Whether you’re an astro-, eco- or cultural tourist, the Free State has it all. The Free State is overlooked by many South Africans who pass through without realising just how much this province has to offer – from the Vredefort Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the sandstone peaks of the Golden
Gate National Park and beyond.
Bloemfontein, Batho and beyond
The TOMSA Sunday Times Finders Keepers team found plenty of great sites to visit in the province, many of them conveniently located within its capital city. A wildlife reserve, the Franklin National Park, lies within the very heart of Bloemfontein, and houses the Naval Hill Planetarium, the first digital planetarium in Sub-Saharan Africa, which opened in November 2013 as a step towards making the Free State a “hub of eco and astro-tourism in South Africa”.
Aside from attracting stargazers, Bloemfontein is also a plant-lover’s dream destination, with a National Botanical Garden, an orchid house, and an annual rose festival that takes place in October. “The recent announcement that 17 000 hectares of land around Memel has been awarded ‘protected environment’ status should further add to the Free State’s eco-appeal”, notes Ms. Ramawela.
The Free State is also a great destination for art and culture, as the team discovered after encountering a wide range of art, and many fascinating cultural and historical sites – including an unusual church.
While travelling the Free State, the team stayed at a number of excellent hotels: the Metcourt at the Frontier Inn and Casino, the Black Mountain Leisure & Conference Hotel, and Windmill Lodge. All of these establishments are TOMSA levy contributors, meaning that they support the marketing of “destination South Africa” both locally and internationally.