Johannesburg

Beautiful spots for lunch and a hike in the Gauteng countryside

28 Sep 2020
Kleine Rijke at Hartbeespoort Dam
Kleine Rijke at Hartbeespoort Dam
Photo by Kleine Rijke
On a sunny day there's nothing quite like hopping in the car to escape the city for a few hours and slow down with lunch and a good walk in the Gauteng countryside. From the foothills of the Magaliesberg and the shores of the Hartbeespoort dam to the rolling highveld of the Cradle of Humankind, there are dozens of lovely farmhouse restaurants scattered across Gauteng, ready and waiting to welcome harried Joburgers looking for a little slice of the country life.

Here we have chosen to focus on venues that are especially known for their food, while also having access on the property to short walks and hikes. For our hikers guide to great hiking trails, read our hiking feature here. 

Kleine Rijke

Due to social distancing restrictions and concerns around large gatherings, many couples have postponed their weddings meaning that beautiful venues like this one have suddenly found themselves free at weekends again. One such place is Kleine Rijke (pictured top) on the shores of the Hartbeespoort Dam, a simply gorgeous venue built on an historic family farm. The space was created by award-winning designer David Krynauw and Khanye Architects and mixes classic Cape Dutch style with whimsical wooden detailing, The picture-perfect background for wedding photos.

While weddings will most certainly be returning to this magical spot, on free weekends Kleine Rijke now opens to the public for lunch (strictly bookings only) serving delicious homemade pizzas on Sundays and picnics (known as Feast Boxes) on Saturdays, which can be enjoyed on the lush lawns (bring your own blanket). There's also a gentle and scenic 5km walk from the property that you can take which loops down to the shore of the dam.

Book a lunch visit and find out more online at kleinerijke.com

Ground

Picnic and wine at Ground in Muldersdrift

In 'normal' times this venue would be booked out year-round for weddings, festivals and other events, but then 2020 is a year of the pandemic, so of course these are not 'normal' times. Ground in Muldersdrift is a beautiful wedding and events venue which has pivoted nimbly to start offering picnics and hiking combos, in addition to running a delightful cafe (note they are also still taking bookings for weddings and events too). 

Set on a sprawling farm that lumbers over the rolling grasslands of the Cradle of Humankind, there are now five marked trails to enjoy ranging from 3km to 9km in length that promise great views of the valley below. You can book simply for hiking, or book a picnic from the Ground Cafe to enjoy while lazing in the lovely landscaped gardens afterwards. Picnics are Greek mezze style (think dolmes, salads, koftas and dips) and there's also a kids menu.

The cafe takes walk-ins though to prevent overcrowding on the hike, hiking access is strictly by prior booking only. Book your visit at events@projectground.co.za.

Rosemary Hill Farm

Golden light on the dam at Rosemary Hill Farm near Pretoria

This working organic farm and function venue in Mooiplaats just east of Pretoria (about 20minutes drive from Menlyn) has it all - hiking trails, mountain biking, a great cafe, coffee shop and fantastic accommodation options that look like they came straight from a decor and design magazine photoshoot.

Being an organic farm, Rosemary Hill Farm focuses on sustainability with biodegradable packaging, solar heaters, water-wise facilities and of course tasty organic food. Breakfast and light meals are served from 07:00 to 15:00, ideal for a bite to eat before or after tackling one of the two trails (5km and 11km) that snake their way past the farm's aromatic rosemary fields, alongside the dam and through pretty woodlands. Find out more and book an overnight stay at rosemaryhill.co.za

Jan Smuts House Museum

Forest walks at Jan Smuts House Museum

Jan Smuts House in Irene is an immaculate museum that brings to life the historic home of statesman and general Jan Cristiaan Smuts (1870-1950) who served two terms as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. For fans of house museums this is a rare gem with excellent descriptions and many of the finer details of the Smuts' family home still intact. Much careful restoration work has also been ongoing during lockdown and the museum has now never looked better. 

After exploring the museum retreat to the quaint Ouma's tea garden before setting out on the short 2.3km walk up to the top of the Smuts Koppie. In spring you can also enjoy a display of wild flowers blooming in the abortoreum. While not a particularly strenuous walk, when combined with a visit to the museum and tea garden, this still makes for a lovely day out. 

Jan Smuts House Museum is located in Irene (about 40km north of Sandton via the M1). The museum is open Tue-Sun 09:00-16:30.

Fourways Farmers Market at Modderfontein Reserve

 

Close to the city but with acres and acres of space to enjoy long walks in nature, the sprawling Modderfontein Reserve has become a favourite with Joburgers, especially since the Fourways Farmers Market (originally located in Fourways opposite Montecasino) moved here in mid-2020. The huge open-air market (open Saturdays and Sundays) now boasts what must surely be the biggest beer garden around as well as dozens of tasty food stalls presented by weekend market favourites such as SumTing Fresh and Che Argentine.

We recommend arriving early as it can get very busy and there are often queues to get in (you need to pay a R30 fee to enter the reserve which goes towards the maintenance of the area). There are various easy-going trails that vary in length (a full loop is about 8km) which wind their way through the reserve and past its three dams (great for birdwatching) and plenty of mountain biking tracks to follow. Find out more here.

Wickedfood Earth Farm

 
An Agri Mezze picnic from Wickedfood Earth Farm

Wickedfood Earth Farm is a self-sustaining community upliftment project in the Hartbeesfontein Conservancy in the lower Magaliesberg area. Champions of the Slow Food movement the working farm is home to a cooking school and also offers weekend picnics (by prior booking only). There's an emphasis on slowing down to enjoy nature and food and with your booking you also get your own exclusive picnic spot in the forest where you can kick back and admire the natural surrounds and birdlife away from the crowds. The Agri mezze picnic includes ten mezze items made with locally grown, seasonal produce and farm-cured meats. The only thing you need to bring along are your drinks, plates and glasses.

There's a four-kilometre nature walk to enjoy around the farm before or after your picnics (picnics are ready for collection between 12:00 and 13:00) and if you would like to get more active in the food side you can also book a spot on one of their expert cookery courses.

Book your picnic and nature walk online here and find out more about Wickedfood Earth Farm's cookery courses.

Nirox Sculpture Park (currently closed)

Nirox Sculpture Park

Although currently closed, we felt this venue in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind is still a must for this list given that it is quite simply one of the most beautiful private parks in the region and should hopefully be reopening later in the summer. Set in 15 magnificent hectares the beautifully landscaped park is home to an astonishing collection of contemporary sculptures by local and international artists and is often the venue for events such as open-air opera performances and folk music festivals.

Also worth a look

There are of course plenty more places to grab a bite in close proximity to a good walk, although we feel the above places are especially worth a mention due to their memorable food offerings.

Other spots in Gauteng that offer food but definitely are more famous for their very scenic hikes include; Cradle Moon Lodge, Adventure Zone Cullinan and Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.

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