Did you know?
De Oude Kraal Country Estate & Spa, outside of Bloemfontein, is a renowned Free State gourmet-dining venue.
Honeymoons in the Free State are topped by a brilliant blue sky that is sometimes interrupted by a theatrical electrical storm. They're a venture through endless kilometres of maize and wheat fields, and a sometimes deceptively monotonous landscape that can reveal surprises at every turn.
Honeymoons in the Free State bring encounters with multiple cultures and friendly farming communities, hearty meals, farmhouses with large front stoeps (porches) and church spires.
Why not explore the eastern region of the Free State, which knocks up against the towering Maloti Mountains of neighbouring Lesotho? The village of Clarens is all trendy galleries, artists’ studios, guesthouses and B&Bs. Creative types are drawn to this spot, which is framed by the rusty hues of sandstone cliffs.
Just 20km away is the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Imagine the romance of a horse ride at sunset among spectacularly sculptured rock formations.
Although the Free State is landlocked, it does have many rivers and the country’s largest dam, the Gariep Dam. On its banks are opportunities for adventure like rafting, fly-fishing and quad biking, along with an extensive nature reserve. B&B and self-catering accommodation exists in the expanding town on the dam.
Other water playgrounds in this province are the Vaal Dam and the Vaal River that winds its way through a World Heritage Site, the Vredefort Dome, created aeons ago by the impact of a massive meteorite crashing into Earth. In this area, watersports of every kind vie with abseiling, hot-air ballooning and rock climbing. Parys, the largest town in the area, offers a good range of accommodation.
On the subject of Free State towns, don’t rush by them too fast. The provincial capital, Bloemfontein, has magnificent examples of sandstone architecture, as well as a nature reserve within the city limits, on the slopes of Naval Hill.
In Welkom, take a tour down into the depths of the St Helena mine to the world’s deepest wine cellar, and drink a toast to your future.
If you visit Ficksburg in November, remember that’s Cherry Festival time and perhaps the nicest time to be in the Free State.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
You can drive to the Free State from the main centres of Johannesburg and Durban (about three hours' drive from Johannesburg, and three to four hours' drive from Durban).
The trip from Cape Town is quite a long one at more than 10 hours, so you might want to consider flying into Bloemfontein from Cape Town. There are direct flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Bloemfontein.
Best time to visit
In March: enjoy the Vintage Tractor Fair at Clocolan; in April: participate in the Philippolis Witblits Festival (showcasing local brews); in October: enjoy the long-running Bloemfontein Rose Festival; and in November: take in the famous Cherry Festival in Ficksburg.
Around the area
Don’t miss a visit to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the Vredefort Dome and the Basotho Cultural Village in Clarens.
You could book a scheduled tour of the Free State’s attractions, but in this part of the world the journey really is more important than the destination. A self-drive trip will give you the opportunity to truly explore and enjoy all that the province has to offer.
Length of stay
Anything from two days to two weeks (or more).