Bordered by river (the Caledon) and mountain (Imperani) and backed by a tableau of the magnificent Maluti Mountains, Ficksburg couldn’t ask for a more picturesque setting.
Founded in 1868 by General Jan Fick, Commander-General of the Orange Free State Republic, the town was intended as a buffer on the border of what was then Basotholand (Lesotho). Prospective residents were enticed with offers of land, horses and guns to discourage cattle raiders from across the border.
Today Ficksburg is a significant agricultural town, where maize, deciduous fruit, asparagus and cherries are grown. Cherries are harvested between October and December and during that time they are the focus of a three-day jamboree. The annual Cherry Festival in November has been going since 1968 and draws thousands of people to participate in such delights as horse, camel and steam-train rides, helicopter flips and other adventure activities.
Ficksburg is a gateway to the Kingdom of Lesotho and its Katse Dam, which supplies South African industry in Gauteng with millions of litres of water. Situated at an altitude of 3 000 metres in the Maluti Mountains, the dam is not only scenically breathtaking, it is also a popular venue for water sports.
The Eastern Free State and its Thabo Mofutsanyana region have a justified reputation for dramatic sandstone formations. Ficksburg can lay claim to impressive sandstone both in its natural and built environments. South Africa’s best known sandstone structure, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, is said to be built of sandstone quarried in the Ficksburg area. On the outskirts of town, another facet of Ficksburg tourism is to be found, in the guise of game farms.
Look out for
Local churches worth viewing for their architecture and history are the All Saints Anglican Church, with its coloured glass windows designed 1891, and the Methodist Church, established in 1888.
The Ficksburg Cherry Race, held each November, is a 23-kilometre circular mountain route known to be physically testing but visually spectacular.
The Constantia Cherry Farm Stall sells a wide variety of cherry-based foodstuffs and drinks such as liquer, jam and nougat.
Popular for cruises and fishing is the Meulspruit Dam, set in a nature reserve. The Imperani Hiking Trail starts and ends at the dam.
The S H Pellissier Art Gallery at Ficksburg High School exhibits the works of famed South African artists, including murals by Pierneef.
One of the tallest sandstone structures in the world, an old mill now retired from use, can be seen at Gumtree, a nearby settlement.
Hiking up Imperani Mountain is well worth the effort. Rock-sliding and abseiling can also be pursued on this mountain.