We wanted a different getaway, a place warm enough to ignore the outdoor chill of spring, with a drive of sufficient distance from Cape Town to remind us that we had escaped urban life for three days and two nights. Tree Tops near Citrusdal ticked the boxes.
It wasn’t easy finding September weekend accommodation near Citrusdal. Only two hours from Cape Town, this is citrus country, and it’s surprisingly popular for mountain bike races and company retreats. Spring probably increased the appeal of the area, as the wild flowers were out in force once we detoured.
The Baths is an outdoor resort with hot springs that date to Victorian times. Their numerous affordable self-catering options were full – we were advised to book their weekend accommodation two months in advance.
Luckily we heard about treehouses overlooking the river at a farm, 9km along a gravel road from The Baths, and booked the last one. The location was tranquil and beautiful. Tree Tops is what I’d describe as a decent glamping option – something in between self-catering and luxury camping. It’s privately owned and well equipped, but we didn’t know to what extent. The email from the owner provided a map, and only instructed us to bring towels and food. Firewood was available for R20 a bag.
In fact each treehouse has a double bed, reasonable quality linen, a bar fridge, kettle, and glasses and mugs for two. A table and two chairs on the balcony, a small basin, and a tiny electric fan, were also standard. One bigger treehouse also had basic cooking facilities and a fireplace inside, so if you’re looking for solitude, that’s the one to request (we never saw the couple staying for a night, only their parked car).
The communal toilets had separate shower rooms. They were all clean and linked to the treehouses via a wooden bridge. The showers were hot, but you need to take your own soap and two-ply.
A stone kitchen on the lawns was well equipped with a communal fridge, a couple of two-plate stoves, and a cupboard for each treehouse – containing two sets of plates and cutlery, pots, wine glasses and even a waiter’s friend. The only drawback is that if all treehouses are occupied, you need to request extra bits and pieces for any children. We’d already called the owner on arrival, after requesting extra bedding for a five-year-old, and finding only a bare mattress in our room.
The communal braai area facing the river has its own grid and a few seats, and makes a lovely sunset or breakfast spot. Two smaller braais are available if you don’t fancy being sociable.
Which is obviously a consideration. We were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves on the Friday night. On the second night we shared a fire and a chat with a young apple farmer and his girlfriend, before moving to our treehouse balcony with our bottle of wine, when our son wanted to go to sleep. Tree Tops is designed more for couples than families, and huts are close enough to each other to necessitate keeping your voices down when moving around.
If I returned I’d probably book it with two other families, and take over a few treehouses. Your kids need to be old enough to share a double bed – with a sibling or friend – in a separate treehouse though, as you won’t fit more than one young child on the floor. The treehouses are close enough for adjacent occupants to call to each other, but they’re suspended on stilts some distance from the kitchen and braai area – so something to keep in mind, as most young urbanites struggle to sleep near night-time crickets and chatty morning birds.
But that’s part of the appeal that makes it so worth doing. It’s quiet, you’re in nature, the views are lovely, and the two-man canoes are tied to the riverbank for anybody to use. We had great fun tackling the beer-coloured Olifants River with our paddles every morning. We also spent a day at The Baths as day visitors, alternating between the bathtub-heat of the hot springs and the icy regular swimming pool.
TREE TOPS, Citrusdal. Adults R650 for two a night; children R120 per night.
Tel 022-921-2474 or 071-681-3871, Tree Tops