Photo of Free State

About Free State

Blue skies and open plains, the Free State’s epic landscapes are interrupted only by the Drakensberg mountains and a smattering of towns and farming settlements. Originally known as the ‘Oranje-Vrystaat’ it was named by the Boers, who settled here in the 19th-century, to set up an independent Afrikaans republic, free from British rule. Its Mediterranean climate and fertile soils mean it was a perfect match for the Afrikaaner’s rich farming traditions and it is still one of South Africa's most prominent agricultural communities. Known as ‘the breadbasket of South Africa', the Free State produces over 70% of the country’s grain, as well as fruit farms, known most famously for its top quality cherries. A stay on one of its traditional farms is a great way to experience this bucolic state. Our pick of the best places to stay in the Free State showcase a wide range of well-priced and heritage hotels.

A place that many travellers pass through, rather than a destination in itself, the Free State’s rugged scenery and open highways make it perfect for a road trip. Follow the N1 highway from Cape Town, through Johannesburg, onto Pretoria, and as far as Zimbabwe. Alternatively, there are daily flights from both Cape Town and Johannesburg. However you travel, this geographically spectacular and historically significant state provides travellers with natural beauty, outdoor activities, and rich history.

Its capital Bloemfontein, meaning ‘fountain of flowers’ in Afrikaans is worth a visit. South Africa’s judicial capital, although historically an Afrikaner city it was also the birthplace of the African National Congress, the current ruling party.

WHAT NOT TO MISS

  • Possible to explore on foot, with no dangerous animals, traverse the stunning Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
  • Follow the N1 highway and self-drive from Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Pretoria.
  • Get on your bike and explore the epic Drakensberg mountains.
  • 4x4 trails or guided tours to the Sandstone Gorge is a day outdoors that all ages will enjoy.
  • Visit the historic capital of Bloemfontein and learn about its history at the Anglo Boer Museum and Battlefields.
  • This is riding country, and there are plenty of stables, and professional guides that can lead you in exploring one of South Africa’s wildest provinces, on horseback.

Our pick of the best places to stay in the Free State demonstrate the best in outdoorsy and historic stays, ideal for families and couples.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN THE FREE STATE

FOR FAMILIES

  • Get up close and personal with some of South Africa’s big cats at Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary – perfect for families there are plenty of outdoor activities, plus it’s very well-priced.

GREAT VALUE

  • The homely, historic, owner-managed farm, Bloemstantia, located in a residential corner of Bloemfontein, is the perfect base for exploring this historic city.

FOR A TRULY WILD STAY

  • With superb equestrian facilities, Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve is for those who want to immerse themselves nature. No internet connection ensures that guests are serious about escaping to ‘The Good Life’.

FOR ALL OUT LUXURY

  • With working polo facilities, superb dining, and lavish suites, Oaklands Country Manor provides a very refined stay in the heartlands of the Free State.

Travel information

  • The Free State's main airport, Bram Fischer International Airport, located just outside Bloemfontein receives daily flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg.
  • With little in the way of public transport, the Free State is a great location for a roadtrip. We recommend our travel partners, Rentalcars.

Still not sure?

  • Why not refine your search by taking a look at our Bloemfontein collection?
  • Or contact one of our friendly gurus for advice.

Best Hotels in Free State

  • Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary Bethlehem,, Free State 19 rooms from £46

    Excellently priced lodge allows guests to get up close and personal (although not too close) with some of Africa's Big Five. All ages will love. There are plenty of outdoor activities for children and the attractive price tag makes it a great value stay. A pool, safari drives, and lots of wildlife.

    Families  -  Home to some impressive big cats, families will love this well priced stay
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor pool
    Kids Club  -  Fully staffed.
    Full of character
    Check Availability
  • Bloemstantia Bloemfontein 6 rooms from £59

    Housed in a traditional Cape Dutch style in a historic corner of Bloemfontein. This charming home-turned-hotel is filled with works of art, antique furnishings and original features. Beautifully decorated rooms include tea and coffee making facilities. A hearty breakfast is served; meals on request.

    Local exploring  -  A perfect homely base for exploring Bloemfontein
    Sights nearby  -  Oliewenhuis Art Gallery is just 2 km away
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor pool
    Full of character
    Check Availability
  • Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve Ficksburg,, Free State 14 rooms from £104

    Excellent value property in a private game reserve. Suberp equestrian facilities, 4x4 drives and hiking, it is a wonderful stay for those who like to spend their time in the great outdoors. No internet means you are at one with nature. All this plus beautiful rooms and restaurant quality dining.

    Active Holiday  -  Riding, walking, and driving trails. This hotel is perfect for outdoorsy types
    Value chic  -  Excellent value, sophisticated stay
    Great walks  -  To the Sandstone Gorge is one of plenty of excellent hikes
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
    Check Availability
  • Oaklands Country Manor Van Reenen,, Free State 16 rooms from £114

    The ultimate country stay. Dating back to the 18th century this historic family-owned hotel boasts world-class riding facilities, polo, superb locally sourced dishes, opulent rooms, whilst still maintaining that homely stay. More than enough activities to keep the liveliest children busy.

    Country Escape  -  The ultimate country getaway this family owned house is home to horses and acres of land
    Fishing  -  There are three nearby damns - equipment is available
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor pool
    Full of character
    Check Availability