Oudtshoorn is considered the ostrich capital of the world. If ostriches are not your thing, don’t worry, Oudtshoorn is a great place and offers many more attractions and fun things to do for young and old alike. This article explores some fun things to do in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, including museums, caves, animals, nature and architecture.
Where Is Oudtshoorn?
Oudtshoorn is in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The town is between the Western Cape’s Outeniqua and Swartberg (Black Mountain) mountain ranges.
Oudtshoorn is the largest town in the Little Karoo region of South Africa. The booms in ostrich feathers from 1865 to 1870 and again from 1900 to 1904 established the town. Ostrich farming is still the main economic activity in the town.
Oudsthoorn is not part of the well-known Garden Route but is not far from Mossel Bay. You can easily make a detour from the Garden Route to make a day trip to explore Oudtshoorn’s attractions.
How to Get to Oudtshoorn
The best way to get to Oudtshoorn is by car. If you don’t have a car, you can rent one here. Alternatively, there are a number of tours available to explore some of the Oudtshoorn attractions, including:
There is no airport near Oudtshoorn. The closest airports are Cape Town International and George Airport, but you will need a car to travel to Oudtshoorn.
Fun Things to Do In Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Here are the best attractions in Oudtshoorn:
Learn About Ostriches at an Ostrich Farm
It is only fitting to start with ostriches, for which Oudtshoorn is known. There are several ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn where visitors can learn more about ostriches and even touch them.
Ostrich tours are worth it to learn about ostriches and ostrich farming. At some farms, you can learn to make an ostrich feather duster and stand on an ostrich egg – don’t worry, they are incredibly strong. Children can even ride on an ostrich.
If you want to try ostrich meat (which is very healthy and low in fat), you can taste it at a restaurant on one of the ostrich farms.
Three ostrich farms are offering these ostrich experiences. They are:
- Highgate Ostrich Show Farm, which you can reach by telephone on 044 272 7115
- Cango Ostrich Show Farm, telephone: 044 272 4623
- Chandelier Game Lodge and Ostrich Farm, telephone: 044 272 6794
Tours that include ostrich farms:
- Safari Ostrich Farm Tractor Tour the only Tractor Safari in Oudtshoorn
- Skip the Line: Highgate Ostrich Farm Tour Ticket
Explore the Cango Caves
Second to the ostrich farms, the Cango Caves is Oudtshoorn’s second best-known attraction. Read about our experience visiting the Cango Caves.
The indigenous people knew and used the caves long before the Europeans landed at the Cape. Recent finds, such as tools, prove that the Khoi lived and sheltered in the caves for over 80 000 years. The San used the entrance to the caves as a home and painted the walls with pictures of game animals. More than 200 years ago, in 1780, a Khoi herdsman found the entrance to the caves while looking for missing cattle.
The Swartberg mountain range contains over 56 cave systems, most of which are not open to the public for preservation reasons. The Cango Caves are situated in Precambrian limestone. The most extensive cave system, the Cango Caves, is open to the public.
You can book one of two guided tours here to explore the caves. Choose between the Standard Tour, which takes an hour, or the Adventure Tour, which takes 30 minutes. During the tour, you will experience its vast halls, including a “concert hall’, which is a beautiful acoustic environment. If you are more adventurous, do the adventure tour, where you crawl through tunnels and cavities in the caves.
Find more information at Cango Caves.
Learn More About the Wildlife at The Cango Wildlife Ranch
This is one of our favourite places to visit in Oudtshoorn. The Cango Wildlife Ranch started as a crocodile show farm. When the owners realised there were many other species of animals becoming extinct, they changed their focus to protecting more animal species.
Now, the Cango Wildlife Ranch is a zoological facility housing more than 100 species of wild animals. The Cango Wildlife Ranch was the first facility in the world to offer crocodile cage diving. If that is not your type of activity, you can spend your time here learning about various animals, such as cheetahs or Lemurs. Here, I saw white tigers for the first time. They are such beautiful creatures.
Get more information at Cango Wildlife Ranch.
View the Klein Karoo from A Hot Air Balloon
A unique experience in the Klein Karoo region of South Africa is taking a hot air balloon through its skies. You can experience the beautiful Klein Karoo sunrise over the Swartberg and Outenique mountain ranges from here.
Afterwards, you end the experience with a delicious champagne breakfast.
To arrange a hot air balloon ride, contact Oudtshoorn Ballooning at 082 784 8539 or DirtyBoots.
Have a safari and wildlife feeding experience at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge
Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is a game farm in the lower part of the Swartberg range. The Buffelsdrift Game Park has been a South African World Heritage Site since 2004. It contains many endemic plant species.
At the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, you can do game drives and see giraffes, hippos, rhinos and buffaloes. You can even watch lions feed.
Here, you can do a bush safari and see meerkats wake up and soak up the sun. You can also learn about cheetahs in their natural habitats.
The lodge has a few orphaned elephants, Jabari, Bulelo and Malaika. You may be able to feed these gentle giants while learning more about them and their personalities.
The Buffelsdrift Game Lodge offers luxurious accommodations and a restaurant specialising in local cuisine.
Go to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge for more information.
Mountain Bike the Swartberg Pass
If mountain biking is your passion, you can have an exciting mountain bike adventure down the Swartberg Pass while enjoying the spectacular scenery.
You can rent bikes from Kobus se Gat Restaurant. They will also provide transport to the top of the mountain pass. From there, you can enjoy the ride down at an exhilarating speed.
Learn About Succulents from The Succulent Man
Louis Jordaan of Minwater Farm, also known as the succulent man, has spent 27 years studying the Karoo’s shrubs, bush, insects and birds. He offers guided walks on request. If you are interested in the Karoo’s succulents, you can learn something from Louis.
Contact Minwater Farm for more information.
Drive the Mountain Passes of The Klein Karoo
The well-known Swartberg Mountains is the tallest mountain range in the Western Cape Province. Its highest peaks are 2,000 meters tall. Although the mountains were initially considered impassable, there are now three passes through them. The Swartberg Pass was built between 1881 and 1888. It is the most famous of the Swartberg mountain passes. What is amazing about this pass is that it was hand-built in 5 years!
From the mountain passes, you can see the Outeniqua mountains in the distance. Once you cross the Swartberg Mountains, you reach the Great Karoo (Groot Karoo) region of South Africa.
The Swartberg Circle Route is a scenic route from Oudtshoorn or Calitzdorp over the Swartberg Pass. Alternatively, you can drive through Meiringspoort to the towns of Prince Albert, De Rust and Klaarstroom. A picturesque return may be to drive through Vergelegen, Oudemargie, Groenfontein, Lategansvlei, Langverwacht and Kruisrivier.
For more information, go to https://www.swartbergcircleroute.co.za/
Other options for exploring Swartberg Mountain if you are in Oudtshoorn:
- From Oudtshoorn: Swartberg Mountain Private Guided Tour
- Swartberg Pass Tour including Traditional Karoo Lunch
- Swartberg: Swartberg Pass and Private Guided Tour
- Swartberg Mountain Circular ALL Inclusive Day Tour
- Swartberg Sunset Tour and Dinner
- Half-Day Swartberg Pass PRIVATE Tour (including lunch & transfer – Oudtshoorn)
Spend Time with Family at Wilgewandel Holiday Farm
After we visited the Cango Caves, we stopped at the Wilgewandel Holiday farm. The children enjoyed the farm’s activities, a lovely way to spend a few hours.
Wilgewandel Holiday Farm is a small adventure park near the Cango Caves. The farm offers many activities for children, ranging from the play park with trampolines and a rope slide, camel rides, a donkey cart ride and bumper boat rides.
You can feed the farm animals and enjoy an 18-hole Putt-Putt course here.
A fully licensed restaurant at the Wilgewandel Holiday Farm has good food for the whole family.
Contact Wilgewandel Holiday Farm for more information.
Enjoy the Rust en Vrede Waterfall
The Rust en Vrede Waterfall is 18 kilometres outside Oudtshoorn, near the Cango Caves.
The name of the waterfall is Afrikaans and means a place of ‘rest and peace’. The waterfall runs 365 days a year. It supplies Oudtshoorn with a significant portion of its water supply.
To get to the waterfall from Oudtshoorn, you take the R328 on the Oudemuragie road.
You pay a small entrance fee. You drive about 3 kilometres from the entrance to the parking spot. From here, you hike about 800 metres to get to the waterfall. The landscape surrounding the waterfall is breathtaking. At the waterfall, you can find indigenous plant species and wildlife.
There are many little bridges with wildflowers. There are barbeque (braai) facilities and many picnic spots.
The waterfall is typically open every day of the week from 9:00 – 16:30. Call ahead to ensure they are open. Their number is: +27 (0) 44 203 3112
Explore Gamkaberg Nature Reserve
The Gamkaberg Nature Reserve is one of South Africa’s World Heritage Sites. The government established it in 1974 to protect the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra.
You can find zebra here and various antelope, such as eland, klipspringer and red hartebeest. Several bird, insets, and reptile species are also in the reserve.
You can do a safari in the reserve. Some unique attractions are kloofing and viewing the reserve’s rock art sites. Other activities include hiking, mountain biking and bird watching.
Contact CapeNature at 0861 CAPENATURE (227 362 8873) for more information.
Go to Hell in Gamkaskloof
Gamkaskloof, also known as the Hell (Die Hel in Afrikaans), is an isolated valley in the Swartberg Mountains. Despite the name, it is a beautiful place.
Getting to Gamkaskloof is an experience with the road having many hairpin bends and ups and downs. Along the route, there is beautiful scenery.
The journey will take a few hours even though it is only 50km long. You don’t need a four-wheel drive vehicle as long you drive slowly and carefully.
If you get thirsty or hungry when you reach your destination, there is a restaurant to relax at.
Contact CapeNature at 0861 CAPENATURE (227 362 8873) for more information.
Go Wine Tasting on The Klein Karoo Wine Route
The Klein Karoo Wine Route stretches from Montagu to the Outeniqua along Cape Route 62 in the Western Cape. The Klein Karoo Wine Route is one of the longest wine routes in the world.
While doing the route, often stop at one of the many vineyards to enjoy wine tasting, local craft beer or litchi bombs.
Some of the stops along the wine route are:
- Grundheim Cellar, is a winery that was established in 1858 near Oudtshoorn. The cellar here is more than a century old. Grundheim produces Muscadel, Port, homemade liquors, and “witblits”, but they are known for their traditional method of winemaking. Find more information here: https://grundheim.co.za/
- When driving from Oudtshoorn, the Karusa Winery is located near the village of Schoemanshoek, en route to the Cango Caves. Karusa is known for its Cap Classique and Mediterranean-styled wines, but you can also find craft beers here. Karusa is also family-owned and operated. Their website has more information: https://karusa.co.za/
Enjoy a Spectacular View from The Cango Zip Line
If you want a more adventurous activity near Oudtshoorn, try the Cango Zipline at the Caves Estate. The Cango Zipline offers spectacular views of the Swarberg Mountains.
For more information, go to: http://www.cangocavesestate.co.za/
Learn About Ostrich History at The CP Nel Museum
In 1906, Charles Bullock built the sandstone building with a clock tower, now known as the CP Nel Museum. The museum’s focus is the ostrich industry, specifically the ostrich feather boom period between 1900 and 1914.
The Ostrich Feather Boom from 1900-1914 led to the establishment of new schools in Oudtshoorn. The British architect, Charles Bullock, opened his office in 1902 in Oudtshoorn. At the same time, the Cape Superintendent of Education, Thomas Muir, wanted a new boys’ school building to replace the former school building of 1881. The sandstone building that now houses the CP Nel Museum was originally the Boys High School.
In the same year, Mr JohannesEgbertus Vixeboxse joined Bullock’s firm. He also had an interest in ostriches. In 1912, the school hall (now Rembrandt Hall) was added.
Charles Paul Nel, a military, businessman and collector of antiques, had a valuable collection of ostrich artefacts. In 1938 his collection received full recognition from the Historical Monument Commission.
CP Nel passed away in 1950. The Board of Trustees became the administrators of his collection. In 1963, the Oudtshoorn boys’ and girls’ schools amalgamated, and the boys’ school building was almost demolished as it was in such a bad state.
After a petition by former old boys, the building was saved and used to house CP Nel’s collection. The CP Nel Museum officially opened in the old school building in 1972.
The government declared the building a national monument in 1980.
Oudtshoorn’s Jewish Community was so large that it was called “Little Jerusalem” or “Yerushalayim’ beDerom Afrika” (Jerusalem of South Africa). The synagogue inside the CP Nel Museum is evidence of the large Jewish community in Oudtshoorn. It is the only museum in South Africa with an active synagogue.
The museum is open Mondays to Saturdays. To visit the museum, find more information at: www.cpnelmuseum.co.za
Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees
Oudtshoorn is one of the founding homes of the Afrikaans’ culture and language. Die Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK), or Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, is a family festival. It is held in honour of Oudtshoorn’s rich cultural heritage and to remember one of the founding fathers of Afrikaans, C.J. Langenhoven. Langenhoven’s home, called Arbeidsgenot (the joy of work), is a national monument you can visit in Oudtshoorn. Langenhoven wrote part of the South African national anthem, which is still used today.
The festival takes place annually in March 2023 in Oudtshoorn. It focuses on the cultural history of Oudtshoorn and performing arts, including visual arts. Its activities emphasise the natural beauty of the region.
For more information, go to: https://kknk.co.za/
Learn About Oudtshoorn’s Architectural Styles
Oudtshoorn’s landscape features several unique architectural styles, some resulting from the ostrich booms of the 1880s and the early 1900s.
With the sales of ostrich feathers causing an inflow of capital, the ostrich feather barons built Ostrich Palaces in the Victoria, Art Nouveau, and Neo-Renaissance Revival styles by employing architects, such as Karl Otto Hager, Georges Wallace (Snr. and Jnr.) and Charles Bullock.
Oudtshoorn is known for its beautiful old sandstone buildings. The buildings date back to the 1860s when Scottish stonemasons arrived in Oudtshoorn to help with the construction of buildings, such as the St Jude’s Anglican Church, the Oudtshoorn Synagogue, the CP Nel Museum and many Feather Palaces on the ostrich farms and in the town. The builders completed St Jude’s Anglican Church in 1861, making it the oldest stone building in Oudtshoorn.
You can still see more buildings in Oudtshoorn with exciting architectural features on Baron van Rheede Street, including:
- The Le Roux Townhouse Museum
- C.J. Langenhoven’s home “Arbeidsgenot”
The suspension bridge to cross the Grobbelaars River is also interesting from an architectural perspective. It was made in England and brought to South Africa.
Hiking in Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn is a haven for hikers. Some of the best hiking trails it offers are:
- The Guarrie trail is 700 meters long and takes 20 minutes. On the trail, you can see local bird species and Klein Karoo’s vegetation. It is the perfect trail for families with old children or older people.
- The Minwater trail is the Minwater Private Game Reserve outside Oudtshoorn. There are three main trails, including the Rooiberg trail (7 km), the Steenbokrant trail (4.5 km) and the Sandberg trail (17 km). There are two additional trails, the Kloof and Die Gat trails.
- The Piet Barbet Trail is in the Cape Floral Kingdom. It is known as one of the plant wonders around the world. This 4,1 km trail takes you through diverse vegetation.
Frequently asked questions about visiting Oudtshoorn
Here are some FAQs, with responses, about visiting Oudtshoorn:
When Is the Best Time to Visit Oudtshoorn?
The best time to visit Oudtshoorn is from April to July. Oudtshoorn’s weather is mostly dry and warm. Oudtshoorn’s summers are warm, and its winters are moderate but still too cold to do crocodile cage diving.
For How Long Should I Visit Oudtshoorn to See Its Attractions?
To see most or all of the attractions discussed here, you may need two to three days to fully explore Oudtshoorn. A day trip may be sufficient if you only want to experience one or two attractions.
Where Can I Stay in Oudtshoorn?
Here are some of the accommodation options in Oudtshoorn: