porch life clarens

Clarens a Little South African town that stole my heart

Clarens a little South African Town is known as ‘the jewel of the Free State. This quaint little town is a charming artists’ town located at the foothills of the Maloti Mountains. Having heard countless stories about the beauty and tranquility of the Free State town we couldn’t resist heading to see for ourselves. It really is the perfect escape from city life. Think galleries, quaint clothing stores and tons of outdoor activities. There’s much to keep visitors busy for days.

Mont d’Or Clarens

Another holiday meant another road trip. We decided to spend Christmas in Clarens and stayed at Mont d’Or Clarens. It’s described as the best luxury boutique hotel in Clarens and we would have to concur. The establishment was recently renovated a few months ago. The size of the family room is rather remarkable and I loved the fact that the room boasted 2 single beds and a queen size bed. It’s a great way to keep kids apart when they start to work on each others nerves. Rooms are equipment with all the amenities to make you feel right at home. We are vitality members so made use of our discount to save us some money.

mont d'or bedroom
Family Room still has space for a camp cot

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The staff were absolutely fantastic. Super friendly and efficient, they made a point of paying attention to our every need. In fact we kinda fell asleep on chocolate one night only to awake the next morning to white linen covered in melted chocolate. I really felt terrible that they had to change all that linen on Christmas Day but they did it with the biggest of smiles.

Christmas Day

We opted to partake in the Christmas lunch which was an absolute feast. The price was shockingly reasonable and we left with our bellies highly content. After lunch we went for a walk to help digest all the food we had eaten. We were pleasantly surprised by the peace and tranquility Clarens possesses. It was such a treat to surrounded by nature.

Cocktails while we sat on the porch overlooking the Maloti Mountain range made for perfectly peaceful moments. We spent a lot of time chatting and playing games on that porch. Ashton particularly enjoyed reading out there at sunrise.

You can hire bicycles at the hotel reception and go for a leisurely ride around town

We also treated ourselves to a spa day. Mont d’Or Clarens fortunately has a spa onsite. The boys and I are huge spa fans and it was full body massages all round. Then we headed off for a much deserved afternoon nap in those super cosy beds.

spa day
Mom and sons Spa Day

Quaint Town Vibes

The quaint town is definitely an artists town, but not enough to keep this busy bee of a mom occupied for too long. In all honestly I was expecting more. We popped into a store or two but we aren’t big shoppers when on vacation. We also had lunch at the Clarens Brewery. You get a complimentary tasting tray of either beer or gin. Thereafter you need to order off the menu. The food and service did not impress us at all, but it is one of the few things you can do in Clarens.

After lunch we headed down to the Clarens Extreme. With almost all of their adventures onsite this is a great stop to keep the kids occupied. They are easy to find 300 meters from the main entrance of town. The host of activities available are as follows:-

  • White water rafting
  • Quad biking
  • Ziplining
  • Abseiling
  • Paintball
  • Archery
  • Putt Putt
  • Rock climbing wall
  • MTB rentals or tours

Golden Gate Nature Reserve

We are Wild Card members so make a point of visiting as many National Parks, Reserves and Resorts around Southern Africa as possible. The Golden Gate Nature Reserve is located approximately 17 km from Mont d’Or and the town of Clarens.

Famous for its golden sandstone cliffs and abundant wildlife, Golden Gate Highlands National Park can be found at the rolling foothills of the Maloti Mountains.

The moment we drove into the Golden Gate Nature Reserve, we realised why people love the place. The park is named for the glowing golden cliffs lit by the sun. Wildlife you are most likely to see include black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra. The area is extremely vast so expect periods during your self-drive when you won’t see wildlife.

Golden Gate

Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breath-taking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards the evening. Other stunning lookouts are the Zuluhoek lookout point, Generaalskop viewpoint, Oribi Basin and Drakensberg view.

A Hiker’s Paradise

Hikers can chose from various day trails (varying from 1 hour to 5 hours) or the awesome two-day Rhebok Hiking Trail (2 days and 1 night). We opted for the Echo Ravine hike which was amazing. The kids really loved this hike. We wanted to attempt a second route but it started to rain.

The Vulture Project

We visited the Vulture Project which was an absolute treat. The Vulture project has a viewing hide which was built to enable researchers, volunteers, photographers and the general public to get close to these incredible birds without disturbing them.

Carcasses ravaged by the Vultures

Basotho Cultural Village

If you are looking for an African cultural experience then head to the Basotho Cultural Village. You will get to experience the Basotho way of living dating back to the 16th Century by tasting traditional cuisine and learn about the traditional equipment and weapons. The Herbal Trail introduces visitors to the medicines that were (and still are) used by the African Traditional Healers. I’d strongly recommend calling ahead to reserve a spot. We failed to do that and they were unfortunately full so didnt get to experience this part of the Park.

Natural Swimming Pool

The highlight of our adventures in the Golden Gate Nature Reserve was swimming in a natural swimming pool. The pool is a short walk behind the reception.

With the Golden Gate Nature Reserve only a short drive from Johannesburg we will definitely visit again. Time spent in Clarens was food for the soul and helped us “de-city” if you know what I mean.

If you have been to Clarens please let me know what we missed, so that we check it out on our next visit.

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