The province was originally known as the Orange Free State, and was an independent republic in southern Africa. Later, it kept the name Orange Free State, and became one of four provinces of South Africa after the Union of South Africa in 1910. Today, it’s the Free State province, without the word Orange.
The Free State’s appeal lies in its scenic beauty and natural attractions. This province is in the heart of South Africa – it borders six of the nine South African provinces, as well as the kingdom of Lesotho.
Overview of the Free State
The Free State is South Africa’s breadbasket. Because of its good soil and climate, much of the land is taken up by agriculture – the area produces over 70% of the country’s grain. But it also boasts astounding scenic beauty: wide open plains and majestic mountains characterise this province. Cosmos season (cosmos is a pretty pink flower) in the Free State is one of the country’s landmarks, while the area’s natural beauty is a drawcard for outdoor enthusiasts.
The spectacular Drakensberg and Maluti mountain ranges are popular for adventure tourists. The province boasts some of the best rock features in the world, including ancient hills, caves and spectacular sandstone cliffs, and is rich in San rock art.
A popular attraction is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which gets its name from the surrounding gold sandstone cliffs. Great for exploring on foot and home to hundreds of bird species, it’s an excellent site for birders.
The Free State is known for its great hospitality and sedate lifestyle, and is particularly appealing for those interested in exploring small-town South Africa.
But it is not all about sedate strolls and birdwatching; there’s more than enough to keep the adrenaline junkie occupied. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, abseiling and canoeing (among others), while the Ash River – the only river in the country that has year-round high water levels – makes for excellent white-water rafting.
The province’s capital city, Bloemfontein, is the judicial capital of the country.
The Free State has an excellent road infrastructure and a variety of accommodation options. Bloemfontein’s airport, Bram Fischer International Airport, links to South Africa’s other major centres.