TRAVEL DIARY: GREAT GRANDES DAMES HOTELS
These grandes dames of the southern African hotel scene offer a bonanza of highly symmetrical, desaturated Instagram opportunities, and boast fabulous real-world experiences too. Put them on your weekend getaway list – immediately.
BELMOND MOUNT NELSON, CAPE TOWN
She first went pink to celebrate the end of World War I in 1918 – but these days, “The Nellie” has her own unique shade, fine-tuned to fade to an exact hue between paint jobs. In fact, there’s a lot about the old gal that’s one-of-akind. This includes the private, two-roomed Honeysuckle Cottage and the Planet Bar terrace – surely the most genteel spot in Cape Town for a discreet glass of bubbly. Make like John Lennon and Winston Churchill did, and bask in her rosy glow on a special SADC resident rate of R3 100 per room per night (including breakfast) until 20 December 2021. belmond.com |cb el mo nd mount nelson hotel
THE SAXON HOTEL, VILLAS & SPA, JOHANNESBURG
It’s fitting that Joburg’s most iconic hotel only opened in 2000: the City of Gold loves new, swanky and VIP, after all. Originally insurance magnate Douw Steyn’s house, this elite bolt-hole is now a home away from home for visiting heads of state and AAA-listers. Tucked away in the most glorious, tree-filled Sandhurst garden, it has a subtle neutral palette and a contemporary African aesthetic – and it has just undergone a refurb, so it’s looking all spruced up for its 1 May reopening. This is where you should luxuriate at the spa (the best in town), lounge by the pool, and – should you be so inclined – broker the sale of a small country. saxon.co.za | c thesaxonhotel
THE VICTORIA FALLS HOTEL, ZIMBABWE
Sure, visitors flock to the border town to experience one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – but the other reason they make the effort is for this glorious hotel. Originally built in 1904 as accommodation for railway workers, today the Victoria Falls Hotel is synonymous with old-school panache. Stay in one of the Stables Signature Wing suites with views over the front lawn, and you may wish to laze in your four-poster all day. Alternatively, wander down to the falls, enjoy high tea on the veranda and take a sunset cruise on the Zambezi for maximum non-bed-related romantic vibes. victoriafallshotel.com |ct he victoria falls hotel
THE OYSTER BOX, UMHLANGA
Generations of South Africans grew up visiting this bastion of beach-holiday memories. And, since the Tollman family (who own the Red Carnation Hotel Collection) bought the place in 2006 and gave it a luxe overhaul, there are legions more with special stories about the place. Kitted out in classic Durban retro style – complete with many red accents to match the adjacent Umhlanga lighthouse – everything about this hotel says “tropical glam”. You must try the curry buffet at the Ocean Terrace, high tea in the Palm Court and a signature cocktail at one of the three in-house bars. Walk off these mandatory indulgences on the wonderful Umhlanga promenade. oysterboxhotel.com | c theoysterbox
DROSTDY HOTEL, GRAAFF-REINET
Highveld dwellers on the seasonal schlep to the Garden Route know the Drostdy as their go-to overnight stop.
For decades it served that purpose – since 1878, in fact – but the hotel had been rather tatty until a huge revamp a few years back. Thanks to DHK Architects and interior designer Stephen Falcke, the Drostdy is now the epitome of laid-back Karoo charm: it’s all about wooden floors, botanical prints, classic fabrics and discreet touches of cowhide. Weekend stays should include meanders around the delightful town of Graaff-Reinet, and trips to the nearby Camdeboo National Park and Valley of Desolation. newmarkhotels.com