Tuesday, 30 November 2021 06:06 AM
Away from Jo'burg’s big-city buzz, there are loads of little towns waiting to be explored. From the charm of Cullinan and Irene’s English influences to the popular holiday spot of Hartbeespoort Dam or the rugged wilderness of Muldersdrift, there is a variety in surplus. Here are a few of our favourites, with an exciting wildcard entry:
For a large slice of peace and quiet, Muldersdrift is one of Jo'burg’s most enchanting escapes, and it’s barely half an hour from the northern suburbs. With smallholdings and farms, Muldersdrift has grown into a sleepy village just outside of a bustling city. This patch of paradise is home to indigenous forest, streams and grassland frequented by antelope, giraffe and zebras. You can explore every inch of this place, with hot-air balloon trips all the way to underground exploration in the Sterkfontein Caves just 15km away.
Irene is one of Gauteng’s best-kept secrets. Pronounced ‘I-reen-ee’, this quaint little spot is roughly halfway between Jo'burg and Pretoria and is reminiscent of an English country village. With its avenues lined by poplar, plane and oak trees, pretty homes can be found all around Irene. One of the main attractions here is Irene Dairy Farm, where cows graze on lush, green grass freely in the village. The dairy farm has a coffee shop, which serves delectable breakfast, lunch and teas. There is also a village market on the second and last Saturday of every month, on the grounds of Smuts House Museum.
Affectionately called ‘Harties’ by locals, Hartbeespoort Dam is just a stone’s throw from the Jo'burg Metropol, and is a simply stunning environment. Encompassed by the majestic Magaliesberg mountain range, a 1 620-hectare dam is at the heart of Harties. Hartbeespoort offers a wide variety of watersports to keep you entertained, with plenty of hikes to choose from in the surrounding hills.
The charming village of Cullinan is the living history of a bygone era. Making a trip here is like taking a trip back in time to the Victorian era. Cullinan was a mining village in the early 1900s, with many of its workers’ houses, offices and churches still standing. Cullinan is famous for its gem finds, and still holds the record for the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found! If you’re in “diamond town”, be sure to visit the Cullinan Diamond Mine to see diamonds on display, or enjoy the natural surroundings with gorge gliding (zip-lining), abseiling, horse riding and quad-bike trails.
Introducing our wildcard entrant - Clarens! This artsy little town is a bit of a distance from Jo'burg, but if you have some extra time on your hands, it is perfect for a stopover, with plenty to keep you entertained for a couple of days at least. Located on the Free State Highlands Route, very close to the esteemed Golden Gate National Park, its setting is gorgeous, with its very own art festival and scores of galleries to visit.