Drakensberg Sun Hotel, Central Drakensberg, KZN (Champagne Valley)

This one is a little further out than most of the reviews we have done before - think approx. 4 hours out of Johannesburg :)
The Drakensberg is of course well-known and much-loved among seekers of tranquility all over the country.
It's a (largely) unspoiled wilderness where you can break away from the tension of the city for a few days, and it's not too far to go if you live in Jo'burg.

Cathkin Peak as seen from the dam at the Drakensberg Sun

Date last visited:

August 2016

Location and setting:

Heading from Johannesburg southwards on the N3, the Northern Drakensberg starts to peek over the horizon before Warden already, on a clear day that is.
The closer you get to the KZN border, the more the scale of this awesome mountain range becomes apparent.
On our last trip, it had recently snowed, and the entire range was covered in a thick layer of white, right across the horizon - quite a sight to behold.

The Drakensberg Sun is situated on the R600 in the Central Drakensberg, near Winterton.
Directions are present along the route, so once you are in the Champagne Valley, it's pretty easy to find.
A tip on which offramp to take, if you are coming from JHB on the N3 via van Reenen's Pass - we have found this to be the most direct and convenient route:
  • After the bottom of van Reenen's Pass, you will go through the Tugela Plaza tollgate.
  • Continue on, passing the Engen One-Stop. Approx. 16km on, take exit 230 - R616 Bergville.
  • Turn left, and continue for approx. 4km, then turn right onto the R600 - Winterton, which will take you back in the right direction.
  • Continue for approx. 31km, passing the Spioenkop Dam, until you get to a T-junction.
  • Turn left into Winterton, then at the robot turn right and continue on the R600.
  • From here it is straightforward - stay on the R600 for approx. 25km. You will pass Kwazulu Candles, Thokozisa, The Nest, and Champagne Sports Resort.
  • Just after Champagne Sports Resort, at the bottom of the hill, take the right turn (signposted) - continue for 4km and you will arrive at the gates of the Drakensberg Sun.
Still unsure? There's a map on their website here:
https://www.tsogosun.com/drakensberg-sun-resort

For the kids...:

Playtime for the kids at Valley Bakery
I'm not really sure where to start here - the hotel itself is an absolute goldmine in terms of things for kids to do, and that's not even touching on the activities a few km's out, in the rest of the Champagne Valley - more on that later.

There's a good old jungle gym type structure of course, complete with mandatory trampoline alongside. There's also a beach volleyball court, swings, slides, seesaws, all of the usual keep-them-busy-for-a-while type kit, and a maze to get lost in for a while :)
If you're after traditional games room type activities, they have you covered as well, with arcade games, table tennis and a climbing wall to keep the young ones well occupied.

The Drakensberg Sun Hotel overlooking the pool
There are 2 swimming pools - one for the timeshare units, and one for the hotel residents and general use (bingo and other poolside games).
We were told that the hotel pool was heated, but I wasn't convinced... 'twas a tad chilly!
You can of course order food and drink from the poolside menu, and I have to say that we were always impressed by the food quality at the hotel.

I could continue on endlessly here - tennis courts, horse riding, and of course a nice selection of hikes into the surrounding mountains and forests, but I'll stop here to leave some content for the next section... :)


 

For the adults...: 

Perhaps the one thing that should really be highlighted, is the fact that the hotel affords the kids and adults some real switch-off time from the endlessly busy slog of modern city life.
The 'Berg is a truly magical place, and setting off on one of the many hikes available, just allows you to truly appreciate what a special place this is.
The peaks emerge after an afternoon downpour

Obviously, hikes will only be appealing to older kids, say 4 years and up - younger than that and the logistics can get a bit more complicated, unless your child is super adventurous :)
We also routinely saw a variety of wildlife on our hikes - for example, on the Blue Grotto hike we saw several buck a few times, and they were not in the least bit fazed by our presence.

You will likely also see monkeys (close your windows when they're around!), a ton of birdlife, baboons (beware...), vultures (awesome to see in flight) and a host of other animals that call this beautiful place their home.
For a bit of an adrenaline rush, you can take a short walk across the dam wall to where the old Cathkin Park Hotel once stood - here you will find the Drakensberg Canopy Tour, which allows you a thrilling birds eye view of the of the forest, while suspended high above on a zip line - put that on your bucket list ;)

If you feel like exploring a bit, there is no shortage of fun in the valley.
One of the "generic buck" that we spotted on a hike :)
I won't go into too much detail, but here are some highlights:
Venture a bit further to the end of the R600, and you will find yourself at the Monks Cowl campsite, from where you can set off on a number of hikes, or just enjoy a light snack at the tea garden.

Head back to the hotel and round off the afternoon with a laid back row on the hotel's very own Nkwankwa Lake.
Then after a long day of eating, exploring, hiking, golfing or just relaxing, there is no better way to spend the evening, than firing up a braai and cracking open a cold beer (or some Old Brown Sherry in winter ;))
Even the cold 'berg air in winter is crisp and fresh, as opposed to the dry, harsh cold winter air of the city.
Light up the fireplace to get things cosy and warm, and the experience is complete.

Anything else?:

It must be noted that we stayed in the Timeshare accommodation during our visit, which is a short distance from the hotel itself.
I doubt that the actual hotel rooms will have fireplaces :)
For a full rundown of the hotel facilities, check out their website at the link below.

Final words:

For a proper timeout from the rat race, the Drakensberg has to one of my personal favourite getaways.
The "Drak Sun", as it is affectionately known, offers a wide array of activities for the whole family to enjoy, in tranquil surroundings which offer something for everyone.
Google a bit and you will find many other accommodation options in the Central 'Berg, if hotels aren't your thing.

Getting in touch:

Website:
https://www.tsogosun.com/drakensberg-sun-resort
Phone:
+27 36 468 1000
Email:
drakensbergsun.reservations@tsogosun.com

For general information on the Central 'Berg and the Champagne Valley, click here:
http://www.cdic.co.za/index.htm
Valley Bakery fare...

Inside Valley Bakery

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Travelling with the Whole Family – Kid-Friendly International Airports

Time for something a little different here at Plebs with Kids...
If you are one of our regular readers, you will know that we traditionally fill this page with reviews of kid-friendly venues in and around Johannesburg.

Thanks to Angie Picardo (a writer for TravelNerd - go check it out!), this post touches on something that parents often overlook.
When was the last time you went overseas, and you thought about just how kid-friendly your destination airport was?
Well this should give you a few ideas for that next overseas trip... :)

Travelling with the Whole Family – Kid-Friendly Airports

Travel can be tough on families, especially with children in tow. Long layovers and endless delays are frustrating enough, but entertaining the little ones presents a whole different challenge. Luckily, a number of airports have recognized this difficulty and begun to offer entertainment and amenities specifically for children.  
To help ease your travelling blues, here are some of the most kid-friendly airports around the globe.


Boston’s airport boasts two separate play areas for kids, called “Kidports.” 

The first, located in Terminal C, was designed by the children’s museum of Boston and includes a number of kid-sized replicas of airport features. 
There’s a baggage-claim slide, a climb-able airplane, and a number of educational, hands-on exhibits. Soft, spongy floors allow for safe playtime, and a separate play area for infants and toddlers keep them entertained as well. 
The second Kidport – near Gate 18 in Terminal A – is similarly designed, featuring a miniature air traffic control tower, a child-size replica of Terminal A, colorful slides, and climbing structures. 

Boston has also thoughtfully included several amenities for families travelling with babies, including rocking chairs placed throughout the airport, diaper changing stations, and private rooms for nursing mothers in Terminals A, C, and E. 


Chicago O’Hare is infamous for its crowds and delays. 

So to ease the stress on families, the airport has designed a number of kid-friendly amenities. 
While traditional play stations allow kids to relax and play with LEGOs, Chicago O’Hare’s main attraction for the kids include a number of educational, hands-on activities that reflect the strong presence of museums within the city. 
The Children’s Museum of Chicago designed an interactive exhibit called “Kids on the Fly” that features a helicopter’s cockpit, a cargo plane that needs refueling, and an air traffic control tower. 
These exhibits allow children to explore and discover, using their natural curiosity to learn more about the inner workings of an airport. 

In addition, a restored F3F-4 World War II fighter plane is on exhibition in Terminal 2, and a life-size Brachiosaurus skeleton looms over B concourse in Terminal 1. 


Paris has designed a lounge exclusively for kids, much like the first-class lounges elite business people enjoy.

This private area allows kids to play, chill out, or nap, and entertainment includes PlayStation 3s, flat-screen TVs, and board games. 
Complementary snacks are provided, but parents must wait outside while kiddos enjoy all of the amenities.

For parents with younger children, dozens of baby-changing stations are located around the airport, and loaner strollers are available for families needing to trek across a terminal.


Hong Kong’s airport has two extensive play spaces for kids, featuring the traditional slides and equipment as well as a six-seater helicopter and a large-scale model of an airplane.  

The airport has recently begun offering a four-hour city bus tour to travelers with lengthy layovers. 
The tour departs from Arrivals Hall B, where travelers board an air-conditioned bus and journey past a number of sites including Lantau Island, Man Mo Temple, the impressive Central skyline, and the Victoria Harbour.

In fact, a number of organizations have supplemented the attractions offered within the airport itself and instituted ways to get families with long layovers out and about. 
For example, the US Fish and Wildlife service has provided low-cost and easy excursions to National Wildlife Refuges for families stuck in airports in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, or San Diego. Interested travelers can simply log on to the US Fish and Wildlife Service website to research options.


Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance site that helps people tackle the challenges of parenting, from flying with kids to college tuition planning.
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D' Ouwe Werf @ Broadacres Lifestyle Centre, Fourways

We have posted a review at Broadacres Lifestyle Centre before, when we reviewed Mugg & Bean - on that occasion we did not elaborate much on the other restaurant facilities nearby.

Lately though, D' Ouwe Werf @ Broadacres Lifestyle Centre has deservedly made its way onto our radar, and we felt it should get a mention here on Plebs with Kids...

Date last visited

December 2014

Update - December 2014:
De Ouwe Werf recently upgraded their kiddies play area, adding an awesome new jungle gym and slide, and a new kiddies bike track - we have added some new photos below.
In addition, they have paid more attention to security of the kids, by fencing off the entire outside eating area so that the little ones stay close by.

Location and Setting

D' Ouwe Werf is situated within Broadacres Lifestyle Centre, which can be found just off Cedar Road in Fourways.

The centre hosts a garden shop, nursery, a Spar, a Woolworths, a Mugg & Bean, a great toy / hobby shop and more.
Alongside you will also find the beautiful venue Buitengeluk.

You can view a map here.

For the kids...

Playtime is what it's all about here.
A large play area takes centre stage at D' Ouwe Werf, featuring several jungle gyms, slides, plastic bikes for the kids to ride on, a jumping castle, sandpit and even a mini maze for the kids to puzzle their way through.

The play area is fenced off to keep things safe, and there are even a few tables within the play area, in case you want to keep an extra close eye on the kids at play.

A special kiddies menu ensures that your little ones won't leave with grumbling tummies - fish fingers, chicken nuggets, pastas and more - enough to cater for even the most fussy appetite :)

Opposite the main outside area, you will also find Outrage R/C - a really cool model / toy shop, so be prepared to entertain a wish list from the little ones once they head inside... credit cards beware!

For the adults...

D' Ouwe Werf has a relaxing vibe - seating is either outside alongside the Cape Dutch style building, in the garden setting outside the restaurant, or if you are feeling brave, in the kiddies play area itself :)

You can keep a beady eye on the kids from wherever you are seated, and the menu offers a decent selection for breakfast (including all the classics - continental, full English and more).
If it's lunch you're after, D' Ouwe Werf offers a variety to suit any taste - from toasteds, to quiche, chicken dishes, fish, burgers and more.

Food quality and quantity has been consistently good on all of our visits to D' Ouwe Werf - something that is hard to come by nowadays in the world of fly-by-night franchises and fast food.

Anything else?

What more can be said - all in all D' Ouwe Werf scores high on our charts for a pleasant morning / afternoon out, offering decent food at a competitive price (can't forget about that one...!), while providing facilities that keep the kids well entertained.

Operating hours are 8am - 5pm, 7 days a week.

Final words

Next time you head north (or perhaps you are already out that way :), pop in at the Broadacres Lifestyle Centre.

You won't be disappointed by what you find - D' Ouwe Werf allows a peaceful respite from the mad city rush, and the garden setting is perfect for our characteristically obliging warm Jo'burg sunshine.

Bring the kids along for a treat - they will leave with their tummies full, having worn themselves out on the swings, slides and bikes, but keenly looking forward to their next visit.

Getting in touch

Telephone:
+27 (0)11 540 1538

Email:

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About Plebs with Kids

Plebs with Kids visits mainly JHB-based venues, coffee shops, restaurants, play areas and other such establishments.

We rate their kid-friendliness (among other things :) for your convenience, and for the next time you need a place to go, while knowing that your little ones are well catered for.

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