Harrismith is a large town in the Free State. Known as the “halfway houseâ€ on the N3 highway between Johannesburg and Durban, and at the N5 junction heading towards Bloemfontein, Harrismith is an important traffic hub. The town serves as a gateway into the Drakensberg Mountains and is a popular refuelling station. Scroll down to browse our Harrismith accommodations.
The town of Harrismith was founded in 1849 and named after the British Governor, Harry Smith. Previously laid out by Robert Moffat (about 25km from its current location), Harrismith was shifted to its current spot in 1850 due to a deficiency in water. Harrismith went on to become a busy staging post on the Natal transport route during the Kimberley diamond rush. As a direct result, a number of excellent accommodations, stores, and public buildings have sprung up.
Harrismith is the centre of one of the five wool producing districts in Southern Africa and home to the Highway Junction, the largest truck stop in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, Harrismith is famous for the annual Platberg Mountain Race, a 15km marathon forming part of the Berg Bohaal festival (Mountain Mania). The race was created in 1922 when a British soldier, Major AE Belcher, was bet by a local that he couldn’t climb the Platberg Mountain in under 60 minutes. He made it to the top with 8 minutes to spare and has since presented a floating trophy to the first athlete to reach the top. The record time today is 22 minutes and 9 seconds.
The town of Harrismith is a charming example of a typical Free State town. Visitors travel to view the blockhouses, engineering works, and military cemetery still evident today. Be sure to visit the national monument of Harrismith Town Hall (built in 1907) and see the 250 million year old fossilised tree in the Deborah Retief Garden. Alternatively, hike to view Bushmen and Neo paintings 5km outside of Harrismith.
Harrismith is set near the eastern escarpment border with the KwaZulu-Natal province and is the best access point to the northernmost Drakensberg, including Tugela Falls and Mont-Aux-Sources (80km), Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve (20km), Royal Natal Park and the uKhahlamba/Drakensberg World Heritage Site (66km), and the magnificent Golden Gate Highlands National Park (50km).
Tourist attractions in Harrismith include Harrismith Golf Course (arguably the third oldest in South Africa), Kerkenberg (Church Mountain), and Sterkfontein Dam (third largest in South Africa), initially a vital water source for Gauteng and now popular for water sports, fishing, and wind surfing. Visit Platberg Reserve which includes the former Drakensberg Botanical Garden (founded in 1967 but unfortunately now obsolete) to see the well-preserved sandstone blockhouse and picnic in the oak tree grove at Akkerbos, which hosted Elizabeth II in 1947. Other attractions include the Mount Everest Game Reserve and QwaQwa National Park.
Experience all that Harrismith has to offer by booking one of the following excellent accommodations in the area.