“The Free State landscape gladdens my heart, no matter what my mood. When I am here I feel that nothing can shut me in, that my thoughts can roam as far as the horisons.”
– Former State President Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom
The landscape of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa is characterised by massive, colourful sandstone formations, wooded ravines and indigenous grasslands under wonderful sunshine sky. Dark caves and deep shelters displaying ancient rock paintings, all add to its mystery and splendor.
The Park derives its name from the spectacular shades of gold cast by the sun on its gigantic sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing mushroom rock formation, which keeps vigil over the main rest camp. Below the cliffs the mountain slopes are covered in green vegetation and wild flowers.
Accommodation and Activities Overview
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park offers a large variety of accommodation, ranging from luxury hotel suites, self-catering cottages, log cabins to scenic and comfortable camping and caravan sites. Hotel accommodation, as well as cottages, are available at the luxury Golden Gate Hotel and Chalets.
Fully equipped self-catering bungalows and cottages which can accommodate a maximum of six people, can be found at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp.
The Wilgenhof Environmental Education Centre with four dormitories will make youth groups feel welcome and can sleep up to 92 people.
There is also a beautiful refurbished farmhouse called Noordbraband Guest House near the western entrance to the park. The Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp, with traditional rondavels in a very rural setting (but still with all modern comforts) with great views over the plains.
The Highlands Mountain Retreat is really something special. Right up at 2 260 m, the chalets open out onto the most amazing views right across to Harrismith, 60 kms away. It is so high that when weather conditions are right, you can look out over a sea of clouds below. The snow up there in winter is something to see as well. The rest camps have wonderful facilities to make you feel welcome and ensure that you enjoy your visit.
Excellent restaurants and coffee shops will cater for your needs at all times. There are shops that sell curios and basic necessities and also scenic picnic sites where the guests can enjoy their meals whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery around them at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The camping and caravan sites are equipped with excellent ablution and braai facilities. The facilities at Glen Reenen include a shop, a filling station, natural swimming pool next to the range of self-catering facilities available inside the bungalows and the cottages.
Meriting Picnic sites caters for day visitors in the National Park. Facilities at the Golden Gate Hotel and Chalets include Masutsa Restaurant and Bar, Brandwag lounge and curio shop. A picnic spot is available for day visitors, while conference and banqueting facilities cater for up to 250 guests.
Great bird and game viewing to be enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle. You will spot many species of animals like the Burchell’s Zebra and Red Hartebeest and Eland amongst others.
Some 140 bird species have been identified in the park, including the rare Bearded Vulture, Bald Ibis and Black Eagle. A hide at the vulture restaurant enables bird lovers to observe these scavengers closely without being detected.
For those who enjoy history and culture, Golden Gate Highlands National Park also offers the following historical sites:
- The oldest dinosaur nesting site in the world
- Graveyards that date back many years
- Rock art sites
The experience should be highly educational.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a hikers paradise. A visit to the park should always include at least one leisurely walk along one of its winding nature trails, some of which start at the Glen Reenen camping site. There are many hikes available, ranging from easy to difficult.
For the fit and not so fainthearted visitors, there is the two day and one night 31 km Rhebok hiking trail. According to many visitors, this trail gives you the best views in the park, such as the place called Lesotho View at the highest point of the trail and the vista across the Caledon river into Lesotho, which is just amazing. Horse riding and Annashoop 4X4 trail through the mountainous Golden Gate are some of the most exciting experiences.