Hunter’s Country House stands in a private estate on South Africa’s Garden Route…
Hunters Country House: Our full report
Hunter’s Country House is set in extensive gardens on a private estate between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, on South Africa's Garden Route. Originally a homestead called Pear Tree Farm, it became a B&B and progressed to open as one of the area’s first luxury lodges. Now Hunter’s Country House is a comfortable and luxurious lodge and is still privately owned by the Hunter family.
It all began when Craig and Jill Hunter wanted to escape from city life in Johannesburg with their family. They came to the area on a business trip, and ended up buying the ‘beautiful thatched cottage’ at Pear Tree Farm for their home in 1979. At that time, water had to be pumped from the river and electricity came from an old hand-cranked diesel generator.
A few years later, when their children had left home, they started a B&B, letting out rooms to visitors. Then, a decade later, they scaled this up and Hunter’s Country House was born, opening in 1989. One of Expert Africa’s team first visited Hunter’s around 1995; he was impressed by its quality levels and as early as 1996 Hunter’s Country House picked up South Africa’s “Hotel of the Year" award.
These days, Hunter’s stands within a large, gated estate, which it shares with its even smarter sister-camp, Tsala Treetop Lodge and also Zinzi, a top-notch, cutting edge restaurant. Around each of these are plenty of lawns and landscaped gardens, and beyond those the estate is forested.
The Hunter’s Country House has 21 thatched suites:
- The lowest cost rooms at Hunter’s are their garden suites.
Each of these suites at Hunter’s is air conditioned and has its own en-suite bathroom with separate bath and shower; a stocked mini-bar/fridge; tea/coffee making facilities, including a Nespresso coffee maker; a television with some satellite channels; a small digital safe and a telephone. They all have private patios, tables and chairs in the gardens and fireplaces inside, where log fires are particularly welcome in the winter.
- The family suites have all the comforts and services of garden suites but each of these has also two spacious bedrooms, each with its own bathroom (and each bathroom has a bidet). Outside the patio has sun loungers and a parasol.
- The deluxe pool suites have a single, larger bedrooms, a separate dressing room and a bathroom with twin basins, heated towel roll and an outdoor shower. Each of these also has a separate lounge and dining area with a flat screen TV, and a private pool outside.
- The master suites have the comforts and amenities of deluxe pool suites but consist of two suites which have interleading doors and so can be used as one house. It's a house of its own with a lounge area, two fireplaces, a thatched gazebo and a private pool.
Outside is a large outdoor pool set in lush gardens with shaded sun loungers, which can be used by all guests. There's no spa, but pampering treatments such as hot stone massages, aromatherapies and reflexology, can be arranged in the privacy of your room.
The Country House is particularly well set up for a family holiday. It has a play area (which is sometimes supervised) for children called ‘Cubs Corner’, with a very well organized set of toys and games, plus a paddling pool and a shaded sandpit. Baby-sitting can be organised on request.
On a different note, the “Chapel in the Forest", built in mid 1997, is a beautiful Chapel, which is used for worship, christenings, weddings and study groups.
When we last visited Hunter’s in May 2014, dining in the evening was in the Manor House – where white-clad tables were dotted discretely around a formal room with high ceilings. See below for comments on the menu; in summary the food was truly excellent, but the service was very slow. The lodge boasts also an extensive wine cellar.
There are lots of activities to do, both on the lodge's estate and in the nearby area around Plettenberg Bay.
Within the lush gardens, the lodge’s team can arrange romantic picnics, whilst there’s also enough space – including forests and a lake or two – to simply ramble for a few hours.
In the local area activities are offered by many companies, including horse riding through the forest and hills mountain biking and a variety of animal and bird sanctuaries. (NB: It’s essential that you read the Quadbike warning in the ‘Health & Safety’ section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)
Alternatively for those who simply want to relax, there are different beaches, for example Keurbooms Beach, near the lagoon, where it’s possible to sail, surf and boat trip or cruises aboard a catamaran in the lagoon. Especially in summer, in some areas, you can spot whales, dolphin and seals. Other activities in the area include treetop canopy tour, bungee jumping, sky and shark cage diving.
Our viewHunter’s County House offers high quality accommodation with luxurious suites and extensive and beautiful surroundings. The lodge has many services and facilities, and caters particularly well for families – although couples seeking privacy will also be happy. It’s in an excellent base for exploring the Plettenberg Bay area of the Garden Route, with its many activities.
Ideal length of stay: Typically 3 - 4 nights is ideal here, although it’d be a good spot to relax for longer.
Directions: 10km from Plettenberg Bay and 22km from Knysna along the main N2 road.
Accessible by: Self-drive
Owner: Hunters Country House is owned by Hunter Hotels.
Staff: The general manager is Inge Johansen. Hunters' executive chef is Carmen Truter.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: At Hunter’s Country House breakfasts are usually served in the sunny glass conservatory and light lunches are served in the dining room or on the lawns. Hunter’s kitchen will usually adapt very well to any guests’ dietary requirements.
The dinner menu during our stay in May 2014 featured a couple of choices of starter, main and desert. Expect starters like smoked venison carpaccio served with slow-roasted tomatoes, toasted cashew nuts, caramelized onions in a balsamic reduction, or cream of butternut soup served with toasted ciabatta.
Main courses might include dishes like roasted chicken breast served with Mediterranean vegetables, olive tapende and sun-drive tomatoes, or grilled line-fish served with roasted fenugreek and onion masala potatoes, pickled green beans and a spiced dressing.
Typical sweets are chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, or strawberry shortcake served with fresh berries, berry compote and Chantilly cream.
Here children can have a different menu, the Hungry Club menu, divided into meat, pasta, vegetables and fish. It includes omelets; two different type of pasta with three options for sauces; fish and chips; as well as chicken, beef with vegetable dishes of the day.
In our experience, the food was absolutely first class, but the service was exceptionally slow – especially given the relatively small number of fellow diners around at the time.
Within Hunters' Estate, perhaps 500m from the country house, is the top-end ZINZI restaurant, which is open to the public. ZINZI's executive chef, Carmen Truter, offers different choices including seasonal products. ZINZI serves a weekly changing menu of South African dishes, mixed with international trends and guest can choose among a la carte menu items.
ZINZI serves dinner all year, but lunch only during the busier months. Food at this very trendy restaurant is of exceptionally high standard – and dinner here was the best that one of our team had during two weeks in the Cape.
The Conservatory at Hunters offers breakfast with a selection of tasty treats, such as half a dozen cereals, plus various seeds and flakes to add in, smoked salmon, salami, ham, plate of local cheeses and some freshly cut fruits – raspberries, strawberries grapes, reasonable croissants. Breakfast is served in the Conservatory between 07h30 and 10h30 as a buffet and or as individual tables.
Picnics are also available but only on request.
A light á la carte lunch menu is served in the Outdoor Tented Lounge between noon and 2p.m.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Family holidays: For a family holiday in South Africa, the Country House on Hunter’s estate offers a very safe and relaxed environment. There’s an enormous amount of outdoor space, a first-class play area for younger children, and particularly good family rooms.See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Hunters Country House.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: At The Country House are two areas – which can be supervised throughout the day - for children, the “Cub’s Corner" and 'Teen Scene room'. The Cub’s Corner is for the younger children (0-6) and it’s a designated area with a small peddling pool, climbing frames, sand pit and the ‘Clubhouse’, filled with videos, books, toys, games, where they can watch videos, paint, draw and play games. Teen Scene is for the older children and is an area where they can play darts, pool, watch DVD’s and relax.
Equipment: Cots are available on request.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: The Family suites have enough space for a single bed, and a sleeper sofa to accommodate two children, plus a cot for infants (on request). Hunter’s can offers babysitting in the suites but need to be booked before noon and are usually by one of the house-keeping team, rather than a fully-qualified child-minder. Costs for this are extra, but when we last visited in 2014 they were very reasonable – around R75 per hour (£4.25 / US$7.00).
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: Wifi is in the central area, but not yet in the rooms.
Water supply: Mains
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Medical care: A fully stocked first aid kit is available and at the Hotel are trained facilitators amongst the staff.
Quadbike warning: quad-biking is sometimes available as an activity in this area. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it’s vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Hunter’s estate is gated and manned by security guards 24-hours per day.
Fire safety: Extinguishers are in all rooms
Laundry facilities: Pressing, mending and laundry are available. The laundry is off the premises and is not available on weekends or public holidays; it is outsourced and the hotel takes no responsibility for loss or damage. All articles of clothing are collected before 10h00 in the morning and they will only be ready the following day.
Money: Hunter’s Country House is not permitted to change foreign currency but guests can however pay in a foreign currency.
Accepted payment on location: The Hotel accepts Cash, Visa, MasterCard American Express, Diners card and it’s possible to add a commission fee onto the account for traveller’s Cheques of foreign currency.