Northern and Eastern Freestate
The Northern and Eastern regions of the Free State are bordered in the East by the majestic Drakensberg Mountains and the Lesotho border, and in the North by the Vaal River. In the far east of the region on the Lesotho border and nestled in the foothills of the Maloti Mountains is the 11600 hectare Golden Gate Highlands National Park. While some national parks are noted for their wildlife, the Golden Gate is one of those noted for its natural beauty, and takes its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the majestic sandstone cliffs of the park.
Just to the North of the Golden Gate is the small town of Bethlehem, whose biblical name means "house of bread", an appropriate name for the town that is at the heart of the country's wheat growing region. In fact the whole of the Northern and Eastern Freestate is a most important agricultural area, producing a great percentage of South Africa's maize and wheat.
The small town of Deneysville was proclaimed in 1939 and its existence is a direct result of the construction of the Vaal Dam, completed in 1938. The 32000 hectare Vaal Dam is the main source of water for the Witwatersrand and the village owes its early reputation on it being the southernmost terminal for BOAC's flying boat service from Britain to South Africa during the second world war. Deneysville is a main venue for water sports enthusiasts, housing four yacht clubs, boat chandlers and boat building and repairs.
Right on the border between the Northern and Eastern Free State and Kwazulu-Natal is situated the charming little country town of Harrismith. Established in 1849 on the banks of the Wilge River, Harrismith gets its name from Sir Harry Smith who was a govenor of what is now known as the Free State. Harrismith is easily recognized when traveling through the region by the large flat topped mountain, the Platberg, which sits just behind the town. The town is the last before making the long climb up the Van Reenen's Pass where the N3 highway cuts through the Drakensberg. There are many reminders of the Anglo-Boer wars in the area.
In the extreme South of the Northern and Eastern region and situated on the Highlands scenic route that follows the Lesotho border lies the small town of Hobhouse. The town is on the banks of the Leeu River and is named after the Anglo-Boer War concentration camp heroine, Emily Hobhouse. This suffragette was so appalled at the conditions in the concentration camps that she started a nursing and welfare service amongst the Boer women. She was so dedicated to her new calling that she called off her wedding � her wedding veil can still be seen on display in Bloemfontein.
A little to the North of Hobhouse is the thriving little agricultural town of Ladybrand, founded in 1867. Ladybrand sits at the base of the Platberg ridge and is an important administrative town in the wheat and sunflower belt of the Freestate. There are many fine examples of sandstone architecture in the town, which lies just a few kilometers from the Caledon Bridge, the main border post between South Africa and Lesotho.
One of the most important towns of the Northern and Eastern Region of the Freestate is Kroonstad which, according to legend, has the distinction of being one of few towns anywhere to be named after a horse, Kroon, which belonged to the prominent Boer leader Sarel Cilliers. Kroonstad is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful towns of the Free State, and is an important centre for the production of maize, wheat, meat, sunflowers, dairy products and wool.