Rather than fight your way to a popular holiday spot this December, stay home and get to know your city better.
Really, are you going to join the lemming exodus down to the coast? Or brave the crowds at OR Tambo so that you can spend hours squished up in a plane? While a holiday is a great idea, sometimes getting there and back is so stressful, you need another one once you get home. So fast-track that and, instead of a vacation, have a staycation. Miss out on the travel (aka travail) by staying in Gauteng to enjoy the relative peace, and the surprisingly quiet roads. There are some great places to discover, some fab adventures and a few great indulgences. And also some interesting little dorpies to explore on less than a tankful of petrol – one-tank-cations, if you like.
- If you have not been to Maropeng, you’re like one of those pathetic Capetonians who have not been up Table Mountain. Seriously, it’s a world-class museum that gives you a teensy insight into where we fit into the world – and it’s even better if you combine it with a visit to the nearby Sterkfontein Caves.
- If you really want to play the tourist, hop on the red, topless City Sightseeing Bus for a day (or two). There are so many great places to stop and explore – from SciBono to Constitution Hill, from Braamfontein to the World of Beer. And you can even do an extension into Soweto.
- A real eye-opener in every sense of the word is the Maboneng Township Arts Experience, on which you will learn that creativity can – and does – flourish quite well without glitzy high-street galleries.
- The Orlando Towers in Soweto are a veritable adventure playground, and a great example of a fabulously repurposed building. You can do a 100-metre bungy jump, and – if you think that’s insane – you can (appropriately) do it in a straightjacket. Possibly even more extreme: you can just jump into the tower from the top – no strings attached. Really, it’s a full-on freefall, but it’s not suicidal, as you land in a suspended catch air device (SCAD), which is basically a high-tech safety net.
- If you’re really into freefall, you can do a tandem skydive in Pretoria or Parys.
- For a far more sedate aerial experience, nothing can beat a hot-air balloon. It does require an obscenely early start to the day, but you are rewarded with fabulous views, lots of bubbly and a great après-flight champagne breakfast.
- R’new, a wellness farm with spirit, has a new take on detox – a champagne detox. It’s all about chilling, playing and getting the sparkle back in your eyes. And you can combine that with a gin workshop in which you create your own signature gin from a range of available botanicals.
- If you only have a few hours to spoil yourself (or someone special), how about high tea at the Saxon? Seriously indulgent.
- Travel back in time with a visit to the Lindfield Victorian House Museum in Auckland Park – one of the few genuine living museums in the world. The owner and curator, Katherine Love, will guide you through her home filled with Victorian treasures, gadgets and knick-knacks, and complete the experience by serving you a real Victorian cream tea. Booking is essential.
- Pick delicious berries at Bon-Af Berry Farm near Parys, or focus on raspberries at the Field Berry Farm.
- Cullinan has gorgeous old buildings, a slew of great coffee shops, restaurants, craft breweries and gift shops (including some very high-end jewellers), as well as a fascinating diamond mine tour.
- Deneysville, on the Vaal Dam, is a great little town with the usual coffee shops, breweries and gift shops, and two fabulous craft distilleries nearby, but also a serious marina and yacht club. The Vaal Dam is virtually an inland sea, so you can sail – at least over the horizon – if not actually to South America.
- Parys, on the banks of the Vaal, takes its name seriously, with a high-end couturier, a bridge with love locks, and a coffee shop modelled on a Parisian fin de siècle lady’s boudoir. There are also lots of great restaurants, a brewery, a wonderful golf course, skydiving and river rafting.
- Heidelberg is worth visiting for its great antique shops and beautiful church, but it’s also close to the fabulous Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve and Marievale Bird Sanctuary.
- Hartbeespoort is a pretty underrated destination – awesome restaurants, boat trips on the dam, the cableway, stunning views, lots of adventures like horse riding, hiking and zip-lining, and a plethora of superb golf courses, supplemented by a great mashie course and driving range for less ‘precious’ golf-wannabees who just want to give it a try.