I seldom consider the West Coast as a holiday destination, mistakenly thinking it’s either heart-stoppingly expensive, or else geared to the ruggedly outdoors type. You know? All crampons, rucksacks, tents ‘n’ stuff. Alternatively, if you’re lucky, you might own property there – a grand mansion or stately villa that puts most townhouses to shame.
Since I’m neither millionaire nor happy camper, I’ve always just considered the West Coast ‘Not For Me’.
How silly I was, how wrong a person can be! There’s plenty to see, share and explore without breaking a sweat or the bank. Good food and wines, too!
A recent happy discovery was Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort, high up in the Piekenierskloof Pass near Citrusdal. Perfect for a short break with the family (it’s close enough to make a day trip of it), the Mountain Resort offers high- end comfort at pocket-friendly prices. What sold me on the spot was reading about the on-site spa and indoor pool, which immediately prompted a 3-night booking for our family.
What awaits us? Quite a lot, apparently. On a warm and clear day, views from the outdoor pool over the valley seem to go on forever. There are mountain trails for runners, hikes in the fynbos-covered hills, birdwatching, rock art and cave exploration, and for a rush deluxe, ziplining!
Little ones have free range in a huge play park with trampolines, climbing frames, swings, swimming pool and indoors playroom. And lawns of course, loads of space to roam around in, away from screens and electronic gaming.
Beach bunnies and surf heads will dig the little seaside villages all along the Atlantic coast, just a short drive away, with some of the best surf anywhere in South Africa – so pack those boards and wetsuits, amigo.
All that crisp, fresh mountain air will leave you ravenously hungry. Luckily, Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort has a cracking good chef who’ll keep growling tummies contented from daybreak till bedtime.
The drive out west is part of the fun, with some exhilarating bends in Piekenierskloof Pass – beware! Rather start early and travel at a relaxed speed to take in the beautiful countryside as you go along.
Try stop at one of the many fabulous farm stalls dotting the roadside for real kontreikos and home-made goodies. Think crusty fresh-baked farm loaves, jewel-like bottled preserves and jams, rusks and cookies, savoury pies, biltong, fresh and dried fruit, cordials, old fashioned ginger beer; even the local delicacy of bokkoms – salted, wind-dried fish – which is very much an acquired taste! (I’ve heard it’s best enjoyed with rustic farm bread and butter, and wee sips of soetes (sweet wine) on the side.)
The Olifants Rivier Valley Wine Route starts in Citrusdal, meandering along the river for 120 km, to end at Lutzville and the country’s westernmost vineyards. This area around Lutzville is regarded as one of the most ideal wine growing areas due to its mild climate, misty mornings, sunny days and south westerly sea breeze. The soil varies from sandy to red clay loams. The wines of the region are easy-drinking, quality and good value for money, so it’s worth visiting some local wine estates for a tasting or two!
Hot springs baths are a mere 25 km from the resort, and the Citrusdal 9-hole golf course – considered one of the finest in the country – is set on the banks of the Olifants River, with views of the Cedar Mountains.
Cherry on top has to be a day trip to nearby Carmien organic rooibos farm with a rooibos, wine and food pairing lunch. Rooibos tea is one of the prime crops of the region, and nowadays much sought after as a health-giving drink around the world. Carmien organic rooibos tea comes in a variety of subtle, gentle blends and flavours, available to order online or in stores. The farm tour is at the start of the rooibos route and takes you through the whole process, from crop to cup. Book through Mountain Resort or directly with Carmien Tea at email@example.com or +27 (0)22 921 9800. Why not sign up to the Carmien Tea Club online? That way you qualify for discounts, invitations to events and pairings and other news snippets!
Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort has 22 rooms and 16 x 2-bedroom self-catering chalets. It is well-equipped and popular for conferences and weddings.
Other facilities include:
• Accommodation • Child Friendly • Bar • Restaurant (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner) • Outdoor Pool • Indoor Heated Pool • Wheelchair Accessibility (Chalets 9 & 16, Hotel Room 217) • 4 Star Tourism Grading • Trip Advisor • Conference Facilities • Wedding and Function Venue • Tuck Shop • Nature Walks • Online Booking