Free State DestinationsHeilbron, Northern Free State
Lying due west of Frankfort, and an hour's drive south of Vanderbijlpark, Heilbron is a little farming community town, the fields that surround it the site of cattle, dairy, sorghum, sunflower and maize farms.
On the face of it, a not-much-happening town where you can pick up a farm, dwellings included, for the price you might pay for a cottage in Cape Town.
Except that the rise in the number of game farms now mean that within an hour and a half of Johannesburg people have access to wildlife – particularly those who live in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg for whom viewing game used to involve a travail through or around the major metropolis.
Heilbron's game farms mean weekends and holidays in fresh air. Farm stays appeal further to the adventure crowd after activities like horse riding, off-road cycling, fishing and 4x4 driving. And the good all-year-round weather means that there is seldom a season that disappoints.
It's interesting to glance at the town's history. It was named using the Afrikaans word meaning 'spring of bliss' for the perennial fountain, the source of a stream that runs through Heilbron.
Battles fought between the Voortrekkers and the local Ndebele people, and a local monument and museum, provide plenty of sustenance for battlefield tourists.
For a brief interlude Heilbron functioned as the capital of the Independent Boer Republic of the Orange Free State, when Bloemfontein was conquered by the British in 1900. The British used the town for one of several concentration camps.
Heilbron lies on the Riemland Wine Route – a 200 km tour connecting small rural towns of Petrus Steyn, Lindley, Arlington, Sasolburg and Rosendal. With roughly an hour's drive between each town it makes a peaceful trip, punctuated by history and wine.
Nearby: Ficksburg's cherry season, Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site and the Vaal Meander.