Last month I participated in a weekend-long Instagram trip to Magoebaskloof, a mountainous area in central Limpopo that includes the small town of Haenertsburg. We visited about a dozen amazing places in less than 48 hours; it was so exhausting that by Sunday afternoon I was slumped in the grass outside a popular outdoor market, unable to talk or move or speak.
The good news is I didn’t drive back to Joburg that Sunday. I stayed in Magoebaskloof for several more days, relaxing in a cottage on an organic farm, catching up with a friend who lives in Haenertsberg, and leisurely checking out places I had missed during the 48-hour blitz. The end result is a million pretty flower photos and a good list of things to do, places to stay, and stuff to eat in Magoebaskloof.
Five days wasn’t long enough to make me an expert and this list is by no means comprehensive. But it’s a start.
The lovely, azalea-bordered lane at Blueberry Heights in Magoebaskloof.
What to do in Magoebaskloof
I highly recommend visiting Magoebaskloof in late August or September, when there is an explosion of blooming azaleas, cherry trees, and apple trees. I felt like I was back on the American East Coast in April, only better because duh, it’s Africa.
Wegraakbosch Dairy Farm
Wegraakbosch really deserves a post of its own — I loved it so much I went twice. Wegraakbosch is a farm — mostly a dairy farm but other stuff, too — that is completely organic and off the grid. (“No Eskom, ever,” a sign on the farm reads.) The farm produces some of the best cheese I’ve ever eaten, and the daily one-hour cheese tour is fantastic.
Wegraakbosch also has the cutest baby farm animal ensemble in South Africa.
Wegraakbosch is a must-visit if you like cute animals and cheese. Don’t miss it under any circumstances.
Cheerio Gardens is a Magoebaskloof legend — a 70 year-old sprawling garden with thousands upon thousands of flowering plants and trees. There are a few miles of garden path and you can wander for hours. The Gardens have a R2o (less than $2) admission fee.
Kuhestan Organic Farm
Our visit to Kuhestan Organic Farm was painfully brief and I didn’t manage to go back later in the week as I’d planned. But this farm has one of the prettiest gardens around and it overlooks a pristine indigenous forest. I saw intriguing signs on the property for an “azalea maze” but didn’t have time to investigate.
Kuhestan grows all kinds of organic produce and has a small raspberry-packing factory, which I visited briefly. Kuhestan also has accommodation, which is very popular, and the owner, Shahrzad, serves gourmet Iranian meals.
McMahon Farm is the wackiest tourist attraction in Magoebaskloof. The owner, Julie McMahon, produces essential oil from a local herb called Helichrysum, which I understand is quite extraordinary.
More extraordinary, at least to me, is the family’s pet tarantula, Lassie.
There’s a snake, too, whose name I didn’t get.
Christy and the snake.
Stop in at MacMahon Farm on your way to Wegraakbosch — the two farms are side by side.
Birding With David Lestoalo
David Letsoalo works from Magoebaskloof’s Kuriso Moya Lodge (see below) and is South Africa’s top-ranked local birding guide. My friend Bridget and I did a walk with David and although neither of us are huge birders, we loved the experience. David is exceptionally knowledgeable about all of the flora and fauna in the area, and is a lovely person to walk through the forest with.
During our walk with David we spotted an exceedingly rare black-fronted bush shrike. (Okay, David spotted the shrike and Bridget saw it through her binoculars. I was too busy changing camera lenses and admiring a cabbage tree. But I did see the tree branch move as the shrike flew away.)
About 30 minutes from Haenertsburg, Debengeni Waterfalls are stunning. The area around the falls is a great spot for picnicking and hiking. I went there on a weekday afternoon and had the whole place to myself.
Where to stay in Magoebaskloof
I spent most of my time in Magoebaskloof at Blueberry Heights, a blueberry farm just a few minutes from Haenertsberg. I loved every minute of my stay in the charming cottage at Blueberry Heights, and would have happily sat on the cottage’s deck for the entire five days, just looking at the view.
The Blueberry Heights cottage books up quickly. Reserve it well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Stanford Lake Lodge
I stayed at Stanford Lake my first two nights in Magoebaskloof, with the Instagram group. I had my own room in a comfortable four-bedroom house, also minutes from Haenertsberg, and really enjoyed it. I was put off by the fact that no one from the lodge ever came to greet us during the weekend. But the view is great and our morning walk on the misty Stanford Lake made up for the absentee hosts.
Glenogle Farm offers a luxury self-catering house, as well as a horse stable. I didn’t stay there but I looked inside the house and it was beautiful. The horses are too.
Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
I visited Kurisa Moya briefly during my bird walk with David Letsoalo. It’s a beautiful eco-lodge and I will definitely stay there in the future. Kurisa Moya is miles from anything, in a forest about 45 minutes from Haenertsberg, and is so peaceful. The owner, Lisa Martus, organized my visit to the Ribola Art Route.
Zwakala River Retreat
Again, I didn’t stay at Zwakala but I visited the grounds to attend the popular Mina’s Neighborhood Market and Zwakala Brewery (see below). The accommodation at Zwakala comes highly recommended by Bridget, who lives in Haenertsberg.
Where to Eat in Magoebaskloof
The Village Kitchen was my favorite restaurant in Haenertsburg: quaint, gourmet-ish food, and next door to a really nice second-hand bookshop. The Village Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch only.
Zwakala is THE place to taste beer in Magoebaskloof — everyone is talking about it and the beer has won national craft brewing awards. I drank the beer and can attest to its deliciousness. The brewery is in a lovely location and it also serves food.
Minki’s Coffee Shop & Deli
Minki’s is right on the main street in Haenertsburg and serves great coffee and breakfasts. The staff are ridiculously friendly.
Lekwar is a log-cabin-style restaurant right next to the R71, across from downtown Haenertsburg. I had a tasty burger there and the restaurant has strong wifi — a rarity in Magoebaskloof.
Pot & Plow
Straight out of the English countryside, the Pot & Plow is a proper British pub a few miles north of Haenertsburg (next to the R71 — you can’t miss it), complete with elderly men drinking pints around the bar. The Pot & Plow is famous for its pizza; I ordered one and found it quite satisfactory.
Iron Crown Pub
Another locals-only joint where everybody knows your name, the Iron Crown is right on the main drag in Haenertsberg. I ordered “the Haenertsburger” (Haenertsburg is all about pizza, burgers, and beer) and it was very good. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo.
Magoebaskloof is only about four hours from Joburg — much closer than Durban — and it’s a perfect place to escape Jozi for a few days. Note that many of the roads are gravel or dirt. You don’t need four-wheel drive to reach any of the places listed in this post, but it’s best to drive a sturdy car.
Do you have more Magoebaskloof suggestions? Add them to the comments section below.