Our Top 15 Hideaways of 2018
Rifling through these holiday rentals I recalled what a friend once said, “South Africans pay more attention to their holiday houses than they do their ordinary homes.”
It is true these houses offer an eclectic and wondrous mix, from desert austerity to lush tropical.
But what is interesting is the amount of trouble hosts go to, to make their guests feel comfortable. The houses are cosseted, styled, discussed, endlessly thought about, all to give the guest the best possible time.
Hosts carefully match cushions, compare quality linens, source the best firewood, stock kitchen cupboards, set out prettily matching china. The attention to detail is pin sharp; in one house even the headboards are heated.
With so much choice, there lies before you a shimmering array of ways to spend your downtime.
Bobbejaansberg in Barrydale, is in the fabled Klein Karoo, thick with undiscovered treasures, unique vegetation, probably the purest air in the world, and mind-blowing mountain trails, many undiscovered.
The house itself is elemental and falls into the environment as lightly as a leaf, disturbing nothing but bringing a Zen peace to guests, many of whom dream of returning.
It is simply decorated, with no clunky appurtenances, but the essentials like the Lacanche stove are of the best.
The Karoo is one of the undiscovered wonders of the world and few houses blend with the environment as beautifully as Bobbejaansberg.
Stone House, Hermanus
Hermanus, is arguably the most stunning bay in the world, stocked with marine life, and bound by white foamed waves. For years it remained a best-kept secret, known mainly to locals and randlords who built holiday houses on the water’s edge.
Stone House rises on the cliffs of Hermanus, seamed by the famed Cliffside path.
The house, created rather than built, over a period of three years, melds earth shades of pink and ochre, all individually quarried, has an heirloom quality which chimes with the fascinating history of Hermanus, a place that started life as a fishing village and is now the main viewing point for whales.
The real joy of this house is the jigsaw of enclaves, from boma to braai, where one can relax, some sheltered by trees, some of glass and stone, many with fireplaces. This double volume space and plunge pool will bring you new life.
The Boat House, Plettenberg Bay
There is something special about a house on a river, some reviving element that is intensely part of nature.
The Boat House is the holiday house everyone dreams of owning, white on white, immaculate as a perfectly made up woman.
The house opens up like an envelope. The central open-plan living and dining space expand via sliding doors to provide a seamless flow between indoors and out. As one of the guests says, “Everything you need is right at hand. It is as if the house has its own inert intelligence.”
This is the result of ingenious design and a lot of thought lies behind this cunning lack of fussiness with a kitchen with high-end appliances that make cooking a dream.
The Boat House rings the changes on a sea holiday and brings one even closer to nature, sitting on a large plot, with long vistas that makes one feel a sense of exclusive privacy.
Penhill Farm, Nuy Valley
When it comes to choice there is nothing better than Penhill Farm, a creative conglomerate of a manor house and separate cottages, each different and unique but all with an artisanal hallmark of authenticity and situated in the famously verdant Nuy Valley.
The cottages are styled with flair, absorbing natural elements such as dry stone walls, thatch and located round dams and ponds that make it a verdant oasis.
It’s perfectly suited for hosting fabulous parties, from formal affairs to outdoorsy bashes that make the most of the glorious natural surrounds.
Built originally as a refreshment station, its spirit is still one of revival.
Maison Noir, Hout Bay
The inspiration for Maison Noir came from an Africa Village, a visionary thought, shot with drama but is also a perfect leisure dome with space and décor that give it a sense of an outdoor theatre. If you walk to the top of a surrounding hill, you will see its ancient, medieval design, of hut-like additions with a boundary wall.
It is a unique concept, maxing the land, which is part of a Cape Town suburb. As one guest said, “I always felt that I was in the middle of nowhere and I loved the luxurious seclusion, it was astonishing to discover we were very near shops and restaurants and even the city.”
The whole place, with its splashes of unexpected colour, a vase of strelitzia, black leather chairs, chandeliers and pools of huge koi fish with their dappled shades is very filmic with elements of an Ingmar Bergman movie.
Seagull Cottage, Churchhaven
Ah, Churchhaven, the jewel in the crown, set in the West Coast National Park between the roaring Atlantic and the soft pulse of the lagoon with its pink flush of flamingos.
Seagull Cottage (to call it a cottage is rather like calling the Eiffel Tower a construction site) borders on the famous Churchhaven wetlands where you can pick samphire and watch kudu grazing, walk between tiny white crabs, and catch glimpses of rooikatte (caracal) who stand on the hillside as startling as burning bushes.
Put together by an artistic hand, Seagull Cottage channels the beach with all its driftwood and mussel shells with insides as pink as lambs ears. You will never be bored, the spring flowers will knock you out and you can sail, swim, canoe and come home to a row of lighted paraffin lamps; off the grid adds a final authentic touch.
Baxter House, Simons Town
Baxter House brings back the old Cape Town seaside days, situated in Simons Town, which still retains its English atmosphere.
It is the archetype of the Old Cape Cottage, unpretentious, soft sofas in Sanderson linens and Colefax and Fowler fabrics. The relaxed interior features vintage collectables, loosely slip-covered couches and junk-shop finds that sit alongside lovingly restored family heirlooms,
The beach is safe and sheltered for swimming where you can share the outdoor space with penguins who nest on the walkways.
A guest reminds us, “There are few places where one can feel really at home, Baxter is one of them, and the little town of Simons Town provides us with everything we need.”
Bobbejaanskloof, Plettenberg Bay
The enduring wealth of South Africa lies in houses like this; heirloom houses full of family treasures, designed not as fly by night holiday homes, but to give guests a feeling of the beauty and history of the country.
Bobbejaanskloof, a ten-minute drive from the town of Plettenberg Bay and famous among mountain cognoscenti, has retained the feel of an old farmhouse and everything about it makes sense; there are no cheap decorating tricks, no duplicity, it is what it is.
Furnished with a lush repository of sofas, deep armchairs, storm lanterns and woven rugs, and with its wide stoeps, bone coloured walls, dotted with Nguni hides, wicker baskets and riempie chairs, it really is ‘my farm in Africa’.
From the views to the night sky and the offer of precious privacy and the wild animals, sometimes elephant loping along the perimeter fence, plus the surrounding forests with their famous yellowwood trees, it is heaven on earth.
Hope Cottage, Constantia
From its simple Georgian exterior to its raw brick drawing room, Hope Cottage exudes the plushness of a London flat, yolky mustards and mahogany, combined with old Cape history. Such uber chic combinations, highlighted with African baskets and geometric fabrics, talk of times past.
Large paned industrial windows allow visual access to the outside vineyards planted by Simon van der Stel at his homestead Groot Constantia in the 18th century. The cottage itself takes its names from a triumvirate of famous wine estates including its namesake Hope of Constantia.
Hope Cottage is a happy meeting of style, craftsmanship (when an old Oak tree fell in the garden they fashioned it into a kitchen ‘island’) provenance and ingenuity that envelops the guest in the essence of the Cape Province, fragrant with fynbos and Hanepoot grapes.
No 37, KwaZulu-Natal
This house spins you into another time zone, from green hillsides of the uplands the climate morphs to tropical chimes that spell romance like no other place. No 37 is fanned by banana trees, waxy fuchsia-coloured flowers, wild green fronds and sunsets.
The tropics have inspired a world of movies, deep romance, Somerset Maugham novels, gin and tonics and the famed Indian Ocean on your doorstep. The owners have emphasised position, bringing the fugitive tropical world inside with large glass panels revealing ancient roots of gnarled trees.
Comfort is the keynote at this hideaway with decks and unexpected cushy enclaves where you can relax in the latticed penumbra of the harsh sun.
A break here brings a new perspective on life.
Lookout House, Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Bay, the word once on everyone’s lips has been brought new life with houses like Lookout House that manages that expert combination of vintage and contemporary, put together by an acute eye, to bring comfort and relaxation and a sense of timelessness.
It is more than just the beauty of position – the famously desirable beach iconography of Plett – it is the old leather trunk picked up in a Moroccan suq, ancient yolk yellow textiles mixed with authentic kelims, brickwork and smooth ice cream colour plaster. Plett offers every possible natural advantage, plus a thriving small town, but Lookout House brings the divine peace of homecoming to a new level, especially if you are lucky enough to see whales and dolphins in the bay.
The house is gorgeous and very well equipped. It is just a short walk to a wonderful clean beach. The attention to detail is second to none and comes highly recommend for anyone looking for somewhere truly special.
Tankwa River Lodge, Tankwa Karoo
This is real Africa, a stark, bare country with deep ravines within the folds of the Swartrug and Bontberg Mountains, a hardscrabble land: horse country. The lodge is the simple and enduringly apt vernacular house based on a farm workers’ cottage with rietdak ceilings, screed floors, old stable doors, comfy sofas and lush beds. It is off the grid and at night lights up like a liner with paraffin lamps.
Tankwa is authentic Africa, herds of kudu, Springbok, Gemsbok, Hartebeest and Kudu gallop across the plains. If you are lucky you might see that most fabled of animals, the aardvark, the sole representative of an extant mammal species.
For lovers of Africa Tankwa River Farm can provide invigorating insights and time to laze. It is here you will also see the famed baobab tree that is pollinated at night by bats. For people curious to know more about Africa, Tankwa River Lodge is the place.
Icaria, Atlantic Seaboard
Jigsawed into the cluttered mountain slopes of the Atlantic seaboard, above the hip jive, Icaria is unique because it holds within its acute architectural lines a finger of the famous Table Mountain Reserve, bringing mountain fragrance and soft mists.
The granite steps that lead to this vertiginous mountain eyrie are reminiscent of a Greek island, passing through the fragrant fynbos. The house itself is elemental, grounded in its celebrated environment.
The façade is punctuated with windows that give on the granite boulders of Table Mountain into which the house seems chiselled, while the facade faces a parabola of blue sea with white foamed heads that crash against the rocky coastline.
In the distance, an occasional ocean liner or container ship slides serenely past, a reminder that a working harbour is within sight. The interior is lush and is curated with signature artworks and photographs, which lifts the house into the realms of a New York gallery.
Thuleni House, KwaZulu-Natal
If you love the bushveld, nothing beats its strange primeval beauty, its beguiling isolation, its ancient history. Thuleni House is in the heart of historic Zululand, part of the Big Five Manyoni Private Game Reserve. It is designed like a glass lookout house, to absorb the unique acacia bushveld and to be on nodding terms with many of the animals, particularly the big cats.
“I wanted to sleep under the stars,” says the owner, who used to sleep with the doors open before the lion population increased.
Living here in the shade of the distinctive Acacia thorn trees, the Lebombo mountain range in the distance, you can partake in the natural order of bushveld life by watching the buck, impala nyala, wildebeest and even a giraffe, come to the waterhole to drink. Once the bushveld enters your life, you can never again live without it.
Camp Karoo, Eastern Cape
Camp Karoo is in the heart of the Great Karoo, a sacred place on the vast plains of Camdeboo that stretch from the foothills of the Sneeuberg in the North to the rugged wilderness of the Baviaans mountains in the south.
The house is simply styled with lovely old Sanderson linens, zebra skins on the floor, air conditioning and a broad verandah for lazy siestas and long sundowners on its outsize-floral sofas.
Although it is hot during the day, winter evenings are cosy with a wood fire blazing in the central fireplace and the comforting scent of paraffin lamps filling the farmhouse.
Time spent here is close to nature and nature is close to you. If you sit long enough on the stoep, kudu or nyala often drift through the garden and sip a little pool water on their way.
There’s nothing quite like it: Camp Karoo completes the African farmhouse romance.
Perfect Hideaways has over 300 curated properties across South Africa. If you’d like to stay in one of these hidden gems, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 21 790 0972 so that we can help you find your perfect hideaway.