The small town of Oudtshoorn in the beautiful Klein Karoo is almost always included in a Garden Route tour. Not because it’s on the Garden Route but because it’s close enough to it, provides a stark contrast to the lush coastal Garden Route, and because it’s well worth a visit for its own sake. But, and this is the odd thing, it’s almost always a rushed visit for the Cango Caves, an ostrich farm, and then it’s straight out again. Some people don’t even spend the night there, having done both those activities in one day.
Wrong wrong wrong! There’s so much more to Oudtshoorn than those 2 great attractions – it’s worthy of at least 2 full days, if not more, because there’s lots to do and it’s full of history.
So, you’ve done the Cango Caves and you’ve visited an ostrich farm – what else?
How about a drive to the top of the Swartberg Pass in a 4×4 with a local guide who will entertain you with his extensive knowledge and stories? Our favourite is Roeland Gabriel’s Swartberg Mountain Tours. Roeland offers half-day tours or full days and can even include the infamous Die Hel (Gamkaskloof) with an overnight stop, or you can go the full distance to Prince Albert on the other side of the pass and then drive back to Oudtshoorn via the magnificent Meiringspoort and De Rust, a quaint arty village nearby. This trip could well be the highlight of your holiday.
The CP Nel Museum will keep you riveted for many hours. It documents the history of the region, and much more, and is fascinating with its many rooms full of wonderful artifacts. The Jewish community of Oudtshoorn is an important aspect of its history and you can find out all about it here, as well as visit the synagogue located inside the museum. A visit to this museum includes the Le Roux Townhouse museum which is situated in a different location a few streets away and is also worth a visit.
The Wilgewandel Holiday Farm is a must-do for children. Camel rides, water slides, rowing boats, donkey cart rides, animal feeding, walking trails and even golf. There’s so much to do you may not be able to tear the children away but that’s okay because you can stay there overnight in a variety of accommodation types at ridiculously low rates.
Experience Xhosa culture at Ma Betty’s Village. Dance, music, crafts, and home-cooked traditional food.
Lovers of wildlife will enjoy a meerkat adventure to learn about these little creatures and observe their morning ritual with an expert. This involves a pre-dawn wake-up call and a short hike.
Birdwatching. The Klein Karoo has an exciting variety of birds and many are endemic to this region. Depending on where you are staying and how much time you have you could do a dedicated bird watching tour or ask your Swartberg guide to include that in his tour.
Our tips for Oudtshoorn:
– If you’re coming from George on the Garden Route and the weather is dry, we suggest your drive over the mountains via Montagu Pass instead of Outeniqua. It will take longer and the road is not tarred so allow for time and several stops to take it all in. See this post.
– If driving from Oudtshoorn to Cape Town you’ll be using the beautiful Route 62 but between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, the best drive is the little-known back road – see this post. The road runs all along the base of the Swartberg mountains – look at the route it takes in the map above.
– Our favourite restaurants are Karoo Pot and Nostalgie. Both are in Baron van Reede Street which is very central. Ostrich steak, ostrich burgers and ostrich pie – you must try at least one of them.
– The variety of accommodation is huge and very reasonably priced. Some of our favourites are Thorntree Guesthouse, Rosenhof Country House, Hlangana Lodge and our latest find De Zeekoe which is an exciting adventure all of its own.