Harrismith, Eastern Free State Highlands
Harrismith is also the gateway to the ‘Highlands Route’ along the Lesotho border that takes in a number of pretty Free State Highlands towns and the Golden Gate National Park.
Harrismith lies exactly half way between Johannesburg and Durban, and is a favoured stop-over for travellers between the two cities. A small and charming town, Harrismith features the requisite sandstone buildings that typify Eastern Free State town architecture.
The loveliest of these is the Town Hall, which is a National Monument.
Like almost all Free State towns, Anglo Boer War Memorials attest to the colourful history of South Africa’s central land-locked province.
Despite its importance as a stop-over on the N3 and its past as a thriving centre of ‘diamond rush’ commerce and Boer culture, Harrismith has managed to stay small and typically quaint, but Harrismith is certainly worth a stop. The town’s small size, the barely altered Victorian houses and sandstone churches contribute to the classic and tranquil atmosphere that makes Harrismith so attractive as a weekend break for city dwellers or a ‘cultural’ stop for hikers, artists and adventure an kiteboarding enthusiasts headed for the nearby mountains. Yes…you read correctly:
For watersports enthusiasts, the nearby Sterkfontein Dam (South Africa’s third largest dam) offers a number of watersports, fishing and boating activities, as well as the Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve., but it is best known for superb board-sailing and kite-boarding thanks to its steady winds…
The 2377m high and 9 km long Platberg (Flat Mountain) just outside of Harrismith is a distinctive landmark that also offers hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as game viewing at the Platberg Game Reserve. The Botanical Garden between Harrismith and the Platberg holds many examples of local ‘Berg’ flora and is a great stop for a picnic prior to embarking on a trek over the border into the Natal Drakensburg to see “Mont-Aux-Sources” or “The Amphitheatre”.
Harrismith is also very close to The Golden Gate Highlands National Park (incorporating the Basotho Cultural Village), and the town is great base from which to travel to the Park to see its sandstone wonders – even if just for a day-trip.
Getting there: Take the N3 south from Johannesburg, or north from Durban. If you are travelling east from Bloemfontein, take the N1 east to Winburg, then the N5 on to Harrismith.