I recently had a mad 24-hour whirlwind stop in Clarens as part of the South African Tourism #MeetSouthAfrica 2015 campaign. Although we managed to fit in a crazy amount of stuff , I definitely want to return and do it all at a slightly more leisurely pace. Here’s my Top 7 Things to do in Clarens (in no particular order):
Clarens is well-known for its art galleries, but there are also quirky antique shops, lots of lovely farmstalls selling local produce, and more interior decorating shops than any husband can handle (my tip: leave them at the brewery – see no 7). Don’t miss well-known Freestate artist Johan Smith’s gallery, and be sure to visit the Purple Onion Deli.
There are plenty of eateries around. I recommend going for a hearty, traditional dinner at (at least) one of them. We ate at Clemetine’s; a homely place that is always filled to the brim with a mix of locals and visitors (remember to book). My oxtail was scrumptious, and the lamb shank and homemade soups also looked amazing. The Lady of the Manor is Clementine herself, a tortoise cat that may reward you with her presence if you are really lucky. I was!
Watch the sunset
Mountains, wind pumps and beautiful trees; what better setting could you have for the Perfect Sunset?
I went for a run along one of the roads that seem to just lead straight into the Golden Gate mountains. The surroundings were stunning! On the way back, I passed Kgubetswana township and had a whole team of little supporters running alongside me. There are also plenty of hiking trails a stone’s throw away from the town square, and for longer hikes I cannot recommend the Golden Gate Highlands National Park enough.
White water rafting
This is when it gets serious! I had so much fun braving the rapids of the Ash River with my team of crazy bloggers, in the safe hands (or should that be paddles?) of Clarens Xtreme. This is not for sissies though; 9 rapids and icy cold water will challenge you to the core. Check out this little clip from my dear friend Di Brown (aka The Roaming Giraffe). I’m front left, fighting the rapids for sheer survival (on some boats, I find that you get less wet at the front – this is NOT the case with rafting)…
Check out street art
Ism-Skism is a residency programme for artists. Their aim is to allow people the opportunity to produce and exhibit their art whilst engaging with local artists and community members. They have an amazing gallery on the square, but it’s in the Kgubetswana township you can find their real legacy in the form of street art. As far as I know, they do not have organized tours at this point but if you are interested in seeing some of the work, and engaging with the locals in Kgubetswana, contact them on Facebook.
Drink craft beer
The Clarens Brewery makes an astonishing range great craft beer, and also fruit ciders that are pretty rad. In true brewery style, there’s plenty of wurst and other German snacks and meals. Do not miss this place!
So do yourself a favour and go explore Clarens, I promise you won’t regret it!