Get out – outdoor jaunts in urban Jozi

Walter Sisulu Gardens

Picture from Martin Heigan

Energetic city slickers looking to stretch their legs and enjoy fresh air and green spaces needn’t trek far when looking for Johannesburg outdoor and nature activities.

Start with a gentle stroll in the heart of Jo’burg, on a visit to Brenthurst Estate. Since 1920, this green sanctuary is the family residence of the Oppenheimer mining magnate dynasty. Six themed gardens, including the only formal Japanese garden in Jo’burg, sprawl across the 16ha organically managed estate filled with indigenous and endemic plants. A 2.5 hour tour costs R50.00 per person (booking essential), and from blue-rinsed dowagers to iPad hipsters come here for botanical therapy and cream teas (Tel: +27 (0)11 646 1529|4122).

North west of Jo’burg, the 110 ha Kloofendal Nature Reserve is ideal for a quick outdoor amble, with easy hiking trails ranging from 30 minute walks to 2 hour rambles. Guided walks (geologically the area is of interest) – can be arranged, and there’s a dam with picnic sites and a bird hide.

South of the city, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve has some of the best nature walks in Johannesburg. At 68ha, it’s the largest proclaimed nature reserve in the Johannesburg Metropolitan area, and has 170 species of birds, small mammals, large antelope, and sites of geological and archaeological interest. Six trails, lasting from 2 hours (easy walk) to a full day 8-hour hike are possible. Bi-monthly guided walks lasting 3 hours are popular, and horse trails through the reserve can be arranged. Klipriviersberg is ‘proper’ wilderness, so bring everything you’ll need to hike including a mobile phone in case of emergency.

Voted Jozi’s favourite picnic spot for the last 5 years, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardenis a perennially popular place for outdoor activities in Johannesburg. Famous for its waterfall, pair of breeding Verreaux (Black) eagles, and Sunday music concerts, it’s really a place to kick-back and just chill out in natural surrounds. Saunter through the indigenous and succulent gardens, or hike up and around the Witpoortjie waterfall and the surrounding escarpment – an energetic walk of about 2-3 hours. More than enough activity to justify a few frosties under the trees, or lunch at the Eagles Fare restaurant, afterwards.  

Hike your mental and physical activity levels as you problem-solve your way through 6 different mazes at A-maize-ing Mazesin Honeydew, north west of Jozi. Even hardened couch potatoes will be glad they ditched the sofa for the fun, family-friendly outdoor activities on offer here. Open during the school holidays (June – July) team-up for the 90-minute Elemental reed-maze that requires you to think on your feet to find 5 secret gardens. Race the kids through rope and maize mazes, or pit your wits against the Fraylinia maze – maddening fun as you try to navigate dozens of dead-ends to find the way out.

If the thought of physical exertion is just too revolting for words, try the meditative labyrinth, complete with sundial and pink crystals where you can contemplate the universe, or your navel, whichever most appeals.

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