South Africa is most probably the best country to live in when it comes to scenery, beauty and places to visit. (Yes, I am South African and might be a little bit biased, but bare with me). It can be very vast when traveling by car, but all special and popular cities, places of interest and holiday spots are easily accessible by a 2 hour flight (and tickets can be bought at a bargain when your timing is right). We have deserts, the Karoo, the Bushveld, Game Reserves, tropical beaches, mountain ranges that takes your breath away and then there is the Freestate. A very VERY underrated and unappreciated patch of earth, smack bang in the middle of our country.
Being born in the Freestate I do know that there is little happening, apart from agriculture and farming, but there are a few gems that’s just waiting to be discovered. Clarens is most certainly one of them. I have visited this quaint little town quite a few times and every time, I feel like I’m greeting an old friend and also learning something new with every time I set foot in this booming town. Only 3 hours (by car) away from the capital Pretoria, this town sees a lot of weekend visitors from mostly Johannesburg, Pretoria and surrounds. It’s just a beautiful place to spend a weekend and plentiful options for accommodation. December last year, a few friends and I took a trip down and we enjoyed every moment of it.
Take note that winter times can be very VERY cold and you should plan for possible snow, but in warmer months, you can have lots of fund river rafting, hiking in the Golden Gate Nature Reserve or just spending time in the town shopping. I would like to share my top picks of Clarens with you.
The choice is yours to stay outside of the town or in the town itself and it really comes down to what tickles your fancy. This time around, we opted to stay in town at the Golden View Luxury Self Catering in their Oak on Church unit that’s got a view to die for! Tastefully decorated and affordable, it’s close to town and a quick walk will take you right to the square, where all the action takes place.
2. Dining at Clarens
When it comes to dining, the options are endless. Breakfast spots that you should give a go, is The Post House, The Courtyard and Artists Cafe. My personal favourite? The Courtyard. Their fresh baked artisan breads are pure dough magic and tastes amazing. (Don’t forget to check out their bakery section, sweet tooth heaven!).
Lunch time is always a great treat when visiting the Clarens Brewery, they’ve got amazing beer tastings, gin offerings and charcuterie, cheese and bread platters that is a killer lunch pick. Make sure to visit the RED STONE GIN distillery when you are there. Love it!
Dinner in Clarens offers you a variety of options, from the local Pizza spot, to Pub dining or you can take a turn and head off to Clementines and enjoy amazing food, prepared well and never disappoints.
Red Stone Gin Distillery
The Courtyard Bakery
The Courtyard Bakery
3. So? What to do in Clarens?
Art Galleries in Clarens are quite bespoke and when you set foot into one of them, you can see why. Art and artists alike find their spot there and paint on canvas is not in short supply. The art is quite high-end and beautiful!
Shopping isn’t getting the backseat as I like to take a few souvenirs home. Anything from lamps, doorknobs (the artistic ones), carpets, jewellery, pastas, pickled goods and jams are to your disposal. They even have an Eco friendly shop that sells functional items, go check them out.
Do you see yourself as an extreme sports junky? Then horse riding, biking, hiking and river rafting might be added to your list. You can even go dinosaur hunting (take note, they are extinct and you will be chasing fossils and bones LOL!).
Ok, so this town is exceptional and you just have to make time to get yourself to visit Clarens whenever you can. They have numerous wedding and function venues as well and the mountainous backdrop creates magical photoshoots.
Ok, so my YES, NO or MAYBE for Clarens are the following:
YES? This town is an awesome experience and I will go back there again…. and again but do so in warmer months as the cold can sometimes be a bit of a mood damper.
NO? The roads around the town is not in the best shape and if you aren’t careful, you might loose a tyre in one of those gigantic potholes.
MAYBE? Check their online calendar for town events. If there is a MTB race or Beer festival or some big event, KNOW that the town is going to be very busy, so plan your trip well if you are not much of a social animal and rather book outside their peak times. Visit the Clarens website here to plan your visit.
Now there you have it! I do hope you visit Clarens soon and I look forward to hearing from you and your experiences in the beautiful and picturesque town in the Freesate! The gem is waiting for you!