By Jenna Berndt
Think you’ve missed the boat for a getaway over the Easter holiday? With the new public school calendar turning many a mom and traveller’s schedule upside down, don’t despair. Whether you’ve just enjoyed a fantastic family holiday, have an excellent Easter break already booked, or are looking for a last-minute getaway suggestion, choosing the perfect local break is now that much easier.
“The perfect road trip destination from Durban or Jo’burg, and just a two-hour flight from Cape Town for a fly-stay-drive package, the Midlands in April is particularly atmospheric,” says Sue Garrett, Flight Centre General Manager of Product and Marketing.
No meander in the area would be complete without a feast. Whether you’re looking for a good caffeine fix, hearty pub meal or five-course dining (Hartford House and Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse are favourites) or even some red wine to toast the cooler weather (try the Abingdon Wine Estate), planning your weekend around your meals is a good idea.
If you’d like to stay in the Drakensberg, Garrett describes the Alpine Heath Resort as the ideal family base. Six-person chalets with self-catering facilities are perfect for families, and you won’t be bored with horse riding, hiking to a nearby waterfall and many on-site facilities available.
The small town of Clarens at the foot of the Maluti Mountains in the eastern Free State, about three-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg by car, makes for a fantastic weekend break from the Big Smoke that is Joburg.
With a reputation for four-seasons-in-one-day weather, travellers are advised to pack for all weather conditions in any season. However, locals and those in the know, all seem to agree that spring and autumn are particularly beautiful. Visit in April for mild autumn days, when average temperatures hover around 20 degrees Celsius and when the tree-lined streets are dappled in shades of orange and red and the mountains glow with the earlier setting sun.
“April is a great time to visit as it’s slightly cooler, which is ideal for hiking and horse riding, especially in the Golden Gate National Park, which is right on the doorstep of Clarens,” says Laura Bartie from Johannesburg, who loves visiting the area over a weekend. “It can be quite crisp in the evenings, so pack warmly. The town square has lots of quaint shops and restaurants to try, and of course, the renowned Clarens Brewery, one of the country’s first Brew-Pub, Cidery and Distilleries, is a must-do.”
Clarens is the perfect weekend getaway for nature lovers, adventure seekers, hikers, artists, photographers, craft beer lovers, and frankly anyone who has a desire to slow down and escape the hustle and bustle.
Sun City – a “summer” escape in autumn
Situated at the border of the Pilanesberg National Park, Sun City resort celebrates its 40 years this year and in just under three hours from land-locked Johannesburg by road, you can have beachside bliss and safari splendour at your fingertips. With sunny April days, a beach with perfect waves, a choice of accommodation for every budget and style and activities galore, Sun City can literally become that magical Lost City escape.
Enjoy the sunshine at the Valley of Waves water park, practise your swing at the two world-class golf resorts, tackle the zip lines, spot the Big Five on safari and enjoy the array of activities and events available.
Easter is usually peak holiday season, but with the public school holidays running earlier this year, you could get lucky and find availability in April. Otherwise, try the later autumn months leading into winter (May to September) which will have cooler weather and are generally quieter. If you’re planning on enjoying the Valley of the Waves, check before booking as it usually closes for a month during the off-season.
A little ‘unreal’, yes, but that’s Sun City’s very appeal. A one-stop world of relaxation, entertainment and escape awaits.
Cape Town for a bit of everything
One of the trendiest and most beautiful destinations in the world nowhere does April better than Cape Town.
It’s ideal for a staycation (pick a hotel in a different area to your daily hood for a different, tourist’s view of the city) or fly-and-stay weekend break. The Mother City offers loads of attractions, the days are still likely to be sunny and clear (and if not, they’ll be crisp and cool, perfect for hiking). You can also still catch a movie under the stars at one of the many Galileo Open Air Cinema locations.
Kick start your day at one of the trendy coffee and brunch sports, expand your culinary skills by taking a cooking class in colourful Bo-Kaap and enjoy a long and lazy lunch and wine tasting at one of the (literally) hundr of wine farms dotting the region.
Mpumalanga for a bush break
Whether you’re a first-time safari-goer or a repeat visitor, South Africa’s most popular national park makes for a great long weekend or extended holiday. The Kruger and surrounds is a must-do eco-friendly destination for every South African family.
Summer rains end around April, although you could still experience a dramatic afternoon thunderstorm, and the temperatures start cooling down at night, while the days are still sunny.
Spot the Big and Little Five, relax around the pool, enjoy afternoon naps or swims and stories around the campfire come nightfall. There’s accommodation to suit every budget.
The Kruger may be Mpumalanga’s most famous treasure but is certainly not the only one. For a memorable road trip experience, drive the Panorama Route and marvel at the surreal landscapes. Start in Graskop, where you can brave the Big Swing, one of the world’s highest cable gorge swings, and then take your pick from a number of stunning waterfalls (and accompanying hiking trails) on the way to the Blyde River Canyon. Then try your best to capture the unreal beauty of Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window.