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

Read more...

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