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JJust 135km from Bloemfontein, Smithfield is a walking, birding and cycling hotspot, and an inviting stopover for people heading to the Eastern Cape, or from Johannesburg or Durban to Cape Town.
For cycling enthusiasts, Smithfield is an ideal destination. Resident Gus Uys has laid out several excellent mountain-bike trails through the surrounding hills and kloofs.
Birders also enjoy coming here and leading South African ornithologist Rick Nuttall calls it an 'undiscovered gem', with more than 270 species recorded in the area.
Cuisine in Smithfield varies from women cooking boerewors (traditional South African sausage) on the sidewalk, to an art café serving themed menus from all over the world, and an a-la-carte restaurant with a bar and take-away joint attached.
A local delicacy is sheep-milk cheese, made by farmer Elmarie van Aswegen on her farm, Patria.
Smithfield attracts artistic and eccentric people, and you'll hear tales of romance and ruin if you linger a while.
Even the town square is romantic! Juana Square was named after Juana Smith, the Spanish beauty and much-beloved wife of Sir Harry Smith, who the town was named after. (Another South African town, Ladysmith, is also named after her, while the town of Harrismith was named after him.)
The story goes that Smith met his future wife as a young man in the peninsula wars in Spain.
After the British ransacked the town and convent where Juana and her sister attended school, she presented herself at Smith's tent and demanded proper treatment for ladies such as themselves.
He was swept off his feet and theirs was a lifelong romance.
King Moshoeshoe's time in Smithfield was not quite so romantic, as he arrived in the mid-1800s to try to improve the relationship between the local Sotho people and the Boer farmers.
Fifty years later, during the Second South African War of 1899-1902 (also known as the Anglo-Boer War), Smithfield served as a British stronghold.
Relics from this time can still be found in the veld where the sweet-smelling Massonia jasminiflora, a member of the hyacinth family, flowers in winter.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)51 409 9900
How to get here
Smithfield is about 135km from Bloemfontein, where there is a large airport. It is approximately 560km from Johannesburg to Smithfield, and about 520km from Durban to Smithfield. Smithfield is on the N6, off the N1, south of Bloemfontein.
Best time to visit
All year round. Summers (December to February) are hot, winter (June to August) mornings and evenings can drop to below 0° Celsius.
Things to do
Visit the Ovis Angelica sheep dairy, where sheep-milk cheese and yoghurt are made. Or take a drive to the Helvetia historical church site about 27kms out of town. It dates back to 1890 when a farmer donated the church and the school to the Dutch Reformed Church to use it so as to spread the word of God amongst the local people and to school the local kids.
On the last weekend in June, the town hosts the Platteland Preview Arts Festival where some performers, on their way to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, showcase their talents.
What to pack
Walking shoes, mountain bike, binoculars and casual clothes.
Where to stay
Smithfield has a choice of accommodation.
What to eat
Smithfield has a choice of restaurants, and most of the guesthouses and B&Bs offer meals.
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