The big freeze is upon us, and most South Africans are now spending winter nights huddled up under blankets in front of the TV. While there are some great things about winter (roaring fires, movies and hot chocolate anyone?) there’s no denying that after a month or two staring at your TV screen night in and night out starts to get a bit boring. You know what we say to that? Time for a change, and what better way to do that than with a little getaway? Here are our top winter break picks.
Let’s get this out of the way – you are not going to Dullstroom to escape the cold. Oh no. You are going to Dullstroom to embrace the cold and spoil yourself with all the winter indulgences you wouldn’t normally. It’s the perfect romantic weekend getaway from Joburg. Just enough to keep you busy, far enough to feel like a break, but close enough to enjoy it without having to put in leave. Book a cosy cottage overlooking a dam and spend your evenings sipping port or wine by the fire and your mornings with your hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee, watching the frostbitten Dullstroom landscape slowly awaken. Go for a walk and then warm up with a whiskey and chocolate pairing at Wild About Whisky, or treat yourselves to a romantic dinner or warming brunch at Art of Food.
This little gem keeps pulling South Africans back year on year, especially over winter. The climate is ridiculous, so you can generally swim even in winter – think about taking a week off from work in the middle of winter and escaping to unwind and catch some winter rays. There’s very little rain and the humidity has died down enough that you can happily wear your t-shirt and shorts all day without a care in the world. You can go as basic or upscale as you like in marvellous Mozambique, but be sure to spend plenty of time lounging around on the beach, feasting on fresh seafood and soaking up the relaxed island vibes.
For the warm, sunny climate without having to leave SA borders, Durban is the only option. While the rest of us are waking up in the freezing cold and debating how many layers you can reasonably wear in one day, Durban seems to forget that winter is a season that they’re meant to have – so they just continue with summer. It is, quite simply, glorious.
Take in the Inanda Heritage Route then visit the Golden Mile for a run, swim or just for the view. If you want to really spoil yourself, book a meal at The Oyster Box, arguable Durban’s most famous restaurant and hotel. If you’re more about low-key winter breaks, you’re sure to find a good bunny chow at CaneCutters or a tasty curry at Goundens or Capsicum.
South Africa’s highest mountain range is the ultimate winter getaway destination for those who want old-school winter charm a bit of a European feel. Think of it as Christmas in July! Of course, the Drakensberg doesn’t guarantee snow but if you’re lucky and book to go over a cold snap, you’re quite likely to get some powdery white frosting outside your cosy wooden chalet. The mountains always look beautiful with their snow-capped peaks, and the many lakes dotted around the valleys often freeze over for a fairytale wintery atmosphere. The real hiking enthusiasts can brave the cold but otherwise, there’s always activities on offer in the Drakensberg for both adults and kids. And once you’ve had enough of exploring in the snow, you can come in and warm up with a hot meal, a glass of gluhwein, a huge roaring fire and a view of the magnificent mountains.
Kruger / Hoedspruit
Take your pick of any of the game lodges around Hoedspruit or head to the famous Kruger National Park. The Lowveld temperatures will keep you nice and toasty (but do pack plenty of warm clothes for game drives) and there’s plenty to do besides spotting the Big Five. Take a day trip out to Sabie, Pilgrim’s rest, Blyde River Canyon or any of the other famous Lowveld spots, or spend a relaxing day out on the stoop with a game of 30 seconds and plenty of fire for the braai.