The name Beaufort West evokes long hot summers, the busy N1 highway, and the nearby Karoo National Park. Situated 950km from Gauteng and 460km from Cape Town, its suburbs spread across the low lying plains at the base of Nuweveld Mountains.
The busy N1 is Beaufort West’s main thoroughfare and activity in the town-centre ebbs and flows with the passing traffic. Beaufort West is the largest town in the Central Karoo and is strategically placed to host travellers commuting to and from the Cape, the Garden Route, and the Klein Karoo.
Entering town from the north the traffic circle encompasses what must surely be the only jail located in the centre of a major route anywhere in the world. Beyond this, the main street stretches between buildings sporting both modern and old architectural styles.
Amongst these a laid back, rural way of life mingles with the frenetic bustle of modernity.
To the north-west the town borders the Karoo National Park, while large game farms occupy the mountains to the north-east. On the plains to the south, succulent Karoo lamb is produced on extensive farms. There are a couple of passes - the Molteno and de Jagers - meandering up the mountains near town and these offer opportunities for circular day drives to explore the gravel backroads of the Central Karoo.
Look out for
The Museum Complex is in the main street and consists of three buildings near the Dutch Reformed Church. This depicts the history of the town and the region with the focal point being a sizeable exhibition of items from the life of the town’s favourite son, heart transplant pioneer Professor Chris Barnard.
Die Spinwiel - this antique shop in the main street has a fascinating private museum at the back.
Architecture - for lovers of architecture the town boasts styles including Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian, Neo-Gothic, Romanesque and Cape Dutch.
Springfontein Koppie - in the clear early morning air, this hillock provides great views over the town, the surrounding veld and the Nuweveld Mountains. Directions are available from the tourism information office.
The Karoo National Park - at 88 000 hectares the park embraces the plains as well as the middle and high plateaus of the Nuweveld Mountains. These provide a wide range of habitats. There are around 200 bird species, over 60 mammals including desert black rhino and lion and, unusually, five species of tortoise. Day visitors are welcome. Accommodation is in chalets and caravan and camping sites.