The Sandstone Route
Did you know?
The oldest dinosaur eggs in the world were found along the Sandstone Route.
There's nothing quite like the colour of Clarens sandstone.
In the early morning and late afternoon, its hues flash between brilliant red, orange and golden. In Clarens itself, less than three hours' drive from Johannesburg, there's a huge sandstone formation standing like a ship's prow over the town, aptly named Titanic Rock.
Clarens is the arty anchor of the Sandstone Route, a gorgeous meander via the pretty towns of Ficksburg, Fouriesburg and Clocolan towards Ladybrand.
It's packed full of arts and craft shops and galleries, along with a few truly memorable restaurants. If you prefer to catch your own food, there are plenty of trout streams too.
The highlight of the Sandstone Route is a drive around Golden Gate Highlands National Park, only 20 minutes from Clarens.
It's here that you'll see the famed sandstone in the most astounding formations. The Sentinel, which glows deeply at sunset, is quite iconic. It stands in one of the most scenic national parks in the country, proclaimed for its outstanding landscapes.
Ficksburg, also a sandstone village, is a wonderful place to explore, especially if you're interested in Bushman rock art, but most people associate it and nearby Fouriesburg with cherry farming. And don't forget to ask about hiking routes in the region, since these grassy uplands are beautifully green in summer.
This eastern Free State sandstone route is gorgeous any time of the year, but its signature season is autumn. That's when the Lombardy poplars turn golden and the roads are lined with merry cosmos flowers, all pink and white.
If you're interested in a self-drive tour through South Africa, include this gorgeous route. South Africans have long enjoyed holidaying in the high sandstone foothills of Lesotho's mighty Maloti Mountains - and so will you.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0) 58 256 1542
How to get here
The best place to start is Clarens, which is less than 3 hours' drive from Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport.
Best time to visit
The signature season of this part of the world is autumn, when the colours are simply glorious. Spring and summer are beautifully green, but winter can be icy and snow is common.
Around the area
The town of Clarens is packed to the brim with small arty, crafty stores and galleries selling a wide range of clothing, books, art, crafts, home-made goodies, wine and loads more cool stuff to buy.
Tours to do
There are excellent fossil-hunting tours in the area, most based in Clarens. You can also hire bikes to go riding along the road or around town.
Self-drive is best if you want to fully explore the area in your own time.
Length of stay
You'll happily spend at least 3 or 4 nights along the Sandstone Route.
Where to stay
There really is a wide variety, from hotels and country inns, to guesthouses and B&Bs.
What to eat
Clarens is famed for its sophisticated eateries, but you'll find hearty country fare and hospitality at most small towns along the route.
In November visit the annual Cherry Festival in Ficksburg.
Buy fabulous artwork direct from famous local artists living along the Sandstone Route.