Beaufort West, Western Cape, South Africa

Donkey carts in Beaufort West.

Beaufort West in the arid Great Karoo, South Africa, offers a variety of fascinating historical and archaeological sites as well as sports activities and game viewing.

This place in the Western Cape of South Africa is perfect for river-rafting and hikes. Rock engravings are remnants of the Khoi and San people, fossils and stone-age sites attract archaeological interested visitors. Spot Black Rhino and other animals in the Great Karoo National Park or go on a cultural Township Tour. Tranquillity seekers will enjoy Beaufort West's incredible clear and beautiful night skies.

Beaufort West lies at the foot of the ancient Nuweveld Mountains between two rivers, the Gamka River and Kuils River. The intense silence and dazzling plains of the Karoo soothe the soul and restore tranquillity to visitors looking for a peaceful and interesting place to refresh. This town in the Western Cape is 463km (288 miles) from Cape Town on the N1 highway.

This arid plateau is the largest of its kind outside of Asia - life here can be harsh, yet people have lived in this South African area for 500 000 years - the little Khoi and San people called this area Karusa, the Khoi word for dry, barren, thirstland. Water is still scarce but life springs eternal in a myriad of ways, the Succulent Karoo is a perfect example of Natures brilliance.

The endless plains and blue mountains once sheltered runaway slaves, smugglers and the banished, akin to the Wild West. Travellers now find serenity here and the incredible clarity of the night skies and country air invigorating this town in the Western Cape. Beaufort West is a place of extreme weather from icy winters to scorching summers.

Beaufort West in the Western Cape was founded in 1818 on the farm of Hooivlakte. It is the oldest town in the Central Karoo and its municipality proclaimed in 1837 is the oldest in South Africa. Today with modern road and rail links, this town is ideally situated as a central base for exploration of the Great Karoo and the Swartberg Mountains passes. It is also the gateway to holiday resorts in the Western, Eastern and Southern Cape. It is 405km (252 miles) from Port Elizabeth.

This little town in the Western Cape was renamed Beaufort West in 1869. It lay in what became the worlds richest collecting grounds for incredible fossils scientists now describe it as one of the great wonders of the world. There are fascinating stone-age sites and Bushmen engravings to be found. The Great Karoo is one of the worlds most unique arid zones - in South Africa it stands alone, globally it is an envied rarity.

Beaufort West is also famous for its pioneers. Born here in the 1800s was Dr Emil, proclaimed as the father of modern orthopaedics, also Albert Fick, who did much of the pioneer work on contact lenses and renowned world heart transplant pioneer, Professor Chris Barnard.

This town in the Western Cape has a fascinating history and well preserved buildings, many Anglo-Boer war sites can be found in the area and graves are dotted on the plains and in marked cemeteries. The town hall is a national monument and there are several Victorian style turn of the century houses.

With careful planning by the local residents, travellers can now enjoy the Kwa-Mandlekosi Township Tourist Route from this town in the Western Cape. Visitors on the Township Tour meet traditional healers, enjoy Xhosa food and traditional drinks. Fascinating fossils can be seen on the fossil trail at the Karoo National Park and also at some of the museums in the area.

On the outskirts of Beaufort West lies the 75 000 hectare Karoo National Park, home to 2 of South Africas most highly endangered species, the Riverine Rabbit, Black Rhino and a variety of other wildlife and birdlife. The Quagga, which became extinct in 1883 has been successfully regenerated from genetic code present in tissue samples taken from a mounted museum exhibit, and is now roaming free in the reserve.

Historic buildings in Beaufort West include:

  • The Museum Complex
  • Town Hall / Stadshuis
  • Mission Church and Parsonage
  • Girls' Public School
  • Beaufort West Club
  • The Goal
  • Old Jacob's House

Activities available:

  • Horse back riding
  • River rafting
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Bird watching
  • Paragliding