When the pressures of everyday life in the city get too much, the Riverside Sun in Vanderbijlpark, a 45-minute drive south of Johannesburg, makes for the perfect refuge. This was proven during a weekend-stay at the three-star hotel nestled in the heart of the Vaal.
My partner and I arrived on the Friday afternoon to a seamless check-in accented by a welcoming atmosphere that promised utter relaxation. Aptly described as a “country escape on the Vaal River”, the hotel sits on the banks bordering Gauteng and the Free State. The setting boasts scenic views in all directions, including those from our hotel room of boats passing in the water and lush greenery as far as the eye could see.
The 135 well-equipped standard rooms, 29 deluxe rooms and four suites are as equally beautiful, with all the necessary amenities for a relaxed stay. Asked why the hotel is such an attractive destination for both leisure and business travellers, GM Mark Ross explained that it boils down to the hotel’s “people, pricing, service and location,” alongside having “the best rewards programme in SA and conferencing facilities which ensure your needs are always taken care of”.
In the evening, dinner was served in what may be the Vaal’s best-kept secret: The Wine Cellar. Intimate dinners and wine and whisky tastings are held in the venue, which can accommodate up to 40 guests.
Having nibbled on scrumptious canapés and savoured flutes of prosecco, we retired to our hotel room in anticipation of our morning breakfast cruise organised by the hotel. On board, we were treated to a hot breakfast buffet with croissants, muffins and a selection of teas as the boat sailed passed mansions on either side of the river. Taking in the view from the top deck, we were – for a moment – in SA’s very own version of the Hamptons.
Back at the hotel, no-holds-barred buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner are served that cater to the whole family. It’s in the dining area where you’ll see a mix of families, honeymooners and businesspeople on a conference at one of the hotel’s 11 flexible venues. On the emergence of “bleisure”, Ross says the hotel is “exceptionally adaptable and be it work, leisure or play, we roll all into one and make sure we create great experiences”.
As parents enjoy cocktails from the hotel’s high terrace, children – of which two can stay and eat breakfast for free should they be under 18 when sharing with two adults during Easter – can be watched playing on the hotel’s jungle gym and in the pool below, or enjoying the water sports centre.
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“Riverside Sun offers action-packed kids activities during December and Easter holiday periods – subject to weather conditions – activities range from water-sliding, target-shooting, face-painting, water-rafting to movies at night and activities for the little ones,” adds Ross.
The Vaal’s location, history and natural beauty make it a compelling travel destination in Gauteng, and tourism is a tool for economic development opportunities across the region. According to the University of North West, whose Vaal campus is situated only 8km from the hotel, “a total of R2 600 million was spent on all tourism activities in 2013 in the region,” with the region having reported “46 000 bona fide holiday/leisure tourist trips and 58 000 business tourist trips” in the same year.
“Tsogo Sun is dedicated to the training and development of our people – looking at Riverside Sun alone, we definitely try our level best to employ local staff when possible. We have an amazing training and development team dedicated to all the employees at Tsogo with courses offered throughout the year.”
Within the area are the Vaal Mall, golf courses and spas. Sharpeville, the sight at which the massacre of 1960 took place and subsequently, the signing into law of the South African Constitution in 1996, is a 20-minute drive away.
We checked out on Sunday feeling rested, refreshed and sad to be leaving.
For more information and bookings, visit: tsogosun.com/riverside-sun