6 perky padstals between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park
The journey from Johannesburg to Mpumalanga is a visual feast, particularly as the road dips down from the Highveld to the Lowveld, tracing the northern Drakensberg escarpment.
Thanks to all the padstals along the way, you can linger longer and feed your tummy, too.
Words & Photos Mia Louw
Zooming along the N4, past a grassland blanket pulled over the Highveld’s hills, Jozi’s buildings shrinking in the rearview mirror – on the four-hour stretch between the Big Smoke and the citrus trees of the Lowveld, route markers signal certain legs of the journey.
1. Millys Trout Stall
Millys is a great place to stretch your legs and pick up a trout pie for lunch, just before eNtokozweni, which reminds you to get your wallet for the Machado toll gate. The Cilliers family has been selling trout next to the N4 since 1974. Wimcar and his wife, Milly, would prepare fish in the early morning hours.
The Schoemanskloof descends dramatically at Patatanek and the Old Joe painted stone. Patatanek (sweet potato ridge) gets its name from transport riders who used to stop their ox-wagons here to give their animals a break and to cook sweet potatoes as padkos.
10 000 litres of orange juice squeezed each month, Joubert & Seuns Padstal is a good place to quench your thirst.
2. Joubert & Seuns Padstal
Some travelers feel claustrophobic in the kloof – especially if you come from open spaces like the Kalahari – but when I reach Patatanek and the mountain opens up in front of me, I know I’m home,’ Mariette Joubert explains.
Mariette’s father-in-law bought property here in 1966. Back then, ‘the road was still narrow and the landscape untouched’, but the Jouberts still see animals on the farm: leopard, caracal, genet, banded mongoose, aardwolf, jackal and samango monkeys up in the mountains.
The fruit was initially planted to stock four padstals managed by Mariette’s mother-in-law since the 1970s. ‘She would make fruit roll-ups while the children had to shoo flies away. While everyone sat down for lunch on Christmas day, the family would be harvesting watermelons.’
Today, Joubert & Seuns is a well-known citrus producer for the international market, while also specialising in earthmoving equipment and bespoke wooden tables. If you aren’t keen on strapping a table to your roof, you can stock up on snacks like fresh or dried fruit, juice, nuts, biltong, or their own orange peri-peri sauce.
Joburgers are extremely disappointed when they find out we don’t have a shop in the city,’ says Mariette’s daughter, Brumilde. ‘Well, sorry for you buddy… you’ll have to drive down to the Lowveld.’
Get more info: 083 625 7243
Up in the mountains – 7km from the Viva garage – an eccentric Irishman named Paddy Davies-Webb built a Tudor mansion to combine his love for English country elegance with the Lowveld bush.
013 110 0327
3. Orchid Farm Stall
This roadside shop pops up on your right, 18km before Mbombela. The farm stall’s biggest drawcard is orchids, but it offers much more like, an outdoor coffee shop, nursery, and beautifully curated shop filled with local artists’ paintings, decor, clothing, jewellery, handmade cosmetics, and ceramic pots, bowls, and tiles. The stall also has a function area in the garden and a day spa under construction.
The family has been here since 1867, but the Orchid Farm Stall, as it’s known today, has been here for 10 years. Today the family farms macadamias, honey, and plants such as orchids, cycads, succulents, bromeliads, and tree ferns. Most of the orchids come from Robby’s mom’s nursery across the road.
‘On Fridays, Joburgers are in a hurry to get to their destinations and crack open a cold beer,’ Urna explains. But on Sundays, everyone stops on their way back to the city, stretching that weekend just a little bit longer.
Get more info: 082 452 2348
Pottery and watercolour classes are hosted at the farm stall.
There are five self-catering units at LoerieRoep, 11km from Orchid Farm Stall, but the little treehouse with windows as walls is a highlight.
072 565 2624
4. Route 40 Farmstall & Coffee Cafe
On the R40 outside White River, Istell and Paul Carlin are ready to cook up a storm for guests heading to the Kruger National Park, with Numbi gate a mere 32km away.
They have been running the farm stall and cafe for the past three years and started catering for sit-down guests but soon realised people prefer picking something up along the way, like a pulled pork pie or baked goods. Istell bakes pastries, scones, cakes, and brownies, while making peri-peri sauces, pestos, jams and preserves. They also stock local goodies such as honey, macadamia products, dried fruit, free-range chicken, and eggs.
The cafe doesn’t have a set menu; Istell offers two to three dishes, such as an open croissant with scrambled egg and bacon, with tomato and basil pesto relish, or eggs Benedict with bacon and homemade hollandaise.
As if the initial blow of the Covid pandemic wasn’t enough, a fire from the neighbouring shop gutted the padstal in 2020. Only an antique cupboard and a roll-up desk survived the ordeal and were lovingly restored.
‘We are bushveld people,’ Istell admits. ‘There are lodges with big five game towards the Karoo, but it isn’t the same. Early morning game drives and the smell of dust is different here.’
Get more info: 083 260 8955
Eloff Guesthouse and Gallery
Artist Zakkie Eloff was internationally known for his wildlife paintings, while his wife René focuses on flowers and birds with colourful brush strokes. Their son, Phillip, makes bespoke wood furniture.
082 464 9688
5. Pure Plaas Padstal & Aloe Nursery
The 140km section between White River and Pure Plaas offers countless pitstops and picnic spots. You can take a break visiting one of the waterfalls and swimming spots scattered between Sabie and Graskop. Pushing on after Pilgrim’s Rest, the old mining town and living monument, you climb up Robber’s Pass, named after two coach robberies in 1899 and 1912.
Just 24km further, Pure Plaas Padstal lies on the left of the R36. Amanda and Dennis Brits have more than 3 000 aloes in their garden, with 15 varieties that are unique to the Ohrigstad area. They also sell jams, preserves, vintage tins and grass baskets; from Fridays to Sundays, they make vetkoek and pancakes.
Roadside living ensures that interesting and often famous characters pop in, but it’s their regulars who have made the past 40 years worthwhile. Visitors stop and ask them about Charlie, their beloved Jack Russell and the padstal’s mascot that died last winter.
‘Hearing truckers hoot as they whizz past is priceless. Families stop to update us on their lives, showing us wedding pictures or how their kids have grown,’ Amanda smiles. ‘This is a place where customers become friends.’
Bring some cash as the card machine sometimes loses signal in the Ohrigstad River Valley but Amanda and Dennis also trust their customers to do an EFT 13km down the road.
Get more info: 073 261 4793,
Mona Cottage in Pilgrim’s Rest was renovated in 2020, turning the historical house, built in 1907, into a luxury cottage with two bathrooms.
076 680 3996, monacottage.co.za
6. The Chubby Pig
Past Ohrigstad, awaits a stall shaped like a giant shoe. Ron van Zyl built this place for his wife, Yvonne, in 1991. The R532 turns off towards the Three Rondavels, a viewpoint over three round mountain tops, the Blyderivierspoort Dam and Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon and biggest green canyon in the world.
The Chubby Pig eatery (a meat lover’s dream), gift shop, nursery and accommodation lies closer to Graskop on the banks of the Treur River, which means “to mourn”. Melody and Raynard Ferreira farms with peaches, apricots, apples, figs, and pigs, and makes jams, chutneys, and hot sauces from their produce. In the gift shop she sells her own range of bath soaps, salts, scrubs, CBD creams, leather bags, shoes and clothing under her brand, Melo.
down the river there’s a cascade and rockpool.
The Ferreiras wants their customers to feel at peace here. ‘I am thinking of putting up a sign,’ Melody says. ‘If you’re rushing back to the city, this might not be the place for you.’
Get more info: 078 406 6995, thechubbypigeaterygiftshopnursaryaccomodation.business.site
Treur River Lodge
The Chubby Pig has five pet-friendly chalets. Breakfast is included if you book directly with Melody. www.facebook.com/Treur-River-Lodge-106868914786463/