What started out as a part of the farm called Braamfontein eventually turned into what we know today as Zoo Lake. It is as iconic to the city as the Hillbrow tower is to the metropolitan skyline. From paddle boat rides to picnics under mighty oak trees, it’s all here. The park includes a restaurant, arts and crafts market and designated braai areas. Bring the family and spend your Sunday with fellow South Africans out in the sun. Zoo Lake is a great spot to take a walk through during spring as all the flowers and trees start to bloom. Take some bread crumbs for the ducks and birds – they’ll thank you by making a racket and flapping their wings.
Yeah, yeah, it’s not quite Joburg but it’s totally worth an honourable mention. If you have a love for roses, then you just have to visit Ludwig’s Roses out in Pretoria. This farm is the largest rose grower in the country and has been around for almost 40 years. Expect a day out in the country surrounded by loads of beautiful roses of all sizes and colours and enjoy the sweet, floral smell in the air while getting plenty of sunshine. After admiring these stunning flowers, you can head to the Rose Kitchen for a refreshing drink or bite to eat. You can literally take some time to stop and smell the roses at this lovely location.
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
The gardens are the perfect place to have a picnic, go on a hike or take a leisurely stroll through the vegetation. The area in the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden is known as the ‘Rocky Highveld Grassland’ and consists of a mosaic of grassland and savanna, with dense bush in kloofs and along streams. The variety of habitats accommodates over 600 naturally occurring plant species. The Botanical Gardens are also famed for their abundance of wildlife, including over 220 bird species. The beautiful waterfalls at the bottom of the garden boasts a breeding pair of majestic Verreaux’s Eagles that many a visitor spend a great amount of time watching.
Emmarentia Botanical Gardens
The central Joburg contingent, Emmarentia Dam and Botanical Gardens, is the perfect venue for a picnic. You don’t pay an entrance fee and are exposed to a world of beauty and a view of the city which intrinsically forms the ambience of the park. It’s known for the dam on the property and more recently for the big live music shows hosted there. They also offer paddle boat hire and benches skirting the dam. This is the most popular park in central Johannesburg and a must for people who haven’t yet visited. The Emmarentia Botanical Gardens is not one of the eight National Botanic Gardens, it’s run by the Joburg Parks Department, hence the free entrance. Walter Sisulu, on the other hand, is a National Botanic Garden and is therefore run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Leafy Greens Cafe
Head to Muldersdrift and enjoy the farm that Leafy Greens Cafe is built on. The eatery is self-sustaining and grows its own fruit and vegetables alongside a beautiful garden. It’s an excellent excuse to grab something to eat and to take a leisurely stroll through the groves and lush gardens at Casalinga, which the eatery shares a property with. It’s also an excellent excuse to escape the hustle and bustle of the city – as much as we love our public parks, it’s great to get away from it all for a while.
By Shawn Greyling