Heather in tub at Brahman Hills

48 Hours in the Midlands

I recently received an invitation to spend a weekend at Brahman Hills in the Midlands. For those not from South Africa, the Midlands is a region in KwaZulu Natal Province between Durban and the Drakensberg Mountains. The Midlands used to be mostly farmland but has now become a popular tourist destination.

I accepted the invitation because: 1) I’d seen photos of the self-catering cottages at Brahman Hills and I knew that each one has its own hot tub; and 2) My birthday was coming up and this was a good excuse for a birthday weekend away.

The hot tub at Brahman Hills was awesome, as expected.

Ray in Brahman Hills hot tubI think this photo speaks for itself.

Brahman Hills Cottage in the MidlandsThe indoor tub isn’t bad either.

Heather in tub at Brahman HillsI don’t normally do bath photos but this bath is too nice not to show off. (Photo: Ray)

But even without the incredible bathing options, Brahman Hills is a fantastic place for a getaway. And the Midlands are lovely — quiet, quaint, relaxing, and fun. It’s impossible not to have an enjoyable weekend there.

Two Nights at Brahman Hills

I was fascinated by Brahman Hills. Already knowing that it was a fancy lodge and wedding venue, when we got there I was surprised to find that the property is literally right off the highway, behind the Windmills Ultrastop.

Windmills and Brahman Hills signsSide-by-side signs for the Windmills Ultrastop and Brahman Hills, just off the N3 Highway on Nottingham Road.
 Windmills UltrastopThe Windmills Ultrastop, which I hear has delicious food and the cleanest toilets in South Africa. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to check out the food or the toilets because we were too busy enjoying Brahman Hills.

As it turns out, Brahman Hills is owned by the same people who owns the Windmills Ultrastop. Brahman Hills used to be called the Windmills Hotel, back in the days when it was more of a truck stop than a high-end lodge. But times have changed and the property has had a complete makeover. As soon as we entered the Brahman Hills gates, it felt as if we’d entered another world. As if through some kind of spell, the sounds from the highway disappeared and the Ultrastop became invisible, even though it was only a few hundred feet from Brahman Hills reception.

I was welcomed with a huge “Happy Birthday” cappuccino — Brahman Hill has a beautiful coffee bar. Then we were directed to our self-catering cottage, which was a three- or four-minute drive from reception.

Oribi cottage at Brahman HillsThe Brahman Hills Oribi Cottage.

Happy Birthday bed at Brahman HillsAw. They wrote “happy birthday” in rose petals.

Sunrise at Brahman HillsI actually dragged myself out of bed to take this picture at sunrise, just next to our cottage.

A couple of quick notes about the lodging at Brahman Hills:

  • In addition to the self-catering cottages, Brahman Hills also offers regular hotel rooms in the building across from reception, which has been renovated recently. I checked out those rooms and while they are perfectly nice, there is nothing super special about them. So if you’re looking for a romantic weekend getaway, definitely book one of the cottages.
  • I highly recommend the cottage we stayed in — the Oribi Cottage. It’s in a perfect spot and that bathtub is amazing — not every cottage has one of those.
  • Even though I knew in advance that the cottages are self-catering, I didn’t realize how nice the kitchen would be. If you’re planning to stay for two or three nights then definitely bring some food to cook, a bottle of wine, and something to make yourself for breakfast. There is daily cleaning service so you don’t have to do the dishes.
  • Bring your own bathrobe, as they’re not supplied (at least our cottage didn’t have any) and you’ll need something to put on when you get out of the hot tub.

If you don’t manage to bring your own food, not to worry. The food at Brahman Hills is great, especially the dinners, and reasonably priced. Ray and I loved our dinner at 89 on Copper — the rustic yet upscale restaurant in the wine cellar — and the dinner we had at the regular restaurant on the main floor was very good too.

89 on Copper bar at Brahman HillsThe bar at 89 on Copper, Brahman Hills’ underground restaurant. It felt so cozy and luxurious down there, and also completely unpretentious.

Curry from Brahman HillsPrawn and chicken curry.

Brahman Hills cheesecakeDo not leave Brahman Hills without ordering this cheesecake. 

After the bathing and the beautiful cottages and the food, the best thing about Brahman Hills is the Brahman cows.

Cows ar Brahman HillsBrahman cows.

Ray and cowsRay tried to get close enough to pet the cows. At one point it looked like he might succeed.

Ray chasing cows#Fail.

There’s lots of other wildlife at Brahman Hills, too — herds of zebra, impala, and mysterious large buck with curved horns that we eventually identified as red hartebeest. The abundant animals contributed to the overall feeling that we were a million miles from nowhere, rather than a kilometer or two from the highway.

Brahman Hills has a beautiful spa, which just opened a few weeks ago. I had a wonderful massage there.

So, that’s Brahman Hills. We loved it. If you find yourself traveling between Joburg and Durban and want a spot to stop off for a day or two (or three), stop here. You won’t regret it.

Things to Do in the Midlands

We could easily have spent our entire 48 hours in the Midlands at Brahman Hills. But we did get out and explore a couple of nearby places. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Terbodore Coffee Roasters, which I wrote about in a previous post;
  • The Nelson Mandela Capture Site, which we actually didn’t have time to visit last weekend but we’ve been to before;
  • Monsoon Moon, a quirky and charming shop in Nottingham Road (I couldn’t find a website but just go to the town of Nottingham Road and you can’t miss it); and
  • St. John’s Gowrie Church, also in Nottingham Road. This tiny, 130-year-old church is adorable, and we spent a pleasant half an hour or so exploring the grounds and reading old gravestones.

St. John's Gowrie ChurchSt. John’s Gowrie Church.

I’m sad we didn’t have time to do much walking during our weekend in the Midlands; the hills there seem to beg for walkers. We’ll have to find a reason to go back.

Foggy Midlands viewYou’re pretty, Midlands. I hope to see you again soon.

Disclaimer #1: 48 hours in the Midlands really isn’t long enough, especially when driving from Joburg. It takes at least five hours to get from Joburg to the Midlands and the tolls cost a hefty R200 ($14) each way. But 48 hours is what we had, and we made it work. 72 hours would be better though.

Disclaimer #2: Our stay in the Midlands was courtesy of Brahman Hills. Opinions expressed are my own.

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5 Comments

  • Reply Meg July 21, 2016 at 10:40 am

    That hot tub looks epic! My folks love just down the road and I had no idea this little gem was there. Amazing, will check it out.

    • Reply 2summers July 21, 2016 at 11:58 am

      You have to go! It’s wonderful.

  • Reply autumnashbough July 21, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Beautiful! And oh, yes, I love the bathtub. The hillsides are very reminiscent of the landscape here in California — minimal trees, golden grass, etc.

    I want to see Mr. Hartebeest, though. Was he too fast for pictures?

    • Reply 2summers July 21, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Yeah, I just wasn’t happy with any of my hartebeest pics. I don’t have a good zoom lens and they were always s little too far away. I wish I could attach photos in the comments section.

  • Reply Pamela July 21, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Hi lovi we going together next time

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