The Free State is the agricultural heart of South Africa. This vast grassy plain is where more than 70% of South Africa's grain consumption is produced. The Free State is also rich in mineral wealth, gold representing 20% of the worlds total gold production.
Impressive game reserves exist in the Free State too, such as the Willem Pretorius. The grassy plains in the south of the reserve provides ideal conditions for large herds of plain game such as black wildebeest and springbok. The ridges, koppies and plains typical of the northern section are home to kudu, red hartebeest, white rhino and buffalo. The African wildcat, black wildebeest, zebra, eland, white rhino and wild dog can be seen at the The Soetdoring Nature Reserve near Bloemfontein.
Probably the most scenically attractive of all the reserves in the Free State is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park dominated by spectacular sandstone mountains. The reserve derives it's name from two massive sandstone formations that face one another across the valley. The Cherry Festival of Ficksburg is making a name for itself as a tourist event.
State Tourism Marketing Board
Apart from the splendour of the Free State's nature reserves, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy horse-riding, hunting, and bird watching. The rivers and dams offer a myriad of water sport opportunities such as challenging river rafting or canoeing. Day and overnight hiking routes vary from educational tours to rough mountain treks. In addition, a large variety of festivals and events are held throughout the year with some characteristic only to the Free State.
To visit South Africa's Free State is to be touched by its rural charm, to be one with nature and where one can experience the freedom of true wide open spaces.
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. 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 province 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. In the south-west, the Gariep Dam resort offers an extensive range of leisure activities including water sports, tennis, bowling, horse-riding, golf and 13 nature reserves.
Free State Accommodation
Merl offers a very friendly and professional service to book accommodation in the Free State.
Situated in the northern region of the Free State a region of undulating hills, the Riemland 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.
One of South Africa's major rivers, 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 hotels.
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 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.
The Transgariep and Eastern Highlands is the southern region of the Free State. South Africa's largest river, the Orange, rises in Lesotho's Maluti Mountains 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 highlands are 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.
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