The Karoo landscape around Middelburg is extraordinarily beautiful, and there is no better way to appreciate the flat-topped mountains, veld and views than to stay on one of the district’s many guestfarms.
Something happens to you when you stay on a Karoo farm for a few days. City life just drifts away as if it never existed.
You forget to charge your cellphone. Your electronic tablet goes neglected. The family car doesn’t move for days at a time. You go walking in the veld and discover little treasures – fragrant plants, tortoise shells, fossils, odd stones.
The kids go out playing climbing fences and trees and encountering geese or playing with the farmer’s children. Or they’ll be making mud pies next to the water furrow.
The day opens before you. This is where you get time to read your book, park on the stoep and gaze at the horizon, nap after lunch, sit chatting around the fire. Welcome to Karoo farm life.
Hillston is an historic sheep and angora goat farm along the R56 between Middelburg and Steynsburg. Stay in a lovely ironstone farm cottage a walk away from the main Hillston farmhouse. It sleeps four, perfect for families or a small group. There is a lounge and well-equipped kitchen so you can self-cater, or resident chef Adrienne Southey can cater for you (recommended if you’d like spoiling).
The lapa, interestingly enough, is an original British blockhouse.
Then there is the country house, a beautifully decorated homestead with four bedrooms, and no electricity. Step back into a previous era with paraffin lamps and candles. There is a beautiful sunroom and stoep, perfect for reading or card games.
Go for long walks, admire the blue cranes flying overhead, have a look at the views of uniquely shaped Teebus and Koffiebus hills and the local version of Table Mountain.
Your hosts Riana and Jonathan Southey will happily show you their historic shearing shed too.
Phone 049 842 1627 or 082 322 4403
This is a scenic game farm off the R56. Here you can play croquet, boules or volleyball, experience clay court tennis, spend time in the eclectic library, climb up the mountain that gave the farm its name, go horseriding and experience easy and challenging mountain bike tracks. In fact, Mount Melsetter is a great mountain biking destination.
Accommodation is in a graceful farmhouse with five rooms and five bathrooms, a gloriously comfortably lounge with a fireplace and DStv, a dining room with 14-seater table and the well-loved Saddlebum Pub.
There is a pool, and a dry riverbed where you can marvel at the most fascinating fossils, visible in the mudstone.
Mike and Candy Ferrar are gracious hosts who are happy to show you around the farm. There is plenty of wildlife and birding to be had. They also breed lovely English Springer Spaniels.
Phone 049 842 1520 or 083 303 7625
@Schoombee Karoo Farm Accommodation
Just off the R56 between Middelburg and Steynsburg is this peaceful self-catering farmhouse. It accommodates up to 10 people with a fully equipped kitchen and braai facilities. Come here to watch birds, walk in the veld, look for fossils game view and hunt.
If you’d like to head off on a day-trip to look for rock etchings, go whitewater rafting or see the Valley of Desolation outside Graaff-Reinet, your host Pierre or Dionne Schoombee will organise it.
Phone 049 842 1514 or 082 778 4594
Dwarsvlei Country House
The original oxwagon route from Graaff-Reinet northwards into the hinterland went through Dwarsvlei farm, and in the early 1900s, this was the largest racehorse stud farm in the world. Things are a lot more peaceful now, with sheep, angora goats and a few buck species quietly grazing the plains.
You’ll stay in a graceful old farmhouse with six bedrooms, some of which share bathrooms, making it ideal for a family or group. The rooms are large, with high ceilings, and a large verandahs leading onto a lush English-style garden.
Dwarsvlei also hosts photographic and art workshops from time to time. The space, beauty of the surroundings and stars and night are natural co-conspirators in creativity.
Phone 049 842 2611
Stay on a truly intriguing Karoo farm, about 18km from Middelburg on the R56 to Steynsburg. All power here is supplied by the sun (backed by a generator). But this doesn’t mean you’re in primitive surroundings. Far from it.
There is satellite internet and television for those who want it, but it’s far more interesting (especially for the children) to help feed the horses, goats, sheep and cows. If you stay for a few days, you might want to make your own cottage cheese, or buy some made on the farm. There’s a waterfall, hiking trails, a dam to fish from, wildlife and a great bird list.
Accommodation is equally intriguing. You stay in a farmhouse that is nearly 100 years old, with paintings on the walls, made by Italian prisoners of war, probably in exchange for food and accommodation.
Your hosts Matt and Corrie Marell are very happy to show you around the farm, and are very proud of the clean air, earth and water.
Phone 049 842 2761
This farm is very conveniently situated 73km south of Colesberg and 14km north of Middelburg in the Eastern Cape, just off the N9.
You’ll stay in a spacious guesthouse offering six en suite rooms as well as a living room with television and a fully-equipped kitchen for self-catering. There are also two separate units that can accommodate four people each.
Breakfasts and dinners are available on request.
Welvanpas is popular with campers too. There are 12 camping and caravan sites, with electricity and new ablution blocks.
There is safe parking, a swimming pool and a conference centre, if needed. Otherwise just enjoy the views, relax, watch birds and wander out into the veld.
Phone 049 842 1826 or 082 348 9123
Just off the N9, about 16km north of Middelburg, this farm is popular for overnight or longer stays. There are nine en suite rooms on the farm, all with DStv. Four of them are found in the old farmhouse, each room sleeping three people. Here you can choose self-catering or opt for bed and breakfast. There are also braai facilities.
Annatjie Moore will also make you dinner if needed, and even lunchpacks.
This is a perfect place for stoepsitting, for walking around the dam and birdwatching.
Phone 049 842 2011 or 072 385 7206
Erin Country House and Cottages
This farmstay is child and pet friendly and is situated just off the N9, about 10km south of Middelburg.
There are a number of accommodation options. There is the Edwardian Country House, built in the early 1900s, a graceful, thick-walled sanctuary with two private en suite double rooms with wooden doors and high ceilings.
Then there are the farm cottages, set in an indigenous garden, surrounded by Karoo veld. Each one is open plan, with a kitchenette and an outside braai. You are welcome to self-cater or opt for the dinner, bed and breakfast option.
You also have the choice of the Barn Owl Family Wing, which has an open plan main bedroom and lounge area, along with a separate bedroom with two double bunks. There are no self-catering facilities in this unit.
Phone 049 842 2293 or 082 379 0404
This conveniently situated farm (just off the N9) that offers rest, is wheelchair-friendly and pet-friendly.
Stay in a gabled farmhouse with five bedrooms (three of them en suite) and indulge in long walks in the veld, and look out for wild animals like reedbuck, kudu, duikers and springbok. If you bring along your smartcard, there is a DStv connection. There’s undercover parking if needed.
Take your bakkie on a very scenic 4×4 trail that challenges even the veterans.
If you have a motorhome, caravan or just a tent, you’re also welcome at Carlton Heights. There are clean ablutions close by.
You can order up braai packs from your hosts.
Phone 083 443 0808
Mark’s Walnut Tree Cottage, Schilderkranz
This fully equipped, spacious cottage is on a picturesque farm at the foot of the Suurberg Mountains, 45km from Steynsburg and 65km from Middelburg.
It sleeps four, with bedrooms, living area, kitchenette and bathroom, under-cover parking and its own braai.
The name comes from the two ancient walnut trees in the large garden.
You could self-cater, or order fresh seasonal produce from the farm, or even get pre-cooked meals, or ask your hosts about cooking dinner for you.
Phone 048 887 0017 or 082 820 0115
Along the N10, only 12km away from Middelburg is comfortable farm accommodation that is wheel-chair friendly and also welcomes pets.
There are two en suite rooms, one of which is designed as a family unit. It can accommodate up to 8 people.
Go game or bird-watching, take a small day hike around the scenic farm, or relax around the braai in the evenings.
This is a self-cater destination, but you can order breakfast and dinner from your hosts Piet and Milde van de Vyver.
Phone 049 842 1361 or 082 414 9410