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They say the sweetest watermelons originate from Calitzdorp and it’s hard to argue, considering that the dry climate and semi-desert conditions suit this type of fruit perfectly. Calitzdorp is a spa town located in the Little Karoo, a 15000km valley that is completed encircled by mountains with sparse rainfall and clean, fresh air.
Calitzdorp was named after the Calitz brothers who farmed here and in 1845, donated a part of their farm to establish a town. At the time, church services were held under a tree before enough funds were collected to eventually build a church in 1857. The town gradually developed around the church.
Calitzdorp is on the Route 62 wine route, the world’s longest, and many of the region’s fortified wines grace the wine lists of top restaurants and hotels. The farmland surrounding the town is bursting with grape vines, ostrich breeding centres and deciduous and vine fruit. On the route between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn, look out for the Redstone Hills, a contrasting geological feature amongst the pale sandstone mountains.
Top 8 reasons to visit Calitzdorp
1. The museum located in an historic stone building showcases local heritage and treasures discovered in and around Calitzdorp. The staff are volunteers and will gladly give you a brief tour of the museum.
2. Day visitors are welcome Sundays to Thursdays at the Calitzdorp Spa. Spend time in the hot pools charged with water from a nearby thermal spring that reaches temperatures of 50° Celsius at its source. The resort has buck, tortoise and other non-threatening wildlife on view.
3. Pack a picnic basket, plenty of water and fishing gear on a trip to the Calitzdorp Dam. There is a picturesque picnic site and the dam offers good fishing opportunities. Expect to catch yellowfish and carp.
4. Travel the Calitzdorp section of the Route 62 wine route to taste the award-winning reds, fortified and dry wines produced here. De Krans Wines boasts over 600 awards won, while Axehill, Boplaas and Calitzdorp Cellar have won their share of medals and trophies.
5. Visit the Gamka River Safari Co to join one of their horse riding trails that range from 1 hour to 5 days! Riders get to experience magnificent scenery and unique fauna on horseback.
6. Take a class on ceramics, painting or writing at the Kraaldoring Gallery and Studio. The venue is 11km out of town, the peaceful country environment ideal for learning a new craft.
7. Stop in at the John Van Reenen Gallery and Coffee Shop, a renowned artist who lives in Calitzdorp. His paintings are vibrant with unusual subject matter, an example being an oil of a Rasta watermelon party.
8. The Calitzdorp Winter Festival takes place every June and offers fun for the entire family. Beer tents, live music, wine tasting, pétanque games, food stalls, cabaret acts and art exhibitions are just some of the happenings during the 4-day festival.
Calitzdorp can be reached either from the Cape Town International Airport, 370km away, or the George Domestic Airport, 115km away. Car rental agencies are located in Cape Town, George, Oudtshoorn and at the airports, otherwise order a rental online and collect at a convenient location. There are no trains and bus services into and out of Calitzdorp, however, local tour operators offer shuttle services.
Did you know?
The Little Karoo once teemed with wildlife but of the larger mammals, only the leopard, baboon, zebra, several buck species and ostrich remain.
In the 1930s, a concrete road was built between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn, the first of its kind in South Africa. The road was upgraded and tarred in the late 1970s as part of the Route 62 project.