Uniondale is a small town in the Klein Karoo area of the Western Cape province of South Africa and spans hamlets such as Haarlem, De Vlugt, De Hoop and Bo Kouga. It’s well-known for its spectacular rugged natural landscapes, rich history, artistic expression, and welcoming community. Located about 80 kilometers northwest of George and within only an hour and a half drive, visitors can experience the lush coastal splendor of George and Wilderness, and then the vast and open plains of the semi desert in Uniondale.
Uniondale is the gateway to the iconic Baviaanskloof, the biggest wilderness area in South Africa, designated as a World Heritage Site. Uniondale is also connected to Knysna via the breathtaking Prince Alfred Pass, popular with mountain bikers and 4x4ers. Another scenic location – the Toorwaterpoort – is a much-loved hiking location where visitors can walk along the railway line and through the gorge along natural water streams. Unlike Meiringspoort, there is no road through the Toorwaterpoort Gorge.
This farming community is also known for the aloe products manufactured from the succulents widely available in the area. Interestingly, Uniondale is an area of geological significance as it is a part of the primordial plains, and is sometimes the site of geological digs for research and educational purposes, on privately owned land. There are also artists of significance in the area, and Uniondale boasts Green Trails!
Things to do
Sir George Union, the then-Lt. Governor of the Cape Colony, was the inspiration for the name Uniondale, which was given in 1856. The town expanded rapidly after ostrich feathers were discovered in the area, which had previously expanded rather slowly. Uniondale was an important economic center in the ostrich feather trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Uniondale’s famed hitchhiker ghost story is one of the town’s most prominent tourist draws. Maria Charlotte Roux, a young woman who was said to have been hitchhiking near Uniondale in the 1960s, was allegedly killed in an automobile accident. Many people have reported seeing her phantom along that same stretch of road since then, with many of them offering her a ride before she vanishes. This legend also inspired a restaurant in the town, the Hungry Ghost – a must-visit.
ADVENTURE, ARTS AND CULTURE
Besides listening to the ghost story told by locals, you could go horseback riding, quad biking, hiking, mountain biking, 4x4ing or even take an interesting tuk-tuk tour of the town to learn about its every facet. The old Dutch Reformed Church and the Victorian-style structures that line the streets have brought international attention to the town. There are still four Anglo Boer War forts preserved in Uniondale, and one can be walked to at the ‘koppie’. Other sites include the 1800s windmill, restored by famous Afrikaans author Dalene Matthee, who wrote ‘Fiela se Kind’, which resulted in the film in the area.
Uniondale is a small town with a welcoming and close-knit neighbourhood. Art galleries and craft markets feature the work of local artists and craftspeople, who can be visited by tourists. Places of particular interest include Sheena Ridley’s Langkloof Gallery and Sculpture Garden, and the Kannabos Gallery Cacti and Succulent Nursery owned by Hollywood set builders.
The African Aloe Cafe in town belongs to African Aloe (PTY) LTD which is a manufacturer of aloe raw materials, health juices and gel and aloe beverages and cubes for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. The coffee shop also has a tea garden and is pet friendly and child friendly. The factory in town is a key employer. They have an in-house microbiology laboratory, to test every batch that is manufactured and also make use of external laboratories for specialised testing. African Aloe is also a contract manufacturer of Aloe juices for companies in South Africa and abroad. African Aloe has a 1600 hectare organic wild registered farm, and is also supplied by other growers.
There are several farms in the area where visitors can stay overnight and enjoy the peace and tranquility that the Klein Karoo offers. Nestled at the foot of the Kouga Mountain range, Bo Kouga Mountain Retreat is a 300 hectare farm with sensational panoramic mountain views, with exquisite sunrises in the morning. The 45 minute walk through the farm and the game camp with Eland, Zebra and Springbok takes you to a waterfall and rock ponds to swim. You may even see leopard tracks! The ou Meul Gastehuis is a working apple farm in the upper Langkloof valley where the family cottage overlooks a dam and the Kammanasie Mountains. Built in the mid 1800’s, the house has antique yellowwood ceilings and Oregon pine floors. At Mountain Pastures in the De Hoop-valley, after a day of sightseeing, game viewing and relaxing, you will be treated to a delicious meal prepared the traditional South African way – “Boerekos”. Offering amazing Green Flag accredited hiking trails, wildlife, fishing, birdwatching and game drives this farm is nature’s treasure.
See the almost extinct Blue Cranes raising their young and spot Black Eagles overhead. Take a trip to see the elusive Lynx or, if you are really fortunate, the scarcely seen, phantom-like Leopard.
Most if not all of the Uniondale farms offer hiking and biking trails.
Popular events in Uniondale include the Karoo to Coast, a 100km race from Uniondale to Knysna along the Prince Alfred Pass, a part of the Trans Baviaans – the toughest single track race in the world, as well as the Uniondale Agricultural Show and the Uniondale Trail Run.
Uniondale provides an interesting window into the past for history buffs. Visitors who prefer off-the-beaten-track areas won’t want to miss it, thanks to its beautiful scenery, fascinating history and welcoming locals. Get your bags ready, get set for an adventure in the Klein Karoo.