On our recent visit to the Karoo town of Prince Albert (where we stayed in the lovely Karoo View Cottages), we were not only pleasantly surprised at the prettiness of the town – so much more greenery that one would expect from a Karoo “dorp” – but also at the number of things to do!
We arrived knowing very little about the town and what there was to do (with two kids in tow) for a long weekend… and we weren’t at loss at all!
In fact we could probably go back and still find more things to keep us entertained!
Read on to find out a few things to do in the Karoo town of Prince Albert…
10 Things to do in Prince Albert
1. Drive the Swartberg Pass
Our first morning saw us heading off over the Swartberg Pass. This spectacular pass is one of the best in the world and a must-do when staying in Prince Albert (or even on the other side of the mountain in Oudtshoorn) You must know it made an impression when after our long weekend in the Karoo my son came home and went straight to work on a PowerPoint presentation (totally unprompted) of this pass to show his class the next day!! It really is a wonderful place to explore and I’ll be blogging about it a bit more tomorrow…
2. Wine Tasting
Our heart-pumping drive over the pass (and back via Meiringspoort) was thirsty work, so what good fortunate it was to discover a few wine farms on the road back to town! We popped in at Bergwater where the highlight for the kids was this (t)rusty old tractor. The farm isn’t much to look at (esp the ugly metal construction at the entrance) but we were happy enough with the wine to buy a few bottles….
Our second stop was the far more picturesque Fernskloof Wine Farm, family owned and operated, the wines produced here are handcrafted with personality, from organically grown grapes. We thoroughly enjoyed the intimate wine tasting experience, where we met the owner of the farm (and her dogs), sampled some of their latest organic wines and enjoyed some great discussion with the fellow wine tasters visiting the area at the same time.
3. Olive Oil Tasting
On the same road as the wine farms is Kredouw Olive Estate, and we popped in to sample some of the local olive oil in the small shop. The olive oil here is some of the best I’ve tried, with a strong anti-oxidant kick on the way down! Plus my kids had great fun learning how to use a nutcracker!! Yes, with modern life the way it is, they’ve never know that nuts come with a hard-to-crack shell…
Tel: +27 (0) 23 541 1000 * Web: www.kredouwfarm.com
4. Visit the local dairy farm, Gay’s Guernsey Dairy
Now if you know anything about my family, you will recall that we’re quite big fans of dairies…. well, my son is. His parents are just quite big fans of cheese 😉 So when we discovered that one of the biggest attractions in town was Gay’s Guernsey Dairy, located at the far end of Church Street, we knew we had to pop in. Unfortunately we didn’t get our timing quite right and missed milking time, but managed to watch the cows being led back to pasture – real “free range” style! What we did get an insight to was the cheese-making process, which was an interesting education for us all. And of course there was a bit of cheese tasting too! These cheeses are some of the best in the country and have won numerous awards. Made from unpasteurised milk, they are free of antibiotics, additives, colouring and preservatives and actually quite suitable for those lactose intolerant kind.
Tel: +27 (0) 23 5411 274 * Web: www.gaysguernseydairy.yolasite.com
5. Pop in at the Saturday Morning Market
No visit to a small South African town is complete with a turn past the Saturday morning market… and when we heard about the pancakes on offer for just R6 each we made it our mission! Prince Albert hosts 2 markets within walking distance of each other (in fact, the whole town is within walking distance of everything!) We found ourselves soaking in the small town scene while stopping for coffee at the first, and then indulging in far too many cinnamon sugar pancakes at the next. Both had a lovely, friendly atmosphere – with plenty of people out and about shopping and enjoying the sunshine with their kids and dogs in tow! Obviously for my city kids the “leiwater” channel outside the market was a big attraction and made the perfect place to play “pooh sticks”.
6. Catch a movie or show at the The Showroom Theatre
Right in the heart of Prince Albert lies this Art Deco gem! A gorgeously renovated theatre offering an array of entertainment throughout the year – from musical performances to classical films and live comedy. On the weekend we visited, there was a mid-morning movie on the Saturday as well as a live performance on the Friday – so visit their website to see what’s on in advance and book your spot!
7. Visit Karoo Looms weavery
Whenever we travel with our kids we try to find new experiences to educate them in a fun way along the way… and Prince Albert offered us a great addition to this “learn as you live” mentality… a weavery. Situated right on the main road is Karoo Looms, and we popped in to watch the woman at work weaving. From the process of creating the yarn to actually making blankets, carpets and garments from mohair.
8. Explore the history of the town at the Fransie Pienaar Museum
If, like me, you love discovering the history of a place you are visiting then a visit to the local museum is a must. Step back in time to discover more about the town and it’s inhabitants over the past 200 years. This wasn’t one for my husband and kids (although there were parts that I think would have been interesting to them) so I sent them on their way and enjoyed a quiet hour to myself strolling around this historical home and learning more about the are.
9. Enjoy a meal
As the host town for popular Afrikaans reality food show, Koekedoor, the town is not short on places to enjoy a meal.
Choose from Lah-di-dah (we popped in her for a late lunch one afternoon), The Lazy Lizzard Tea Garden, Karoo Kombuis, The Country Store (the sweet little courtyard pictured above!), Hendry’s at The Olive Branch (a Koekedoor finalist), Prickly Pear (we ordered takeaway pizzas here for one supper), Simply Saffron (we heard this was great but unfortunately it was fully booked for a 60th birthday party) and The Coffee Shop, The Victorian Dining Room and The Swartberg Arms at The Swartberg Hotel (pictured below).
African Relish cooking school also hosts amazing foodies weekends – we were hoping our dates would coincide with a course but unfortunately they were hosting a wedding over the time of our visit and rather busy! We popped in to sneak a peek at their pretty gardens and it really is a gorgeous venue for a wedding or weekend food course – hopefully one day we will be back to participate in one!
10. Take a walk down the Main Street, browsing as you go!
The best way to see a town is on foot, and so one afternoon I decided to walk back to our accommodation – from the opposite end of town!
It really was a lovely way to see life in Prince Albert unfold before me, which we would otherwise have whizzed right past.
I passed pretty gardens, historical houses, interesting little shops and the imposing steeple of the NG Kerk and took some time to browse the art shop, the interiors shop and the antique shop…
Taking things slowly in a small town is what this type of getaway is about and the next morning I encouraged the whole family to walk into town for the morning market. Along the way my son took it upon himself to pick up the litter he spotted and we had far more time to chat to the locals too…. Resulting in a very special meeting with this mini Rottweiler after getting chatting to the owner of the art shop!
As you can see from this list there are plenty of things to do and see in Prince Albert. This small town in the heart of the Karoo is certainly not short on character or charm. After three short days it has become one of my favourite smalls towns in South Africa.
Have you visited before?
Images: Kathryn Rossiter