“Rivers know this: There is no hurry, we shall get there some day.” - (A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh)
Indeed, rivers are relaxing, de-stressing and calming. And a resort by the river is one of the best places to enjoy a weekend away with the family. Especially if it is a Southern Sun resort by the name of Riverside Sun . I recently experienced a weekend there with my family and it was not an easy task to get everyone to leave when our time there was up.
Set on the banks of the Vaal River, the resort is an easy drive of 45 minutes from Johannesburg but once you’re there, you are cocooned in a country-style environment and will feel as though you’re far from the city. In fact, once you enter the hotel’s large, airy entrance foyer, you will forget all about the city. We were welcomed on arrival with refreshing cool drinks and escorted to our room on the 5th floor.
The rooms and public areas have been given a make-over and the new look is chic and modern. There are 169 rooms of various types, including suites, some facing the gardens and the river. The rooms are elegant, spacious and comfortable. We stayed in a family room consisting of two double beds, a workstation and a bar fridge. It is worth noting that children under the age of 18 stay free at Southern Sun hotels. Guests belonging to the hotel’s rewards programme can take advantage of additional benefits too. As a loyalty programme junkie, that is quite important to me.
A welcome gift of Monis Grape Juice and a platter of our favourite snacks - dried fruit, corn and cashew nuts – awaited us. I was quite impressed as we are often given alcohol at hotels even though we don’t drink.
There is free high-speed wifi throughout the hotel, which the internet addicts in my family were very happy with.
The revamped restaurant offers a large selection of buffet options, a clay pizza oven and a large range of delectable desserts. I was pleased to discover that the hotel takes dietary requirements seriously and features a specially designated meat-free station to cater for vegetarian requirements. This meant that we could thoroughly enjoy the freshly-baked pizzas straight out of the pizza oven. The desserts were another highlight of our dinner with so many options that we simply had to indulge in as many as we could.
The Vaal River is a playground for water sports enthusiasts. There is a boathouse at the edge of the river where boat rides and water sports can be arranged. Fishing is also available. The back of the hotel leads to a viewing deck and beautifully landscaped gardens, sloping down to the river banks.
The gardens are covered with tall willow trees and boast a large swimming pool, play areas for the kids, picnic areas, benches to relax on and a breakaway conference venue. The large swimming pool provided a welcome relief to the blistering summer heat and my kids looked for every opportunity to play there. Everyone else also seemed to be having fun too. Other outdoor activities include beach-style volleyball, mini soccer and cricket.
The hotel has several conference rooms, a small fitness centre as well as a small spa. I had a much-needed relaxing massage at the latter. It is easy to combine work and play here making the hotel a popular venue for teambuilding and conferences. It also makes a beautiful wedding venue. On weekends however, the hotel is especially popular with families looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, while enjoying the riverside atmosphere. I thought that this quote captured my visit perfectly.
“Rivers are places that renew our spirit, connect us with our past, and link us directly with the flow and rhythm of the natural world.” (Ted Turner, The Rivers of South Carolina)
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