Our Story

Our history begins in the 1800s

This beloved ‘old lady’ of a hotel has buildings that date back to the 1800s. In 1989, after being left neglected and in a derelict state, she was lovingly and painstakingly brought back to her former glory by passionate hoteliers, Karen and Gion Poltera. Envisioning a family-run and family-friendly hotel, they put their hearts and souls into making Fern Hill the success it is today. Now in the hands of their children, Fern Hill continues to grow and develop every year, with extra care taken in ensuring the grand old lady moves with the times without forsaking her old-fashioned graces.

Throughout the extensive buildings, guests can find glimpses into the past and striking contrasts where contemporary meets quaint country charm. For those guests interested in the older parts of the hotel, booking the Signal Box for a private dining experience is a must. The old railroad train signal box is one of the oldest buildings on the property, with the long-gone train tracks once running where the hotel’s buffet section now stands. Throughout the main hotel building, there are numerous, hidden snippets of history to be found.

Fern Hill Hotel is home to more than 40 staff members, as well as numerous Hotel School students. Everyone that makes up the Fern Hill team puts service excellence above all else and we wear our superior service standards as a mark of distinction. Our Fern Hill family looks forward to welcoming yours so we can prove that we truly do strive for the ultimate in service excellence.


Built by the Swann family, the original farm became a trading post and boarding house in 1888 for the Trekkers who stopped off before descending the treacherous Umngeni Gorge.


She was a grand old lady in the 20’s. With visitors coming from all over to stay in what was fast becoming a popular resort.


Host of the Tweedie Donkey Derby


Fern Hill peaked as a popular holiday resort. The farm had several owners of over the next 19 years, but none were able to keep up the maintenance of the buildings. Fern Hill fell into disrepair and dilapidation. Most of the buildings were condemned.



Gion and Karen Poltera bought the property and painstakingly reconstructed the dilapidated buildings that remained. Within eight months the majority of the renovations were complete.

1st May


Fern Hill Hotel was officially re-opened.


Fern Hill Hotel played host to former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, when he was awarded the Freedom of Howick at a magnificent banquet put on by Karen and Gion Poltera. He slept over in now what is called the Mandela Presidential Suite.


Accredited training college officially opens.


Stephanie (née Poltera) and Miklos Szecsei joined the team. Read more


Alex Poltera joined the team and fit the final puzzle piece of the family run business. Read more


Fern Hill Hotel celebrated their 25th Anniversary under the care and ownership of the family. Looking forward to many more years of growth and happy memories.





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