Don’t let the fact that the Free State is completely landlocked, and described with regularity as ‘flat’, deter you from seeking adventure in this hidden treasure. The Northern Free State, possibly because of its proximity to Gauteng, is fast earning itself a reputation for perfect weekend getaways that include the Vaal River, Vaal dam and numerous game farms.
That together with the Vredefort Dome, pretty undulating hills, and the ‘golden country’ of the Central Free State – dotted with fields of corn and sunflowers and plenty of modern little towns – and not forgetting ‘Bloemies’, as Bloemfontein is fondly known, combine for perfect, sun-filled adventure opportunities.
And the Southern Free State is as beautiful. The southern boundary is formed by the Orange River, which rises in the Maluti Mountains, and feeds the Gariep Dam – another source of adventure activities. Thabo Mofutsanyana, regarded as the most scenic part of the Free State, to the east, lies on the edge of the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains and includes the Golden Gate National Park, as well as the winning villages of Ficksburg and Clarens.
There’s little that the Free State, which lies right in the middle of South Africa and many describe as its heart, doesn’t hold by way of adventure and outdoor living.
Free State Adventure – Adrenalin Junkie Activities in the Free State
Skydiving just outside Bloemfontein:
There is probably little that beats the adrenaline rush of skydiving. Just outside Bloemfontein is one of the country’s skydiving clubs, said to be the oldest in the country, at Tempe airport. Even if you’ve never skydived before, learning how to jump from an aeroplane, in tandem, in South Africa is one of the best places to learn – considering the number of cloud-free days the country enjoys! (particularly the Free State).
Besides the rush of adrenaline and the obvious gravitational pull, the aerial scenery is up there with the best. Hurtling earthwards, the blue of the sky behind you, and the undulating hills of the Free State meagre blips below you is difficult to beat.
Contact: Bloemfontein Skydiving Centre on +27 (0)51 451-1143 or +27 (0)76 394-6059
River rafting along the Orange River:
Rowing the Orange River is at once relaxing, incredibly beautiful and at the same time exhilirating, given the magnificence of periodic rapids that swiftly bring you into the present. Depending on your needs, there are trails that break away for anything from two to six days, including hiking and camping on the banks of the Orange River.
Seeing the Free State from the water’s edge is a completely different view of things, and sleeping under the stars makes for an awesome adventure combination.
Contact: +27 (0)83 485-9654
Mountain bike the Vredefort Dome (Parys):
The beautiful Vredefort Dome, the world’s largest and oldest (2.02 billion years ago) visible blast crater (even if there is still controversy over whether this giant hole is the result of an asteroid impact or a blast from within the Earth’s crust) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes, you can hike the mountains surrounding the dome or rock climb these heights to view San rock art, but why not go one better and mountain bike the semicircular mountainous landscape.
The tops of the hills give one incredible views of the Vaal River valley, whilst the deep valleys between the hills are home to cool mountain streams and shade from the heat of the day. These trails (Dampoort MTB trails) aren’t piddly trails either, but for those wanting something slightly less taxing, try the Hakuna Matata circuit.
Contact: +27 (0)56 818-1814 or +27 (0)82 475-8767
Backpacking the Rooihaas trail in Vredefort Dome:
Still at the dome, for those less interested in cycling and more interested in remaining on your feet, the Rooihaas Hiking Trail is one of a network of hiking trails and mountain bike trails that make their way in and around the Vredefort Dome. The trail is named after the little rock rabbit that occurs in these rocky areas.
It’s a fairly tough hike, although the initial hour is along the Vaal River banks with ample opportunity to spot water birds. From there it’s uphill with several loop options left entirely to the hiker as to what type of walk you’re after (for day one, that is). Day two of the hike is relatively short, by comparison with day one, but filled with history, quiet, beautiful scenery and a chance to get away from it all.
Contact: Dome Trails/Koepelroetes on + 27 (0)18 294-8572
Quad biking near Clarens:
Experience the Maluti Mountains on a quad bike, just outside of Clarens. Rides vary in length from one-and-a-half to two hours, and aside from acquiring new skills (if you haven’t quad biked before) there is also luscious scenery and wonderful hills to ride.
Contact: +27 (0)82 491-9788
For more extreme adventure options (and the less extreme) see the following:
Find a Place to Stay
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Adventures in the Free State
Check out our section on Things to Do in Free State for more activities and fun things to do whilst on holiday in the Free State. Activities range from horse riding to hiking to fishing and sight seeing … the beautiful Freer State has a lot to offer the adventure traveller!