• Fun, food, craft beer and everything else… by F&HE art director, Jani Venter

    Hartbeespoort Dam, or Harties, as the Gauteng locals call it, has always been known as quite the quaint arty destination for those who don’t mind trekking an hour out of Joburg on narrow bumpy roads. Nestled in between the picturesque Magaliesberg mountains like a mini Cape Town, it’s a breakfast run destination for the city’s bikers, and many a family have enjoyed a Sunday lunch in one of the restaurants dotted among the mountains.

    Keen to explore the suburbs that line the shores of the dam, we arrived bright and early on Saturday morning. As we drove into town, a sign caught my eye: Pretville – to your right. Well since ‘pret’ means fun, and that’s exactly what I was planning to have, we took the turn onto a narrow dirt road leading seemingly to absolutely nothing at all. Soon enough we came to the nondescript entrance and jumped out to investigate.

    Turns out, Pretville is the movie set for the Afrikaans 50s movie called, you guessed it, Pretville. It’s open to the public on weekends and you can delight in delicious milkshakes and snacks in a 50s-style diner, take a multitude of pics of the many vintage shops and cars standing around for your enjoyment, and even go and watch the movie in the beautiful ‘bioscope’. Such fun!

    Walking out of the 50s and back into reality we headed deeper into town for a meander through the animal park, a seal show, and an exhilarating speedboat ride. Ravenous after a long morning Harties definitely didn’t disappoint us in the food department. After deciding against the much-loved Squires, we settled in at a rustic little café with a huge cocktail in front of each of us and a glorious view of the dam. Café Panini is apparently famous for its eisbein, we were informed by the friendly owner after jumping up to congratulate him on the best eisbein we’ve ever tasted. Look out for the German beer garden he is planning to open behind his restaurant, where the eisbein and the beer will flow. I’m there!

    Waddling out into sunlight after our massive meal, we headed to the other side of the dam wall where the Chameleon Village is located. Pick-a-Pancake (yum!), Tan’ Malie se winkel, Red Dragon – for Chinese, Tandoori’s – for Indian, and Savannah Grill are a few of the many places where you can grab a bite to eat while exploring the African arts and crafts on display.

    And then, to our absolute delight, we turned a corner and there was the Chameleon Brewhouse in all its craft beer glory, just waiting to quench our parched throats with its delicious and fruity beers. Plopping down on the comfy couches in the quaint corrugated iron bar, we indulged in the tingles of American Pale Ale, winner of the 2013 Clarens Beer Festival, as well as five other amazing samples of beer-brewing excellence. The craft beer alone was worth the drive. Bliss!
    On that high note our day ended and we headed to our little log cabin at Shangri-la to have a good old ‘boere braai’ and spend the night.

    Whether you need a weekend getaway, or would happily drive to the dam on a day trip, there is no shortage of entertainment, adventure and culture. You can zip down cables on a hair-raising canopy tour of the Ysterhout Kloof, get in touch with nature at the famous Elephant Sanctuary, meander through one of the many art galleries, shop and eat to your heart’s content, and on hot days the water beckons with all sorts of fun activities. For all the adventurous foodies out there, whether cocktails and eisbein or craft beer and pancakes are your thing, Harties is a must-visit.

    Jani Venter