Located very close to Lesotho’s northern border, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa, is the epitome of diverse landscape and breathtaking views.
Nestled in the foothills of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains, it’s a less popular yet amazing national park in the country.
The park is known for its jaw-dropping and scenic mountain views.
Not to forget, there are some iconic sandstone formations that deserve to be explored. So, if you are ready to step into this historical park with the most unexpected wildlife, we have all the details for you!
Where Is The Golden Gate Highlands National Park Located?
To begin with, Golden Gate Highlands National Park is located in the province of Free State and is right beside the Lesotho border.
It covers are 130 sq/mi area and is known for the orange, golden, and ochre-colored outcrops and sandstone cliffs.
Given its intricate location, it experiences a variety of climates, along with thunderstorms, hail, and rain showers.
In fact, the winter season experiences dense snowfall, and the rainfall tends to be higher in a year.
Have a look at its location by clicking on the picture below from Google maps.
A Little History Of Golden Gate Highlands National Park
There are multiple shelters and caves in the area that display the San rock paintings, while the wildlife ranges from zebras to mongooses and elands to hundreds of bird species.
It’s the only national park in Free State and has gained popularity for the amazing landscape and has been a place for various paleontology finds, including dinosaur skeletons and eggs.
This park gets its name from the sandstone cliffs that surround the park. It was first identified by J.N.R van Reenen, who was a farmer – he was with his wife, and they were on their way to the Vuurland.
Back in the year 1963, 11,840 acres of the area was labeled as a national park to preserve the beauty of the park, but it was widened to 15,420 acres back in 1981.
Later in 1988, the area was increased to 28,750 acres, and soon after, in 2004, it was adjoined to the QwaQwa National Park, and this process was completed in 2007, which led to the area of 84,000 acres.
The Right Time To Visit The Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Everyone is attracted to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park for the spectacular sunsets and golden sandstone rocks, and not to forget, there are some amazing hiking opportunities and dramatic scenery.
There is extensive wildlife in the park who have adapted to the grassland habitat, and you might even see some rare antelope species there.
- The best time to enjoy the scenery ranges from October to May, while October to March remains the high season.
- The cold winter starts in May and stays until September – the day temperature is then around 17-degrees Celsius.
- The sunlight is evident on the majority of days, and there are rare snowfalls.
- The summer season stretches from October to April, and the temperature gets pretty hot – there might be some rain and thunderstorms in the late afternoon.
The animals are available all around the year, but it’s not something dramatic.
- The park is more about enjoying the landscape, which becomes more attractive during the wet season (it ranges from October to April).
There are some small-scale trails in the park which you can explore whenever you want, but dry and colder months would be better.
Take a look at the video below to watch some caves, wildlife, and scenery of this park:
Visiting The Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park can be reached in three different cities.
For instance, the park is three hours and fifteen minutes drive from Bloemfontein and Johannesburg, while it’s three hours and forty-five minutes drive from Durban.
In case you want to fly, you can book a flight to the King Shaka International Airport, Tambo International Airport, or Bram Fischer International Airport.
It doesn’t matter which airport you book the flight for; you can rent the car and travel all the way to the park on the tarred roads.
The rental cars are perfect for people who want to control their itinerary. The park is intersected by R712 public road that runs to Clarens from Phuthaditjhaba.
The visitors need to pay the conservation fee, depending on which country you are from originally, but you can get a discount if you are a SADC or South African national.
Staying In Golden Gate Highlands National Park
There are multiple accommodation options available within the boundaries of Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
Ranging from self-catered cabins to three-star and luxury hotels, there is something for everyone. Some of these options include;
Golden Gate Hotel & Chalets
– this is a three-star hotel with fifty-four renovated suites and rooms, thirty-four self-catered chalets, and a restaurant that provides amazing mountainous scenes.
In addition, there are two bars available. The location is perfect for enjoying the recreational activities in the park.
Noordt Brabant Guest House
– this is a great place for people who are looking for a private place, which is an old farmhouse transformed into a guest house.
It offers space for six people as there are three single beds and one double bed. In addition, the guest house has a dining room, lounge, two bathrooms, and a kitchen.
However, you need to ensure that you have high-ground clearance for the vehicle to access this guest house.
Highlands Mountain Retreat
– these are luxury log cabins, which are located 7200ft above sea level and offer the most mesmerizing views of the mountains and valleys.
There are different cabins available that house over six guests. The best thing about these cabins is that they remain warm throughout the winter season and cool during the summer month.
When it comes down to visiting the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, it’s a malaria-free area, so you don’t need to worry about the vaccination.
However, if you are flying in from abroad, you need to have COVID-19 vaccination to make sure you are safe.
My Final Conclusion.
On a concluding note, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, from South Africa, might be a lesser-known park on the list of 20 national parks, but it’s stunning and deserves the attention of people who have a thing for natural views and scenic beauty.
So, get the passport ready because the best time to visit the park is just around the corner!
I wish you happy travels!
4 thoughts on “Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa – Tips To Enjoy The Best Experience”
Hi Lizzy, What a fantastic description of Golden Gate Highlands National Park! The photos and video look so beautiful and inviting, and it’s so cool that there are areas with paleontology finds of dinosaur remains!! Thanks for all the helpful details to plan an amazing and unforgettable vacation in South Africa!
Thank you very much for your wonderful comment and I wish you happy travels to Africa!
I love to travel and see the amazing things the Creator has done. I don’t know that I will ever be able to get all the way to South Africa, but your article with the video has given me a taste of this amazing place. I chuckled when I recalled that you said the wildlife was “nothing dramatic” as I watched the video. To me, the wildlife is stunning. The landscapes are breathtaking. I have travelled through the Rocky Mountains here in the States and through the Redwood forests, but I don’t think I have seen anything as varied and beautiful as Golden Gate Highlands park. Thanks for this experience. I hope I can get there someday.
I totally agree with you you know, Golden Gate Highlands National Park is amazingly beautiful 😉
What I meant with “nothing dramatic”, is rather that you could, for example, go on hikes, without risking the dangers of jumping into deadly predators haha. But still, yes , quite amazing views!
I hope that you get there someday and I wish you happy travels!