Envision this scenario, you’re travelling on the N1 en route to Cape Town from Bloemfontein and you encounter a sign that welcomes you to the town of Beaufort West. You ignore it as you normally would, having dubbed it as a town not worth exploring, or if you do make a pit stop here, it’s to stock up on padkos and refuel at the petrol station. What most people don’t realise is that this is no ordinary Karoo Dorpie, but what is harboured in this quaint town are rich, historical findings, a thriving eco-tourism sector, an abundance of activity and incomparable scenic beauty.
Having been first incepted in 1917, it is the oldest and most thriving town in the Karoo region. While largely existing as a rural town, it has modernised enough to have constructed a convenience shopping centre. Both the old and the new lie adjacent to one another, with a Checkers superette neighbouring an out-of-use 1873 gaol and the historic town hall. Take an amble down the pear tree-lined Donkin Street and view the many architectural styles of the buildings – from Victorian to elegant Georgian to Edwardian and Cape Dutch. In between perusing the town’s heart, enjoy a frothy cappuccino and some cake at one of the local bakeries.
Local farms in the area allow passers-by to explore their lands on foot, educating them about the fruits of the vine and allowing them to sample Beaufort West finest wines. If your kids or you yourself are palaeontologists -in-the-making, take a trip out to Beaufort West fossil sites. The site is where the first reptiles fossils were uncovered and today, is the richest collecting grounds for fossils.
If you are a jaded urbanite with the urge to uncover new places, we suggest a family weekend away to this undiscovered gem of a town. To help you with the planning, we have devised a two-day itinerary that will allow you to see all the nooks and crannies of this quaint, so-called ‘dorpie’.
Day One : An introduction to the town
A slow amble through the town on a Mpongolo donkey cart
Hop out of your petrol-guzzler and explore the town at a slower pace; upon the back of a donkey cart. While trotting through the picturesque town, take a moment to take in what surrounds you, views you would normally miss if you were to whizz past in your 4×4.
This scenic route takes you past secret gems that are only known to the locals. The day tour is the perfect opportunity for you and the kids to explore the town by learning about the town’s history and the different cultures while getting some fresh, country air too. If you’re looking to add a little bit of champagne, the evening tour includes a pitstop with sundowners and nibbles.
Have a bite to eat at Karushi
Following a bout of fresh air and being ‘fed’ a bounty of information, a meal at Karushi is just what you need to re-fuel before carrying on with your afternoon activities.
With Beaufort West being situated in the heart of the Karoo, it may come as a surprise that Karushi is renowned for its sushi.
While raw fish is the speciality of the day, vegetarians won’t be missing out with Karushi’s innovative assortment of fish-less sushi creations.
If you’re not a fan of the speciality, Karushi love to treat their guests with authentic Italian cuisine – think crispy ciabatta rolls, pizzas, freshly roasted coffee and the best espressos in town.
A lazy afternoon at Olive Grove Guest Farm
An outing to Olive Grove Guest Farm is ideal for holidaymakers who aren’t looking for an action-packed afternoon while also offering fun, eco activities for the kids.
This 510-hectare farm provides is a playground for a myriad of outdoor activities, including quad biking and mountain biking. While you’re whizzing around the farm you will close encounters with wildlife – think springbok, gemsbok, ostrich and blesbok.
If you’re looking to rest those legs and learn more about what the farm is best known for, olive producing, book yourself an interactive, farm tour.
Take a trek out to the Karoo’s ‘fancy farmstall’
If you’re wanting to make the most of your trip to Beaufort West and the surrounding Karoo (and don’t mind the travelling), a trip to ‘Lah-di-Dah’ will give you a taste of the hearty, healthy Karoo produce and artisanal fair.
Here you can enjoy a cup of coffee while perusing through the stall for jams and preserves to take back home with you – think home baked ‘melk tarts’, pickles, olives and an eclectic selection of goods.
Following a day of fresh, country air and a partaking in many activities, a stay at Beaufort Manor Country Lodge offers you all the tranquillity and comfort you need.
While a place of luxury and elegance, the various accommodation options cater to individual preferences and budgets. If you’re looking for a little romance, the designer B&B’s are opulent and provide you with all the facilities you may need for your couple’s getaway. If you’re a family of four, the self-catering units are spacious and comfortable.
Guests who have worked up an appetite can enjoy the lodge’s five-course menu, dishes of which include all the typical Karoo fare such as the leg of lamb or bobotie. If you’re not in the mood for fine dining, room service is also available.
Day 2: Trailing in the wilderness and historical explorations
What may be an unknown titbit to many is that Beaufort West is the town where Dr Chris Barnard grew up in, a famous cardiac surgeon who was responsible for the first successful heart transplant.
To commemorate his life and successes, the Christiaan Barnard Museum has a display case of all his achievements as well as a replica of the heart transplant operating theatre.
Mandlenkosi Bicycle Tours
Beaufort West offers you insight into different cultures. If you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, a guided cycle tour in and around the township sees you meeting the locals, watching children as they play soccer in the streets and learning the history of the people and the township in itself.
Before finishing up your tour, enjoy some traditional beer at the shebeen, or if you’re hungry a delicious meal.
Have lunch at Wagon Wheel Country Lodge
While typically a place for overnight guests, the dining room at the Wagon Wheel Country Lodge Guest House offers day visitors an assortment of meals off their comprehensive a la carte menu.
Following your beer-drinking experience at a typical shebeen, enjoy traditional meals such as their signature Karoo lamb. Tuck into your meal while surrounded by views of the mountain and the semi-arid desert.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a bar to watch a Sunday afternoon sport’s game, the lodge’s opulent bar area has a large television screen and a fully-stocked fridge.
Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens
You’ll have to travel a fair distance to get to the Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens, but the driving is certainly worth it.
This ‘gem of the Karoo’ is one of the only succulent gardens in the southern hemisphere, offering the largest collection of indigenous succulents in South Africa.
If your sons and daughters are looking to follow a career in archaeology, the gardens will provide them with inspiration to do so. Here you’ll find the largest collection of petrified fossils in the world.
Enjoy your second night in Karoo’s heart at the Cape Karoo Guesthouse. A stay here provides you with en suite rooms with one’s own enchanting garden, offering you a private setting to marvel over the majestic views.
If you’re not in the mood to dine out at the local restaurants, the onsite dining area provides quality dishes at an affordable rate.
If these places don’t tickle your fancy, click here for other options.
If you have any further suggestion about what to see and do in Beaufort West, please comment below.