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WORDS: BETSIE LOOCK-VAN DER MERWE IMAGES: BETSIE LOOCK-VAN DER MERWE & SHUTTERSTOCK

Pretoria and surrounds offer several lovely getaway regions and towns that are easily accessible within less than an hour’s drive from the big city. This way you don’t have to spend most of your downtime on the road. Here are a few bucket-list places for romantic travellers, adventure-seeking couples, or city-tired residents needing a quiet break.

Cullinan

The historic little mining town of Cullinan 45km east of Pretoria claimed fame in 1898 when Sir Thomas Cullinan discovered diamonds on the farm.

Little did he know that the real fame would come seven years later in 1905 when the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond ever, the 3,100ct Cullinan diamond, was unearthed. This diamond later became part of the British crown jewels.

What makes it special?

A great deal of the town’s historic character and romantic appeal of the Victorian/Edwardian era has been conserved, and there are quite a few gems waiting to be dug up by visitors to the town.

When to go

All year is good. If you want to see the streets covered in purple jacaranda blooms, plan your visit for October. Weekends can be vibey and some places are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Must-do…

  • A drink at the old railway station buildings – relive the 1900s in a bar next to the railway line.
  • A stroll through all the interesting shops at Cullinan Junction – across from the station cafe – where one can buy anything from lovely vintage and antique pieces, to ginger beer and arts and crafts.
  • Book a surface or underground tour of the mine at Cullinan Tours.
  • Spend that quality time in the lovely Oak Avenue with its quaint shops, historic homes and charming restaurants in a beautiful old-street setting.
  • If you love the outdoors, don’t drive past Adventure Zone Cullinan. The Zipp-line is a must and other activities offered are quad biking, archery, abseiling, horse-riding and many more.
  • Staying over: there’s a variety of romantic overnight lodges and game lodges dotted in the countryside around Cullinan.

Dinokeng

Dinokeng Game Reserve is situated approximately 45km north of Pretoria and claims to be unique in the sense that it’s the only residential Big Five game reserve worldwide located within the boundaries of a metro city and just half an hour from the city.

What makes it special?

Dinokeng offers Gauteng’s city dwellers an African bushveld experience on their doorsteps. Once visitors enter the gates of this 19,000ha reserve, city lights, traffic queues and skyscrapers are exchanged for spectacular bush sunsets, campfires and wide-open star-spangled skies.

The reserve comprises several private game farms and lodges offering accommodation varying from close-to-nature campsites and bungalows, to romantic glamping tented camps and luxuriant safari lodges with beautiful suites. Most of these also offer delectable cuisine, swimming pools, and game drives while some offer spa experiences.

There are self-drive routes, romantic picnic spots and bird hides, balloon safaris, and guided walks and hikes can be booked. Dinokeng offers the ideal bush break and balances rest and activities well.

In addition to the Big Five, the area is home to cheetah, brown hyena, giraffe, zebra, buck and leopard, and it’s well-known for its prolific birdlife as well, including the endangered blue crane and a breeding pair of martial eagles.

When to go

It’s a year-round destination that’s busy during peak seasons. If you prefer fewer visitors, lower season prices and relatively warm and dry weather, the best time to visit is from March to May and September to November.

Hartbeespoort

The renowned Hartbeespoort Dam was built farmland, once owned by the Boer General Hendrik Schoeman. After his death the farm and adjacent land were acquired by government, through the facilitation of Schoeman’s son. After many setbacks the dam was finally completed in 1923, and the rest is history.

What makes it special?

Hartbeespoort is located about 50km west of Pretoria and has over the years become popular and known as a weekend destination for Gauteng’s city residents. Its picturesque setting at the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range overlooking the Hartbeespoort Dam offered the perfect setting for a resort town and playground for water-sports lovers. In addition, many landowners around the dam ventured into the tourist market and today this area isn’t only booming as a holiday destination, but also as a permanent place of residence for many. Harties has enough to keep you busy with activities and sightseeing but there are also several romantic venues, guest farms and bush lodges in the surrounding areas perfect for that special quiet romantic weekend getaway.

Things to do in the area include the Aerial Cable Way, Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary, Elephant Sanctuary, Harties Horse Trail Safaris, Harties Boat Cruise, Chameleon Village, Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, Harties Dam Snake and Animal Park, picnicking on a cheese farm, strawberry picking, hot air ballooning, and enjoying the abundance of fine art on display. Harties and surrounds are also popular for its dining options – and the sky is the limit – braai restaurants with live entertainment, romantic candle-lit dinners, vibey pizza and pasta places, buffets… you won’t go hungry.

When to go

All year round is good. Weekends and especially public holidays are extremely busy.

WHERE TO GO FOR A DATE NIGHT IN PRETORIA

DON’T MISS…

  • 12 February: Vietnamese Fun Cooking at Steyns Culinary School
  • 14 February: Valentine’s Night Market in the Botanical Gardens Pretoria
  • 14 February: Valentine’s Moonlight Movie Night at the Kleinkaap Boutique Hotel
  • 16 February: Valentine’s Hike@Hennops, Hennopspark
  • 20 February: Good Mood Market in the Irene Village Mall

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