The Free State is known locally as South Africa's breadbasket.Situated on flat plains in the heart of South Africa, it is the third largest of the nine provinces, but with low population density.The rich soil and pleasant climate allow a thriving agricultural industry. With more than 30,000 farms, it produce over 70% of the country's grain.
The province is high-lying, with almost all land being 1,000 metres above sea level.The Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains foothills raise the terrain to over 2000 m in the east. Mineral deposits are plentiful, with gold and diamonds being of particular importance, mostly found in the north and west of the Free State province.
As the Free State economy is based on agriculture and mining, the province is unfairly under-rated in people's estimation as a tourist destination. The province has much to offer in historical attractions in cities, outdoor activities, hospitality, cultural attractions and scenery of the eastern highlands region. You will be able to enjoy mountain air, open spaces, hiking, birding, abseiling, water sports and much more
Former president Nelson Mandela's thoughts on the province:"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."
City of Welkom
Gold was first discovered in 1947 on a farm called St. Helena. The town that developed rapidly around the mining was named Welkom, which in Dutch or Afrikaans means welcome. It gained city status in 1961, becoming the country's youngest city.
Today the city still flourishes due to gold and uranium mining. There are several parks and lakes in the city. Places of interest are mining and World War 2 museums. Accompanied gold mining tours are available.
Free State Climate.The Free State experiences a continental climate, characterised by warm to hot summers and cool to cold winters. Areas in the east experience frequent snowfalls, especially on the higher ranges, whilst the west can be extremely hot in summer. Almost all precipitation falls in the summer months as brief afternoon thunderstorms, with aridity increasing towards the west. Areas in the east around Harrismith, Bethlehem and Ficksburg are well watered. The capital, Bloemfontein, experiences hot, moist summers and cold, dry winters frequented by severe frost.
Read more information at our Free State Travel Guide.
The Sentinel, Golden Gate
Free State Farm Scene
Basotho Cultural Village
Free State Highlands Autumn
Golden Gate Highlands National Park Is located near the Lesotho border. The most notable features are its golden, ochre and orange hued deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops especially the Brandwag (Sentinal) rock. Another feature of the area are numerous caves and shelters displaying San rock paintings. It is the Free State's only national park, and is more famous for the beauty of its landscape than for its wildlife.
QwaQwa National Park.Is also home to the Basotho Cultural Village which takes you on a walk through time with its museum and amphitheatre. discover the essence of South Sotho culture and lifestyle, spanning the 16th century to the present day.
The Sterkfontein dam Game reserve.Is a popular for camping, angling, game viewing, biking and hiking. A birding paradise with views toward the Drakensberg.
The Willem Pretorius Game Reserve.Situated in the heart of the Free State with the Allemanskraal dam at its centre. Most species of antelope a birding spot. Good for hiking and aquatic sports
Steam Train Route
The Sandstone Steam Rail Company has been established to restore steam trains for tourist travel along the historic Bethlehem-Bloemfontein Rail road.
There are local excursions along the main route and side excursions along branch lines to destinations such as Maseru and Ladybrand, as well as developing ancillary tourist facilities along the routes. Excursions are of relatively short duration, with frequent stops to allow passengers to enjoy the scenery and facilities along the route
The longest signed tourism route starts in Harrismith, proceeds through the Free State to the Orange River after which it crosses the Eastern Cape to the N2 on the Wild Coast.It is dominated by the Maluti Mountain Range of Lesotho. A scenic route of art, culture, history, rock art sites and cultural experiences
The Friendly N6 Route.
Experience the Southern Free State by taking the N6 from Bloemfontein to Reddersburg, Smithfield and Rouxville and then onto Aliwal North and the rest of the Eastern Cape. Many good stop-overs en route, especially at Smithfield and the hot springs resort near Aliwal North.
The Battlefield Route.
The province contains many historic sites related to the Anglo-Boer War, including 13 battlefield sites, 8 military monuments, 2 war museums and 3 war and concentration camp cemeteries.
BBT Heritage Route.
Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu are in close geographical relationship to each other and yet, have an extreme diverse cultural and political heritage.
Diamond Wine Route.
Follow the route of the diamond prospectors of the past and present. A man-made diamond hole at Jagersfontein of 760m beats the better-known Big Hole of Kimberley for size. Also visit the wine cellars of Landzicht and Wilreza in the scenic Jacobsdal area.
Copyright: African-Experiences 2007. Images:S.african Tourism
Searchable Map of Freestate Province, South Africa: Accommodation
City of Bloemfontein
The economic and cultural centre of the Free State and also the Judicial capital of South Africa. Geographically, it is situated at the centre of the province and called the City of Roses because of the 4,000 roses planted at Kings park. A rose festival is held annually to feature the city The name Bloemfontein means 'fountain of flowers', which goes back to humble beginnings to the time it was a farm. It was named by the pioneer farmer from Swellendam in the Cape who first bartered with a local Sotho chief for the land when in search of grazing for his cattle in 1820.Today Bloemfontein is bustling City. The historic boer republic capital from 1854-1902 become the provincial capital at union of the four regions that were to become the Union of South Africa in 1910 and continued to serve as capital after the 1994 election. The city has beautiful historic architecture and exiting new development. The city offers the tourist excellent accommodation facilities, entertainment, first class restaurants, art galleries, theatres, night clubs and pubs. Read our Bloemfontein Travel Guide
A Combine Harvester on a Free State Farm, South Africa