Work or play

These two destinations offer the best of both worlds …

The de Charmoy Estate is close to King Shaka Airport, making it ideally situated for travellers, but is a fabulous family destination too.

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Tucked away just 15 minutes inland from Umhlanga and Ballito, the enchanting family-owned de Charmoy Estate offers the perfect mini-getaway spot to unwind and enjoy some quiet time and soul food.

The estate’s lush gardens, wide open spaces and island-inspired architectural designs will have you thinking you’ve travelled for miles to reach this destination despite its being right on your doorstep and perfectly positioned for locals as well as travellers (just a five-minute drive from King Shaka International Airport).

One of the main highlights has to be the estate’s on-site restaurant and coffee shop, The Chocolate Garden. It’s a magical, chocolate-inspired garden that features chocolate-coloured plants, chocolate-scented flowers, chocolate mint and chocolate sunflowers and vines. The coffee garden and restaurant has a fully stocked bar and a menu that caters for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and includes chocolate versions of tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, herbs and the like). The focus is on freshness and the combination of chocolate and botanicals. It’s very child-friendly, with roaming giant tortoises and a secure play area.

When it comes to the accommodation side of things, the estate has 16 beautifully appointed, four-star, air conditioned rooms, surrounded by tropical gardens. Each room has its own entrance and unique character and you can choose from the honeymoon suite, family rooms or cosier king or queen rooms. If you prefer self-catering, the de Charmoy Estate also offers two self-catering units with a kitchenette.

The on-site spa is a great place for guests to unwind and relax in an intimate setting, surrounded by lush gardens. This Sugar & Spice Spa has two quiet treatment rooms as well as a spa bath and sauna facilities and has been designed to promote relaxation, rejuvenation and wellness.

This home-away-from-home destination truly allows you to relax in a tranquil, tropical atmosphere and enjoy excellent service. There are several swimming pools and it’s easy to find a secluded spot in the garden, watch the birds and reconnect with nature.
Details: www.decharmoy.co.za or 032 533 8187.

Get away to the Valley … an incredible destination where you can escape the city for the weekend (or hold your next work do in the world-class new conference centre).

Set in a ‘valley of plenty’ in a nature reserve in the midst of a mountainous area, Valley Lodge and Spa is interlaced with rivers and streams which nurture the indigenous vegetation and the abundance of animals and bird life. It really is the ideal place to escape from the stress of the big city … and an easy weekend destination, as it’s just an hour or so drive away.

The hotel sits prettily on the banks of the Magalies River … all majestic mountain backdrops and gorgeous indigenous gardens. Arrive on a Friday after work, slip off your shoes, order a G&T and … breathe.

Plans for your weekend could include going out and experiencing all the area has to offer … think balloon safaris, game drives, hikes in the hills and visits to the nearby tourist spots such as the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and the Sterkfontein Caves. And good for you if you’re the exploring type. Quite honestly, we’re a lazier lot, and there’s just so much to experience at the hotel that we don’t bother to stray too far. We love to potter round the gardens and, if feeling hugely energetic, may pick up a tennis racquet and have a game or two. There’s a pool for a gentle dip or some strenuous laps, a gym for those who can’t bear to go a day without weights and then (and it’s here we really come into our own), an amazing spa. The hotel boasts it’s one of the country’s finest, and we’re not going to argue. It’s designed to provide a health and wellness experience like no other and is, trust us, a blissful spot to spend a couple of hours.

Also amazing (and award-winning) is the wine list and the fully stocked cellar will satisfy even the fussiest wine connoisseur. Meals range from English pub evenings to dinner under the stars … and in-between.

The rooms are described as ‘country comfort with a dash of sophistication’ … they have their own sitting rooms and private patios, and are well equipped to give guests a few hours, or days, of peace and quiet. A book and a pot of tea on the patio is a simple treat that shouldn’t be undervalued!

We don’t usually chat about conference facilities, but the newly launched Steenkoppie Conference Centre at the hotel is worth breaking the rules … it’s got every possible facility you could think of, and then some. And let’s face it, if we have to go to a conference, where better than here, where the ambiance is inspiring, and during tea breaks you can watch the dazzle of zebras strolling by.

It’s a rather special place, and talking of specials … there are always loads of them – the spa package and the dinner-bed-and-breakfast special are worth looking into.
Details: www.valleylodge.co.za or 014 577 1301.

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