Day Tripping in Joburg

Five great outings close to your city, from a jaunt on a steam train to close encounters with elephants
By Chareen Boake

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Broekie Lace and Diamonds
The quaint little Victorian village of Cullinan, north of Pretoria, is lined with oak trees and broekie lace. This historical town, where the world’s largest diamond was discovered in 1905, bears witness to its rich mining history in its museums, tree-lined streets and architecture. While you stroll through the town, pop in at several arts and antique stores and museums. You can also take your older children on an underground or above-ground tour through the mine.
 
There’s lots to choose from in the culinary department, from restaurants offering Greek, seafood and Italian menus, to charming little tea gardens. To make your trip to Cullinan even more fun, include a jaunt on a steam train in your day’s itinerary. Friends of the Rail offer regular trips from their station in Pretoria to Cullinan.
 
route info Take the N1 through Pretoria, turn off at Zambezi Drive and follow the route markers to Cullinan.
useful contacts Cullinan Tourism and History 012 734 2170, 072 876 0842 or visit tourcullinan.co.za; Friends of the Rail 012 767 7913 (9am-12pm Monday-Friday) or visit friendsoftherail.com
 
Elephant Kisses and Monkey Hugs
Ever walked trunk in hand with the biggest mammal on land? The Elephant Sanctuary is a hop, skip and a jump away from Johannesburg – just pop over the Hartbeespoort Dam Bridge, take the R512 and you’re there. You’ll learn fascinating elephant facts, get to feed and pat them, and receive the biggest, sloppiest kiss ever.
 
After your elephant visit, carry on to the neighbouring Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary where you’ll exchange the bushveld for tropical forests. This sanctuary is one of only eight free-release primate sanctuaries in the world. The primates are mostly rescued and rehabilitated exotic pets such as squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys, various lemur species and bushbabies. There’s also a coffee shop that will pack a picnic basket for you so that you can relax under the trees while you enjoy your meal. You’ll need to prebook your tours at both sanctuaries as they have specified departure times.  
 
route info Take the R512 past Lanseria, cross over the open Hartbeespoort bridge and follow the route markers to The Elephant Sanctuary.
useful contacts The Elephant Sanctuary 012 258 9904 / 9905 or visit elephantsanctuary.co.za; Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary 012 258 9904, 071 172 6965 or visit monkeysanctuary.co.za
 
Jewel of the Vaal
On the banks of the Vaal River lies Emerald Resort & Casino, a one-stop fun destination offering animal interaction, water fun, gaming and restaurants. Start the day with a visit to Animal World where children can interact with farm animals such as rabbits and tortoises. They will be itching to get to the Aquadome, an indoor wonderland with a number of heated pools and water slides. Parents can relax, knowing that lifeguards are on duty to keep little bodies safe. Once you’ve grown “duck feet” and feel like some dry land, you can head out to the tenpin bowling alleys, try your hand at adventure golf or climb a rock wall. You can also take your pick of several great restaurants where you can relax. Breeze is very child-friendly and has a fantastic outdoor section for children.
 
route info Take either the N1 or N12 towards Vereeniging and turn off onto the R42. Follow the signs to Emerald Casino.
 
useful contacts Emerald Resort & Casino 016 982 8000 or visit emeraldcasino.co.za
 
Stop and Smell the Roses
Head out of Johannesburg towards Pretoria, where a well-kept secret awaits you. Ludwig’s Roses Farm is home to the largest selection of rose varieties in the world. Visit the coffee shop for delicious rose-shaped scones and rose-petal jam and a rose-flavoured smoothie. Don’t worry about the little ones getting bored – the outdoor playground, complete with merry-go-round, a doll’s house and jungle gyms, should keep them entertained.
 
Leaving the farm behind and venturing further out of Pretoria along the N1 towards The Carousel, you’ll find another gem, Mystic Monkeys & Feathers Wildlife Park, which is set in beautiful gardens with water features and koi ponds. Among the hundreds of different species that call this park home, you can see white lions and cheetahs, as well as exotic creatures such as tigers, macaws and lemurs.
 
route info The best route is to follow the N1 in and out of Johannesburg.
useful contacts Ludwig’s Roses 012 544 0144 or visit ludwigsroses.co.za; Mystic Monkeys & Feathers Wildlife Park 082 566 4929 or visit mysticmonkeys.co.za
 
When Men and Mountains Meet
Nestled in the Magaliesberg lies a hidden and unspoilt reminder of millions of years of the earth’s history. Mountain Sanctuary Park is just over an hour away from Johannesburg and Pretoria, but when you enter the gates you’ll feel as if you’re hundreds of kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can enjoy scenic hikes through the imposing crags and crevices, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot duikers and tree agamas, a large and brightly coloured lizard. Not far from the main rest camp is a series of rock pools that the children will love splashing about in. Older children can join you for a walk to the natural rock pool and waterfall hidden between the crags, where you can watch the platanna frogs in the water. On a really hot day you can take a refreshing shower in the cave under the waterfall. The reserve also has a swimming pool and deck with breathtaking views across the mountains. Take a picnic basket or braai meat and salads for a real South African meal in a mountain sanctuary.
 
route info Travel past Lanseria towards Hartbeespoort Dam and then head out towards Brits/Sun City. Follow the directions towards Maanhaarrand, which will take you on tar roads and a few graded dirt roads. If you’ve got a 4x4 there’s a much quicker route over Breedt’s Nek Pass, which is very bumpy and the road is quite technical, but it’s lots of fun. Visit the reserve’s website for detailed directions for both routes.

useful contacts Mountain Sanctuary Park 014 534 0114 or 082 707 5538 or visit mountain-sanctuary.co.za 

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