Situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains and referred to by South Africans as halfway house, Harrismith in the Free State has become a pit-stop for those travelling between Durban and Johannesburg.
This modern-day refuelling station still retains its former pinnacle role, as Harrismith played a strategic role as a base camp during the Anglo Boer War. This charming and delightful settlement was named after Sir Harry Smith, the British Governor who founded the town. Regarded as an important trade route during the diamond rush in Kimberly, Smith was instrumental in persuading the Voortrekkers not to abandon Natal.
The Plattberg Mountain Race which forms part of the Berg Bohaai Festival held each year in October has been described as one of the toughest mountain races in the world. The history of the race originated in 1922 when a British military officer, Major A.E Belcher stationed in Harrismith during the second Boer War referred to “that small hill of yours” and so the contest began. The locals challenged Belcher to reach the top of the pass within 60 minutes, he accepted, and completed the distance with time to spare. Major Belcher presented a floating trophy that is still handed to the one that takes this prestigious title each year.
There is plenty to do in and around the town. The Plattberg Game Reserve that borders the Harrismith Wildflower Botanical Gardens offers hiking and mountain bike trails, and the nearby Sterkfontein Dam hosts some of the best fly fishing and water sport tournaments in the country year round. Property in Harrismith boasts a number of national monuments such as the town hall and the local church. The town prides itself on the complimentary reviews it receives that deem the town clean and friendly.
According to recent statistics released by Lightstone, Harrismith central has seen a total of 39 property sales in the last 12 months. Property seems to be a fairly affordable commodity in the town with the average price for freehold property coming in at R737 000 while the average price paid for a sectional title unit was R430 000. Freehold property dominates market share in the area and sales that took place in Kingshill came in at a slightly higher price of R835 000. All of these sales fell in the freehold sector of the market.
The region is a strategic hub in South Africa’s wool production industry as well as a full range of cash crops such as cherries, yellow cling peaches and maize grown in the surrounding farmlands. The weathered sandstone landscape and abundance of willow trees that course through the valley on the banks of the Wilge River formulate a magnificent portrait representing the diversity of fauna and flora indicative of the regions natural splendour.
The nearby Golden Gate National Park and Mount Everest Game Reserve draw the tourists in and prove to be a popular attraction. Although Harrismith may not be at the top of the places to visit list, spending a few extra hours in this historic region could churn up some pleasant surprises.