Hi, my name is Elmari Anderson and I’m the owner of South Africa House Guest Lodge here in Wainwright. As a part of our management team, I welcome guests and look after daily activities at the lodge. My daughter Anira looks after behind-the-scenes duties like bookwork and the website. We would love to introduce you to this place, which is full of surprises and beautiful things.
We came to Canada from South Africa in 1997. My husband is a medical doctor and we decided to try out a new country with our family. Gordon came to Canada ahead of me and our four children. He looked into five different communities in Alberta and British Columbia. Wainwright had really a big need for a doctor at that time and he felt the community would be a good fit for our family.
We arrived in Wainwright with our four children and nine suitcases in November of 1997. It was dark and cold compared to South Africa and right away we know it’s going to be very different. I couldn’t get over how quiet it was, because in South Africa there are always sounds in the air. I remember thinking that there were no birds anywhere but summer came and things suddenly changed. The people of Wainwright carried us through those first few months.
Our house was built in 2000. We wanted to build a place that would remind our family of our homeland. It was our family home until four years ago when all the children started moving out. We saw the opportunity to buy the place next door and then decided to change this into a guest house. We are continually improving the house and hope to grow in the coming years.
I have all kinds of customers coming to South Africa House, including a lot of locals. We offer quite a variety of events that are attended by locals as well as hosting weddings, family reunions, and Christmas parties – all kinds of things. So that will be our local people. Those that visit from outside of the region really enjoy themselves and promise me they will be back again.
During September and October, we see a lot of hunters. We have a group of bird hunters from Kansas who will come and rent the lodge from us for two months. They rave about South Africa House and how it works so wonderfully for them to have this as a home base for their hunting trips.
We offer four en suite suites. One of them is our bridal suite, which is really very special and almost like a honeymoon suite. It has a huge bathroom and a beautiful balcony. The other three rooms all have a different theme. One has a leopard door, one has a zebra door and the other one has a giraffe door.
We also have a big entertainment area. Our main floor is just the open area with a big kitchen which is available for all the guests to use – it’s perfect for those that want to cook their own meals. Outside we have a hot tub and a wonderful bar which is beautiful in summer.
The house has quite a lot of artwork that we’ve brought in from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Most of the time we will buy from street vendors, and you will be amazed at the quality of artwork that you can buy from these people. We roll it up, put it in our suitcase, and get it framed in Canada. There are a few pieces that we did buy in Edmonton, but it’s mostly really originated from Africa. It really adds to the atmosphere of the house.
Weddings are a very big part of South Africa. My daughter Anira is a wedding planner and helped us become a popular place for people to get married. Our bridal suite actually has a whole separate area with beautiful makeup counters, mirrors, and lights so brides can get ready for their day. Brides will usually order the hairdresser and the makeup artists to come to South Africa House. Once they’re all ready, we serve them a mimosa and something to eat. Often couples will do their photography here as well and photographers are usually very impressed with what we have to offer.
If it’s a smaller wedding with under 50 guests, we can host everything; the rehearsal dinner, bridal party preparation, ceremony, and reception. If you just want to use our ceremony spot, we can cater up to 170 people but then you will have to go and have your celebration somewhere else.
There are quite a few things to do in and around Wainwright. I think that the thing that really attracts people is the golf courses. In a radius of almost 60 kilometers we have six golf courses. If you love playing golf, this is a great place to visit.
It can get hot here in Wainwright, Alberta, so we are lucky enough to have actually two local smaller lakes close to town. I prefer Arm Lake because it’s very untouched. It is a beautiful little lake with clear water to swim in.
The region really also is very popular for outdoor things like hiking and kayaking. There are all kinds of trails including the Bison Trails, which may take you beside the bison. As mentioned earlier, our region is a popular hunting spot in the fall and winter too. There is a lot to do!
It is very hard to pick a favourite shop in Wainwright because we have a really amazing main street. We have quite a number of interesting little stores including Globe Footwear. You will go in there and think you will buy one thing and you come out with three more packages. There’s also Jack’s Place, which is where you can go and have a coffee. So a very relaxing atmosphere and a nice place to visit.
“The one thing that many people don’t know to do when they come and visit is to go and look at the trestle. So, that is really a beautiful train bridge that is built across the river valley. And that I will say is really one of the highlights if you come this way.”Elmari Anderson
There are some fantastic local flavours to explore as well. My favourite restaurant is The Honeypot, which is a very unique British kind of restaurant. Another is the local brewery in Edgerton called Ribstone Creek which has really great beer.
People have to come to South Africa House Guest Lodge for a truly unique experience. For many people, this might be as close to visiting Africa as they’ll ever get. We’ve worked hard to create a comfortable environment for all of our guests to enjoy. There’s just something mystical and magical about this house. We look forward to meeting you!