The arid Karoo is a place of open plains, mountains and pastel sunsets. Hard people with soft hearts live in the area. The occasional sheep, lone farmhouse and dust decorate the landscape and towns are few far and few between. But when you find them, you can travel back in time. Beaufort West is one such place.
Nestled in the heart of the Karoo, Beaufort West is a town that boasts a rich history and stunning natural beauty. With rolling hills, wide-open spaces, and an array of unique attractions, Beaufort West is the perfect destination for travellers seeking a taste of South Africa’s Karoo hospitality.
Whether you’re looking to explore the rich history, marvel at its diverse wildlife, or simply relax and unwind in its picturesque surroundings, Beaufort West has something for everyone. So pack your bags and join us as we discover the hidden gems of this beautiful town. Below are some Beaufort West attractions you don’t want to miss.
Where is Beaufort West?
Beaufort West is in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. You can find the town 234km from George and 462km from Cape Town. It is often a stopover for those travelling between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
How did the town start?
The town comes with an interesting history. Every town starts with settlers in the area, and Beaufort West was no different. One of the first farmers was the father and son Abraham and Jacob le Clercq, of French Huguenot descent, in 1760. The town was first established in 1818, and until 1869, the town was known only as Beaufort, in honour of Lord Charles Somerset’s father, the fifth Duke of Beaufort.
Historical buildings in Beaufort West
One of Beaufort West’s attractions is the historical architecture in the town. Beaufort West was the first municipality in South Africa in February 1837 and had the first town hall in the country. Walk through the town’s historic centre to see examples of early architecture. The old Town Hall, the Mission Church and the Barnard House are now part of the museums in town and are photo-worthy. Every old town has an impressive church, and in Beaufort West, the Dutch Reformed Mother Church, built in 1892, is worth a visit.
Pioneer in medical science
Dr Christiaan Barnard, South Africa’s first heart transplant pioneer, was born in Beaufort West in 1922. Barnard’s father Adam preached in the church next to the town hall, and the family home next to it forms part of the museum complex. The Chris Barnard Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Chris Barnard, best known for the first successful human-to-human heart transplant in 1967.
The museum houses an example of the heart-lung machine, a first of its kind in South Africa at the time, as part of the theatre equipment, artefacts and the numerous awards presented to him during his career. Visit the Chris Barnard Museum for an educational experience that highlights the contributions of this important South African figure to the field of medicine and the world at large.
The Karoo was known for its great springbok migrations. In 1849, a massive springbok herd took three days to pass the town. While the days of massive migrations are long gone, a Karoo attraction worth a visit just outside Beaufort West is the Karoo National Park. At over 75 000 hectares, it is home to various species of wildlife, including springbok. The park is ideal for relaxing and enjoying nature and wildlife. The park is also home to various antelope species, Cape mountain zebra, lion and several smaller species.
The Karoo region is known for its rich fossil heritage, with some of the world’s most significant fossil discoveries coming from the area. The Karoo basin is one of the largest and most complete fossil records of the Mesozoic Era (252 to 66 million years ago), providing scientists with valuable insights into the evolution of life on earth during this period. They discovered the first fossil in the area in 1827.
One of the coolest attractions in Beaufort West is in the heart of the Karoo National Park’s rest camp near the reception building. The park froze history in time with a 400m Fossil Trail depicting the geology and palaeontology of the Great Karoo. This trail is a must for anyone interested in palaeontology or the history of life on earth.
If you have spare time, travel to Nelspoort, 50km northeast of Beaufort West. The dolerite koppies near this forgotten town are home to rock etchings dating back to the hunter-gatherers. Apart from etchings, shell shards and grindstones, the site also contains ‘gong rocks’. These boulders, also known as ‘ironstone’ produce a metallic sound when hit with another rock. Ask for more information at the Beaufort West Tourism office.
Sleep in Beaufort West
The intimate Garden Corner Guesthouse just outside town offers safe accommodation for those that prefer to be outside of the town. They offer breakfast on-site and have rooms to accommodate the entire family. Alternatively, book in advance to secure your spot in the Afsaal Cottage in the Karoo National Park. Even the park’s main rest camp offers beautiful accommodation options, and the hospitality is second to none.
Tantalise your taste buds
Hungry? I found this little gem is in the most unlikely location, a Beaufort West attraction you can’t miss (hopefully their food is still as good). The 4 Sheep restaurant, deli and convenience store are at the Caltex service station. It is where the locals go, and their food is delicious.
Karoo National Park: +27 23 415 2828 or www.sanparks.org
Beaufort West Tourism: +27 23 415 1160 or www.beaufortwest.net
Garden Corner Guesthouse: +27 8 242 07622
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