Too many people blow past Beaufort West on the N1 highway in a big hurry to get to Johannesburg or Cape Town. But we’ve long known the glories of this Karoo town in South Africa, thanks to our love for the Karoo National Park just 5km to the south. Next time, don't rush but make a stop and discover these 10 things to do in Beaufort West.
2. Drop in at the Tourism Info centre
Make your first stop in the town itself at the info centre at 59 Donkin Street (the main road that cuts through Beaufort West and spits you out again on the N1). The guys there are friendly and helpful and can point you in the direction of what to do in Beaufort West in your areas of interest. They have some pamphlets on attractions and places to stay in and around Beaufort West (as well as other parts of the Western Cape), and can give you a map of the heritage walk to see some of Beaufort West’s oldest and most important buildings (see point 5).
3. Take a journey into the past
There are three Beaufort West museums side by side on Donkin Street. They’re open on weekdays from 8:30 till 16:45. Start at the Old Town Hall where you’ll pay a small fee (R25 per person in October 2019) and get your ticket for all three. In 1837, Beaufort West became the first municipality in South Africa with its own Town Hall and this was it; note the attractive tower.
Your next stop is the Dutch Reformed Mission Church next door, where Chris Barnard’s father was the preacher. It was built in 1871 and today you can see displays with photos and information about Beaufort West’s forced removals of the 1960s. There’s also first-hand insight into the way of life of the coloured people back in those days, from weddings and funerals to Easter celebrations. Also, did you know that the first coloured hotel in South Africa opened in Beaufort West in 1958? Although today that would thankfully be unnecessary, back then it was thought to be quite a wonder.
4. Taste Karoo lamb
To be honest, this isn’t a town where you come to visit classy restaurants, although there are one or two places to eat, as well as the fast food stalwarts Wimpy and Spur. I can say, though, that if your Beaufort West accommodation offers meals, this is a great opportunity to try to the inimitable Karoo lamb. True Karoo lamb will be certified with the Karoo Meat of Origin seal of approval, which shows that it comes from animals that have grazed on veld with at least two of the six fragrant indigenous plants that give a unique flavour to the meat. These are: Ankerkaroo (Pentzia incana), Silverkaroo (Plinthus karrooicus), Skaapbossie (Pentzia spinescens), Kapokbossie (Eriocephalus ericoides), Rivierganna (Salsola glabrescens), and Perdebos (Pteronia glauca / Rosenia humilis). Sadly, ongoing drought in the area is making it harder and harder to get true Karoo lamb because the sheep have limited access to these plants.
5. Take a heritage walk
6. Go on an olive tour
7. Star gazing
Wherever you find yourself at night in Beaufort West, don’t forget to gaze up and appreciate the night sky full of stars, constellations and planets. The dry Karoo air is your best friend when it comes to star gazing. Remember that the ideal places for star gazing are areas away from the light pollution of town, for instance on a farm or in the Karoo National Park (see point 1).
8. Visit the Spinwiel antique shop
9. Go hiking and mountain biking
If you need hiking and mountain biking to make your stay complete, look for farm stays around Beaufort West. For instance Olive Grove Farm (see point 7) offers some short walks and horse riding on the farm, but you need to book the horses in advance. Two other farms that offer walks and mountain biking for their guests include Lemoenfontein and The Vale Karoo Farm. If you’re staying at the Karoo National Park (see point 1), you can do a single track mountain bike route there.
10. Stay over for a night or two
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