Picture peaceful streets lined with oak trees, white-washed settler cottages, and heritage roses; all lying in the benign shadow of the Boschberg Mountain.
This mountain, considered by early travellers to be the most beautiful in Southern Africa, is decked with waterfalls, pristine streams; and forests of Yellowwood, Wild Olive and Cape Chestnut among the eighty plus indigenous tree species which grow on the slopes.
A circular two day hike with an overnight hut with a view to die for wends through this natural paradise, as well as many shorter walks.
As well as a wealth of flora, the mountain is home to many species of buck, and close to a hundred bird species, including the Knysna Lourie, the Booted Eagle and the Crowned Eagle. Comparisons have been drawn between this habitat and the Tsitsikama forests.
Established as a farm to grow fodder and food for the army by Lord Charles Somerset, and proclaimed a town, named after him, in 1825, Somerset East is now the hub of a rich wool, mohair and ostrich farming area. Many of the farms also operate as game farms, offering hunting, adventure holidays, and game viewing.
Activities and Attractions
Waters controlled by Bankberg Troutfishers Club boast some of the best trout fishing in the country, both still water and river fishing where insect life of naturally hatching mayfly and caddisflies ensure good quality fish. With 5 still waters in picturesque surroundings and the Naudes river, you could well find yourself being the only one on the water for the day.
The Naudes river boasts a 90m waterfall with both Brown and Rainbow trout in the pools below, amongst a national heritage site of indigenous Yellowwood & Wild Olive trees.
The Old Parsonage Museum
Housed in an elegant restored Georgian parsonage, encapsulates the history of the area. A new exhibition staged around the beam on which the Slachters Nek rebels were hung in 1816 gives a sense of immediacy and relevance to this tragic episode of the areas history, and viewing this makes for a riveting experience.
The Walter Battiss Art Gallery
Housed in the old English officers mess which was once a temperance hotel run by the Battiss family, and now contains the largest collection of the grand old masters work in South Africa. Battiss endowed the works and opened the gallery in 1981, a year before he died.
The original part of the town, a gracious street with many national monuments, swagged with heritage roses.
The nine hole golf course, on the way to scenic Bestershoek picnic grounds, is said by many to be one of the most beautiful in the country. Bowls, tennis, cricket, running and cycling clubs abound, as do gyms and yoga classes.
Many of the farms offer hiking trails and mountain biking routes. Birds are there to watch and enjoy wherever you go.
Paintball is available for the adventurous, and Sheercliff Adventures a few kilometres out of town offers gorge gliding, rock climbing, and a whole range of extreme sports.
Four libraries cater for the studious, and a gentle stroll or a swift power walk around town will always burn up any extra energy.