We’re almost midway through January. At this stage of the game you’re likely tired of festive season family obligations and crowded beach resorts. The romantic month of February is just around the corner and provides the ideal opportunity to make time for that special someone. Yet, your finances might be so depleted that you can hardly fathom another vacation.

Excuses for postponing a romantic escape might include a spent budget after the holidays, a heavy workload anticipated for the next few weeks, or a friend’s wedding next month … Before you know it the perfect chance for a breather has slipped by unnoticed.

Life together is short and we don’t want you to regret all the Valentine’s  Days you didn’t celebrate. Therefore TravelGround compiled a list of stays for a quick, affordable break from the city to make life just a tad easier.

Arpa Guest Farm, Fouriesburg ─ 3 hours from Johannesburg

If you’re feeling trapped between Gauteng’s concrete walls, head to the Free State’s countryside where farm life blends with bushveld, heavenly nature and mountainous landscapes.

The units and campsite at Arpa Guest Farm are all close to the dam, offering 180-degree views of the surrounding mountains. Go for a hike, try your luck at fishing, or count the stars. You can even arrange to bring your pet along if Fluffy needs some fresh air just as much as you do.

A generator, batteries and donkey boiler provide in all your electricity and hot water needs. Remember to bring your own bedding and be prepared for the Free State’s icy winters. Luckily there’s a fireplace, as well as an indoor and outdoor braai, to the rescue.

Waterval Gasteplaas, Steynsrus ─ 2 hours 40 minutes from Johannesburg

Also on a farm, a bit closer to Johannesburg, these quaint old-world stone cottages on the banks of the Vals River are bound to steal your heart. All the necessary self-catering facilities are there, but you can also take a break from cooking and arrange for breakfast and dinner to be provided.

There’s no electricity, only solar panels for light and candles for romantic evenings. But before darkness sets in, you can marvel at the sunset from the river bank with a sundowner next to your favourite person in the world.

Explore the area by foot, go mountain biking or canoeing, and keep an eye out for blesbuck, ostriches and more than 300 bird species found on the farm. Oh, and bring your fishing rod as there are carp, yellowfish, barbel and onderbek just waiting to be caught.

Cedarberg Guest Farm, Southern Drakensberg ─ 4 hours from Durban

Cedarberg Guest Farm is in a relatively undiscovered part of the Eastern Cape known as Griqualand East, between Kokstad and Matatiele. Its mountainous location at the foot of the Drakensberg lends itself to occasional snow in winter — a season best spent around the fireplace in Cedarberg’s cosy farmhouse.

It might be quite a fun exercise to see how many of these game on the farm you can tick off the list: red hartebeest, zebra, blesbuck, common reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, grey duiker, as well as the endangered Oribi. The longer you stay, the more you’ll see!

Take note that the main guest farm is accessible with a normal vehicle via gravel road, but that the last 1 km to the farmhouse calls for a high clearance vehicle.

Oude Werf Cottage and Camping, Swellendam ─ 2 hours 30 minutes from Cape Town

For Capetonians, Oude Werf Cottage and Camping right next to the R60 is well within reach. It’s also close to Swellendam where visitors can indulge in all of this quaint town’s touristy offerings ─ not that you’ll need it. The farm cottage is so well equipped that you won’t have to set foot off the farm for the entire weekend. All you need is food and clothes ─ the sights and sounds of the farm and the mountain as backdrop to your intimate braai on the patio will do the rest.

Boesmanskloof Onverwacht Flora, McGregor ─ 2 hours 30 minutes from Cape Town

Up the mountain you go to discover the spectacular floral paradise that is Boesmanskloof Onverwacht Flora. With a location like this it’s actually quite surprising that the stone cottages come equipped with electricity. The Blushing Bride Cottage is the one most ideal for a couple, complete with a fireplace aptly situated right in front of the bed.

Adventure awaits with plenty a hiking trail through fynbos and past rock pools. Expect early morning coffee with views of the sunrise, and tired muscles in the evenings that make you feel accomplished while gazing upon the sunset.

The gravel road to Boesmanskloof Onverwacht Flora could test your wits, but hey, we’ve got a better idea: Why not embark on a proper adventure and reach Onverwacht via the Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail from Greyton? This will make the final destination even more worth it.

Erika B, a former guest, painted the scene so well with her words in this review:

The stone cottages with its countryside decor, hospitality of the hosts, hiking trails through the fynbos, wildlife like chameleons, rock lizards, so many insects, and bucks grazing on the premises, mountain pools, navigating your way up steep inclines and down slippery declines, starry skies at night, misty gorges ─ everything makes this an experience words simply can’t describe.

Forest Harmony, Knysna ─ 2 hours 50 minutes from Port Elizabeth

Going off the grid is particularly special when combined with the smells of the forest. The hosts at Forest Harmony have created a way of life in harmony with nature. They live in their own tent and are now sharing the joys and wisdoms of this lifestyle with guests.

Choose between a tipi tent or a geodesic dome tent for your romantic adventure. One of the tipi tents boasts a deck with a view of the Knysna River, and the dome tent has its own fireplace.

Shared ablutions consist of compost toilets, a solar shower, and the highlight at Forest Harmony — an outdoor bath with water heated by fire.

The Willows Resort & Conference Centre ─ 30 minutes outside central Port Elizabeth

The scenic Sunshine Coast is your front yard at The Willows Resort & Conference Centre just outside Port Elizabeth, with its quaint thatched rondavels that add heaps of character. The beach just a few metres from your doorstep, great fishing opportunities, rock pools, tidal pools and the enchanting rocky outcrops are sure to keep you occupied for a few days or more.

That’s it from us. We hope this gives you some food for thought. But even if a quick romantic escape is not yet in the pipeline, we hope our list provides much needed inspiration to hang in there until the day comes that you can also say: “Let’s get out of here!”.

Feature image: Oude Werf Cottage and Camping (TravelGround.com)