Pet-Friendly Places in the Cape

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Monday, 20th June 2016

What if Buster also wants to pack up and head out on the open road for a weekend away from it all? Simple. Just take him along to any of these pet-friendly country escapes.

1. Western Cape – Bonnievale River Lodge, Breede River Valley

The verdant Valley of Cheese and Wine is blessed with the Breede River as it flows through vineyards and groves around Bonnievale. It’s the kind of scenery that makes you want to stop and stay awhile, and Bonnievale River Lodge, fronting invitingly onto a tranquil stretch of water 3km from the town centre, provides the perfect excuse.

Happily it is pet friendly so the family can stay here with lots of space for kids and dogs. Set amid shady lawns and vineyards, the elegantly furnished farmhouse offers self-catering for four, while adjoining smaller suites can either be rented separately or for a group.

It’s a perfect riverside retreat with individual braai areas, a swimming pool in the vineyard and fireplaces for cold nights. You can hear poultry clucking nearby (safely fenced off) and there are donkeys to amuse the children. Fishing, birding, canoeing, river cruising and wine tasting are just some of the activities in the area. – Marianne Heron.

2. Western Cape – Good Hope Farm, Robertson

One of the problems with owning a pet is that I cannot just spontaneously head out of town for the weekend. So pet-friendly places are always on my radar. A recent discovery was the Good Hope Farm on the slopes of the Riviersonderend Mountains, in the Robertson Valley. It’s clear as you drive in that owners Taryn and Tienie love animals. Chickens cluck around the farmyard, magnificent thoroughbred racehorses gaze at you from the stables and Tienie’s shadow, Seun, the resident English setter, soon comes to introduce himself to guests, particularly tail-wagging ones.

The mountain cottages, at the base of a lovely kloof with a waterfall and Bushman paintings, have their own lapa and pool area. They are some distance from the farm buildings, and are generally the preferred location for dog owners. However, pets are welcome at the cottages overlooking the dam if they do not chase the chickens, sheep and other locals. The weekend before we stayed there, Good Hope hosted a wedding at which the couple’s best man was their Border collie. Need I say more? – Fiona McIntosh.

3. Western Cape – Enjo Nature Farm, Cederberg

In the middle of the Biedouw Valley, 3½ hours from Cape Town, the dog- and child-friendly Enjo Nature Farm is a wonderful escape. The scenery on the drive in, through the rugged landscape and bizarre rock formations of the northern Cederberg, is dramatic at any time of year, but if you go now you’ll be treated to the spring flower display for which the valley is justly famous.

The accommodation consists of five rustic, self-catering cottages at the river. They’re nothing fancy (although you have everything you need), but owners Andrea and Moritz Conrad make a stay here really special with their warm welcome and attention to detail – like Andrea’s handmade bedcovers and (on request) home cooking.

You can wander through the flowers with your pooch, wallow in the river or the farm pool, hire a mountain bike or hop in the car and bumble south out of the valley and down the rough gravel road to the mission village of Wuppertal. And if conditions are right, Moritz, a pilot, might be persuaded to take you for a flip. Best leave Fido out of that one. – Fiona McIntosh 

4. Eastern Cape – Woodlands Country Cottages, Kenton-on-Sea

Woodlands Country Cottages in Kenton-on-Sea is set in a 12-acre fairy garden of indigenous trees, ferns and pretty paths. Within this, there are seven self-catering cottages and holiday houses of various sizes, including a lovely converted pottery studio.

All the lodgings are quite secluded, with wooden decks where you can relax with sundowners, and do some bird watching. You’ll also find romantic outdoor boma baths and the odd hammock. There is a Blue Flag beach at Kenton that doesn’t welcome dogs, but it only takes up a limited section.

For the rest, there are kilometres of golden sand with strange rock formations that are wonderful to explore. Ask about other activities like fishing, canoeing or river cruises. Obviously, your dog needs to be socialised because there are other animals about. Animals are welcome to sleep inside, but not on the furniture. Bring their bedding and food bowls. – Julienne du Toit 

5. Western Cape – Blackburn Ravine, Table Mountain National Park

The beautiful indigenous forest in Blackburn Ravine is the highlight of this gentle 5km walk on the mountains overlooking Hout Bay. It’s ideal for dog walkers – there’s even a pooh-bag dispenser at the start. The trail starts at East Fort car park, just before the tollgates on Chapman’s Peak Drive.

The fort itself is worth a quick look before you head up the steps and turn left onto a wide gravel path that climbs gently then contours through magnificent fynbos, around the mountain towards Chapman’s Peak. Once in the ravine there’s a weir for your dog to lap from while you rest in the shade and enjoy the forest and the birds before reversing the route to your car.

Dog walkers require permits for Table Mountain. These are available at major Cape Town Tourism Information Centres, the SANParks office in Tokai and at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre in the Cape of Good Hope section of the park. – Fiona McIntosh 

6. Western Cape – Red Stone Hill Holiday Farm, Between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp

Red Stone is situated between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp in the foothills of the Swartberg mountains. As you leave the R62 towards the farm, you enter a landscape of red rocks and lush vegetation. The road that meanders through this beautiful scenery creates the anticipation of a holiday away from it all, and that’s exactly what we got.

The comfy, spotless cottages are far from each other, and the farm is frequently visited by experts in insects, birds, plants and geology, who all contribute to the fascinating information available to guests. There are lovely walks, a sparkling swimming pool, and you can ride the farm horses. Pets are more than welcome in the cottages (except the bedrooms) as long as they’re friendly and don’t chase the resident ostriches. – Petra Vandecasteele 

7. Eastern Cape – Die Tuishuise and Victoria Manor, Cradock

There’s a friendly hotel dog called Lambert you may meet as you walk into the reception area of the Victoria Manor to check in. He’s a Dalmatian but his markings are in reverse – white spots on black, except for his tail. Even before Lambert began living his rather charmed life in this street of candy-striped Victorian cottages and the 1850s hotel in Cradock’s Market Street, Die Tuishuise were already pet-friendly.

Many of the 30-odd carefully restored cottages have secluded gardens, perfect for dogs. Cradock is nearly 200 years old, and these houses were where wagon-makers, wheelwrights and whip-makers used to live. Cradock, situated on the Great Fish River, offers plenty of activities.

On Market Street you’ll also find the Karoo Comfort Zone Wellness Centre for blissful massages and facials. You could also go river rafting, flyfishing, or visit Olive Schreiner’s old house, now a museum. The glorious Mountain Zebra National Park is a short drive out of town – but you’d have to leave your pet behind. Meals at the Tuishuise are legendary, with generous breakfasts and great Karoo dinners. – Julienne du Toit 

8. Western Cape – Ravenna Mountain Retreat, Route 62

Ravenna Mountain Retreat is situated on a fruit farm 28km from Montagu on Route 62 towards Barrydale. It is home to photographer Laresa Perlman, a passionate animal lover, and a stay at Ravenna is a good opportunity to have some beautiful photographs taken of you and your pets.

The farm offers various routes (one leading to a pretty waterfall) for hiking, walking and mountain biking, and there is a dam that is great to swim in. There are eight self-catering (bed and breakfast optional) cottages with a fireplace, of which some are available to guests with pets (up to two).

But only one family with pets is allowed per weekend, as there are already four dogs on the farm. Ducks, cats, sheep, birds and chickens are all part of the country experience, and your pet must be friendly and well trained. Ravenna charges a fee of R60 per animal per day and requests that you bring your own bedding for your dogs. – Petra Vandecasteele 

9. Eastern Cape – Makana Resort, Grahamstown

If you’re planning to visit Frontier Country, the Makana Resort couldn’t be better positioned. It’s on the fringe of Grahamstown just below the 1820 Settlers Monument, a two-minute hop from the centre of town, with its beautiful old buildings, cathedral and Rhodes University.

The resort is extremely well priced and has several self-catering chalets, cottages and deluxe units all recently renovated with their own braai area, and there a handful of camping sites. I recently stayed there and loved the trees, the quiet and the birds singing at sunrise. It was a bit cold so I wasn’t tempted to take a dip in the communal pool. Pets are welcome by prior arrangement, providing owners watch them closely. – Shaen Adey 

10. Western Cape – Kloofzicht Estate, Tulbagh

Kloofzicht Estate, just outside the historic Winelands town of Tulbagh, offers a range of farmhouse-style accommodation in a magnificent mountain setting. Its extensive grounds and dams make it a favourite among dog owners. There are two one-bedroom cottages and an open-plan loft above the wine cellar, but first prize is to get a group together and book the intriguingly designed and decorated five-bedroom main house. With its big farmhouse kitchen and ample entertainment areas both outdoors and in, it’s a fabulous place to reconnect with family and friends (bring the kids) or to throw a party. It’s also a popular wedding venue for this reason. All the bedrooms have balconies and/or private terraces should you want to escape the crowd and there’s a huge swimming pool, fishing, a boat on the big dam and an array of nearby hiking and mountain biking trails for more active types. Pretty Tulbagh is a great place to wander around or to grab a bite and don’t miss out on a tour of the valley’s picturesque wine and extra-virgin olive oil estates. – Fiona McIntosh.

11. Eastern Cape Karoo – Erin Country House, Middelburg

Erin Country House is on a beautiful Karoo farm conveniently halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town. And if you think it’s just a stop-over place, think again. You’re going to want to settle in here for a few days to take in the surreal arid landscape, the wide horizons, pollution-free air, the famous Karoo sunsets and vast night skies. At Erin Country House it’s all about choice so there’s a variety of accommodation to suit every kind of guest, from the Edwardian homestead in a Karoo garden to modest farm cottages that are fenced to keep your pooch safe. You can also choose whether you’d like bed and breakfast, dinner, bed and breakfast or the self-catering option. Your dog gets to stay at Erin Country House for free, but pets must be pre-arranged. Farm walks will keep them busy and exercised while attractions for you in the district include the historic town of Graaff-Reinet, the Valley of Desolation and the Camdeboo National Park, the picturesque dorp of Nieu-Bethesda, as well as the Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock. Children are also welcome. – Olivia Schaffer.

12. Western Cape – Witkrans Farm, Stanford

If you fancy escaping to the hills with your pets, Witkrans farm near Stanford is just the ticket. The three resident pooches welcome other well-behaved, socialised dogs but there’s lots of wildlife on the property – including a troop of baboons – so visiting canines must not be chasers. Accommodation is in two fully equipped cottages; Buchu sleeps four and Cone Bush Cottage sleeps six. There’s another quaint and pet-friendly cottage on the neighbouring farm, Windheuvel, which sleeps four. You can hike and mountain bike in the area, but this is very much a farmstay with free-range eggs, freshly baked farm bread, jams and home-made wine for sale. Tree houses, a jungle gym, trampoline, a swimming dam with boats, and a ‘zoo’ of rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens that children can pet, make it an equally good child-friendly escape. And if you fancy arriving by horse, you can put your steed into the field to graze for the length of your stay. – Fiona McIntosh.

13. Northern Cape – Toverberg Guest Houses, Colesberg

These little historical, restored Karoo townhouses in the travellers’ stopover of Colesberg on the N1, were an oasis for us on our way to the Garden Route, but even more so for our old dog. Toverberg is pet friendly – in fact the whole town is pet friendly – and all the dogs want to say hello as you stroll down the street. We had a perfect postage-stamp garden with a tree for shade and, in true dorp style, we could sit on our stoep, enjoy a sundowner and watch the passers-by. Our Charky was also completely content when we went out for dinner. The owners are quite happy for hounds to sleep inside and most accommodating about off-street parking. A selection of restaurants, a museum and supermarket are all within walking distance of your townhouse. Breakfast can be provided on request. – Sue Adams.

14. Western Cape – Kunje Guest Farm Koue, Bokkeveld

Dwarfed by the Koue Bokkeveld, at the southernmost boundary of the Cederberg Wilderness Area, the Kunje fruit farm offers visitors beautiful scenery and ample to do outdoors like hiking, mountain climbing, swimming in rock pools in the Middeldeur River, mountain-bike trails, San paintings, stargazing and visiting nearby Clanwilliam. Pet-friendly accommodation is at the rustic, self-catering Geelberg Mountain Hut (although the owners also allow pets at some of the other units by arrangement). There are two rooms with 10 bunk beds each and two bathrooms with showers, while the large entertainment area has a fireplace and includes a kitchen equipped with appliances and basic utensils, crockery and cutlery. There are also indoor and outdoor braai facilities. Geelberg best suits hikers, backpackers and other groups, especially those who enjoy bringing their canine companions with them on holiday. – Karen Watkins.

15. Western Cape – Shamballa Sanctuary, Tankwa Karoo

Soaking in a hot tub serenaded by sunbirds is hard to beat. That’s what you can expect to enjoy at Shamballa Sanctuary, originally named Fort Tierkloof. Very pet friendly, all that is asked of guests is to respect the buck and wild animals on the land by not letting your hounds roam unsupervised. There are plenty of hiking and mountain-biking options here with more than 20km of tracks including the Leopard Ravine Trail. Over 80 species of birds have been identified on the farm and, following good rains, Shamballa is a delight for flower lovers and artists. On most nights meteor showers, falling stars and bright constellations can be seen. No wonder the world-famous Sutherland Astronomical Observatory is only 70km away. Accommodation includes a ‘fort’, previously a shepherd’s stone hut, with views across the Ceres Tankwa Karoo plains rising into the Swartruggens. It has a pool, a fire pit and a braai area. Serenity Lodge is higher up and more luxurious, with a large entertainment area, open fireplace, an eco-pool and outside bath. –Karen Watkins.


Article and photos courtesy of South African Country Life.

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