Did you know?
The Maluti Mountains and Lesotho are just over the border from Clarens.
The Clarens Oxwagon Camp is a living reminder of those feisty, Dutch-speaking Voortrekkers (literally 'one who goes before') who left the British-ruled Cape Colony in the 1830s and 40s to forge independence and a new life for themselves in the vast, largely unexplored interior of South Africa.
Oxwagons carried these pioneer families, their worldly possessions and their dreams of a place where they could live in freedom unfettered by British rule.
Tucked away in a tall poplar grove surrounded by golden sandstone mountains on St Fort farm just outside Clarens, off one of the most beautiful scenic roads in the Eastern Free State, is Clarens Oxwagon Camp.
St Fort farm is known for its views of the aptly named Mushroom Rock; the nearby San rock paintings and the excellent fly-fishing.
Inside the sturdy wooden walls encircling the open-air camp you'll find the wagons. Choose an eight-sleeper, a family wagon with a double bed and two singles or, if you're a couple, the Love Wagon.
The camp is self-catering so bring all your own food and drink. There's a kitchen with a kettle, a two-plate stove, a washing up area and an undercover braai area. Most importantly, however, there's a campfire where you can sit late into the night and swap tales with the other guests.
At the end of the evening as the stars blaze over the mountains, climb into your white canvas oxwagon with its cheerful red wheels, curl up in a comfortable bunk or bed, and dream of those long ago days.
The area around Clarens is one of the loveliest in the whole country – expect soaring red mountains, clear mountain streams, winding roads lined with poplars and panoramic views.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Clarens Oxwagon Camp
Tel: +27 (0) 58 256 1345
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 902 9010
Tel: +27 (0) 58 256 1260
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 563 6242
How to get here
Take the N3 west from Johannesburg. Then the R26 to Bethlehem and follow the signs for Clarens. The Oxwagon Camp is 5km from Clarens on the Fouriesburg Road.
Best time to visit
It can get very hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter, so spring and autumn are best.
Around the area
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a short drive away.
What will it cost
About R200 per person, per night.
Length of stay
One night is sufficient for the oxwagon experience. But if you are using the camp as a base for exploring the area, then two or three nights.
What to pack
The Clarens Oxwagon Camp is self-catering so bring all your food and drink (Clarens has a number of excellent supermarkets, butcheries, delis and liquor stores) as well as cooking utensils.
Among the most popular events in the area are the Clarens Beer Festival in February, the Cherry Festival in November and the September Spring Fair.
Clarens is a shopping mecca. Find African crafts and curios, art galleries, handcrafted leather, pottery, handmade quilts, jewellery, jams and preserves, freshly baked bread and pastries…and lots more.