Wandering off the beaten track

by Dane Forman

Life gets busy. The daily grind. The weekly commute. The endless list of month to month bills. Before we know it, the year is over in what seems like an unbridled rollercoaster ride of highs, lows and occasional tumble turns.

It’s time to crawl out of the cyclonic chaos of the daily and enjoy some time with the ones we love. Step off the treadmill. Take your foot off the gas. Get #OffTheBeatenTrack.

The good news is that a little down time doesn’t have to come with overseas travels and an obscenely large travel bill. It can be an impromptu weekend away in your back garden.

And that is exactly what Protea Hotel by Marriott Hilton provided for my family and friends on a recent weekend away.


Nestled at the start of the Midlands Meander in Central KwaZulu-Natal, Protea Hotel by Marriott Hilton is a throwback to the class and service of a bygone era. The original Tudor-style built in 1936 was home away from home and provided the perfect backdrop to enjoy a weekend of easy-paced living. The friendly and welcoming staff exceeded our expectations and took care of our VERY busy toddlers with total ease.


The hotel boasts a ton of on-site facilities, but its location is everything. Situated just outside the quaint town of Hilton, it is the perfect rest stop for solo travelers, couples and families. Kickstart your day off with an early morning run into Hilton or spend your afternoon relaxing on the sun lounges by the pool.

Now that you’re settled in, it’s time to get out and start exploring. The KZN Midlands is right on your doorstep and full of quaint and quirky spaces to tease out the curious explorer in you.

Here are some of my suggestions for a weekend away:


Blueberry Cafe at Netherwood:

Sporting one of the best vantage points in the Midlands, Blueberry Cafe has a menu to match jaw-dropping views. Perfect for breakfasts and lunches, this Nottingham Road gem is a perfect mix of good food, great coffee and some fantastic Midlands shopping. Be sure to try their blueberry cheesecake. I’m quite convinced it has magical powers.

Terbodore Coffee Roasters:

Relax under the trees at this fantastic Midlands retreat and enjoy a cup of their home-roasted coffee goodness. The Terbodore restaurant has a great breakfast and lunch menu with plenty of space for the kids to run free. Their Great Danes are part of the family and roam the grounds freely, so don’t be alarmed at the sight of the horse-sized canines. They’re quite friendly and very relaxed.

Artisan Pizza in Hilton:

Somewhat of a hidden gem but probably the best pizza I’ve had in KZN. Great for an early dinner or take away, but call for a booking beforehand. Weekends can get busy.


Beer tasting at Rawdons:

One of the oldest pubs in the area, Rawdons has a great selection of craft beers that are brewed on site at The Nottingham Road Brewery. Somewhat of an institution, Rawdons caters for everyone, from singles through to large travelling groups. A visit to the Midlands isn’t complete without a sneaky stop at The Boars Head Pub at Rawdons.

Sundowners at Happy Days Brewery at Netherwood:

It’s the new kid on the block, but it hasn’t taken Happy Days Brewery long to get the attention of travellers in the Midlands. Stunning views of rolling Midlands hills with the Drakensberg Mountains looking on from a distance is the backdrop for your afternoon drinks. Dive into one of their locally made beers or G&Ts, grab a few pillows and relax on the lawns as you take in what is quite possibly the best sundowner spot in the Midlands.


Visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site:

In 1962 on this quiet road, in this unassuming place, one of the most dramatic scenes in South African history unfolded: the capture of the great Nelson Mandela by apartheid police. Walk the footsteps of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century and recall historic moments on his long walk to freedom. A very moving space.

Karkloof Canopy Tours:

If adrenaline is your thing and you don’t have an issue with heights, then ziplining through the trees in Karkloof will be right up your alley. Explore these dense indigenous forests in a one-of-a-kind way: suspended in a harness far above the forest floor and travelling at speeds that will make you feel like you are part of the local birdlife. A great day out for the adventurous.

Cycles around Midmar Dam:

Best known for its boating, watersports and the world’s largest open water swim, The Midmar Mile, Midmar Dam is located a short 20 minutes from Protea Hotel by Marriott Hilton. Perfect for lazy days spent picnicking and swimming, Midmar has something for everyone. If you’re not the swimming type, grab your bicycle and explore the winding roads around the dam. Best done early in the morning, it is the perfect way to immerse yourself in this tranquil space.

Protea Hotels by Marriott is giving you the chance to grab hold of your own #OffTheBeatenTrack holiday this summer with up to 20% off your hotel stay. View this offer.