The Free State is a landlocked province of South Africa, surrounded on all sides by 6 provinces (namely KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, the North West Province, Mpumalanga and Gauteng) and the kingdom of Lesotho. If you want to explore small town South Africa, a visit to the Free State should top your road-trip agenda. With endless veld, impossibly blue skies and the ubiquitous lonely windmill every few kilometers, this is archetypal South African scenery in its purest form.
Though this province has always drawn history-lovers due to its fascinating Boer past, it was once seen as a staid backwater left off any modern-day traveller’s must-see list. The Free State has come into its own over the past few years on the back of the growing yearning among city dwellers for a more simple way of life. Anthony Trollop wrote, after visiting Bloemfontein back in the 1870s, ‘The town is so quiet and seems to be so happy and contented, removed so far away from strife and want and disorder, that the beholder … is tempted to think the peace of such an abode is better than the excitement of Paris, London or New York.”
The Free State province is known, among other things, for its traditional Afrikaans cuisine – boerekos (farmer’s food). This is indeed farming country, with over 30 000 farms where grain is one of the major crops grown. In addition the world’s most highly productive gold and diamond mines are found in this province. In the Goldfields region, a cluster of pink flamingos is a common site in the wetlands fed by water pumped from the mines.
The Free State’s landscapes vary from the semi desert of the Karoo in the south to open grasslands in the west and scenic grandeur in the eastern region. Snowfalls are not uncommon in winter months, with summer temperatures soaring to the high 30 and even early 40 degrees Celsius.
Use our Free State map to plan a fascinating foray when planning your Free State travel. And wherever your Free State travels take you, Portfolio can guide you to the best, quality and luxury Free State accommodation in a range of B&Bs, guest houses, farm stays and safari lodges in this South African province.
Visit the City of Roses – the capital of the Free State province. Here the National Women’s Monument surrounded by its “Whispering Wall” serves as a memorial to the 26 370 Boer women and children who died during the Boer War. Spend more tranquil hours in the beautifully landscaped Free State National Botanical Gardens. Bloemfontein is also renowned for being the birthplace of the great writer J.R.R Tolkien.
The ‘Jewel of the Free State’, Clarens was named for the village in Switzerland where Paul Kruger (one time SA President) died. In recent times Clarens has become an artists' colony and the Artist Amble takes visitors to various studios and galleries. For older art visit the caves in the area containing San rock paintings.
Visit Surrender Hill, where the Free State soldiers capitulated to the British in 1900. Today there is a memorial here to the British soldiers who died during that time. Take a 2-day hike on the Brandwater trail in the scenic Meiringskloof Nature Reserve and visit the cave where a group of women lived for 6 months during the Anglo Boer War.
Location of Platberg (flat mountain) – the site of the annual Berg Marathon. This cross country event comprises a 605m climb over 5km, a run across the summit and a descent along an old bridal path that was once used by British pack animals in the Anglo Boer war.
Be inspired - visit De Bome (‘the trees’), the house where Emily Hobhouse stayed during her visits to the Springfontein concentration camp. Ms Hobhouse was a British welfare campaigner who exposed the appalling condition in the British concentration camps where Boer women and children were kept during the second Boer War.