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“Hidden Gem in the Freestate” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Golden Gate Highlands National Park
South Africa
+27 (0)58 255 1000
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Ranked #4 of 38 things to do in Free State
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Attraction details
Johannesburg, South Africa
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Hidden Gem in the Freestate”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 8, 2013

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a nature reserve, with fully serviced accommodation, camping facilities and a basic shop ... it’s NOT just an "attraction" as listed on TripAdvisor. I've tried to contact them about this ... but no luck.

Anyway, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, while not really "hidden" seems to be off the beaten track for most people, which is a pity (for them) because it’s one of my most favourite places to visit in South Africa. The surrounding mountains are truly spectacular, especially in winter when you usually have crisp, deep blue skies and the most incredible sunrises and sunsets that really bring out the colours in the sandstone that makes up the mountains.

Although it’s a national park, there is only a short "game drive" of about 20km, where you're likely to see a few zebra, eland, wildebeest, babaoons, etc. But what really sets the park aside is not so much the limited game viewing, but the stunning mountain landscapes.

On my last stay with friends, we booked a rondavel which was, to be honest, pretty adequate. Had it been in any other location, I'd have given it 2 stars, but purely because of the location, it still gets a 4...

Everything was clean, tidy, and there was plenty of hot water in the shower, but on the downside, the interior was dark and dingy, some of the lights didn't work (missing bulbs), blinds didn’t open/close properly, very low water pressure in the shower, and the braai area was enclosed by a high fence made of poles (presumably to keep the wind out) but it made you feel like you were braaing in a really small enclosed backyard of a townhouse, rather than in a nature reserve. The draws in the kitchen were inadequate, poorly made, partially falling apart, and were generally just not in a good state. Electric blankets were a very pleasant surprise, but they had a 2 pin plug attached, with no adapter for the 3 pin socket, so couldn't actually be used. Weirdly, the only switch for the loft light was practically on the floor behind the bedside tables, making it almost impossible to get to.

On the Saturday, the cleaning staff arrived when one of us happened to be using the shower, so the door was locked. They disappeared and never came back.

On the plus side, they allowed us to depart 2 hours later than normal without any fuss, and phoned us late on Sunday to report that the cleaning staff had found a silver ring (not ours) which was a also a pleasant surprise - honesty like that is pretty unheard of in South Africa …

There is a small shop with all the basics, and the Golden Gate Hotel (very, very nice!) is less than 1km away, if you feel like a restaurant meal. Overall still a very, very pleasant stay, would definitely be back, and I can still highly recommend Golden Gate Highlands National Park, just as long as you know what to expect, and are not expecting more luxurious facilities.

Visited May 2013
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Bethlehem, South Africa
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Experience Golden Gate Winter/Summer”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 6, 2013

As a Tour Operator, based in Clarens, Eastern Free State, we often visit the simply beautiful Golden Gate National Park with guests ..although it is 'on our doorstep' we find it amazingly beautiful each time we take a group there. Naturally, which season you choose is going to bring forth its own splendour, however, if it is summer the beauty will be found in the lush greenery, the ample grazing for the herds of wildlife such as Black Wildebeest/Blesbok/Duiker/Springbok and Red Haartebeest which abound.. and the rich colours of the rock formations after the rains...in winter, the Park is quite literally transformed into a magical wonderland once is snows. The snow coats the peaks and roads, visitors come from afar to enjoy the scenery with its winter coat and the local hotel serves up endless bowls of tasty, warming soup! (at a price of course) When we take our tour to the high points in the Park, the views are never to be forgotten...the layers of rock are very obvious and we are able to explain to the visitor a little of the history behind the multi-coloured rocks.
Our best advice to any traveller would be two fold...firstly, think about taking an organised tour so that you see and understand more and have the benefit of local knowledge, secondly, if you go on a self-drive then take your time...you will miss so much if you just drive at the speed limit and try to take in the views that way. Another aspect of the Golden Gate Park is the Basotho Cultural Village just off the main road. This is truly worth a visit.In our experience, both International visitors to South Africa and our own tourists enjoy this experience...there is a entrance fee for this little tour which takes approx 45 mins to complete. Our guests thoroughly enjoy the sampling of Basotho food and drink, listening to their own special kind of music and even joining in with the dancing...it is indeed an experience all its own. To 'self-drive' through the Park itself there is no charge.
This awesome part of South Africa is truly amazing, drenched in history and rich in scenic beauty, who could ask for more?

Visited April 2013
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Centurion, South Africa
1 review
“Stunning view”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 19, 2013

One of the most beautiful places on earth! Because we have a Wild card, we didn't have to pay an entrance fee. The views are stunning, and the weather at this time of the year is excellent for visiting the park, going on any of the unguided hikes and for participating in the adventour activities in the park. We only went to the park for a day visit from Clarens. Although it is close enough and easy to reach, we will definitely make use of the overnight facilities the next time we visit. Definitely worth a visit.

Visited February 2013
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South Africa
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3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Booked accommodation not provided”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed January 31, 2013

We visited the Golden Gate National Park as Sanparks offered special rates during January 2013. A friend turned 40, we booked a weekend as her gift. We specifically booked unit 30, as it has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and would accommodate 5 adults and still allow each couple their own privacy

Upon our arrival, we were told that unit was 30 was not available as it was closed off for maintenance. Upon closer inspection we found that unit 30 was occupied by Kruger park staff. We approached camp manager John Martiens - we were told by him the unit was closed because of a crack in a wall - unit 30 was apparently unsafe for paying guests to stay in. The following morning the cleaner told us that it was closed because of a leaking toilet. Obviously someone was lying. we were offered a unit with 2 bunk-beds, we're adults & bunk-beds are not uncomfortable plus the rondawel which had no fridge "suspect"

Upon our check out we were told - Unit 30 was allocated to the new reserve manager who's staff house was not ready yet -- paying guest had to pay the price for lies, deceit and bad management.

Were promised an accommodation voucher (complimentary on a new date) by the camp manager Mr John Martiens - enquired @ check-out but received nothing

Visited January 2013
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Pretoria, South Africa
Contributor
19 reviews 19 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
“Golden Gate National Park- Basotho Cultural Village rest camp”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 27, 2012

We recently stayed at the Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp in this breathtakingly beautiful National Park. The Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp is 20 awesome km's from the Glen Reenen Rest Camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. This is the place to be if you are looking for peace and tranquility and nature in abundance and if you really want to get away from it all. We had amazing sunsets, and big herds of eland, black wildebeest, Springbok grazing just below our hut. The Rest Camp itself is designed in the form of Basotho Kraals, and the architecture of the huts resemble the Basotho style. The huts (not more than 25) are situated on the slope of the mountain and perfectly appointed. The huts are fully equipped with everything you need- fully equipped kitchens, Weber braai and comfortable showers. The beds are very comfortable if a bit short for very tall people. The view from the porch is spectatular. There are no TV sets so not the place to be if you want to watch television, or if you need crowds or other luxuries such as spa treatments. It is also self-catering. However, there are many restaurants in Clarens, a picturesque tourist village about 40kms away. But having a braai on your own "stoep" is really what you would want to do here. Also, there is not much to do aside from hiking and taking in the beautiful surroundings. We did an exceptional hike up the mountain, accompanied by a traditional Basotho traditional healer who explained the medicinal properties of the plants we encountered along the way. This walk leads to a cave with San Rock paintings in the natural setting. It was an amazing and unique experience. We also did the Basotho Cultural Village tour which was slightly more touristy, but fun and interesting. For both these tours , enquire at reception at the Basotho Cultural Village. It is a very good idea to combine this destination with the Drakensberg mountains which is about an hour's drive away. Just be careful- the road leading to Oliviershoek Pass is really very bad and you cannot do this in a normal sedan. We had a great time. In addition we did a hike form Glen Reenen Rest Camp every day. The hikes are about 3 hours each. There is also a natural rock pool with a waterfall at Glen Reenen. I would not stay at Glen Reenen, though because there is a busy national road running through the camp.

The Eastern Free State is one of South Africa's best hidden secrets and a true gem for nature lovers.

Visited December 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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