Its name translates as ”fort of peace”, yet Vredefort has been the historical site of some violent clashes. The most cataclysmic was a natural disaster that occurred way before mankind walked the earth. More than 2 000-million years ago, a huge meteor hit the area, gouging a vast bowl into the earth. Today we know this crater as the Vredefort Dome, a World Heritage Site.
The event caused enormous global change and, millions of years later, the gold that it pushed towards the surface of the earth would change the history of South Africa. Gold was in fact discovered in Vredefort in 1886.
Another clash, this time involving humans, was narrowly averted in the 1850s, when the old Transvaal and Orange Free State republics seemed set to go to war. The parties came to a peaceful resolution and the name Vredefort was adopted at this time.
Come the second Anglo-Boer War and Vredefort was once again in the thick of the battle. The town became the location of a British concentration camp, with all its devastation and loss of life.
Today Vredefort is a peaceful spot surrounded by farmlands that produce maize, sorghum, peanuts and fields of bright yellow sunflowers. For its residents and visitors, its proximity to the recreational attractions of the Dome area is its drawcard.
Look out for
The Dome Bergland Meander contains many opportunities for physical pursuits, such as hiking, mountain-bike riding, river-rafting and -tubing, horse-riding and abseiling.
A two-day hiking trail, the Vredefort Meteorite Hiking Trail, is a great way to view the impact crater. There is accommodation en route.
Shorter day and overnight hiking trails of varying difficulty will take you to San rock art and Iron Age sites. Hiking combined with canoeing is also possible.
A number of Anglo-Boer War sites can be seen in the Vredefort vicinity.
At nearby Venterskroon you can view the country’s largest wild olive tree forest.