When approaching Citrusdal in spring, roll down the car windows and enjoy the fragrant welcome of citrus blossoms touched by the scent of buchu, rooibos tea or vanilla. Citrusdal is named for its established citrus-farming heritage. A 250-year-old tree on the farm, Hexrivier, is one of the country’s few fruit-bearing national monuments.
The town is in the Olifants River Valley between the Koue Bokkeveld and Swartberg Mountain ranges, 170 kilometres from Cape Town. The N7 Piekenierskloof Pass winds through the Cederberg from Piketberg to Citrusdal and even road works seem a welcome opportunity to savour the beautiful landscape.
With palm-lined main streets flanked by sun-faded single-storey houses, Citrusdal has coffee shops, one or two excellent restaurants, accommodation and petrol, but it is the natural wonders of the surrounding countryside that draw most tourists.
Sixteen kilometres from town are the 43-degree Celsius hot springs at The Baths (est. 1739). It feeds a stream that runs through fynbos and forests, and creates a surreal atmosphere in winter when the steam condenses in a ghostly trail along its course. Here visitors can camp, hike and view some of the many San rock paintings preserved on the sandstone of the Cederberg. Popular with hikers, mountain-climbers and mountain-bikers, this “golden valley” is alive with small animals, such as birds, tortoises, and mongooses.
The Baths – self-catering chalet and camp visitors have access to a spa. Day visitors can enjoy the hot and cold pools and restaurant (reservations necessary). There are campsites alongside the road and a warm stream. Tel: +27 22 921 8026/7, www.thebaths.co.za.
The Olifants River Valley Wine Route is well-known for its Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. The 120-kilometre wine route along the river starts at Citrusdal. The Cederberg Winery on Dwarsrivier farm offers wonderful hikes and an observatory with a 16-inch telescope for clear night-sky views.
Die Sitrus Winkel, Coffee Shop & Grill is a highly recommended deli, open seven days a week.
Freshwater Angling - the Olifants River system is home to endemic protected fish, such as Clanwilliam yellow fish. Exotic species (rainbow trout, carp and bass) are fair game. For permits, contact Cape Nature Conservation, Porterville, +27 22 931 2900.
The Cederberg Wilderness Area unfolds from Middelburg Pass at Citrusdal to north of Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam and is well known for amazing hiking trails, rock-climbing and mountaineering. The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is to the southeast of Citrusdal, while Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve lies on the eastern edge of the Cederberg Mountains, and Bushmanskloof Wilderness in the northern Cederberg is a Natural Heritage Site.
Events – Citrusdal hosts the Olifants River Canoe Marathon (www.wpcanoe.org.za); a number of Mountain Bike Races; the 2x4x4 weekend (www.citrusdal2x4x4.co.za) and the Classic Golf Day at Citrusdal’s nine-hole golf course on the Olifants River (www.citrusdal.info/golf)