Grootbos

near Hermanus, Hermanus & Overberg, South Africa
Book from Book from £855 per night

Wonderful wilderness retreat between Cape Town and the Garden Route, with pristine beaches, whale-watching and horse riding

I always assumed that the name ‘Milkwood’ was a figment of Dylan Thomas’ well-oiled imagination. But, 10,000 miles away at the southern tip of Africa, I found myself in a forest of real milkwood, or sideroxylon imerme if you prefer: a low, shady, trunk-twisted canopy alive with chirping birds, crawling insects, elusive bushbuck and flowers even more colourful than Dylan’s seamy characters.

I was in Grootbos Private Nature Reserve; 2,500 hectares of coastal hillside owned and managed by the energetic Lutzeyer brothers, and an enthusiastic team of conservationists. Since buying the property in 1991, they have restored native fynbos vegetation, banishing invasive plants and nurturing over 100 bird and 30 mammal species, creating a rare botanical treasure trove. For humans, they built a Garden Lodge with 11 one- and two-bedroom suites, plus 16 more secluded suites for couples at their Forest Lodge, all hidden discreetly amongst the foliage. Both lodges are linked by pathways and a tunnel (no milkwood trees were harmed during the building!), and each has its own swimming pool and restaurant. As a base for nature trails, whale-watching and horse riding, or just a breath of fresh air between Cape Town and the Garden Route, it's unbeatable.

Highs

  • The hidden setting on low, wooded hillsides - you don’t know it’s there until you arrive
  • We love the secluded cottages with sitting rooms and spacious decks; great for families, and for those without children alike
  • Pristine sandy beaches nearby, with prime whale-watching from June-December plus various nature activities run by caring, qualified guides; most of which are included in the price
  • If you want to learn about the world's smallest and most diverse floral kingdom, this is the place to stay
  • Top marks to their eco credentials: it's a carbon negative reserve and all food is sourced from within 30 miles (much is grown on site); most staff are graduates of the in-house hospitality academy

Lows

  • Although Grootbos is located in its own nature reserve, don't expect serious game viewing (except for the world’s biggest mammal, the whale, of course) - for this you will need to go to the Eastern Cape or further afield
  • It's not cheap, but meals and many activities are included in the price, so we think it's still great value

Best time to go

Every season has its benefits: June-December is prime whale-watching time (they mate off Walkers Bay, and calve in October-November), August-November is best for spring flowers. December-March is summer: warm, sunny and busy (but the sea is still cold). April-June is autumn, a quiet time with good bird and animal viewing.

Our top tips

As you can see from our Activities page, there is lots to do! If you enjoy nature-watching in all its forms, stay for 5-6 nights; if you feel like a sampler and a chance to unwind, stay for 3-4; and if you are basically stopping over on your way to the Garden Route, then stay for 2 nights (the minimum).

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Luxury Nature Lodge
  • 27 suites
  • All meals included
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
  • Laundry Service
Room:

Rooms

Grootbos is two lodges in one, each with its own ambiance, as well as its own restaurant and pool area.

Fully rebuilt in 2022, the family-friendly Garden Lodge has a spectacular glass-walled sitting-dining area, a curvy heated pool set into stepped lawns, a small spa, a kids playroom, and 11 huge suites. These are more like mini-cottages, raised above the milkwood canopy so you can see through rustling branches to the sea. Each has a sitting room, a shower room and an outdoor deck or small garden area with slatted chairs and sunloungers. Half-glassed walls keep the interiors bright and sunny, and allow you to bird-watch from the lounge. You get twin washbasins, heated towel rails, extra-long beds and a wood-burning stove for winter stays; some have the added bonus of a bathtub. There are also 4 Two-Bedroom Family Suites - even larger at 100 sq.m, and each with 2 ensuite bathrooms.

For a more romantic, secluded escape, the Forest Lodge has a similarly panoramic living-dining space, a larger infinity pool, and 16 one-bedroom suites reached by meandering walkways. These are similar in size but with a more romantic vibe, including canopied beds, outdoor showers and ensuite lounges. These open onto a private wooden deck with sweeping views across the fynbos gardens. Bedrooms boast extra-length beds with down duvets, heated blankets and cotton linen; airy bathrooms have either a bathtub/shower or a double shower. There are also 2 Honeymoon Suites here, with private plunge pools.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Airstrip helipad
  • Extra beds
  • Family friendly
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Terrace
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

Each lodge has its own spectacular glass-walled dining area with long views over the bay - and even better ones from the terrace or rooftop. In the warmer months, you can dine outside in the boma garden, sitting under fairy-lit trees with tabletop lanterns to illuminate your food. Magical.

Dishes, when we stayed, include ovenbaked brinjal, tomato confit, mozzarella strudel, peanut satay marinated breast of duck, buttermilk omelette risolle with poached pears... and vanilla ice cream to finish off. Forget darkest Africa: this is like a gourmet European restaurant, but one where almost all of the food is grown on site (nothing comes from more than 30 miles away). The wine list, too, is a credit to the southern hemisphere. The 5-course dinner menu is set, but specific requests can be catered for with advance warning. The same menu is offered in both restaurants and guests can choose which they would like to dine in.

At lunchtime, a choice of a 3-course meal or a light sandwich-and-salad menu is offered, and breakfast is a rich buffet with the additional option of a hot English breakfast menu.

Features include:

  • Airstrip helipad
  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Family friendly
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take a guided walk through the milkwood forest and learn about buzz pollination, airborne pheromones and the fragrant confetti bushes used as hand wipes by local fishermen
  • Go horse riding with a qualified instructor through the fynbos or along the beach
  • Sit and bird watch from your terrace (borrow binoculars from reception): over 100 species to tick off, including yellow-billed kite and black harrier
  • Marvel at the exotic flowers (best from July-October) - over 760 species including the improbably red and spherical scadoxes
  • Walk along the endless, sandy shores of Walker Bay below the hotel - but don’t expect a long swim, it is chilly!
  • Explore the surrounding hills on a 4x4 jeep excursion; or drive to Klipgat Cave on the coast to explore its Stone Age artefacts
  • Go whale-watching (June-December) for a close view of southern rights; or spot them from Grootbos’ deckhouse telescopes, sipping champagne
  • Take a boat trip to Dyer Island to see the seal and penguin colonies (January-May only)
  • Ride the dunes and trails on a fat bike, with a guide to lead the way
  • Drive to Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost point, via Danger Point Lighthouse, with its history exhibition

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving
  • Surfing
  • Whale watching
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting

Kids

The Garden Lodge welcomes children of all ages, while the Forest Lodge can only accommodate children over 12 years.

Families with adventurous children will love it here given the exciting activities on offer, the long deserted sandy beaches, whale-watching and horse riding. Staff put in a lot of effort making sure the children have a good time, with snacks and refreshments available for them plus treasure hunts and guided walks. And, the reserve is tame so kids can run wild without parental heart attacks.

Children up to age of 4 stay free in their parent's room (cots provided); 4-16 years sharing a room will receive a discount. Maximum of 2 children between 4-10 years and maximum of 1 child between 11-16 years. Children with their own bedroom are charged at full adult rate.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Families with with 2 children under 12 should book a One-Bedroom Luxury Suite at the Garden Lodge. Two-Bedroom Luxury Suites (Garden Lodge) sleep 2 adults and up to 3 children. One-Bedroom Luxury Suites in the Forest Lodge can sleep 4, but can only accomodate children over 12 years. Children will get a kick out of outdoor showers and window-side baths.

Babysitting:

There is a babysitting service (on request) if you want to go off on a boat trip/horse ride etc

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

There are special kids' menus, and refreshments and snacks are regularly laid out for younger guests. You'll also have a well stocked fridge in your kitchenette, and fresh fruit delivered daily. Fire-baked pizzas are always popular!

Kids Activities on site:

  • 2 swimming pools
  • Playground (Garden Lodge)
  • A domestic pig, plus ducks, bunnies and hens
  • Treasure hunts and guided walks around the grounds
  • Bike the fynbos
  • Picnics
  • Plant a tree with the family's name on it, an invitation to return to see how it has grown!

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Horse riding
  • Whale-watching June-December (humpback and Southern Right)
  • 4X4 jeep safaris
  • Walker Bay beach is nearby
  • Exploring caves

Families Should Know:

The pools aren't fenced.

Distances:

  • Airport: 2 hours, or 20 minutes by helicopter
  • Hospital: 40 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is 145km south east of Cape Town, near Hermanus in South Africa.

By Air
Cape Town International (145km) is the closest airport. Flights take 11-13 hours from Europe, but there's no jetlag! Click on the links below for a list of airlines.

From the Airport
It is a 2-hour drive along good tarred roads, heading east via Hermanus. The hotel can arrange a taxi transfer or even a 20-minute helicopter transfer!

By Car
Most people will hire a car - see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be provided when booking is confirmed.

More on getting to South Africa and getting around.

Airports:

  • Cape Town International 145.0 km CPT

Other:

  • Beach 3.0 km
  • Shops 10.0 km
  • Restaurant 10.0 km

Rates for Grootbos

Arriving on: