Route 62: Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 3 October 2018

Oudtshoorn is the largest town on Route 62 and while Prince Albert is not strictly part of the Route, it’s definitely worth a daytrip. Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do.

Photo by Rachel Robinson

 Bella de Karoo

Contact: Tel 0442133801, belladekaroo.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

This charming pet-friendly eatery and Karoo accommodation on one of the most historical farms in the Klein Karoo is worth a stop en route from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn. They serve breakfasts and light lunches (also a Sunday lunch) and vegans and vegetarians are also catered for. The menu encompasses pies to pancakes, bobotie to burgers and salads to spuds. Antique pieces groan with all manner of pickles, jams and confeit, and they also sell Sebenza arts and crafts. There is self-catering accommodation available in unique rooms with a communal braai area overlooked by a giant Pepper tree. Hikers and cyclists will enjoy exploring the wild beauty of the eco-reserve with routes and directions available.

Oudtshoorn

Ostriches everywhere! You know you are near Oudtshoorn when you start seeing ostrich farms, but did you know that Oudtshoorn was once a big tobacco growing area? While there seems to be more onion fields these days (they export the seeds), look out for the occasional remaining tobacco barns alongside the roads. Here are six things worth doing in the ostrich capital!

1. Surval Boutique Olive Estate

Contact: Tel 0873501950, surval.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

An olive-tasting at this olive estate is no ordinary affair! Tables are set out in the olive grove, covered with a white linen tablecloth and then laden with all types of olives, olive jams, olive chutneys, olive oil and chunks of homebaked bread, paired with a glass of local wine. While you are savouring all that this farm has to offer, you will also learn about the history of the farm (it used to be an ostrich farm) and all about olives and olive oil production. You are guaranteed to find out something that you never knew – for example, did you know that olive oil has a sell-by date? Once you open the bottle, you have 30 days to finish it! They also offer a farm tour through the groves on a tractor and trailer and their restaurant serves up breakfasts, light meals and traditional fare, all with beautiful views over the farm. If you really want to indulge, book a night or two in one of their stylish rooms (if you are getting married their honeymoon suite is a sight to behold!) They also hold regular family events and functions.

2. Cango Caves Zipline

Contact: Tel 0798918248, cangocavesestate.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

There are two ziplines on the Cango Caves Estate, the first being 180m long and the second one a whopping 500m long. There are two ziplines next to each other so you can have fun racing your friend to the end! Between being clipped and unclipped, there’s ample opportunity to enjoy the amazing views over the valley. Once you completed your zipline adventure, tuck into a light meal and a much-needed beer or freshly roasted coffee on the sunny veranda at the visitors’ centre. The coffee roastery offers at least eight types of coffee from around the world, and no less than 12 variations of coffee on the menu and you can also partake in a cheese and wine or chocolate and wine pairing. Their pizzas are truly delicious and there are some interesting combinations on the menu.

3. CP Nel Museum

Contact: Tel 0442727306

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Of all the museums I have visited, the CP Nel Museum has to be one of the most impressive. Once the Boys’ High School, every room in this sprawling building has been filled with the history of Oudtshoorn, from the feather boom days to a complete replica of an apocathery and a general dealer. Apart from incredible collections from yesteryear, including ostrich feather outfits and hats, dolls from around the world, crockery, musical instruments, furniture, cars and wagons, the CP Nel Museum is also home to a tiny synagogue that is still in use today.

4. Le Roux Townhouse

Contact: Tel 0442727306

Photo by Rachel Robinson

If you want to see a true example of a “feather boom” house, then Le Roux Townhouse, built in 1909 during the second “feather boom”, is worth a visit. As money was no object, the house was built using only the best imported and local materials and well-known architect, Charles Bullock, was commisioned to design the house (he also designed the Boys’ High School, now the CP Nel Museum). The thick sandstone walls were constructed using dressed stone from the nearby quarries and some of the original wallpaper, the carpets in the bedroom and sitting room are the original from 1909. This was the first house to boast an indoor bathroom and toilet and it was one of the first to have electricity. The thing you will notice most though are the beautiful stained glass windows throughout the house.

5. Berluda Farmhouse and Cottages

Contact: Tel 0442728518, berluda.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Set a working ostrich farm in the Schoemanshoek Valley, there is a variety of accommodation available on this family estate, ranging from luxury rooms to family cottages and even a pet-friendly cottage. The family cottages are close to the swimming pool and boast lovely stoeps with a braai area and two bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. Breakfast (with ostrich egg scrambled egg) is included in your stay and you can opt to either self-cater for dinner or book for dinner in their dining room where you can enjoy a three-course Karoo meal or a braai. Berluda offer farm tours where you can visit the hatchery, stand on an ostrich egg and learn about the workings of an ostrich farm as well as about ostrich behaviour. Baby ostriches may be the cutest things when they are so tiny and pretty, but nothing in my mind is more endearing than a meerkat and I highly recommend adding a Meerkat Encounter to your itinerary!

Photo by Rachel Robinson

You can also take a sunset game viewing drive and hikers and bikers will love all the farm trails. If you have extra time, do pop into Vreugdevoetjies (Happy Feet) Pre-School Centre that was founded on the farm a few years ago and takes care of local children who come from underprivileged homes. This is something very close to Laura Schoeman’s heart and she’ll be only too happy to tell you more about it.

6. AfriCamps Klein Karoo

Contact: Tel 0631704222, africamps.com

Photo by Rachel Robinson

When I arrived in the early evening, snow was on the mountains and impala and springbok were bouncing friskily in the sunset metres away from my tent. It was all rather idyllic, and rather cold to be spending a night behind canvas! However, this is no ordinary camping, it’s glamping and thankfully they have an air conditioning unit which was promptly used as a heater! They also have an indoor fireplace and a braai outside so two fires were soon on the go. Firewood is supplied in the form of little blocks so it’s rather like playing Jenga with firelighters in between. There is very clever use of space, with the kitchen having everything you could possibly need, including salt and pepper, along with tea and coffee. Each unit has a double bed on one side and a bunk bed on the other (the top bunk is high enough so you don’t hit your head), separated by a partition. There’s a fridge and a microwave and long tables both inside and out. Number 8 is the best tent as it is on the dam wall, despite the fact that the dam is almost empty due to the drought – it all adds to the true Karoo feel! There’s a swimming pool and play area for children by the reception, making this a wonderful family experience on a working ostrich farm. Here you can also book a guided tour of the ostrich farm, visit the meerkats and take a sunset drive.

Prince Albert

Prince Albert is not officially on Route 62, but the chances are you will probably visit Prince Albert from Oudtshoorn, either via the Meeringsport Pass or the Swartberg Pass. A visit to this quaint little Karoo town makes for a super day trip, or a convenient stop over if you are heading back to Cape Town on the N1.

1. The Swartberg Hotel

Contact: Tel 0235411332, swartberghotel.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

This historical hotel has expanded its offerings over the years and you’ll now find a coffee shop, a ladies bar, a restaurant and a gin bar. The coffee shop serves breakfasts and lunches, with a range of vegetarian options while the Victoria Dining Room serves dinner by candlelight every evening. They also serve a fine Sunday roast. Gin lovers should head to The Green Prince Bar for a selection of the finest local gins. You can do a tasting, simply enjoy a gin of your choice or pour your gin and tonic beer-tap style from their G&T keg. If you are looking for a good meal, I can heartily recommend their kudu burger, served with a creamy mushroom sauce and chips. They also have some great accommodation options, including rondavel chalets which are perfect for families and single rooms for those travelling alone.

Also read: 13 glorious gin experiences in and around Cape Town for all budgets

2. The Showroom Theatre

Contact: Tel 0828043364, showroomtheatre.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

You can’t miss the beautiful art deco building along the main road that hosts movie nights, live music and standup comedies. The building itself is magnificent and the interior is rather grand with chandeliers and red carpeting. The theatre can seat up to 140 people and upcoming acts include Gerald Clark and Pieter Dirk-Uys.

3. Take in some art

Photo by Rachel Robinson

There are plenty of art galleries in Prince Albert, my two favourites being The Prince Albert Gallery and photographer, Stephan Jaggy. Stephen’s gallery can be found along the main road at Café Photo Albert and his landscapes and Karoo scenes are very impressive. The Prince Albert Art Gallery is home to many different artists and genres, including paintings and ceramic works. You’ll get lost in there for hours!

4. Karoo Donkey Sanctuary

Contact: karoodonkeysanctuary.org.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Nothing beats giving a rescued donkey a hug or a tickle behind their oversized floppy ears and the donkeys at Karoo Donkey Sanctuary will all be vying for your attention! This sanctuary made news headlines with their historic rescue of 236 donkeys and 30 horses, all destined for slaughter at the Hartswater auction that took place in January 2017 and is now recognized as being the largest donkey rescue centre and sanctuary in Africa. Visits are by appointment only and you will be taken on a tour of the sanctuary, which is also home to pigs, geese, ostriches and a herd of Nguni cows. You’ll learn about donkeys, cuddle donkeys and be nuzzled by donkeys. It’ll be the best R100 you’ll ever spend!

5. Vrisch Gewagt Olive Farm

Contact: Tel vrischgewagt.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

In all my travels to date, this must be one of the most splendid places I have ever stayed at. The Klein Karoo seems to come in through every window, every skylight and with shower doors that open out into the fynbos, it comes in there too. You literally breath, sleep and live the Karoo here! Plus it’s so quiet you can almost hear the fynbos stretching towards the sun. The secret here is to sleep with all the shutters open and wake when the sun rises to the sight of springbok right outside your door. No attention to detail is spared from the lavender flowers strewn on your bed to the complimentary bottle of wine, olive oil and jar of olives. They make sure you have enough Nespresso capsules, supply you with farm milk and eggs and even restock the woodpile. Each cottage is themed – The Library Cottage is filled with books and Hannes Cottage is for lovers, while The Artist River Cottage will inspire the inner artist in you. Larger groups can book The Manor House or Paradys House, both of which have plush furnishings and typical Karoo stoeps where you can while away the day. There are dams and swimming pools and so much space that you may feel a bit lost until you get used to it. Take it from me, you will not want to leave and nor will your dogs, who are welcome to join you too!

Finally, if you are going back to Cape Town along the N1, do stop in at Matjiesfontein!

Also read: Route 62: Montagu and Barrydale and Route 62: Ladismith and Calitzdorp

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