At the base of the Champagne Valley lies the charming little town of Winterton, surrounded by fertile farmlands and open grassveld. The Little Tugela River runs through town, and the peaks of the Drakensberg are visible in the distance. A short drive north is Bergville, which is bigger and has more amenities.
Surrounding both towns is picturesque scenery. There are a huge number of activities to keep one busy, most taking advantage of the natural splendour. The central Drakensberg is easily accessed from this area.
There are a few excellent resorts offering a wide range of accommodation and exceptional day hikes and longer overnight trails. A drive up the Oliviershoek Pass to the border of the Free State offers incredible views back into KZN. Drive a little further to gaze over the expanse of Sterkfontein Dam, an excellent fishery.
While the beauty of the mountains is the major attraction, it is by no means the only one. To the east of the two towns are a number of Anglo-Boer War battlefields. These include the haunting Spioenkop, surrounded by a nature reserve and overlooking a dam of the same name. Here white rhinos can still be seen grazing peacefully.
Those looking for adventure will soon learn they have come to the right place. Mountain biking, mountainboarding, river rafting and canopy tours all get the adrenalin going, while fly-fishing, golf and hiking will appeal to the more sedentary.
Look out for
The Drakensberg Canopy Tour is a wonderful experience, giving a bird’s eye view of the ancient forest. Gliding into clearings, one is rewarded with exquisite views of the mountains, streams and waterfalls.
The championship golf course of Champagne Sports Resort Golf is a popular attraction of the valley. It is regularly voted one of the country’s most beautiful courses.
For the adventurous there is Four Rivers Rafting, offering white water rafting on the Tugela River as well as quad biking, archery and mountainboarding.
Visit the Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Centre to watch majestic birds of prey in flight and learn all about these beautiful creatures.
On 23 and 24 January 1900, British forces were soundly defeated by an outnumbered Boer force in the Battle of Spioenkop, just east of present-day Winterton. The battlefield is today a fascinating place to spend an afternoon, soaking up the atmosphere. One gets lost in admiring the peaceful countryside where, ironically, so many lost their lives.
Bergville and Winterton offer easy access to the Drakensberg nature reserves of Injisuthi, Cathedral Peak, Monk’s Cowl and Royal Natal National Park. These also offer trout fishing and hiking. The iconic ‘Amphitheatre’ at Royal Natal should not be missed.