Yes, our Neighbourhood Stories blog aims to deliver the latest happenings in West London, but we thought we would give you something a little different. Still keeping it local, we took the time to ask the Domus Nova team what their dream holiday would be. The common theme turned out to be something slightly off the beaten track, offering a bit more than just a week in the Med, with the great 'road trip' being the most favoured. It's hardly a surprise given that most of the Domus Nova team are near-obsessed with cars or bikes and would happily spend days upon end hitting the tarmac. And so, we thought it apt to devote this feature to the rides of your life – whether on four wheels or two, and whether South Africa, Australia or the U.S.. We're also never ones to shy away from indulgence and so we’ve included some of the best places to stay along the way too. Further to the beautiful and wonderful places listed in the travel pages of Domus Life Summer 2013, the below gives an extended and more definitive guide of the areas, so that you’ll be booking even quicker. Ready, set, go!
CAR: THE GARDEN ROUTE (ROUTE 62), SOUTH AFRICA
If variety is the spice of life, this stretch of South Africa has to be one of the spiciest and tastiest parts of the world. The Garden Route offers a mesmerising journey from Cape Town past Stellenbosch and the Winelands down to the coast, where it passes through Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay to Stormsriver. It’s a feast of beauty, with rolling vineyards for starters, wide white beaches for mains and milky lagoons for dessert. We guide you through this trip by splitting it into three parts; our suggestion is to devote seven days to each so you can well and truly lap up this gorgeous landscape.
PART 1: Cape Town – Montagu (200m)
Start in Cape Town, one of the world’s most iconic cities, that’s as creative as it is aspiring. The architecture and style is sophisticated, with influences of Dutch and English occupations. It’s incredibly beautiful, given a startling landscape of mountains, valleys, beaches, forests, winelands and wheatlands. Then, you have the weather which boasts some of the best climes in the world. Knock jet lag on its head and settle into Ellerman House, an elegant Cape Edwardian mansion-turned-hotel, that’s as famous for its luxury as for its location. Once a stately home of distinguished shipping magnates, the now privately owned Ellerman House sits perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in the prestigious Bantry Bay. Known for the most spectacular ocean views in South Africa, the grounds offer shaded verandas, tiered gardens, beautiful interiors, an extensive pool and celebrated art collections to make you go green with envy. There are eleven rooms, two suites and a private villa; no two rooms are alike, having all been designed in their own unique way. Or, you may choose to opt for Kensington Place, which is Cape Town’s original boutique bolthole, located on the slopes of Table Mountain. It's a stroll from all the action and a drive from amazing beaches. Discerning urbanites after a cool city break benefit from its Kloof Street position, but it's removed enough to allow them to enjoy some romance and R&R. In addition to the hotel’s design appeal, superb service makes this sanctuary special, along with little extras such as free champagne and oysters.
After a few days in Cape Town, travel to Paarl which is only 50 minutes away but definitely worth it. It's one of the oldest settlements in the country, located close to other winelands including Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, offering charm and heritage. Stop by Grande Roche, a small luxury hotel situated on De Nieuwe Plantatie farmsite, within which is Bosman’s Restaurant, voted one of South Africa’s top ten - take our word for it, the food is incredible! Feast on prawn carpaccio, freshly-caught Franschhoek salmon trout and caramelized chocolate mousse - our favourites on the menu. If you've got time to spare, we would definitely advise that you take a moment to unwind at the spa at Cascade Country Manor; a sensational wellness retreat where, in their own words, you can "relax to the soothing sounds of nature and immerse yourself in a sensory experience that will refresh and reinvigorate you" - beaut!
Next up, you'll travel by the Bainskloof Pass, an 18-mile route and one of the most pituresque passes in the Cape, where plantations, mountains, waterfalls and wild flowers surround. Nearby is the historic town of Tulbagh, with a wealth of Cape Dutch architecture - stay overnight to go to and from various lush vineyards. Our pick includes Manley Wine Lodge, Drostdy-Hof, House of Krone and Montpellier. After all that wine, Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve in the Swartruggens region (a south easterly extension of the Cederberg Mountains), for a wilderness experience like no other. Close to the town of Ceres, Kagga Kamma is a retreat literally set within rock formations. There are ten ‘cave’ rooms and five thatched rondavels, which all blend in seamlessly with the sandstone rock. The views here are amazing, where you can enjoy sundowners on your own private terrace. Kagga-Kamma is an ideal safari add-on to this trip, to see animals including zebra, antelope and leopards. From Kagga-Kamma, travel through the characterful towns of Worcester and Robertson - definitely stop by Opstal Estate & Restaurant for a leisurely lunch and some out-of-this-world views - wow. You can get some home comforts too at Olive Bar at The Olivae Estate, for some damn good sushi to satiate your taste buds. Montagu is your next town, which is considered to the heart of Route 62, famous for its heritage in brandy making, it’s wine and fruit, mountains and hot springs.
PART 2: Montagu – Mossel Bay (138m)
About thirty miles from Montagu is Swellendam, where five-star guesthouse De Kloof awaits. Like a hidden treasure, De Kloof lies in a secluded green valley of manicured grounds and secret woodland. The manor house itself is extraordinary - a perfectly preserved masterpiece built in 1801 - and is one of the oldest buildings & landmarks in town. It is declared as a South African national monument and restored to the highest perfection, the manor house has still its orginal floors & ceilings and the famous thick white washed walls. Main courtyards are surrounded by indigenous trees & old oaks, with lush gardens. The buildings severe architecture was the starting point for the interior which is characterised by a sober uncluttered bold frame. It can be described as modern colonial chic with contemporary edge & french flair. It is paying homage to an era of timeless elegance in architecture and the estate resonates with its owners honest approach to life and design.
From Swellendam, travel the Tradouw Pass to towns including Barrydale, Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. In Oudtshoorn, visit the Cango Caves and the Cheetah Wildlife Ranch, or simply relax soaking up the beautiful surroundings. Rietfontein Ostrich Palace operates as a working ostrich farm and also guesthouse; stay here for a unique experience. Though the route naturally leans inland towards Plettenberg Bay, a trip to Mossel Bay is a must, and so adapt the route here to head due south and work the coastline up until Port Elizabeth. Mossel Bay is a harbour town with more than 60km of beaches; after all that driving, we advise you to do nothing more than kick back and soak up those rays. Restaurants here serve an abundance of fresh fish and so spend evenings sampling the local restaurants – Stonehill was one of our favourites. For a place to stay, African Oceans is positioned virtually on the shoreline, where suites have their own terraces that suspend almost over the water.
PART 3: Mossel Bay – Port Elizabeth (228m)
Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay won’t take more than two hours, but given how spectacular this stretch is, prolong your time here. You’ll pass through the coastal towns of Wilderness and Knysna, known for their long white sands and beach lagoons. One of the final stops is Plettenberg Bay where you must stay at Grand Africa hotel; if ever ‘bliss’ was personified, this is it. Condé Nast Traveller award-winner, the hotel has only seven rooms and is undoubtedly intimate. While it was also recipient for Top 20 Culinary Destinations and Best Café Style Dining in the Garden Route, for the Leopard Café. With only seven rooms, it’s definitely intimate, but that’s what adds to its already boutique and charming feel. All rooms have access to a terrace, which overlook what’s perhaps the most beautiful bay in Africa. The area itself is a South Africa must-see with luscious rainforests, sublime sunsets, Robberg Nature Reserve, whale watching, Formosa Peak and some of the best gourmet around.
The 143 miles of coastline left will take you through Tsitsikamma National Park, and the towns of St Francis Bay and Jeffreys Bay. In St Francis Bay, we beg you to stop by at Five Elements Restaurant, which graces a ten-hectare vineyard (and olive orchards), which is expansive with an open-air layout and doors that allow guests to absorb the refreshing ocean breezes and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature. Definitely book in advance, you don't want to miss out on the grilled kingklip or bourbon steak. Finally, the route comes to an end at Port Elizabeth, where you may journey back to Cape Town or travel to Johannesburg. Either way, find time to explore Port Elizabeth, South Africa’s third-largest city, offering a unique insight into the Eastern Cape. Rest up at Hitgeheim Country Lodge & Eco Reserve; though 44 miles east of Port Elizabeth, it gives the chance to embrace the wilderness and land. The perfect spot to prepare for that long journey back.
BIKE – THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD, AUSTRALIA
Don’t rush this one, take your time… Stretching between Torquay and Warrnambool, the route is becoming one of Australia’s top destinations, wooing 2 million visitors a year. Add to the equation the famous Twelve Apostles limestone stacks, of which only eight remain due to erosion, and its a must now. This route is great on bike, given the roads, distance and climate. The gradient is medium, so a challenge for most but can be completed by all. We’re starting from Adelaide and finishing in Melbourne, to fit in two of Australia’s most vibrant cities.
PART 1: Adelaide – Portland (272m)
Oh Adelaide, we do love you. Often overshadowed by Australia’s other heavyweights, Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide acts as the country’s wine capital, with an impressive live music and arts scene, spectacular colonial architecture and parklands. For your first days, find your roots and soak up the city. At night, escape to Stirling in the Adelaide Hills, where you’ll find Thorngrove Manor, a quintessential hilltop escape, with unique architecture, captivating style and contemporary influence. Castle-inspired towers and fantasy turrets are clues to its flamboyant interior. In the months leading up to autumn, the setting is mesmerising.
Wake up refreshed and go along Crafters Cycle Path, past towns including Aldgate, Bridgewater and Hahndorf, until you get to Mount Barker for views of Australia’s rolling countryside. Though many reach the coast by Princes Highway, we recommend you cut south here via the Fleurieu Peninsula and one of the coolest retreats ever, Birk’s Harbour in Goowla. It was established by Napier Birks, who in 1910 built his own private marina and slipway on the Murray River. The retreat includes three individual ‘boathouses’, built literally on the water with their own private terraces, surrounded by Eucalyptus trees. You can hear the kookaburras already! For food, Kingsbrook Winery is divine.
The next 212 miles take you inland, around Lake Alexandrina and then back towards the coast. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and ‘ozzie pubs’ along the way to rest your feet and tyres. As soon as you see ocean, you’re in Coorong National Park. Stretching over 80 miles, the park features a string of saltwater lagoons and incredible Australian wildlife and nature. Drop by Kingston and visit the historic Cape Jaffa lighthouse, then arrive at seaside town Robe, where you’ll find Honeyfield House – a stunning ‘shabby chic’ house that combines French country style and Mediterranean living, surrounded by wineries and olive trees.
PART 2: Portland – Lavers Hill (290m)
Start early as you have an 83-mile trip ahead which takes you to Mount Gambier. Described as the city of ‘craters, lakes and caves’, it was built on the slopes of an extinct volcano with crater lakes such as Blue Lake, which turn a vivid turquoise from November to February. The journey from Mount Gambier to Portland is only 65 miles, yet unbelievably beautiful as you pass Cape Nelson State Park and Cape Bridgewater. Stop at The Pickled Pelican or Lido Larder for a bite to eat. Around the bay, you will reach the town of Port Fairy, with old whitewashed cottages and Georgian- style homes. Oscars still is and will forever be one of our favourite places to stay.
After a day on the bike, you'll get to Warrnambool, where if you’re lucky you may spot some Southern Right whales off Logan Beach, while continue along Shipwreck Coast (named after wild seas that once sent 700 ships crashing into the rocks) to spend the night at The Gallery apartments. Get ready for the best bit; the next stretch curves around the coast where you will meet the town of Port Campbell; then, after seven miles, you will finally see the craggy limestone towers of the Twelve&n