Great food and wine, Insta-worthy views and jump-on-the-bed-amazing suites are honeymoon must-haves that can be found all over the world. South Africa has all of this and so much more, making it an increasingly popular honeymoon destination for the post nuptial jaunt.
From feasting in the Winelands, roaming cosmopolitan Cape Town, road tripping down the Garden Route and the witnessing natural wonders of the Karoo, South Africa is a land of diversity.
Combining adventure with relaxation, the inexpensive and English-speaking country is an ultimate honeymoon destination.
Just an hour from Cape Town are the famous Winelands of South Africa, the gastronomic capital of the country and the perfect first stop to unwind and indulge after the pre-wedding diet. The scenery is staggering, with vineyards stretching forth, surrounded on three sides by towering mountains. The prettiest town and Instagram pure gold is Franschhoek with its quaint town centre and excellent restaurants on privately owned vineyards offering varying levels from rustic simplicity to international glamour.
Honeymooners should stay at Mont Rochelle owned by Richard Branson, part of his Virgin Limited Edition collection with has all the elegance you would expect. Whilst undoubtedly ultra luxurious, the hotel maintains an easy casual air – no best behaviour required.
The hundred-acre estate has just 26 rooms, including two honeymoon-worthy Cap Classique Suites with private lounge, terrace and their own plunge pools. Swim in what must be the most sensationally positioned pool with its views of mountains, picnic in the beautiful surroundings or play garden games like giant chess and croquet. MIKO is the perfect spot for romantic dining and Country Kitchen is my personal favourite place for casual lunches.
For anniversaries, birthdays, or frankly any excuse, there is also the Manor House which sleeps up to eight adults and has a bunk bed room for children. Only a short walk from the hotel is a sprawling villa with four suites, a kitchen, a lounge, two pools and a dedicated gym. Starting saving up asap!
2. The Wine Tram
Taking the Wine Tram of Franschhoek is a delightful way to spend a day. The tour stops at some of South Africa’s oldest and most renowned wine estates and includes a talk on the history of the area and specifically wine cultivation in the valley from Rickety Bridge and other landmarks such as the Huguenot Memorial.
Another highlight of the tour is the Delaire Graff Estate restaurant set in the midst of the jaw-droppingly beautiful estate created by the founding family of Graff Diamonds. The decor is decadent and the rooms contain many pieces of fine art. There is even a Graff boutique where one can pick up some diamonds! Very handy! It is the restaurant, however, overlooking the valleys that steals the show. Honeymooners can settle in for the day, enjoying the world-class sommeliers’ guidance and handpicked produce from the estate’s greenhouses. It is an exceptional experience.
3. Leeu Estates
One of the further highlights of the winelands is the Leeu EstatesManor House, a Cape Dutch-style mansion found at the heart of sprawling grounds.
The ‘pièce de résistance’ is the manicured garden and fruitful vineyards, the most perfect place for a romantic stroll. Bikes are available to borrow for the short ride into town, and there are plenty of paths to explore around the estate that have views of the surrounding countryside.
The Leeu Collection’s restaurants include the Dining Room at Leeu Estates showcasing fresh and local produce. A dedicated Wine Studio allows for a focused and highly educational experience where you taste, swirl, swish and spit (we didn’t), leaving with a deeper appreciation of the ‘terroir’ of the region.
Leeu Estates offers just 17 rooms, ensuring it remains calming and perfectly private. Rooms are large with a colonial elegance and photo-worthy marbled bathrooms. The numerous private terraces make it tempting to never leave the room at all. Welcoming touches such as a mini bar stocked with complimentary house wine and soft drinks add to this temptation.
If you do venture from the room, there is a wonderful spa where African inspired treatments and massages are available as well as an infinity pool and a gym if you feel you need to burn off some calories.
4. Road trip
The Franschhoek to Plettenberg Bay drive is breathtaking! You travel along South Africa’s famous Garden Route through impressive mountain ranges and passes, along coastal roads bordering turquoise waters and miles of white sandy beaches, glassy lagoons crossed by low bridges and hillsides covered in vast indigenous forests with their network of trails.
Rent a car, wind down the windows, turn the radio on and prepare for the drive of your life!
5. Emily Moon River Lodge
Plettenberg Bay is at the end of the Garden Route where whales and dolphins can be spotted from the white sandy beaches and plunging cliffs.
A reason in itself to visit this part of the country is Emily Moon River Lodge. The boutique hotel is elevated high on the banks of the meandering Bitou River, with stunning views across the wetlands. There are just ten spacious lodge suites, each with a private deck overlooking the river. The homely treehouse-style suites are each individually decorated with ethnic artwork collected by the owners. Cosy fireplaces and large roll top baths provide the perfect end to busy days sightseeing, hiking or just relaxing by the pool.
The two blissful honeymoon suites are named the Emily Suite and the Harry Suite. Emily is described as a ‘dreamer and a lover’. She met her beloved Harry in Africa and her story has been the vision behind the creation of the hotel.
The restaurant, Emily’s, is a sensation. Stuffed with antiques, the room is riverside and seems to be formed just from twisted tree branches, multiple pergolas and hidden archways. Guests visit from far and wide to experience the home-style menu which includes dishes such as Karoo Lamb Rack, Butter Chicken Samosas and Bali Bow.
The more casual Simon’s Bar, perched above in another treehouse style creation, serves woodfired pizzas, local wines and cocktails, with all ingredients locally sourced from organic farms or the property’s own garden. Emily Moon River Lodge is managed by a British couple with a wealth of knowledge on the local area, and they take great pride in helping people plan their time on the Garden Route to make sure they see as much of it as possible, venturing beyond just the standard sights.
For those looking for action, the Robberg Peninsula is a national monument about eight kilometres south of Plettenberg Bay with three circular hiking routes of varying distance and difficulty. You can see Cape fur seals on the rocks and even dolphins and whales offshore in season.
Staying closer to home, guests can canoe from Emily Moon’s jetty wading through the grasses on the meandering river, appreciating the birdlife, breathtaking scenery and fresh air. It is a place for stillness, the perfect antidote to the wedding flurry.
6. The land of Karoo
The Great Karoo is the arid semi desert that comprises much of the heart of South Africa. Driving into the region over the Outeniqua Mountains is a jaw-dropping experience. With the mountains on four sides and huge expanses of reddish dusty land, it feels like another world. Route 62 winds its way north through ever more arid landscapes and golden sandstone hills, linking the simple unhurried small towns. On its fringes is the Little Karoo, a slightly more hospitable environment which proved ideal for rearing ostriches. Thanks to the Victorian craze for ostrich feathers, the town of Oudtshoorn, the main attraction in the region, flourished.
The Cango Caves are known as one of South Africa’s greatest natural wonders. Originally discovered by a farmer, lowered on a rope with a single candle, the caves are now dramatically lit to give maximum impact to the stalactites, stalagmites and other formations that stand in the caverns.
My personal highlight was taking a ‘meerkat tour’, witnessing the little creatures pop up at sunrise and go about their daily routine of foraging and frolicking. It is a Blue Planet close-up experience that is worth the early start.
We stayed at an original Victorian Rosenhof Country House that has been thoughtfully renovated. Beautiful gardens are filled with roses, the scent of which fills the air as you take afternoon tea. The 14 rooms, furnished with beautiful antiques, are positioned around the lawn and fountain with a further swimming pool area close by. Food is important here with gourmet creations served in the traditional dining room.
7. La Colombe in Cape Town
On arrival in Cape Town, take the cable-car up Table Mountain that completes a 360º rotation during the ascent, affording fantastic views over the city. Once at the top, one can explore the various pathways and viewpoints getting your bearings of the city and planning the days ahead.
A dining experience like no other can be experienced at La Colombe, one of South Africa’s most iconic and internationally acclaimed fine dining establishments. A grand arrival takes you driving through the picturesque Silvermist organic wine estate at the top of Constantia Nek mountain, where the restaurant is perched with breathtaking views overlooking the Constantia wine valley. Chef Scot Kirkton introduces his Asian and French fusion cuisine using clean flavours and classical elegance. The tasting menu is exceptional with impeccable service and served with a great sense of humour. This dining experience will be the pinnacle experience of the entire honeymoon.
We stayed at the Welgelegen hotel with simple elegance in a tranquil and quiet corner of Oranjezicht in two Victorian houses. It is a short walk from the bustling Kloof Street, where some of Cape Town’s best local restaurants, bars and artisanal stores can be explored. Camps Bay with shorelines reminiscent of the Cote d’Azur and The Waterfront are also easily accessible, just a ten minute drive away.
8. The Cape
The Cape Peninsula is an area of dramatic natural beauty and ecological significance renowned for the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This reserve has a huge variety of flora and fauna as well as antelopes, baboons, seals and penguins. Returning north one arrives at Simons Town, once a British Naval base. It is a quaint seaside town with many examples of Victorian architecture throughout. With a stunning pier and waterfront restaurants such as Bertha’s, it is a must-go-to place to while away a few hours.
Make time for nearby Boulders Beach, where there is a large colony of penguins nesting beneath the boardwalks or to be seen surfing the waves onto the shore. If time permits, try to stick around for dinner in Kalk bay and try the grilled seafood at Live Bait, a charming white-washed eatery perched on the rocks. From late July, whales come into the bay to calf and are regularly visible to diners.
9. Reasonable Prices
Whilst the 10 hour flight to reach South Africa is an expense, food, drink, accommodation and transport need not be, the exchange rate is highly favourable to tourists. The honeymoon budget can stretch a lot further with most restaurants bills about 30 per cent of the UK.
10. Easy in English
With English as the primary South African language, it makes life a lot easier both in the booking process and getting around the country. Honeymooners can easily create their own itinerary, especially when guided by South Africa Tourism and renting a car on arrival. If, wedding planning leaves little time for honeymoon planning, Audely Travel have a specialist South Africa team who can take care of everything.