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People arrive for the clean country air, since Mooi River is almost 1400m above sea level. Established in 1921, the attractive town of Mooi River (pretty river) has the national highway between Johannesburg and Durban running down its middle. It’s the gateway to the central Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) and from here the Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve is reached.
Mooi River is farming country, some of South Africa's top stud farms are located here. It was once the scene of skirmishes during the South African War and where the British located their military hospital in the hope that the fresh air would hasten recovery.
Mooi River is part of the Midlands Meander, an established and popular arts and crafts route. The town’s elevated position has panoramic views of the surrounding valleys, the days are warm to hot in summer and snow sometimes falls during winter.
It’s relaxed country living surrounded by pastures, ravines and indigenous forest with the sparkling Mooi River the constant.
Top 5 reasons to visit Mooi River
1. You’re at the start of the Midlands Meander with easy access to the various nature reserves along the majestic Drakensberg range, ancient San rock art sites and unforgettable hiking routes.
2. Hire some gear and head to Picnic Rock to attempt fly fishing for the evasive wild brown trout in the pristine Mooi River waters.
3. Self-drive the Weenen Game Reserve north of Mooi River which has a variety of small mammals, antelope and the black and white rhino roaming the 6500ha park.
4. The Midlands Birding Route begins in the Drakensberg at the Giant’s Castle vulture hide for an opportunity to see the endangered Bearded Vulture. Other raptors on view include the Black Eagle and Cape Vulture.
5. Travel north to Griffin’s Hill on the old road to Estcourt to the site of bloody battles that took place in the 1800s between the British and the Boers and during the British-Zulu wars where thousands perished in the battlefields around Griffin’s Hill.
The nearest airport to Mooi River is King Shaka International Airport approximately 160km away. An alternate air route is via Newcastle, located 195km from Mooi River. Shuttle service companies operate at the airports, however, to best enjoy Mooi River and surrounds, hiring a car is the practical choice. To hire a vehicle, simply order one online.
Did you know?
Mooi River occasionally hosts the Indigenous Games, an initiative to keep longstanding legacy games alive. These games have been played for centuries by African tribespeople and Voortrekkers and the aim is to popularise them.
Trout occur naturally in the Mooi River as they favour cool water. If you find you aren’t able to land this fish, consider the air and water temperature; if it’s too hot, trout will not feed!
The rare bearded vulture’s diet consists mainly of bone. Being a scavenger, the bird collects bone from carcasses and drops them from height to shatter into pieces small enough to digest. Another name for the raptor is Lammergeier, which in German means Lamb Vulture, a misnomer as these birds do not hunt live prey.
For those who are a little adventurous and enjoy the company of other travellers, you can decide to stay at a Backpackers. Often having to share a room with others as well as costs, it is incredibly inexpensive. Often the best choice for those who may be just passing through or will be occupied for the majority of their day. It comes with the most basic amenities and is often formed as part of a bar or similar establishment. Not recommended for those who want privacy, this is best suited for those who wouldn’t mind meeting various other interesting travellers.