The Free State province is one of South Africa’s nine provinces. It is in the middle of South Africa. Six provinces surround the Free State province, including Gauteng, North-West, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Although the Free State province is small, it offers a variety of tourist attractions. Let’s explore the Free State’s tourist attractions, where they are located and what they offer.
Map of The Best Free State Tourist Attractions
This map shows the location of the Free State attractions:
The Best Free State Tourist Attractions
If you love road trips, the Free State is the perfect destination for you. The towns are far from each other, and the scenery is beautiful. (Click here for the best rental car options.) Here are the best Free State tourist attractions to visit:
- Map of The Best Free State Tourist Attractions
- The Best Free State Tourist Attractions
- The Best Free State Tourist Attraction: The Golden Gate Highlands National Park
- Basotho Cultural Village
- Gariep Dam
- The Free State National Botanical Gardens
- The National Museum and The Oliewenhuis Art Museum
- Naval Hill
- The Anglo Boer War Museum
- Vredefort Dome
- Windmill Casino & Entertainment Center
- Bagamoyo Wildlife Estate
- LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary
- Soetdoring Nature Reserve
- Sterkfontein Dam Reserve
- The Fourth Raadsaal
- Bon-Af Berry Farm
- Glen Garriff Conservation
- Zanchieta Lodge and Wild Cat Reserve
- South African Armour Museum
- The Clarens Brewery
- Baris Monger
- The Cheetah experience
- Willem Pretorius Game Reserve
- Nationale Vroue Monument (Women’s Monument)
The Best Free State Tourist Attraction: The Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is one of South Africa’s many national parks. It is near the Maluti Mountains in the northeastern Free State. The most popular feature of the Golden Gate National Park is its beautiful golden sandstone cliffs. In fact, its name is from the golden hues of the sun on the sandstone cliffs in the park.
The park is perfect for outdoor lovers. It has a range of birds and mammals, including Eland, Oribi, Black Wildebeest and Burchell’s Zebra. There are many hiking trails. A popular hiking trail is a hike to the top of the Sentinel. From the top of the Sentinel, visitors can enjoy stunning views of the area, including Tugela Falls (the world’s second tallest waterfall). Other activities here are horse riding, cave exploration and bird-watching.
Basotho Cultural Village
Visitors can find the Basotho Cultural Village in the Qwaqwa National Park, which is part of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The village shows the lifestyle of the South Sotho tribes from the 16th century to now. In the village, you experience the Sotho way of life. Visitors cannot enter the chief’s village without asking permission first. Once inside, you can taste mqombothi (sorghum beer) with the chief. His wives may offer you traditional food, and you can learn about African spirituality from the traditional healers. Other demonstrations visitors can see include how the Sotho people decorate their huts, make basket ware, crush maize and do their traditional dances.
The Gariep Dam is the largest dam in South Africa, covering over 36 487 hectares. Visitors can find the dam in the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve, the largest nature reserve in the Free State province. The Reserve houses the largest number of Springbok in South Africa. A visit to the Reserve is perfect for taking a break from the rushed city life. Staying at Adamsview will give you beautiful views of the Gariep Dam.
The Free State National Botanical Gardens
The Free State National Botanical Garden houses over 400 species of plants, making it a wildlife sanctuary. The botanical gardens cover an area of over 70 hectares. It is in a valley with several dolerite koppies. Visitors can take a path through the wild olive and Karee trees, the woodlands and the grasslands. A petrified tree in the park is also estimated to be older than 150 million years. There are displays of gardens with medicinal plants and a water-wise garden.
Spring is the best time to visit the botanical gardens is (September to November in South Africa) when the flowers bloom. The Botanical Society hosts sunset concerts, educational talks, and moonlight walks during the summer.
The National Museum and The Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Established in 1877, the National Museum Bloemfontein curates the national history and art of South Africa. The museum’s archaeology and palaeontology sections offer several fascinating exhibits to show visitors what the world was like millions of years ago. The museum features multiple displays and collections, such as the Florisbad Skull from one of the largest known dinosaurs. Another dinosaur exhibit is the complete skeleton of the Euskelosaurus, one of the earliest known plant-eating dinosaurs.
Another sight at the National Museum is the Oliewenhuis Art Museum. This museum focuses on the conservation collection of art representing the heritage of South African art. Visitors can enjoy guided tours through the museum or browse its exhibits on their own.
Try the Bloemfontein City Sightseeing Tour to visit the National Museum, Oliewenhuis Art Museum and the Free State National Botanical Garden.
Naval Hill is in the Franklin Game Reserve in the heart of Bloemfontein. The hill is called Naval Hill because the British had naval guns here during the Anglo-Boer War.
Entrance to the Reserve is free.
Visitors can have panoramic views of Bloemfontein from the top of Naval Hill. At the top, visitors can also see the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, which opened in 1928. Initially owned by the University of Michigan, the observatory closed in 1974 when they dismantled a 27-inch refractor. The building became the Observatory Theatre, a drama theatre. It then re-opened as the Naval Hill Planetarium in November 2013. The planetarium is the first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa.
At the top of Naval Hill is an 8-metre bronze statue of Nelson Mandela.
The Reserve houses wildlife, such as giraffes and ostriches. There are several interesting species of birds as well.
The Anglo Boer War Museum
South Africa had a significant historical event, the Anglo-Boer War. The war lasted from 1899 to 1902. The Anglo Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein covers the background of the war and features art, exhibitions and dioramas. You can follow the progress of the war in the museum. Visitors can also get glimpses into the life and suffering of the people in the concentration and prisoner-of-war camps. The Ultimate Tour of War Museums in Bloemfontein include a city tour and a visit to the Anglo Boer War Museum and ht Women’s War Memorial.
The Vredefort Dome dates back 2023 million years and is a World Heritage Site. It is the largest meteorite crater on planet earth and has a radius of 190 km. It is the second oldest meteorite crater in the world.
The crater formed over 2 billion years ago when a meteor hit the earth. It went deep into the earth and then exploded and formed the dome at the site of the explosion. The explosion caused a ripple of three rings, of which the furthest one was 150km from the centre. Visitors cannot see the dome or crater but the rocks and the hills formed by the meteor’s explosion.
Do a guided tour to make the most of a visit to the Vredefort Dome.
Windmill Casino & Entertainment Center
If gambling is your type of activity, visiting the Windmill Casino & Entertainment Center is a must. The Casino represents the famous Moulin Rouge and offers a variety of entertainment facilities for children, a hotel, a casino and a shopping section. There are several restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat. The Casino is near Bloemfontein and may be a perfect overnight stop for a road trip through South Africa.
Bagamoyo Wildlife Estate
The Bagamoyo Wildlife Estate is in Motheo in Bloemfontein. The estate offers over 28 wild animals, including bucks, hippos, tigers, bat-eared foxes, camels and lions. Visitors can interact with large wild cats, such as tigers, lions and more. Visitors can enjoy game drivers, see a lion feeding, and participate in other outdoor activities.
LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary
The LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary is located near Bethlehem. It is the home to over 100 big cats rescued globally. Four Paws, a global animal welfare organisation, started the sanctuary. The cats can stay at the sanctuary for the remainder of their lives in a species-appropriate environment.
Entrance to the sanctuary is free. Visitors can choose from various paid activities, including feeding tours, walks and drives.
Soetdoring Nature Reserve
The Soetdoring Nature Reserve and Predator Park is a small reserve located outside Bloemfontein. Here, visitors can see cheetahs in fenced enclosures. The Reserve has gravel roads and a few signposts, so make sure to request a map at the entrance gate.
The Reserve houses predatory game, such as wild dogs, in separate enclosures. Other wildlife in the reserve is eland, gemsbok, springbok, black wildebeest, blesbok, zebra, kudu, steenbok, duiker, and red hartebeest. The park is lovely for bird-watching, with over 284 recorded species.
Apart from viewing wildlife, visitors can have a braai (barbecue) or picnic at the park’s picnic site, where there are multiple cement tables, portable toilets, and a water tank with a tap.
Sterkfontein Dam Reserve
The Sterkfontein Dam Reserve is located outside Harrismith. The Reserve covers over 18000 hectares. Visitors can view wild animals here, including oribi, grey rhebok and mountain reedbuck. Birds in the park include the bald ibis, ground woodpecker, Cape Rock Thrushes and the white-bellied korhaan.
Visitors can also do water sports on the Sterkfontein Dam, such as sailing and canoeing.
The Fourth Raadsaal
The Fourth Raadsaal was completed in 1893 in a Renaissance style. The Orange Free State’s parliament used the building when it was an independent country (1854 to 1902). After the conquest by the British, the building became a public government office, which is now used by the provincial Free State legislature.
There is a statue of Christiaan de Wet in front of the building. He was a guerilla general who signed a peace treaty with the British.
Bon-Af Berry Farm
A visit to the Bon-Af Berry Farm is highly recommended for a fun family outing. The farm offers tours of the farm. Visitors can pick various berries, such as framboise, blueberries, blackberries and bramble. After picking berries, there is a restaurant where visitors can enjoy tea and scones. Harvest time for berries is from November to April, but you can purchase frozen berries at the farm during the other times of the year. Click here for accommodation options in Parys.
Glen Garriff Conservation
Glen Garriff Conservation is located in Harrismith and covers more than 1000 hectares. Apart from the stunning view of the Eastern Free State’s vistas, visitors can enjoy a relaxing stay at the conservation. Gleg Garriff is home to more than 77 lions. They started with lion conservation in 2002 with 2 lions.
Zanchieta Lodge and Wild Cat Reserve
The Zanchieta Lodge and Wild Cat Reserve is 22 kilometres from Bloemfontein. It is a licenced rehabilitation centre and sanctuary for animals that cannot be released into the wild.
At Zanchieta, visitors can see some of South Africa’s wild cats and other animals, including monkeys, guinea pigs, meerkats, sheep, birds and porcupines.
Visitors can also stay at the Zanchieta Lodge and enjoy guided walking tours to view the animals during feeding times.
South African Armour Museum
The South African Armour Museum is located in Bloemfontein. It is a national monument with a wall of remembrance. Entrance to the museum is free. Visitors can view a display of armoured fighting vehicles, restored vehicles, armour and artillery. There is a research library and a museum shop on-site.
Visitors can have a guided walk through the museum and learn more about the various items at the museum.
The Clarens Brewery
The Clarens Brewery is one of South Africa’s first Brew-Pub, Cidery and Distillery. It is in Clarens near the Maluti Mountains. The brewery offers visitors a tasting panel of different craft beers while explaining more about the flavours and techniques for crafting the beer. Visitors can learn more about craft beer and brewing beer at the brewery.
Visitors can find Baris Monger outside Clarens in the Eastern Free State. They can enjoy delicious goat’s cheese, wine or coffee in the beautiful garden. Baris Monger offers cheese tastings. Other treats visitors can have local delicacies, espresso-based beverages, crepes and cheesecake. Click here for accommodation options in Clarens.
The Cheetah experience
Visitors can enjoy the Cheetah Experience in Bainsvlei in Bloemfontein. The experience comprises a “See, Sense, Touch” hands-on experience. Visitors can do a guided tour to meet the lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, caracals and servals. The organisation was founded in 2006 with the purpose of breeding cheetahs for release into a “protected wild.”
Willem Pretorius Game Reserve
The Willem Pretorius Game Reserve is in the Free State in the Lejweleputswa District Municipality. Within the Reserve is another of South Africa’s dams, the Allemanskraal Dam.
A farmer established the Reserve in 1890 when he turned his land into a reserve to protect the black wildebeest when Europeans had a high demand for wildebeest skins in the mid-1800s. After his death, the hunting of black wildebeest continued and the herd of black wildebeest took shelter on the farm owned by Hendrik Delport, resulting in the herd’s protection.
Nationale Vroue Monument (Women’s Monument)
The Nationale Vroue Monument (Women’s Monument) was built and dedicated to the memory of the mothers, women and children who suffered or passed away during the Anglo-Boer War. It was the first monument in the world dedicated to women and children. They unveiled the monument on 16 December 1913.
The monument is a 37-metre high obelisk from sandstone. The walkway to the memorial contains memorial stones to commemorate everyone who died in the concentration camps in the Anglo- Boer War. Click here for accommodation options in Bloemfontein.