Last weekend I was invited to spend two nights at Walkersons Hotel and Spa in Dullstroom, a holiday town halfway between Joburg and Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga Province. I had been to Dullstroom briefly once before, and while I found it quaint I wouldn’t have considered spending a weekend there. Dullstroom is known as a fly-fishing destination and I don’t fish.
A man fly-fishes at sunset on a dam at Walkersons. (Photo by Ray)
However, I’m not one to turn down a weekend at a five-star hotel. So I went to Dullstroom and brought Ray with me. In the end, we didn’t want to leave.
We arrived at Walkersons on Friday afternoon and I was useless for the first five hours, having suffered a bout of food poisoning the night before. I collapsed onto the cloud-like bed and slept until dinner.
But despite my slow start we managed to do a ton of fun things during our two days in this tiny town. Here’s a run-down.
Where We Stayed in Dullstroom
Walkersons is an English-manor-style hotel on a sprawling estate just outside Dullstroom. The main building, with its 19th-century antiques and fox-hunt paintings and staff dressed in traditional Scottish kilts, made us feel like we’d been transported to the English countryside.
Walkersons was a beautiful, romantic place to stay. It’s expensive — R2400 ($166) per person sharing, including a five-course dinner and breakfast — but it is five-star, after all. (There are also far cheaper self-catering options.) We loved the food — I’ll have more to say about that later — the walking, the outdoor shower, and the spa, where I had a nice pedicure.
I have only one complaint for the Walkersons management: Please do away with those 50MB internet vouchers that run out in five minutes. I really detest those tiny paper slips. I know you’re old-school and all — I do love the kilts — but old-school wifi is where I draw the line.
What We Did in Dullstroom
1) Dullstroom Bird of Prey Centre
The Dullstroom Bird of Prey Centre is my number one recommended activity in Dullstroom. I’ve blogged about it before but I can’t say enough good things about this place. Anyone with even the remotest interest in animals will love it, and the R60 admission fee goes to support one of the best wildlife causes in South Africa.
When visiting the Dullstroom Bird of Prey Centre, try to time your arrival around one of the daily bird displays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. They’re amazing.
2) The Clock Shop
The Clock Shop, hidden in a small strip mall, is the self-proclaimed largest clock shop in the Southern Hemisphere with 7500 clocks. I see no reason to dispute this.
While at the Clock Shop, Ray and I met Mackintosh Samson working behind a closed door in the repair workshop. Meeting Mackintosh was a highlight of the trip.
I only chatted with Mackintosh for a few minutes, but I learned that he is originally from Zimbabwe and that he travels all over South Africa fixing clocks. Mackintosh deserves a post of his own so I’ll leave it at that for now.
3) Dullstroom Railway Station
The tiny Dullstroom Railway Station is the highest train station in South Africa at 2077 meters (6814 feet). The station is currently closed to the public, but Ray and I wandered around the outside.
While we were snooping around the yard of the station we met a guy named Wikus, who lives inside the station with his two dogs. Wikus told us that he is renting the property and planning to convert the old station into a cafe/market, and maybe even a guest house. (If you’re reading this, Wikus, I’m sorry we missed you before we left town.) I can’t wait to check out the station again after this renovation.
On Saturday evening, I followed Walkersons’ well-maintained hiking trail and walked to the top of the mountain behind the resort. As usual, I underestimated the length and difficulty of the hike (it took me about an hour to walk up and 45 minutes to walk down) and forgot to bring water with me. But I made it back alive and the view from the top was worth it.
What We Ate in Dullstroom
We ate A LOT in 48 hours.
Walkersons serves amazing food, and I highly recommend fasting for a few days before going. Both the dinners and breakfasts are insane and the courses just keep coming.
2) Art of Food
I first read about the Art of Food in my friend Kate’s blog and was happy to get the chance to try it myself for lunch on Saturday. I’m so glad we went; it’s a fantastic restaurant serving delicious, unpretentious gourmet food at unpretentious prices.
3) Waffle & Co.
On our way out of town on Sunday, we squeezed in one last meal at Waffle & Co. Belgian Waffles. This little gem has a sweet, homey vibe with super friendly owners and yummy waffles and milkshakes. Skip the long line at Harrie’s Pancakes next door and hit Waffle & Co. instead.
That’s all on Dullstroom, for now. You’ll probably hear more about these places in the future as I’m already looking forward to going back. Maybe I’ll even learn to fly-fish. (Okay, maybe not.)
My stay at Walkersons was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.