The following information was made available by the Free State Department of Tourism Web site.
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The Free State Province disposes of an extensive system of parks and reserves, including one national park (Golden Gate) and more than 80 provincial, municipal, and privately owned nature parks, nature reserves, game reserves, and game farms. Activities include bird and game viewing, trophy and biltong hunting, hiking, horseback riding, biking, 4X4 off-road driving, camping, climbing and spelunking.
Lejweleputswa : Formally known as the Free State Goldfields
It is being said that one could come to Lejweleputswa for a hundred holidays and have a totally different experience each time! The proud history and heritage of the region will take you on a journey to a variety of landscapes, richly endowded with diverse cultures and peoples. Situated in the heartland of South Africa's agricultural belt, mine shafts now guard the horizon where once antelope roamed. Escape to the unforgettable experience of descending into the depths of Mother Earth in a local gold mine, or explore the countryside from a steam train. Enjoy a taste of rich wildlife of Africa at a local game reserve with the comforts of a modern, vibrant city close at hand.
The history of gold prospecting and mining in the Free State goes back to the late 19th century when gold was discovered and mined near Vredefort, but it took a considerable time before any substantial gold deposits were found under the open, desolate plains of the north-western Free State. In April 1948, a borehole sunk in search for water on the farm St Helena struck lava, not sub-terranean water. Those who inhabited the farm remained thirsty, but the lava was that of a deep-flowing source of gold ore linked to the famous Witwatersrand. Foreigners and their mines came overnight, people from the rest of the Free State, prospectors from South Africa, fortune-seekers from the world.
It eventuated into the establishing of Welkom as one of the few cities in the world to have been planned to completion before so much as a brick was layed. The planning of Welkom was undertaken by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, the then Anglo American Chairman, and has resulted in the residential, mining and industrial areas of the city being harmoniously blended to form what has become known as the 'Garden City.' Be sure not to miss out on a trip to the worlds deepest wine cellar at the St Helena Mine which is 857m below the earth's surface!
Mine shafts sprang up like strange flowers, their workforce establishing one of South Africa's most advanced infrastructures. A million people found their home on the Free State Goldfields,. with Welkom being the principal city. Today the Free State Goldfields are rivalled only by those of the West Rand (Gauteng) in production and reserves. The region's attractions, like its economy, centre around the mining of gold and agriculture, although with the declining gold price in the nineties manufacturing industry is being promoted as a means to support the local economy. In Welkom as well as in nearby Virginia and Theunissen one can take a mine tour of some of the deepest mines in the world. A highly notable feature lately added to the Goldfields scene, is the ultra-modern multi-million Phakisa Racetrack for motorcycles and racing cars situated between Welkom and Odendaalsrus, venue for many an international event and drawing considerable global media coverage.
Apart from its gold, this region encompasses several districts forming the heart of the county's maize triangle, stretching from horizon to horizon. To keep in balance with nature the region is blessed with a game reserve and two nature reserves. For flora and fauna viewing visit three nature reserves - Willem Pretorius Game Reserve, and the Sandveld and Soetdoring Nature Reserves.
The Economy of this region depends on Gold Mining, Agriculture, Small Industries and to a lesser degree Diamond Mining in Theunissen.
The population of this region is approximately 500 000, with the Majority concentrated in the Areas of Welkom, Odendaalsrus and Virginia (Matjhabeng Local Municipality).
Predominant Languages spoken locally are English, South Sotho, Afrikaans, and to a lesser degree Xhosa, Tswana, Portugeese.
Cities/Towns: Allanridge, Boshof, Bothaville, Brandfort. Bultfontein, Dealesville, Hennenman, Hertzogville, Hoopstad, Odendaalsrus, Theunissen, Ventersburg, Virginia, Welkom, Wesselsbron, Winburg.
Bothaville serves one of the richest agricultural communities in the country and is regarded as the centre of the Free State Maize Route. The world renowned NAMPO Harvest farm and Festival attracts more than 20 000 visitors each year and is the second largest private agricultural show centre in the world. Bothaville is also the host of the anual Food and Witblits Festival drawing visitors from all over South Africa.
Despite the rapid growth of many of the towns following the discovery of gold, most have maintained the picturesque beauty and splendour of the wild which existed there before them. Virginia - with the Sand River flowing through the centre of the town and a game farm on the outskirts - is known as the Goldfields' Nature Paradise and a must for lovers of the outdoors.
Must-sees in the Goldfields
Aventura Aldam Holiday Resort
Willem Pretorius Game Reserve
Historical borehole on farm Aandenk near Allanridge
NAMPO Harvest Farm near Bothaville
Golden Arts & Crafts Scramble at Hennenman and Virginia
Aco tractor factory near Hoopstad
Voortrekker Monument at Winburg
Gold Museum in the Welkom Library
Underground mine tours
Folk Dancing Monument at Boshof
Major Tourist Attractions
Goldfields Wine Cellar in Theunissen
St.Helena Underground wine cellar in Welkom
Welkom Casino at Sanlam Plaza in Welkom
Aventura Protea Resort in Ventersburg
Bompudi Village Beatrix Mine in Theunissen
Phakisa International Grand Prix Welkom-Odendaalsrus
SA Germs and Crafts in Welkom
Gold Museum in Welkom
Soetdoring Nature Reserve in Soutpan
Voortrekker Monument in Windburg
Winnie Mandela House in Majwemasoeu in Brandfort
Saltpans Mining in Soutpan
Tourism in Lejweleputswa
ES Travel and Tours
Bus Hire Companies
Cross Country Tours : 057 352 2202
Arts, Craft and Tavern Tours
Goldfields Tourism Route Tour
Game and Nature Reserve Tours
Friendship Tavern Crawling Tour
Underground Wine Cellar Tour
Mine Underground -Gold Tour
Phakisa Freeway Tours (Grand Prix)
Private Game Farms
Hansie Game Farm : 082 3359660 or 057 3883931
African Feather Fur and Scale : 083 287 5259 or 057 357 4656
Willem Pretorius Nature Reserve
Erfenis Nature Reserve
Sandveld Nature Reserve
Soetdoring Nature Reserve
Arts and Craft and Tavern Tours
Thabong Arts and Craft Center
Bompodi Arts and Crafts
Sports and Recreation
Thabong Indoor Center in Thabong
Phakisa Race Track in Welkom
Griffons Rugby Stadium Welkom
Zuka Baloyi Stadium in Thabong
Welkom Club Stadium in Welkom
Matjhabeng Accommodation Association
For Guest Houses, Hotels, Caravan Parks and Camping Sites Info
Address P O Box 1056 Welkom
Tel 057 353 2262
Fax 057 352 1245
Central Reservation: 057 353 2262
Fire Brigade 057 352 2222
Hospital 057 916 8000 or 057 916 5555
Tours 057 353 2262 or 083 459 0335 - Tour Guide Pieter or Thato
Matjhabeng Local Municipality
Tel Numbers (057) 391 3911
Welkom, Thabong, Bronville Odendaalsrus, Kutloanong Virginia, Meloding Venter burg, Mmamahabane Hennenman, Phomolong Allanridge, Nyakallong
Nala Local Municipality
Tel Numbers (056) 514 9200
Bothaville, Kgotsong Wesselsbron, Monyakeng
Masilonyana Local Municipality
Tel Numbers (057) 733 0106
Theunissen, Masilo Brandfort, Majwemasoeu Windburg, Makeleketla Soutpan, Ikgomotseng Verkeerdevlei, Tshepong
Tswelopele Local Municipality
Tel Numbers (051) 853 1111
Bultfontein, Phahameng Hoops tad, Tikwane
Tokologo Local Municipality
Tel Numbers (053) 541 0014