In this age of social media, the Instagrammability of a place is a key factor in deciding on a getaway destination for many people. The Hartbeespoort area boasts Instagram opportunities galore, and it’s proximity to Johannesburg and Pretoria make it an ideal weekend destination.
Meaning “Gateway of the Hartebeest” (a type of antelope), Hartbeespoort is a collection of small resort towns situated around the Hartbeespoort Dam in the North-West province, close to the Gauteng border. Also known as Harties, it was established in the 1920s when construction of the dam began. Schoemansville is the oldest neighbourhood in the area, and was named after Hendrik Schoeman, a General in the Anglo-Boer War, who owned the farm that the dam was built on.
Dominated by the Hartbeespoort Dam, the region is rich in historical, ecological, geological, and paleontological significance, as well as tourist attractions.
This is the top rated attraction in the area, according to Tripadvisor and I personally agree, having experienced it. The longest mono cableway in South Africa, it will take you to the top of the ancient Magaliesberg mountains, a World Biosphere Reserve, from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Hartbeespoort Dam, Magaliesberg and the surrounding areas - en route and at the top.
A walk along the Dassie Loop paved walkway will take you around the mountain top where information boards indicate points of interest. You can also enjoy light meals and refreshments with a view on the mountain. The more adventurous can hike up or down the mountain. The Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway is one of the best things to do in Harties - and one of the most beautiful cable car experiences in South Africa.
The Hartbeespoort Dam was completed in 1925, and spans over 20 km. Fed by the Crocodile and Magalies Rivers and surrounded by the Magaliesberg mountains, it serves as a source of irrigation for the surrounding farms. The Hartbeespoort Dam is the only dam in South Africa with a Roman Triumphal Arch Style wall. The arch's design is based on the Arch de Triomphe in Paris. You can park your car near the dam wall crossing and admire the picturesque views. It's one of the best free things to do in Harties.
The Hartbeespoort Dam is also a popular water resort area where you can go on boat cruises, jet-skiing, and sailing.
Read more about the history of Hartbeespoort Dam.
Visiting the French Toast complex might be the closest you’ll get to France in South Africa. The French Toast Coffee Cafe was built as part of the set for the movie French Toast in 2015. It is known as Café Alexandre in the movie. Here, you will find a 12.5-metre Eiffel Tower, a lock bridge where you can seal your love and other touches of Paris. The café operates as a restaurant with a Parisian influenced patisserie - and yes, they do serve French Toast. Be warned, it’s very busy on weekends.
Van Gaalen is primarily a family-run cheese farm established in 1994. Tours are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when you can see how the cheese is made, and indulge in cheese-tasting. However, the farm also has several hiking and mountain-biking trails extending over 50 properties, and over 100 km. The trails take you along the river, over swing bridges, through bamboo walkways and dense woodlands. Much of it is shaded, making it great for hot days.
Chameleon Village is a sprawling shopping and entertainment area. It has a huge African craft market, several restaurants, kids’ play areas, art galleries, putt-putt and go-karting.
Welwitschia Country Market is an eco-village country market opposite Chameleon Village. It features 40 shops, 3 restaurants and a kids playground. Stalls offers a wide range of goods including clothing, African arts and crafts, books, novelties and curios, leather ware and jewellery. There is live entertainment on weekends.
There are many animal sanctuaries in the area, some more dubious than others. Some of the more reputable ones are Ann van Dyk De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre, and Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. Do ensure that you avoid unethical sanctuaries and behaviour such as lion petting.
There are few more magical experiences than drifting in a hot air balloon as the sun appears over the horizon. The Hartbeespoort Dam and Magaliesberg Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop for hot air balloon flights. As you drift lazily with the wind, enjoying the panoramic views, the early morning serenity and tranquillity is punctuated only by the occasional chirping of birds and the frequent burst of flames into the hot air balloon. We experienced our hot air balloon ride with Bill Harrops.
As the name suggests, the Upside Down House is a house built upside down. The contents of the house including the furniture, which would normally be on the floor, are now over your head, providing great photo opportunities.
30 minutes away from Hartbeespoort Dam, the Cradle of Humankind is one of South Africa’s 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites . Altogether, it contains 15 major fossil sites, of which the Sterkfontein Caves is the most famous. The caves are estimated to be 20 million years old.
Also 30 minutes away from Hartbeespoort Dam, Hennops Hiking Trails are some of the most popular hiking trails in Gauteng. This is an expansive nature reserve with hiking, mountain biking and off-roading trails, as well as a historical background. I wrote about it in detail here.
Just over 30 minutes away from Hartbeespoort Dam, you can go ziplining with Magaliesberg Canopy Tours. This adrenalin-pumping Tarzan and Jane style eco-adventure will take you through the ecology and geology of the second oldest mountain range in the world. Read more here.
These are just some of the things to do in Hartbeespoort . You can also do horse riding, rock climbing, quad-biking, caving, abseiling, kloofing, fishing, golf, bird watching, river rafting and much more. Although it is possible to go there on a day trip, there is so much to do in the area that staying there for a weekend makes more sense, as you can then explore the local attractions in Harties at a more leisurely pace.
What are your favourite things to do in Harties ?