Set along South Africa’s Garden Route and at the heart of the Klein Karoo, lies Oudtshoorn. It is a quaint and fairly large, sedate place that offers the perfect base for exploring the different environments of the Klein Karoo. The Garden Route town of Oudtshoorn is often referred to as the Ostrich Capital, due to its rich ostrich history and the large number of Ostrich farms located in and around the town today. Oudtshoorn is located at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains which offer some of the most striking scenery the Garden Route area has to offer, there are some great scenic driving and cycling routes around Oudtshoorn and the town itself has a number of picturesque buildings and areas worth exploring. There is a good choice of accommodation available in Oudsthoorn and there are plenty of Oudtshoorn restaurants and cafes to stop for a bite to eat. For anyone looking for a relaxed break with nature and culturally-focussed activities, Oudtshoorn isone of our favourite Garden Route destinations.
How to get to Oudtshoorn
The closest airport to Oudtshoorn is the Garden Route’s George airport. George airport is about 65km or an hour’s drive from Oudtshoorn, but you will need to hire a car to get from the airport to the town, some Oudtshoorn accommodation may be able to arrange a transfer, although we would recommend having a car available during your stay as the different attractions are quite spread out. George airport is serviced by a number of airlines including South African Airways and the low-cost airline Kulula and there are regular flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Getting to Oudtshoorn by car couldn’t be easier with the very scenic R328 and R62 providing easy access to this Garden Route town. We would also recommend having a car ato hand during your visit to Oudtshoorn as Oudtshoorn things to do and places to eat etc can be quite spread out. Driving to Oudtshoorn is a very picturesque experience – the Robertson and Outeniqua Passes connect Oudtshoorn with the Garden Route towns of Mossel Bay and George and make for a very pretty drive. Many people choose to stop in Oudtshoorn for a few days whilst driving along South Africa’s Garden Route or whilst en route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth as it is a good half-way point between these two South African cities and is a good spot to rest those weary bones.
When to go
The Klein Karoo can have quite an extreme climate – especially when compared to the temperate Garden Route. Although you can visit Oudtshoorn all year round, we would say the best time to visit Oudtshoorn is probably March or April as it is usually a pleasant temperature for exploring and enjoying the many Oudtshoorn things to do. Summers (Dec, Jan, Feb) tend to be long and hot with temperatures sometimes soaring to 40°C or more. Winter (Jun,Jul) in Oudtshoorn and the Klein Karoo, tends to be short, but can get extremely cold especially at night and there is often snow on the top of the Swartberg mountains. Spring and autumn tend to be wetter with most rain falling at this time of year while in the summer there can be some quite dramatic thundershowers, which can be quite something to watch.
Things to do in Oudtshoorn
Cultural and Historical Things to do in Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn’s Cango Caves are a real highlight for the Klein Karoo and the Garden Route. These impressive 20 million year old underground limestone caverns are open to the public for exploration. Take a standard tour through some of the wider caves and view the ancient stalactites and stalagmites or brave the adventure tour which allows visitors to crawl through some of the deeper and narrower chambers – not for the feint-hearted as some of the chambers, like the aptly named letterbox are extremely narrow!
Oudtshoorn is home to plenty of picturesque and historical buildings which can be seen all over the town, the CP Nel museum is a fine example of early 20th century architecture and houses an interesting museum that is worth a visit to explore the history surrounding the Garden Route town of Oudtshoorn.
Another Oudtshoorn museum worth a visit for anyone with an interest in South African arts and culture is the Arbeidsgenot – the place where CJ Langenhoven penned the words to the old South African National Anthem – Die Stem.
Wildlife Things to do in Oudtshoorn
The Garden Route town of Oudtshoorn is probably best known for its history as the ostrich capital of the world and the large number of ostrich farms in and around the town. A visit to an Oudtshoorn ostrich farm makes for a great day out. Visitors can explore the ostrich farming past of this Garden Route town and how it became a major centre for fashionable ostrich feathers in the 1800s. It’s then time to experience life on a working ostrich farm today to see how the birds are reared and farmed and to have a go at feeding and even trying your hand at riding these enormous flightless birds.
Another major wildlife attraction in Oudtshoorn is the Cango Wildlife Ranch where visitors can interact with a range of creatures from cheetahs and snakes to crocodiles! It’s a fun day out for all the family.
Other worthwhile things to do in Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn is surrounded by some stunning scenery and areas of natural beauty, there are many scenic mountain passes, such as the Swartberg Pass and Meiringspoort that offer some picturesque drives or cycle rides and there are even some guided tours of these Garden Route World Heritage Sites available for those who would like to learn a bit about the history and nature of the area.
Oudtshoorn and the Klein Karoo are also home to some excellent vineyards and the Klein Karoo wine route is worth an explore for anyone with an interest in or a liking for wine. The arid environment in which the grapes are grown make for some pretty unique South African wines.
Eating out and Nightlife in Oudtshoorn
If you are looking for a party town on your Garden Route trip, Oudtshoorn is probably not the place for you, however there are some great Oudtshoorn restaurants, cafes and spots to enjoy a relaxed evening out and to sample some of the local Klein Karoo wine. Check out our Oudtshoorn restaurants to see what takes your fancy.
Where to stay in Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn has a number of accommodation options from backpackers, which are generally very good along the Garden Route, to 5 star luxury hotels. Oudtshoorn town itself is quite spread out, so there isn’t really a central accommodation area as such and generally anywhere in the town is a good base for exploring the area – you will need a car to get around though. During busy times such as school holidays it is worth booking Oudtshoorn accommodation in advance, as places can fill up.
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