A Weekend in Clarens, Free State

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We all have places we want to visit one day, and Clarens in the Free State was one of them.

A 13-hour drive from Cape Town, or a 3-hour drive from Bloemfontein if you do a road trip like we did. Clarens, known as the “Jewel of the Free State,” is a charming little town located at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. The breathtaking view of the fascinating sandstone rock formations is what draws so many tourists, including myself, to the area.

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The first thing we did was check in to our lodging facility. We stayed at Clarens Retreat, which has a breathtaking view of the Maluti Mountains. It has about eleven self-catering apartments, and we made sure to stay somewhere where we could enjoy the view all day. We only needed a kitchenette, a bathroom, a place to work, a flat-screen television, and a private balcony. But the heated carpet was a real treat, especially since we were there in the dead of winter.

After we had settled in, we decided to go on a tour of town. The town encloses you with restaurants, boutiques, bars, and souvenir stores. It’s difficult to know where to begin. We parked our car and walked down the street, stopping in shops and purchasing locally made items such as Cherry Liquor, cherry bubble bath, and much more.

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The next day, we find our car covered in ice. It was unusual to experience in 1-degree weather. However, it made sense given that it was snowing in Lesotho, but it did not deter our plans to visit Golden Gates National Park.

We came to Clarens to visit Golden Gate National Park. Its unusual sandstone cliffs and outcrops are fascinating, and the sun shining on the sandstone creates a beautiful image. The breathtaking views are incredible. Step out of the car and take it all in.

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We found the reception and paid the *R60 per person entry fee. We didn’t see much wildlife aside from a few Black Wildebeest in the distance, but the highlight was watching the rare Bearded Vultures feast. According to our understanding, they are one of the last refugees in South Africa.

After a day of breathtaking beauty, we went to Time & Again Bar and Grill for breakfast. Sitting on the pavement and people-watching is extremely therapeutic. The quaint restaurant offers a variety of food options, so you will not go hungry. The Timeless Breakfast was delicious and comes highly recommended.

Walking, we decided to stop by a few more stores that piqued our interest, such as the Bibliophile bookstore. Walk around and look at the many unique products produced and manufactured in the Free State. You will bring home a lot of mementos.

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Since it was a public holiday, we forgot many restaurants closed earlier so we struggled to find open that was open for supper. We finally managed to find Gosto Portuguese Restaurant open. It’s nestled in a courtyard with a romantic yet casual atmosphere. Try their chicken curry. You will not regret it.

It’s time to leave this lovely accommodation and travel to our next destination, but first, we stop at The Square Restaurant for breakfast. If it’s a sunny day, sit outside and people-watch. That is what we love to do. The staff was amazing, as was the massive pan in which our breakfast was served.

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To be honest, Clarens is a magnificent town that attracts a large number of visitors. The town offers a breathtaking view of Clarens, leaving you in awe of Mother Nature. If you plan to visit, stay for more than a weekend and bring cash. You’re bound to spend money.

Until the next town.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog