Free State, South Africa
A rather charming example of a typical Free State town, Harrismith is probably best known by South Africans as the ‘halfway house’ - half way, that is, between Durban and Johannesburg. For years it has served as the midway stop to tank up both on fuel and food.
Suffice it to say that Harrismith has remained in obscurity pretty much until recently. Harrismith lies just off the N3, roughly 314 kilometres from Johannesburg and 315 kilometres from Durban, and the N5 from Bethlehem comes to an end in the middle of the town, which serves as the centre of one of the five wool producing districts in the country.
The town hall in Harrismith, a national monument, is a graceful sandstone and brick building built in 1907. This and the Harrismith Wildflower Gardens, founded in 1967 as a botanical garden, with some fine examples of the Drakensberg region’s flora and a wonderful picnic spot, are reason enough to visit Harrismith. The town also serves as something of a gateway into the Drakensberg Mountains and people use Harrismith to stock up on last minute items or to make speedy reconnaissance trips for dwindling supplies.
There’s plenty to do in and around the town: The Sterkfontein dam close by is the third largest dam in the country and a haven for water enthusiasts; the Platberg Game Reserve adjoins the Botanical Garden and offers some amazing hiking and mountain bike trails; and Swinburne, a little village just south of Harrismith lies in a particularly beautiful part of the country.
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