array of romantic cottages and hideaways from which to choose. It’s a destination devoted to the art of romance, with outdoor beds, oversized baths, and opulent décor. Privacy and position are paramount here, and the secluded suites, cottages, and thatched hideaways have perfect river views. Otters Hide, in particular, is ideal for couples looking to reboot. There’s an on-site restaurant, but you can also order a picnic basket for candlelit dining on your private deck. Though you’ll be tempted to while away afternoons in the double hammock, there are endless diversions in the Cradle, allowing you to discover ancient history and modern art, or explore farm-to-fork cuisine.
WALKERSONS HOTEL & SPA
Fleeing your new-year inbox or the summer heat? Walkersons Hotel & Spa, outside Dullstroom, has been welcoming Gauteng escape artists for nearly 30 years, dishing up old-school charm on a bucolic 800ha estate. The 27 stone-clad suites are scattered across the leafy grounds. Though not the most expensive, the Lakeside Suites are perhaps the best choice, boasting open fireplaces and a spacious terrace overlooking the water. The numerous lakes come well-stocked with rainbow trout, but you can also fill your days with walking, cycling, and indulging in fine country dining.
• From the February edition of Wanted, 2022.