The Best Riverside Retreats in the Cape

The Best Riverside Retreats in the Cape

Image: HomeAway

A scenic selection of waterside escapes that’ll float your boat.

There’s something about a cottage by a river that inspires reflection and contemplation. A place where you can slow your life right down for a day or a weekend, unplug from social media, and take stock of things…  

Living in the Cape, these sorts of out-of-the-way places are – ironically – close at hand. The Insiders went in search of the best water-skimming hideaways around the Mother City, and here’s what we discovered…

1. Akasha Mountain Retreat

Akasha Mountain Retreat
Image credit: Claire Gunn

The River Duiwenhoks River
The Retreat This intensely beautiful, calming mountain hideaway – situated 300km east of Cape Town – offers a picturesque four-bedroom, Cape-Maroc style villa. Akasha’s serene and secluded location offers panoramic views across the Langeberg and Duiwenhoks Dam which, though off-limits for recreational use, is certainly available for viewing pleasure.
The solar-powered, self-catering villa sleeps eight adults and two toddlers and is well-equipped to handle all your needs. It includes a fridge/freezer, gas hob/oven, wood-burning stove, local mountain water (on tap) and a selection of books and games to enjoy. Breakfast and other meals can be arranged by prior notice. Outside, there’s a delightful covered porch with a hammock and a large, shaded courtyard.
Activities Enjoy walks and hikes through the fynbos or forest kloof, mountain-biking (bring your own bikes), birdwatching, stargazing, game-viewing and guided tours up to a 70km radius, including the rock circle and sugarbird nesting site and mermaid pool, where you can swim or kayak along the river. Musically inclined types will enjoy the array of musical instruments for an impromptu jamming session.
Distance from CT 2.5–3 hours
Cost
R970 (p/p sharing)
R470 (p/p for a group of 8)
R150 (toddlers)
Contact 082 090 1741, info@akasharetreat.co.za
Location Akasha Mountain Retreat, Heidelberg, Western Cape
TIG Reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

2. Elephant Hills

elephant-hills
The River Klein River
The Retreat This charming four-bedroom house in picturesque Stanford has a generous open-plan living area with a cosy indoor fireplace as well as an outdoor braai/firepit. Aside from its two bathrooms, there is also an outdoor shower where you can really experience the outdoors during your relaxing stay.
From the vast, sheltered veranda (which two of the bedrooms open on to), take in the gentle Elephant Hills mountain range. Or head down to the calm, clean Klein River at day’s end where you can even enjoy a sunset boat trip (or canoe ride, if you’re feeling energetic).
Activities Swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and boating from Elephant Hills’ jetty. Or head into Stanford to check out the art, book, antique and junk shops, coffee shops and restaurants. You can also enjoy fynbos hikes, horse rides, cycling (bring your own bicycles), golf and birdwatching in the area.
Distance from CT 1.5 hours
Cost
R4 000 – R5 500 (per night for up to 8 guests, depending on season)
Contact 021 689 7824, helenwills@iafrica.com
Location Elephant Hills, JJ Swart Crescent, Stanford, Western Cape
TIG Reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

3. Tides River Lodge

tides-river-lodge
The River Breede River
The Retreat This peaceful hideaway on the banks of the Breede River is half an hour’s drive from Swellendam – and a short distance from the port town of Malgas, where villagers still haul their pontoon cable ferries out onto the water. It’s the perfect stop-off point for travellers looking to explore the Garden Route.
Accommodation options are all self-catering, and though they vary in size, they all include braai areas and verandas with mesmerising riverside views. Zebra Lodge, Cob Cottage and Heron House are well-suited to groups. There’s a smaller Kingfisher Lodge, as well as the romantic Boathouse option, which includes a lounge area and deck overlooking the river.  
All of the lodgings have bathrooms with shower facilities, fully equipped kitchens, and DSTV. The Zebra Lodge and Cob Cottage have fireplaces, making them ideal winter getaways.
Activities The Breede is a bird-watching paradise, with an abundance of waterbird species. The river itself is a great spot for fishing and canoeing, and boat cruises can be arranged for up to 10 people. What’s more, the lodge provides the perfect base for exploring nearby natural wonders, such as De Hoop Nature Reserve and Bontebok National Park.
Distance from CT 2.5 hours
Cost
R550 – R650 (p/p sharing, depending on season)
children up to 12 years, R400
Zebra Lodge (sleeps 9, minimum 6)
Cob Cottage (sleeps 8, minimum 5)
Heron House (sleeps 7, minimum 4)
Boathouse (sleeps 3)
Kingfisher (sleeps 3)
Contact 071 426 6109, hedleyreservations@gmail.com or book online
Location Tides River Lodge, 201 Lemoentuin, Malgas, Swellendam District
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

4. River View Cottages

the-river-farm
The River Gamka River
The Retreat Situated in the Klein Karoo, in the semi-secluded Matjiesvlei Valley, near Calitzdorp, The River Farm offers sweeping views across the Gamka River. Each of its three River View cottages are self-catering and self-contained and suitable for a couple or single guest.
There’s also Old School House, which was converted into family accommodation in 2001. Here, six people can enjoy a comfortable three-bedroom option – and since they allow one individual booking at a time, you’ll only be sharing with chosen friends or family… (Just don’t bring your pets along, as neither River View cottages or Old School House are pet-friendly.)
Activities Walking among the Karoo Koppies, swimming and fishing in the Gamka River and farm dam, taking in the wildlife, and driving up to Swartberg Mountain Pass. You can also braai in the boma and stargaze at night.
Distance from CT 4.5 hours
Cost
River View Cottages
R360 – R390 (p/p sharing, depending on season)
R520 – R550 (single rate, depending on season)
The Old School House
R360 – R390 (p/p sharing, depending on season)
R520 – R550 (single rate, depending on season)
R240 – R250 (children under 13, depending on season)
Contact 044 213 3996, bronwyn@riverviewcottages.co.za
Location The River Farm, Matjiesvlei, Calitzdorp, Western Cape
TIG Reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

5. Hermanus River Farmhouse

hermanus-river-farmhouse
The River Bot River
The Retreat This idyllic and beautiful homestead is situated on a working farm, a short walk from the Botrivier lagoon (and the river that feeds it), with easy access to the surrounding nature reserve and the nearby towns of Hermanus and Kleinmond. The cosy lodgings and lush meadows exude rustic old-world charm, and the open fireplace in the lounge goes down a treat in winter.
The four-bedroom home is spacious, and able to accommodate at least eight people, with friendly hosts Elke and Petrus ensuring that your needs are met. There’s a well-equipped kitchen, two bathrooms with showers, a lounge with comfortable seating, a fireplace, and a patio that can be used for outdoor cooking. Bedding and towels are provided, and pets are allowed.
Activities Guests have the freedom of the entire 350-hectare farm, and the farmhouse itself is about 15 minutes walk (or a five-minute drive) from the lagoon and river. The lagoon is a great spot for swimming and kayaking, and hardy rowers can even choose to follow the water all the way to the sea (about 10km away). Steenbras can be caught in the river, while a neighbouring farms offer trout-fishing and mountain-bike trails.
Good to know The lagoon water levels can get quite high during the winter.
Distance from CT 1.5 hours
Cost R1 979 (per night for up to 8 guests)
Contact Contact host Elke on Airbnb
Location Hermanus River Farmhouse, R44, Hermanus
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

6. River Edge Accommodation

river-edge-riverside-retreats
The River Breede River
The Retreat Nestled at the foot of the Limietberg, Tierkop is a working wine and blueberry farm  in the beautiful Breede River Valley. Its tranquil accommodation options include five stone-clad river houses or the campsite.
Each of River Edge’s free-standing houses boast a modern open-plan kitchen and lounge with two to three bedrooms each (sleeping between six and 10, people depending on which cottage you book). In them, you’ll experience old-fashioned farm hospitality, coupled with a modern twist (sundeck-sunken jacuzzis).
There’s also Camp Chloe, the campsite, that may be booked out to one group per session.
Activities Spend lazy moments on the sundeck, in the Jacuzzi or swimming in the Breede River – and don’t forget to pop into the delightful farmshop (open Monday – Saturday). There is also hiking, kayaking, birdwatching and wine-tasting to be enjoyed in the area.
Distance from CT 1 – 2 hours
Cost
R1 150 – R13 80 (2 adults per cottage, depending on season)
R1 880 – R2 170 (4 adults per cottage, depending on season)
R365 – R395 (extra adult/child 12 years or older, depending on season)
R165 – 195 (extra child, 4 – 11 years, depending on season)
Free (children under 3)
Contact 023 004 0054, 083 556 4947, riveredge@breede.co.za
Location River Edge Accommodation, Farm Tierkop, Breede River, Rawsonville, Western Cape
TIG Reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

7. The Other House

the-other-house-riverside-retreats
The River Breede River
The Retreat Just outside Worcester you’ll find this spacious holiday home with the Breede River right at its doorstep. Tailor-made for a family getaway, the house is self-catering, with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, and an expansive lawn. There’s a swimming pool, bar and braai area, and even a treadmill for your daily workouts. DSTV and wi-fi are available, and pets allowed.
Activities The river is directly accessible from the house, and there’s a lawn with plenty of space for children and dogs to play. Kayaks are provided for use in the river, and there’s a jetty for a lazy afternoon’s fishing. If you’re in the mood for some wine and culture, the charming town of Worcester is just a 20-minute drive away.
Distance from CT 1.25 hours
Cost
R3 000 (per night, during the week, up to 16 guests)
R4 000 (per night, weekends and public holidays)
Contact 29breederiver@gmail.com, or contact host Mike Hughes on Airbnb
Location The Other House, R43, Worcester
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

8. Mudlark Riverfront Lodge

mudlark-riverfront-lodge
The River Breede River
The Retreat This secluded lodge is the epitome of serenity, lying on the very banks of the Breede River at the point where it flows into the Indian Ocean. Guests are treated to magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and fynbos fields, with easy access to the river mouth.
Nearby attractions include long stretches of sandy coastline, the once-bustling port town of Witsand, and the sleepy fishing village of Infant, whose low-lying cliffs offer a prime spot for whale-watching.
The house has five comfortable en-suite bedrooms, all of them with decks (four of which look out over the river itself). There’s also a communal dining area overlooking the river, a lounge with a fireplace, and a bar with a covered outdoor deck. DSTV is provided, and wi-fi is available in the lounge area.
Meals are available on request. In fact, owner Hilary is a trained chef specialising in country cuisine (she won top chef for the Guesthouse Category in the Overberg Chef of the Year 2000 competition).
Activities Canoes and a kayak are available for guests to use, and there are dinghies for hire. The mouth of the Breede River is one of the top kite-surfing locations in South Africa, and its estuary is a prime spot for fishing. Swimming in the river is not recommended as bull sharks have been known to enter it during the warmer months, but the mouth area and nearby beaches are popular paddling spots.
Distance from CT 3 hours
Cost
R850 – R920 (p/p sharing, depending on season, includes three-course dinner, full English breakfast and tea, coffee and rusks)
Half-price, children aged 3 – 11
Free, children under 2
Contact 028 542 1161, info@mudlark.co.za
Location Mudlark Riverfront Lodge, Breede River Mouth, Cape South Coast
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

9. Die Laaitjie

die-laaitjie-riverside-retreats
Image credit: HomeAway

The River Willem Nels River
The Retreat Only seven kilometers out of the famous Route 62 town of Robertson you’ll find a secluded valley, pierced by a peaceful river that runs through an old working farm. Here, wine and fruit are still hand-pressed, and pear and apricot trees blossom during the spring. Guests have the option of staying in the Victorian-style farmhouse, or in one of the self-catering cottages next to the dam. The farmhouse has four en-suite double-bedrooms (each with its own terrace), a well-equipped kitchen, two sitting rooms with fireplaces, a dining terrace with a braai area, a swimming pool and a garden overlooking the dam.
As for the cottages, three of them have double bedrooms while the fourth sleeps two, and each has a stoep, braai area, fireplace and outdoor showers. There’s also a communal swimming pool surrounded by orchids and a deck area.
The house is equipped with a television and DVD player (but no satellite), and both the house and cottages have wi-fi capabilities, though guests will need to purchase vouchers on-site.
Note Regrettably, children under 16 are not allowed in the main house, due to the risk posed by its proximity to a dam.
Activities There are horse-riding trails at the neighbouring farms, and scenic hiking trails in the surrounding mountains, including one which follows the river past a waterfall and onto some crystal-clear rock pools for a refreshing dip. Mountain-bike enthusiasts will also be right at home here. The winelands town of Robertson is close by for some fine dining and a chance to appreciate the old Victorian architecture.
Distance from CT 2 hours
Cost
Main House
R4 000 (per night for up to 8 guests, no children)
Cottages
R300 (p/p sharing)
Contact 082 294 1242, reservations@dielaaitjie.co.za
Location Die Laaitjie Farm, Dassiehoek, Robertson
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

10. Rusty Gate Farm Cottages

rusty-gate-farm-cottages
Image credit Brendon Versfeld

The River Riviersonderend
The Retreat When we contacted the owner to feature this gem, she told us that the cottages are booked up months in advance, and availability is hard to come by. But we couldn’t share a post about riverside gems without including this secret, secluded one. So, here’s a vague outline of what’s on offer.
Activities Birdwatching, walking along the Otter Trail, Jeep tracks, catch-and-release trout fishing, mountain-biking, swimming and foefie-sliding. There’s also a hammock alongside the stream for lazy languishing… and at the Filling Station Bar, there’s a pool table, foosball, darts, board games and a sound system.
Distance from CT 1.5 hours
Cost
Cottages
R1 000 – R1 600 (per night for up to 6 guests, depending on season)
Cowshed and Bunkhouse
R2 520 – R3 340 (per night for up to 19 guests, depending on season)
Contact 078 214 3916, info@rustygate.co.za
Location Rusty Gate Farm, Villiersdorp Road (R43), Greyton
TIG Reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

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Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 26 October 2016

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