Looking for the perfect winter holiday escape? Then fear not – I have the perfect place to suit every need, style, budget and of course every age too.

I was recently lucky enough to join some of my media friends on an incredible weekend away at this ‘gem’ on the Vaal River and have to say from start to finish – what an experience. Not only from an aesthetics view – I mean look at what I woke up to here – but also from the fact that there is just so much to do – in fact, I don’t think two days was even enough to uncover all the surprises and activities we enjoyed!

The rooms are spacious and comfy, with a bathtub that came straight from my dreams and of course views for days. I have always been a fan of good wi-fi and to their credit, Emerald Resort is really jacked on this front – the wi-fi (which is free) literally is available everywhere (except in the more remote parts of the resort – which impressed me no end.

The rooms come standard with a small bar fridge, Nespresso machine and pods – just what I need to get my day started – followed of course by a scrumptious buffet breakfast in the downstairs restaurant. The freshly made pastries were amazing and so was the Eggs Benedict – one of my very faves!

Views to die for abound here – from the mist rising from the river in the early morning to the buck and animals grazing in the distance to the beauty of the pine forest that houses the beautiful and exclusive Bush Lodges accommodation, right down to the banks of the river with the swirling blue water and  autumn leaves on the ground, so many photo opportunities and so many memories were made.

After breakfast we set out exploring – first, a stop the Bush Lodges which is the more top-level accommodation option – exclusive one or two bedroom wooden homes on stilts in a tranquil pine forest and offer a self-catering option as well. The fact there are only 8 units makes this something quieter, and is located slightly away from the main casino area.

The River Resort Chalets cater more for families and are also equipped for fully self-catering visitors, with braai areas outside and offer 1, 2 and 3 bedroom options for families and groups.

There is also a fully laid out caravan park for the more adventurous of us – but I will happily stick to the Emerald Hotel, with its old world charm, 77 rooms and easy access to all amenities as well.

We then took a walk around the hotel grounds to discover more. The conference rooms are decorated in true African style and can cater for up to 3000 guests – from an awards function to an intimate meeting – and with the sprawling gardens and beautifully manicured lawns – this would be the ideal spot for a wedding or anniversary event as well.

The Aquadome is the perfect place to drop the kids for the day – there is so much to do – and being a kid at heart, of course, I got involved too.

The heated pools are a kids wonderland – and the best thing is that no matter the weather you can jump into your cossie and splash about in the pools as long as you like without getting cold. The slides, nets and bridges are enough to keep the little ones fully entertained for a good few hours!

When you are finished swimming grab a bite in the food court, or take on your mates in a bowling game – or get competitive on the putt-putt course, climb the rock wall – the list is endless.

The team at The Aquadome are running an awesome Winter Special – check it out here…

Of course, after all the bowling and activities it was time for lunch – and we headed over to Breeze Cafe which offers not only beautiful views but yummy snacks and munchies as well as cocktails and a surprisingly vast whisky selection.

Considering that it was World Whisky Day on the day that we visited, we opted to check that out, of course. After lunch, a few of us enjoyed some downtime in the luxurious rooms while others donned their swimming costumes and enjoyed wine by the pool, soaking up the sun and the views – one of my favourite spots when visiting the resort.

Dinner both evenings we enjoyed in the beautifully appointed High Stakes restaurant and dined on the most delicious calamari – and if you love curry may I recommend the prawn and chicken curry it was delicious and I would certainly return to enjoy this dish again.

The menu and wine list although small, is beautifully curated and the fact that the restaurant is 18+ is also ideal for those of us that enjoy some peace and quiet too.

Another special surprise that we enjoyed was a lunchtime cruise with the team from Liquid Lounge on their river cruiser boat – what incredible views and the sumptuous buffet menu, along with the open top deck filled with couches and lounge furniture is the perfect place to relax and let the rolling water and beautiful homes and scenery along the river soak in while you take a proverbial ‘load off’.

I was loathed to leave on Sunday afternoon, the feeling of being away from the stress and strain of everyday life was so relaxing and I would certainly return to this beautiful Emerald of the Vaal – it is only an hours drive from Joburg, which also makes it the perfect getaway and unwind spot that one can visit regularly.

Find out more about Emerald Resort and Casino on their website – here…

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