Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape is the kind of town where you can do absolutely nothing. It’s also a place where you can hone your photographic skills, enjoy a Saturday cabaret, and learn about the night skies, how angora farming works and how to pluck a goose for her down feathers.

Did you know?

Steytlerville’s main street is festooned with the family crests of many of its residents.

The 1st thing you should learn when you visit the Karoo – South Africa’s dry heartland – is the time-honoured art of ‘stoep-sitting’ (sitting on the verandah).

Stoep-sitting means a lot more than parking on a porch and doing nothing.

Yes, there’s a lot of doing nothing involved, but you have to do nothing in a meaningful way when you stoep-sit in the Karoo: there’s meditation, reflection and intense chatting involved, along with complete and utter inactivity except for the occasional raising of a glass of red wine in honour of a fine Karoo sunset.

And if you're stoep-sitting in Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape, you're doing it in arguably the stoep-sitting capital of South Africa.

Its massive porches, wide streets, bull-nosed Victorian verandahs and polished floors – combined with its inherent lack of urgency – put it way up there in the stoep-sitting stakes.

And there’s always something to talk about in Steytlerville. There’s always something going on in this town of artists and retired folk.

Like what are the boys out at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel up to this Saturday night? Another innovative cabaret performance by Dame Leyla Lamborghini?

And what’s happening at the Royal Hotel? The place is packed with bikers, their machines gleaming everywhere, leather and club patches galore.

And young Danie Craven, grandson of the Springbok rugby legend, what’s he doing out at Noorspoort Guest Farm, where it’s a delight to wake up on a winter’s morning under a duck-down duvet and contemplate a day of patting farm animals and reading a really thick book?

There goes Jan Pampoen (Pumpkin), cycling to the local golf course to hunt for earthworm mounds (Steytlerville earthworms – rumoured to be the longest in the world – can measure up to 2m).

Anyway, Jan’s off to find a couple of these giant earthworms. He cuts them up and sells them for bait.

And isn’t that Pine Pienaar, local photographic legend and star-master, in from Port Elizabeth?

Pine comes to Steytlerville on weekends with his photographic students, and they descend on the rather bemused locals with all their camera gear. And then they go to Noorspoort Guest Farm after supper to look at the stars.

So as we open another bottle of pinotage, we settle in on this evening for another session of world-class stoep-sitting, right here in Steytlerville ...

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Royal Hotel Steytlerville
Tel: +27 (0)49 835 0385
Email: royal@dieseli.co.za

Noorspoort Guest Farm
Tel: +27 (0)49 835 0001
Email: info@noorspoort.co.za

Karroo Theatrical Hotel
Tel: +27 (0)49 835 0010
Email: info@karroohotel.co.za

Learn Photography (Pine Pienaar)
Tel: +27 (0)73 174 4444
Email: info@learnphotography.co.za

How to get here

Steytlerville lies next to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area in the shadow of the great Winterhoek Mountains. Steytlerville is approx. 170km west of Port Elizabeth and approx. 150km south of Graaff-Reinet.

Best time to visit

Any time of the year is great to visit Steytlerville except for high summer (December/January) when it is very hot.

Around the area

Trips into the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area; day trips up to Graaff-Reinet and Nieu Bethesda; and drives to neighbouring Jansenville and Willowmore.

Tours to do

Join Pine Pienaar’s photography course and learn all about the cosmos at the same time.

Get around

It's best to drive yourself in this part of the world. Hire a car from Port Elizabeth; it needn’t be an SUV, as the road to Steytlerville is in reasonable condition.

What will it cost

Accommodation is in the R300 to R400 per person per night B&B bracket.

Length of stay

Steytlerville is worth at least 2 days of your time.

What to pack

Pack for the outdoors, because you might find yourself traipsing over farmlands and into the surrounding mountains.

Where to stay

You are spoilt for accommodation choices, which include the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville, Noorspoort Guest Farm or the Karroo Theatrical Hotel.

What to eat

Substantial meals are offered in Steytlerville, in true Karoo tradition. So prepare yourself for lamb, venison and full plates.

What's happening

Check the Baviaans website for any events taking place in the area during your stay. One of the new local events is the Steyterlville Motor Show, to the held on October 6.

Best buys

Mohair, sheepskin and angora products like blankets, scarves and slippers.