The Riemland Route is the ideal entry point to the Free State and – being just a stone’s throw from Johannesburg – an outdoor weekend destination. It features a collection of small rural towns with nature-based and adventure activities and traditional farm-style hospitality.

Did you know?

‘Riemland' comes from the Afrikaans word ‘riem' meaning ‘thong' from the leather thongs produced here in the early hunting days.

The Riemland Route is a 200km tourism route through the north eastern Free State linking the towns of Sasolburg, Heilbron, Petrus Steyn, Lindley, Arlington and Rosendal.

It gently winds its way south towards Ficksburg near the Lesotho border, where it connects with the Maloti Drakensberg Route. It's about an hour's drive between each town, giving you sufficient time to take in the peaceful surrounds and wide open spaces that characterise this area.

The towns themselves are steeped in history, as the region was once a prolific hunting destination, attracting European sharpshooters from the 1800s who were lured by the game that literally swarmed the plains.

The region also played a role in the Great Trek when the Voortrekkers settled here (and clashed with presiding chief Mzilikazi) as well as in the Anglo Boer War. Heilbron was the site of one of several concentration camps established by the British during the war. Several memorials along the Riemland Route commemorate these historical events.

Apart from its history, there's plenty to see and do in the area. In Sasolburg you can visit the Riemland Eco Park, home to at least 14 species of antelope, as well as the local botanical garden and Leeuspruit hiking trail. Heilbron's historical route is a major attraction along with numerous conservancies, game reserves and lodges, bass fishing and mountain biking trails.

Horse cart rides courtesy of famous local horseman, Petros Qokelani and a visit to Riemland O'Kasi cheese shop are must-dos in Petrus Steyn, while the various farm-style restaurants, bakeries and confectionaries of Lindley make for perfect rest stops along the route.

At Arlington, make sure you visit the Leghoya Ruins, the site of an ancient village once occupied by the Leghoya people. Finally in Rosendal, you can revel in the beauty of the mountain surrounds with a hike along the Mosamane Hiking Trail in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains.

The Riemland Route also includes the 50km-long Riemland Wine Route, featuring the wines of at least four renowned Western Cape wine cellars on local farms-turned-cellars.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Free State Tourism:
Tel: +27 (0)51 411 4300

How to get here

From Johannesburg, take the Golden Highway to Sasolburg, and then follow the Riemland Route along the R57 to Rosendal. From Cape Town, take the N1 to Sasolburg and from Durban, the N3 to Villiers, and then the R716 to Sasolburg.

Best time to visit

The Riemland Route is an all-year-round destination. Summers can get very hot, while winters are cool with very cold nights.

Around the area

Ficksburg (especially in cherry season – November), Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site near Parys, the Vaal Dam and Vaal Meander, the charming town of Clarens.

Tours to do

Anglo-Boer War tours at Heilbron, the Riemland Wine Route, Francolin Creek Conservancy, Leghoya Ruins, Ghoya Africa Conservancy, authentic Namibian German Pub at Enkelbos.

Get around

Self drive.

Length of stay

Two to three days or a weekend.

What to eat

Traditional 'boerekos' (farm-style food) is available at restaurants along the route.

What's happening

The Vegkop Boerevereniging Grass Rally takes place on the third Saturday of February at Enkeldoorndam near Heilbron; Riemland Mountain Bike Race in October at Heilbron; Dome Adventure Festival at nearby Parys in November; Cherry Festival at Ficksburg in November.

Related articles