Blue water, a beautiful mountain, a bustling food scene … no, it’s not Cape Town, although it’s easy to see why inland-dwellers consider the Hartbeespoort area the next best thing to a beach.
The Magaliesberg mountains are the first thing you notice as you approach Hartbeespoort from Johannesburg. They might not be particularly imposing, but they are nonetheless breathtaking, changing colour throughout the day as the sun strikes them from different angles.
They’re a magnificent backdrop for an area that has become Johannesburg residents’ getaway of choice: when the sea is too far away, a weekend at the dam is the perfect change of scene. But, as the bustle of city life becomes too much to handle, a growing number of commuters are making their home in an area known as much for its dramatic beauty as the enormous number of possible pastimes.
Relics of battlefields from the Anglo-Boer War dot the area, making it instantly appealing for history buffs and, for animal lovers, it’s a relatively short drive to the Pilanesberg National Park. There’s hot-air ballooning, hiking around the Hennops River, horse trails and the cableway. And then there’s the food. Expect some truly out of the ordinary experiences, like enjoying a Paris-style café moment at French Toast (with a mini version of the Eiffel Tower looming in the background), Dutch-influenced ‘plaas’ fare at Jasmyn, a strandloper-style seafood feast at De Vette Mossel, and bistro sophistication at the Silver Orange – to name just a few. Oh, and if you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to take that boat cruise, the answer is yes. Several initiatives, including a move to use water hyacinth in products like fertiliser, have helped to clear the dam of the invasive water weed.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Pecanwood Estate was the pioneer that turned a relatively undeveloped weekender spot into a highly desired address. That was thanks largely to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pecanwood Golf and Country Club, the first in the country, although the presence of the Boat Club and the later addition of the Pecanwood College also helped. With 832 houses on the estate, and most home owners aged between 36 and 49, Pecanwood remains a great option for people seeking tranquillity with easy access to Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Caribbean Beach Club
One of the most sought-after estates on the Kosmos side of the dam, the Caribbean Beach Club derives its appeal from its resort-style lifestyle, with the Sandy Lane Golf Club at St James Marina adding to the attractiveness of a development already renowned for its stunning views. The estate also offers a variety of property options to suit residents at all life stages, from apartments to townhouses and stand-alone homes. Expect sound value for money; a four-bedroom home costs in the region of around R 2.8 million.
Leloko Lifestyle And Eco Estate
While many of the estates situated around the Hartbeespoort Dam have elected to focus on golf as a drawcard, Leloko has taken a different approach. Here the emphasis is firmly on the environment, and even the design of the houses and apartments has been carefully considered to reflect the colours and tones of Leloko’s surrounds – think extensive use of natural materials, and a nod to the mountains and dam that are its defining features.
What sets Leloko apart, according to the developers, is its accent on community living, with specially created play zones for children, and greenbelts making for a living place that allows for relaxation and connectedness. At the same time, all homes are equipped with all the technology necessary for convenience and to stay connected, while future amenities – including a preschool, office park and shopping centre – add to this feeling of easy living. Oh, and watch out for the morning traffic: it’s not unusual for one of the free-roaming kudus or blesbok to cross your path.
Developed in 2000, Estate d’Afrique is one of the area’s most established estates. It’s also a truly fascinating environment from an aesthetic point of view: on the one hand, the French Provençal-style architecture takes you on a quick trip to Europe’s coastline; on the other, the quintessentially South African skyline leaves no doubt about your whereabouts, especially as you’re likely to come across a number of small animal species during your meanders.
That’s because one of the estate’s greatest claims is its membership of the 358,000-hectare Magaliesberg Biosphere, making for a truly exceptional living space. The estate comprises three villages, the largest of which is Port Provence, with 117 residential stands, followed by the 104-stand Beau Rivage and the more intimate Ville d’Afrique, offering 89 stands.
The Islands has optimised its watery location, with a six-kilometre system of canals making for the ultimate ‘nautical’ lifestyle. In essence, the 102-hectare estate functions as a large marina, where boats may cruise past the waterfront homes, creating a year-round holiday ambience.
Positioned as ‘the riviera of Hartbeespoort’, The Islands consists of 325 full-title stands, and also offers accommodation on three separate developments: I’bali Village and Marine Island targeting those in search of a lock-up-and-go lifestyle, and Baybridge Canal, which presents 165 full-title clusters.
As its name suggests, Birdwood is a haven for birdlife – and, by extension, for nature lovers. As a no-wake zone, the estate boasts the distinction of being the only designated breeding ground at the dam for fish and birds – watch out for nesting pelicans.
One of the smaller estates in the area, properties include 36 cluster units located in the Birds Paradise village, and a further eight units in the Birds Nest village.
Xanadu Nature Estate
Since living in a game reserve isn’t an option for most of us, Xanadu Nature Estate is the next best thing. The 240-hectare estate has a marked focus on conservation: not only does it provide a habitat for a number of species, it also houses several bird hides where these animals (and the many birds attracted to Xanadu’s wetland) can be observed and enjoyed, and hosts a number of eco-activities throughout the year. Another key feature is the Xanadu Lifestyle Village, which caters for home owners aged 50-plus.
Landsmeer Equestrian Estate
This prestigious estate is found in the Hartbeespoort suburb of Meerhof, also home to one of the area’s key landmarks: the Jasmyn Windmill Restaurant.
This eclectic centre offers authentic Dutch cuisine, a quaint coffee shop and farm-fresh goodies, and is considered a must-visit for those who fancy a relaxed day with a difference. The estate itself presents a similarly languid pace of life, especially for the horsey set, with bridle paths, a dressage arena, stables and paddocks. Landsmeer Equestrian Estate is known for its exclusivity, with 126 stands ranging in size from 772 square metres to 1,319 square metres.