What do you picture when you hear the words ‘road trip’?
The freedom of the open road… Window down, music playing, hand blowing in the warm summer breeze, as you drive down the highway. A chance to be spontaneous and create memories richer than any currency.
Well, that’s exactly what we made it.
To be specific, this road trip mission was all about exploring the Natal Midlands. We began our journey in Johannesberg, stopped off in the Central Drakensberg, made our way through the Midlands Meander to Howick and finally rounded it off in Southern Drakensberg.
Then we compiled a list of all the cool things you can do!
1. Stay in a Cave
Looking for something unique and different in terms of accommodation? Why not stay in a cave? Now, you can definitely stay in a real-life natural cave on one of the many Drakensberg hiking trails, but this time we are opting for more of a luxuriously styled cave.
2. Listen to African Folktales under the Stars
The Drakensberg is known for its amazing wealth of stars in the brilliant night sky, unobstructed by pollution or urbanisation. At Antbear Lodge you can organize to spend an evening gazing upon the stars in a hammock, while a man from the nearby local community tells you traditional stories, folktales and legends told to him by his grandmother.
However, make sure you double-check the weather before you go. Unfortunately, when we visited Antbear all we had were huge storm clouds and evening showers – a reason to return.
(We did indeed return *20/01/2020)
3. Fly High in a Hot Air Balloon
Why not explore the Drakensberg from above? There is something very romantic about watching the sunrise over the mountain range while drifting through the air.
Often times your balloon adventure will first start with some coffee and rusks (South African biscuity delicacy) on the ground while you watch the pilot prepare for your flight and then you end off with some breakfast on the solid ground again.
However, this can be quite a pricy endeavour. So, if you are planning on doing this, you might want to save up as it can cost you a whopping R8000.00 for a small balloon (2 people).
4. Go Horse Riding
This was something I (Tammy) had never done before so I was initially quite nervous, but my word did we have fun! We had a few good laughs too.
My horse was called Spot and he was full of nonsense, but I believe we became good friends through our shared journey.
It’s amazing to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair while you fully put your trust in, and interact with, these magnificent creatures.
5. Have a 6-Course Meal
Dine among the stars at Hartford House. Hartford House has reached global acclaim as a world-class stud farm, luxury getaway and fine dining establishment and we highly recommend that you indulge in one of their 6-course meals.
Matthew Armbruster, the head chef at Hartford House, approaches every new day with a passion that is unrelenting; creating more than just meals, but a food experience mixed with some theatrics.
6. Try your hand at Camping
There are many camping grounds spread throughout the Drakensberg that can cater to pretty much any need. There are camps with power, with no power, with ablution blocks, shared camping spots, private camping spots, even glamping versions or chalets are on offer at some.
We suggest pitching a tent, roasting some marshmallows over the fire, drinking some wine and just being one with nature.
7. Go on a Hiking Trail
The Drakensberg is filled with many hiking trails located in the same vicinity as the campsites, so you can just zip up and go.
You can do short day hikes, overnight hikes or one of the more famous ones like the Amphitheatre or Sentinel and gaze out upon the glory of the Drakensberg. You can walk down to a gorge and swim in the fresh mountain water or even organize a guide to take you to see some ancient bushman paintings. The options are endless!
8. Go Wine Tasting
Cape Town is not the only place where you can dance among the vineyards. The Drakensberg also offers up some wine tasting options and cellar tours. Can you just imagine relaxing with some wine by a log fire, backdropped by the spectacular Drakensberg vistas?
9. Make your own Candle
Looking for something fun to do for the whole family or just a cute date idea? Why not make your own Candle!
We were able to choose a candle, dip into our desired colours and then paint it. It’s also very reasonably priced!
10. Indulge in a Chocolate Fondue
If you are as much of a chocolate fan as Byron is, you need to make your way down to Chocolate Heaven. They have so many different chocolates to try as well as a chocolate fondue.
You get to choose your own dipping ingredients according to weight, you choose between milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate for the actual fondue and you even get to freeze your leftover chocolate in moulds to take home with you!
11. Chase Some Waterfalls
If you are a nature lover you have to go and see some waterfalls in the area. Now there are many natural waterfalls throughout the Drakensberg, most famously the Tugela Falls, but there are others too.
We, however, are now going to talk about two waterfalls near Howick.
Howick Falls is a stunning 95m high waterfall that has a great legend attached to it.
Local legend says that a giant serpent creature lives at the bottom of the falls and only a sangoma may approach it, but only to pray and offer worship to the beast.
Something else we find fascinating is that they have a record of all the people who have fallen over the edge – the earliest being recorded in 1851.
(⚠ We have also heard that it is not as safe anymore. So we advise that you be careful and vigilant, but do encourage people to visit, it is still a stunning waterfall.)
Just on your way out of Howick, you will come across Karkloof Falls. This is a must if you love waterfalls! Entrance is free and when we visited, we had the place entirely to ourselves.
There are picnic and braai areas, viewing decks, hiking trails and the drive there through the forest is so beautiful! We highly recommend visiting!
12. Glamp in a Teepee Camp
Experience a taste of Neverland at Nguni Moon Tepee Camp in The Southern Drakensberg.
The teepee camp offered us a unique camping experience that had just the right amount of magic and comforts that we were looking for.
It awakened something within us that reminded us of the ‘lost boys’ from Peter Pan. We got to run about the fields, walk down to the stream at the bottom of the mountain, skim stones and jump from rock to rock, play board games, laugh, swim in the dam and all of this while still being romantic and luxurious.
13. Visit Kenmo Lake
Kenmo lake is one of the most beautiful places that we have ever visited! It is actually private property that the family has opened up to the public so that we can share in the magic with them. We totally recommend bringing along a picnic and just relaxing by the lake.
Also, don’t forget to sign the visitor’s book before you leave.
We hope that you enjoyed our list of ‘cool things to do’ in the Drakensberg and Natal Midlands.
Let us know if you make the trip down and also what you think we missed!
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