Clarens & the Golden Gate Highlands National Park

My first midweek Mzansi getaway started on a surprisingly warm winter morning. I made my booking weeks in advance and was determined to make the best of my first solo-cation!

Approximately 300km south of Johannesburg in the Free State lies the storybook tourist town of Clarens. I felt lost in time as I walked through small-town, exploring the local art and craft shops and taking in the sights. I stopped to have lunch at The Posthouse, a rustic, cosy restaurant with friendly waiters, a welcoming ambience and mouth-watering homemade cakes! The history of the restaurant is an interesting one as explained on the menu. The Posthouse was the original post office for the town of Clarens and is still standing as of the original buildings of the town.

Located 20 minutes out of Clarens is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park which forms part of the South African National Parks (SAN Parks). The park is home to breathtaking mountains which extend into the Maluti mountain range in Lesotho (another location on my bucket list). During my visit, I stayed at the Glen Reenen rest camp, which has a variety of accommodation options to suit most travellers, including a camping site and family cottages. The camp also has a convenience shop and filling station, which means that one doesn’t have to drive back into town for these amenities. My chalet was a neat self-catering unit which kept in the rustic theme which I came to enjoy. Glen Reenen offers several activities including hiking, horseback riding, bird watching and a natural pool to name but a few.

I woke up early the next morning and completed the relatively easy 1-hour Brandwag Buttres hiking trail. The last incline is a bit challenging, but there is a chain which helps hikers to navigate the steep slope.
At the end of my hike, I was rewarded with spectacular aerial views of the park from the Brandwag Buttres cliff. The combination of the brown winter colours accentuated the sandstone backdrop beautifully, and the camp appeared small from my height. The refreshing fresh air made it all worth it!
I had fantasised about this place for weeks, and I was finally here. I planned to savour every second of it!

Before you hit the road:

I used the Villiers off-ramp from the N3 South then proceeded to drive through Reitz, Frankford and Bethlehem to reach my final destination. Be warned, the road between Reitz and Frankford is quite bumpy with some small annoying potholes, but it’s smooth driving from Frankford onwards.

The Posthouse and Gosto’s Portuguese restaurant are good lunch spots Drinks were especially good at Grouse&Claret and the Clarens

The SAN Parks website is a user-friendly portal which allows for easy reservation bookings and online payments:

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