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Tessa Graham Christmas road tripping TRIP!

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Tessa Graham Christmas road tripping TRIP!

As a Canadian that has lived in South Africa for nearly ten years, I have been hesitant about road-tripping.  The biggest reason is that the idea of piling kids and luggage in to my Fiat 500 simply wasn’t a comfortable option!

In planning our December holidays last year, my son, Hal, and I knew, without question, that we wanted to spend Christmas at Oaklands Country Manor.  Oaklands has become a firm family favourite. Having been there at least 20 times over the past 5 years, including two Christmas’s, it has become our home away from home and the Oaklands family has become our family.  We also knew that we wanted to set out on a bit of an adventure and see more of this amazing country.

I wanted to make sure that there was never a drive over five hours and that we had a diverse array of destinations spending at least 3 days in each – ending up at Oaklands for 7 days of non-stop fun, horseback riding, amazing food, hiking and countless adventures.

Drakensberg Canopy Tours

Our first stop was to be Cathedral Peak in the heart of the Drakensberg. The natural beauty of the area is exquisite set in a valley surrounded by a jagged ridge of mountains.  While the weather was shocking, it didn’t stop us from having some serious fun.

The highlights included hiking on the valley trails, quad biking and, best of all, the Drakensberg Canopy Tour – a heart –racing zip-line adventure over the deep, lush valleys of the region. The driving rain only added to the thrill!

Now it was time to head back to the Midlands to our final destination – Oaklands Country Manor.  But first a quick stop at Nottingham Road to visit friends on their farm and find the perfect Christmas Tree and share in their family traditions.




Once we arrived at Oaklands, after a wonderful 8 days in the Drakensberg and the South Coast, the fun continued for Hal – and I got to fit in some much-needed rest, relaxation, conversation, hikes and fill my belly with the most amazing farm to table food.

Hal’s adventures included tubing down the Wilge River in the shadow of the Nelson’s Kop riding his favourite steed “Moppy”, fishing in the dam, learning how to clean them and helping Chef Johnson prepare it for lunch.

I joke, that parents always seem to be asking, “Have you seen my child?”. There is no end of activities and new friends at this magical place. It sometimes means that you spend slightly less time with your kids but when you do they are filled with stories, smiles and confidence.

Christmas at Oaklands is definitely a family affair, with many families joining in the celebration of Christmas and New Year. Two of the main attractions at Oaklands over this festive period which we thoroughly enjoyed, Santa coming to visit the children on Christmas eve and the delicious menu. On Christmas Eve, Santa managed to squeeze down the chimney into our room, drank the milk and ate the cookie that we left for him and blessed us both with lovely presents.


I heard this years festive menu includes crispy roast chicken with roast potatoes and gravy for the kids as well as deep fried Oreos for dessert, which my kid will go wild for!

For the adults there are a few options to choose from, the traditional Christmas dish being seared duck breasts with gnocchi – gently fried in duck fat and fresh garden herbs and covered in a classic orange jus. To finish off your meal the wonderful desserts on offer are basil panna cotta with balsamic strawberries and peppercorn tuile.

We have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel all over the world, but for both Hal and me, there is no place as special as Oaklands Country Manor.


Tessa Graham

Tessa is a global nomad having been born and raised in Canada, lived in San Francisco, London and is now settled in Johannesburg.

Lori Voss

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