Oudtshoorn
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 33 35.322 E 022 12.241 pop. 90,000 | elevation 352 m/827 ft

Situated in the heart of Klein Karoo (or Little Karoo), Oudtshoorn is a quirky commercial center surrounded by the stunning peaks of the Swartberg Mountains. The sleepy farm town rose to fame in the late 1800s when it became the world's largest supplier of ostrich feathers, in high demand for the lavish fashions in Europe and the Americas. Ostriches - and ostrich riding - are still some of Oudshoorn's primary draws, but the area is home to other diversions that are just as unique. Make a visit to the vast dripstone caverns of the Cango Caves or revel with thousands during the country's largest Afrikaner cultural festival in April.

CP Nel Museum

CP Nel Museum is Oudtshoorn's best-kept secret when it comes to in-town tourist attractions. This is a well-curated eclectic collection of antiquities that showcases both town history and the highlights of ostrich farming through the ages. Wander through turn-of-the-century replica stores, homes and a Jewish synagogue. Particularly dazzling is the display case of feather-accented high fashions sported by ostrich baronesses of yesteryear.


Highgate Ostrich Show Farm

Highgate Ostrich Show Farm has been in the ostrich-raising business for nearly 100 years. They offer 1.5-hour tours where you can see the nests, eggs (they are so tough that you can stand on them), incubators and baby chicks. After feeding the ostriches, you get to watch "ostrich jockeys" race a few birds down the racetrack. They make it look easy, but you can try riding one yourself and see how challenging it can be to keep your balance on these large awkward birds. Tours start roughly every 20 minutes. Head south out of town on the R328. After about 9 km, take a left turn onto an unnamed road with signs pointing you to Highgate and continue 2.5 km to the farm.


Cango Caves

Cango Caves are a 2-km-long series of underground caverns, which have formed over the past 20 million years from rainwater dissolving limestone rock into intricate caverns and passageways. They offer a standard tour through the caves starting every hour from 9am-4pm. The adventure tour departs hourly from 9:30am-3:30pm, but you must be "fit, lean and flexible" to go on the adventure tour, which involves crawling through small rock passages - unfit and overweight individuals are explicitly not allowed on the adventure tour as people have become stuck in the narrow passages. If you are unsure if you will physically fit through the narrow passages, there are life-size displays of the holes that you will have to crawl through. No cameras or bags are allowed on the adventure tour. Inside the main entrance building there are displays and a short video on the formation of the caves. There is also a restaurant at the facility that overlooks the surrounding mountains.


Cango Wildlife Ranch

Cango Wildlife Ranch is a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience in the Western Cape. While elsewhere you can dive with sharks, only here can you go croc cage diving, where you get up close and personal with 4-meter crocodiles in a large, heated pool. The ranch is a vital facility for endangered species and the ranch believes that the best conservation education is interaction with the animals.

Adults can hang out with tigers, lions, jaguars and cheetahs, kids will have a ball at the Kiddies Farmyard where they can cuddle with bunnies, and the whole family can stroll through the snake park. You can wander around the ranch on your own, but to get the most out of your experience join a one-hour tour. 'Natural Encounters' or up-close time with the big cats costs extra and should be booked in advance to avoid last-minute disappointment. Proceeds from Natural Encounters goes toward funding conservation and captive breeding programs.


Buffelsdrift Game Lodge

Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is just 7 km out of town en route the Cango Caves and offers a chance to view the Big 5. You can feed elephants or organize a nature walk but the biggest draw is their safaris. Horseback safaris let you ride while looking at the animals. The bush safaris led by an experienced guide are their signature trips. If you organize your safari in the late afternoon, you can have a sundowner in the wilderness. If nothing else, visit the lodge for a scenic sundowner on the deck, where you can watch the hippos in the lake below. You can also stay in one of their luxury tents.


De Zeekoe Meerkat Tours

De Zeekoe Meerkat Tours offers you a unique glimpse into the lives of wild meerkats in their natural habitat. You will hardly be noticed or paid any attention as you observe the little creatures forage and play. The new meerkat guide, Devey, is an expert in his field and can explain the intricacies of meerkat social structures and behavior. His calm and friendly manner has earned the trust of local meerkats and residents alike. The day before the tour, Devey will set out in search of a meerkat gang and inform you where to meet the next morning. Tours leave at sunrise but are dependent on weather. Pictures are allowed with Devey's permission.


Joyride

Joyride is run out of Backpackers Paradise and offers a variety of bike trips down the scenic Swartberg Pass and to local attractions such as the Cango Caves, ostrich farms, and the Wildlife Ranch. It's a great way to see all the area sights and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the Little Karoo. For the less outdoorsy, bus tours are also on offer. Entrance fees to attractions are not included in the price but are obtained at a discount. All trips leave promptly at 8:15am.


4x4 Botanical Tours

4x4 Botanical Tours are available through Attakwas Cottage. The owner, Katot, can act as a guide for large groups on one-day and four-day treks through the botanical conservation area, but you must provide your own vehicle.


Klein Karoo Ostrich Co-op

Klein Karoo Ostrich Co-op is a high-end boutique on the edge of town that showcases ostrich leather and feather goods from a variety of local craftsmen. Decoupage eggs, fine apparel and accessories, jewelry and bins of colored feathers are all fair game at this tourist-oriented ostrich showcase.


Lugro Ostrich

Lugro Ostrich hand stitches and sells high quality ostrich leather accessories.


Queen's Riverside Mall

Queen's Riverside Mall has a Pick 'n Pay, movie theaters, and a variety of smaller shops. Art galleries and craft shops dot the length of Baron van Reede Street, particularly next to the Queen's hotel.


Budget

Backpacker's Paradise

Backpacker's Paradise is a large complex where transient travelers become part of an impromptu community. The social and easygoing atmosphere is fueled by the bar and daily ostrich braais. Staff is helpful with suggestions for things to do in town and also run Joyride bike and other tours from the hostel. Allyou-can-east ostrich egg breakfasts are available when in season.


Karoo Soul Travel Lodge & Cottages

Karoo Soul Travel Lodge & Cottages is a surprisingly polished backpackers and lodge just south of the center of town. You can relax in a hammock or go for a dip as you take in the Oudtshoorn's wide views. The quaint cottages are an excellent deal for your money and can accommodate additional people for R100/extra person. The staff is personable and your stay comes with vouchers for discounts on local attractions.


Oasis Shanti

Oasis Shanti is a barebones but adequate backpackers. There is a large swimming pool and a small balcony with a braai and it's a good budget option if you are looking for a quiet place up the hill, but the place has not won any awards for ambience.


Attakwas Cottage

Attakwas Cottage is a compound of simply furnished self-catering cottages that you can rent out in full or just by bed. The guesthouse's owners pride themselves in providing rustic charm and high-quality eds and linens at reasonable rates. The estate also has campgrounds with toilets, hot showers, and running water. The owner can act as a guide through the nearby botanical conservation area if you have your own vehicle.


Mid-range

Oakdene Guesthouse

Oakdene Guesthouse is a luxury six-room guesthouse with a polished yet rustic feel. The charming and spacious accommodations are complemented by antique brass furnishings, a beautiful wild garden and a private swimming pool. The kitchen and dining room will make you feel like you've stepped back in time into a beautiful old country home.


La Pension

La Pension is an elegant and stately guesthouse that feels like home, except better. The family-run establishment boasts perfectly manicured lawns, snowy-white linens and comfortable common areas that you can unwind in with pleasure.


Gum Tree Lodge

Gum Tree Lodge is a country cottage just steps from downtown. The clean and well-appointed rooms open to a covered veranda fragrant with lavender. The pool and braai area overlook a small river and suspension bridge - a lovely view for a sundowner from the guesthouse's full bar.


Adley House

Adley House is a Victorian manor house that feels caught in yesteryear. Elaborate furnishings and original architectural features like in-room fireplaces will thrill those who want a taste of what the glory days of the world's ostrich capital were like. For non-history buffs, the house may be a bit fussy.


Kleinplaas Holiday Resort

Kleinplaas Holiday Resort has 51 self-catering chalets and over 40 campsites for caravan or tent camping in a quiet, gated community. It's a good no-frills budget option for longer-term stays or groups, but don't come expecting to be wowed by the atmosphere. There are braai facilities and a nice swimming pool on the premises. All campsites are shaded by trees and have electrical outlets.


Top End

Queen's Hotel

Queen's Hotel is a luxury hotel situated in a historic 1880s Oudtshoorn building in the heart of downtown. Its crisp and classic décor and spacious en suite rooms lend the hotel an old world charm, and its ivy-lined courtyard and swimming pool have an air of seclusion. You can dine at the attached Colony Restaurant and the popular Café Brulé is just downstairs.


Hlangana Lodge

Hlangana Lodge is a private resort lodge on more than a hectare of beautifully landscaped grounds. The staff prides itself in professionalism and attention to detail. Light-filled standard rooms open directly to the pool and superior rooms onto the lush garden. Standard rooms can accommodate children for an additional fee.


Bello Cibo

Bello Cibo is a charming restaurant patronized mostly by locals and known for its flavorful and fresh Mediterranean fare. Gourmet wood-fired pizza is perfectly crisped and their homemade specialties and pastas are divine.


Kalinka

Kalinka is a chic restaurant on the main drag. Dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows and a superbly blended menu of local meats and organic homegrown vegetables leave no question that this is one of Oudtshoorn's better establishments. But the gracious and easygoing staff prevent this rare treat of a restaurant from feeling pretentious.


Café Brulé

Café Brulé is a cute café and bistro under the Queen's Hotel that serves breakfast and light lunches. It's the best place in town for coffee and its desserts are delightful.


Jemima's Restaurant

Jemima's Restaurant is a high-end restaurant that maintains an intimate and cozy feel. Light lunches, salads and tapas platters combine the best from the pasture, sea and earth. Dinner focuses more on fine meats, but there are also vegetarian, gluten-free and nut-free options. The seating near the back garden is best.


Nostalgie

Nostalgie offers delicious food at a great value. Every part of this restaurant has been given time and thought, from the vinyl LP place settings to the perfectly grilled vegetables. Try the beef lasagna or the old fashioned bobotie.


La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita is a popular outdoor restaurant and bar with great prices on burgers, grills, pastas and light meals. It's the kind of place where you can come for some cheap eats and stay all night.


Upper Deck

Upper Deck is a large upmarket lounge and after-hours club with plush leather sofas and an open dance floor that bumps until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes even the poles are put to use.


Lemon'n Lime

Lemon'n Lime, dubbed "lemon 'n slime" by some, is open all day for standard bar food, but gets packed with thirsty locals in the evening. It has a large open courtyard with picnic tables, multiple bars, fire pits, and pool and foosball tables. Live DJs pump up the rowdy night crowd nightly and the small outdoor stage occasionally hosts live music.