For many people, getting away from work for a long-ish holiday is sometimes not viable. All they can manage is a long weekend or sometimes not even that. Hence, places like Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, etc., although beautiful, are not feasible. But that does not mean that one cannot get away from Joburg at all! There are some perfect getaways located at a short driving distance from the city.
Clarens & the Golden Gate National Park
Clarens, in the Free State province, is a tranquil and idyllic town, located only 336km (approximately 3-4 hours drive) from Joburg. The town is a very popular tourist destination and booking early is key. Nestled amidst the Maluti Mountains, Clarens is well known for its wide selection of cafes, restaurant, art shops and the myriad hiking/biking trails. The pace is very pet-friendly and dogs and their humans are welcome just about everywhere.
If you would rather get away from all the buzz and spend time admiring nature and spotting some game, the Golden Gate National Park is a great pick. Located just outside of Clarens, you are far enough from the hustle-bustle, but close enough to drop in for a meal. SANParks offers a range of accommodation within the park or you could stay at one of the various lodges outside.
Located just 250kms from Johannesburg, Dullstroom can be reached in an easy 2.5 hours. This small village in Mpumalanga, is known as a premier fly-fishing destination. Over the years however, the popularity of this place has grown and Dullstroom now boasts of several gourmet eateries (Mrs. Simpson being the most famous), a whisky tasting bar with over 1100 different varieties and its very own micro brewery – Anvil Ale. Besides wining and dining, you can also enjoy horse riding, adventure sports and hiking.
I have managed to sneak away to Dullies twice already this year! My previous blog post covers a lot of details on what to do, where to go, etc. Just like Clarens, the town gets really busy over long weekends so book in advance. However, on regular weekends, its fairly easy to find accommodation.
Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City
Living in South Africa, one can never be too far from the bush! If driving to Kruger is not possible over a weekend, try Pilanesberg. Located in the North West Province, this game park can be reached in approximately 3 hours from Johannesburg. The smaller size of the park, when compared to Kruger, is by no means a detriment. The rich wildlife and the small size makes it impossible to not spot animals! The entire park is set within the crater of an ancient volcano and the rock formations in the area are unique and rich in minerals.
As with other parks, there is a wide range of accommodation to choose from.
For those looking for a more luxurious and relaxed getaway, Sun City is the answer. Developed by the hotel magnate Sol Kerzner as a part of his Sun Hotels in 1979, Sun City is known as a kingdom of pleasure. Hotels, resorts, casinos, golf courses, water parks, kids entertainment, night clubs and theatre are some of the few things Sun City offers. It remains ever popular as a family holiday destination and can be reached in approximately 2 hours from Joburg.
Bela Bela, which in Tswana means ‘the pot that boils’, is situated in Limpopo and can be reached in under 2 hours. The town derives its name from the hot springs in the area. Long walks, exotic spas, reconnecting with nature, interactions with animals and beautiful resorts are some of the few things you will experience at Bela Bela.
If you are looking for some place even closer, an hour’s drive from Johannesburg will take you to the beautiful village of Magaliesburg. Surrounded by the mountains, this quiet and scenic place is the closest you can get to nature while still being able to drive back to the city. Hot air ballooning, hiking, horse riding, canopy tours and picnics are popular activities. As for accommodation, you can choose from luxury resorts and country houses to self catering lodges and camping.
I have found the following websites really useful when booking accommodation anywhere in South Africa: