The Free State, South Africa

With its wealth of historical and cultural attractions and excellent facilities, Bloemfontein is the ideal place to start a tour of the Free State. North of Winburg, the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve is the Free State's major provincial reserve, offering a wealth of wildlife, excellent fishing conditions, and a wide range of sports facilities.

Did you know? Nelson Mandela said of the Free State: "The Free State landscape gladdens my heart, no matter what my mood. When I am here I feel that nothing can shut me in, that my thoughts can roam as far as the horizons."

Kroonstad has all you need for a relaxing break, including an excellent holiday resort. Loch Athlone, one of the major attractions of Bethlehem, is a magnet for anglers and those who enjoy pottering around in boats.

No visit to the Free State is complete without following the renowned Highlands Route. Starting at Harrismith and ending at Zastron, the route is particularly notable for the Golden Gate National Park, beautiful mountain scenery and charming country towns, Clarens being the most popular and a regular weekend destinations for locals from all over the country. In the south-west, the Gariep Dam nature reserve offers an extensive range of leisure activities including water sports, tennis, bowling, horse-riding and golf.

Situated in a region of undulating hills in the Free State, the Northern Free State is blessed with fertile soil and good rainfall, creating excellent conditions for maize, wheat, sunflowers and cattle and game farming. Many farmers throughout the region open their doors to visitors, providing excellent opportunities to enjoy their friendly hospitality and experience the daily routine of a Free State farm.

A major river of South Africa, the Vaal, flows through a green and fertile valley lined with willow trees. Holiday-makers converge on the attractive resorts nestling near the dams on the river - especially popular among anglers, yachtsmen and other water sports enthusiasts. Fun-lovers flaunting tans adorn the river banks, and when the sun goes down, fine wines and gourmet cuisine are served in plush Free State hotels.

Did you know? Once you've booked your hotels or accommodation in Free State, explore the destination pages for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you visit the Free State Province in South Africa.

The Central Free State is often referred to as "The Golden Country". Fields of corn and golden sunflowers embellish the landscape, and the gold deposits beneath the ground are a source of great wealth. One third of the country's gold is produced in the region of the Free State where modern towns with shopping centres, hotels, restaurants, parks and sports facilities have mushroomed. A wide variety, of good facilities and entertainment options are offered in the larger centres such as Welkom, Kroonstad and Virginia.

South Africa's largest river, the Orange, rises in Lesotho's Maluti Mountains in the Free State and forms the southern boundary of the Free State before winding its way to the Atlantic Ocean. To the Khoikhoi people, the Orange was known as Gariep (river), and for this reason, the Voortrekkers who settled in the region north of the river called it the Transgariep.

Increasingly popular among holiday-makers, the river is also the site of one of the country's most astounding engineering feats, the Gariep Dam. This enormous inland sea and the attractive resort on its banks provide a relaxing interlude for travellers, especially for those who enjoy swimming, water-skiing, fishing and yachting. Those in the know claim that paddling a canoe down the long, lazy flow of the river is the ultimate adventure.

Pride and joy of the Free State, the eastern Free State region, Thabo Mofutsanyana, is a delight throughout the year. In spring, the cool, sparkling air is filled with fragrance. Summer is a time of ripening harvests and the pleasures of the great outdoors. Autumn turns the leaves to gold, and snow shrouds the mountains in winter. The fishing is great. The mountains invite you to climb. The wildlife waits to be captured by your camera, and the golf courses are groomed for your pleasure.

Free State as a destination

Must See in Free State

National Parks / Nature Reserves

Golden Gate National Park

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park's sandstone cliffs, especially ...

World Heritage Sites

Vredefort Dome

The Vredefort dome is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site (Asrobleme) in the world. Formed an estimated 2000 million years ago when a gigantic meteorite (larger than Table Mountain) hit the earth close to where Vredefort is today. The force of ...


Basotho Cultural Village

A visit to the Basotho Cultural Village which nestles at the foot of huge sandstone mountains, will give you a deeper insight into the lifestyle of the South Sotho from the 16th century to the picturesque present. On arrival, a friendly receptionist will ...

Nature Reserves

Gariep Dam Nature Reserve

The Free State's largest nature reserve is a combination of the 36 487 ha Gariep Dam on the Orange River and an 11 237 ha game sanctuary on its northern shore. From the Gariep dam some 200 000 ha of land is irrigated, by means of a tunnel of 83,8 km, ...

Lakes / Dams / Nature Reserves

Sterkfontein Dam Reserve

Rugged, steep krantzes silhouetted against the skyline, mountain slopes snugly covered with a grass blanket, deep lushly vegetated kloofs and a crystal-clear lake are facets of the beauty of the Sterkfontein Dam Reserve which covers 18000 Ha. Oribi, ...

Nature Reserves

Franklin Nature Reserve

Named after Sir John Stuart Franklin, the mayor of Bloemfontein during the 1920s, Franklin Game Reserve lies right in the heart of Bloemfontein. There are very few cities in the world that can claim to have a nature reserve within their perimeters - ...


National Museum Bloemfontein

Notable for its large collection of fossils, cultural historical exhibits and archaeological displays, including the Florisbad skull which was discovered in the 1930s at the Florisbad Spring some 50 km north of Bloemfontein. (Florisbad Man is estimated ...

Botanical Gardens

Free State National Botanical Garden

On the north western fringes of Bloemfontein lie 70 hectares of botanical garden, in a valley peppered with dolerite koppies, tall grassland and woodland; some magnificent examples of wild olive and karee trees, an orange blossom arbour and a petrified ...

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