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George is a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa, perched on a plateau between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. It's an ideal base for visiting Fancourt, Wilderness, Oudtshoorn & the Transport Outeniqua Transport Museum. Just do not speed - this article's author once got 2 traffic fines within the space of a kilometre!
George has something for everyone and is a perfect starting point for day trips in the area. If you are feeling energetic, you can scamper up the majestic Outeniqua Mountain Range to the north (Outeniqua means “bearer of honey”), or swim and fish at one of the many unspoilt beaches which fan out to the east, south and west. Take the family for a dip in one of the cool dark rivers or hover voyeuristically above in a paraglider. For those of you who are struck by the “Outeniqua Fever” – a compulsory George disease which causes a great desire to sleep and eat and not move very far – there are lazy coffee shops, delicious restaurants, tanning beaches, picnicking rivers, and languid lakes to enjoy.
Or you can play golf. There are courses all over the place – easy, difficult, expensive, cheap, inland, coastal, uphill, downhill – take your pick! If the courses around George are not enough, you can try further afield in the happy holiday towns of Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay or even little Sedgefield.
In spite of George’s reputation of being Cold And Wet (the car registration for the town is CAW), the city provides a variety of weather, all of which can be used for Day Trips. But a word of warning – when you pack for your holiday, bring all your clothes! You can experience winter and summer in the same day!
To help you plan your holiday, here's a list of George day trips.
There are several hotels and many guest houses in and around George. In the city centre are the Protea King George Hotel in York Street (George’s main street) and the Oakhurst Hotel in Meade Street. 4km north of York Street is the prestigious Fancourt Hotel and Country Club, and 7km to the south is the Town Lodge, right next to the Garden Route Mall. Or if you like the outdoor life, there is the George Caravan Park, 7km east outside the centre of George. A little out of town to the east is the well—known Far Hills Country Hotel on the N2.
Fly in to George Airport from all major cities in South Africa. The airport is 7km from the centre of George (and has two good restaurants). Hire a car from George airport, then turn left when you exit the airport gates. Travel about 200m and then turn right onto the R102. Travel about 5km until you reach a circle and turn left up York Street. Or you can catch a bus to George from most major centres, or travel by car. There is no conventional rail service at present. A car is essential in George as there is very little public transport available.
You might want to plan your trip around some of the big events which are already on the 2013 calendar (Please check dates with the George Tourism Office: firstname.lastname@example.org or +27(0)44-8019295
3-9 Feb: Golfing Road Trip (Various Venues)
9-10 Feb : George Old Car Show (George)
29-31 Mar: Sedgefield Slow Festival (Sedgefield)
29 Mar – 6 Apr: Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) (Oudtshoorn)
1-4 May: Pink Loerie Mardi Gras (Knysna)
27-29 July: Vodacom George Cheese Festival (George)
8-11 Aug: Klein Karoo Klassique (Oudtshoorn)
16-18 Aug: NLR Wines Trade Show (George)
25 Aug: Gourmets & Gourmands Culinary Festival (George)
16 Sept: Garden Route on a Plate (George)
22-23 Sept: Strawberry Festival (George)
23 Sept: Karoo to Coast 100km Mountain Bike Challenge (Knysna)
21 Dec: Bottomless Barrells Wine Festival (George)
30-31 Dec: Sedgefield Beach Festival (Sedgefield)
The Outeniqua Transport Museum (100m from George Station) is Africa's biggest railway museum. The museum's exhibits include:
a coach of the White Train used by Princesses Margaret & Elizabeth during their 1947 visit to South Africa.
Johannesburg's first transport train - a horse-drawn ambulance - a replica of the George to Knysna line - a replica of Eston Station (the oldest station in Kwazulu-Natal).
The Outeniqua Powervan transports one from the museum 720m up into the Outeniqua mountains. This line has white beacons indicating where ox wagons used to cross the passes.
The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe was the only steam-hauled scheduled passenger train operating in Southern Africa, and runs 6 days a week. The Choo-Tjoe ran a 3 hour journey over 67km from George, via Victoria Bay, Wilderness, Sedgefield and Goukamma to Knysna in the heart of the Garden Route lake district.
The railway line between George and Knysna was opened to traffic in 1928. The George-Knysna line was declared a preserved railway in 1992 and officially handed over to the Transnet Heritage Foundation in 1993. At that time there was only a daily return trip from George to Knysna with an average of 40 000 passengers per year. Today approximately 115 000 passengers travel the line annually of whom 70% are foreign tourists.
The trains were usually pulled by Class 24 steam locomotives, of 2-8-4 wheel arrangement with Vanderbilt-like "torpedo" tenders, although the task is occasionally handled by 19D steam engines. When dry conditions in the summer increase the risk of wildfires, diesel locomotives are used instead.
Phone the museum at 044 801-8288. Here's a set of directions from Edenwood Guest House to 2 Mission Street, where you'll find the Outeniqua Transport Museum.
Fancourt is one of South Africa's best golf resort. There are four golf courses designed by Gary Player, which are renowned for their immaculate year-round condition. In addition, there are tennis courts, a golf academy, swimming pools and trails to walk/run. It also has five restaurants providing a variety of dining experiences.
Try the Edenwood Guest House in George, situated in a quiet cul de sac at the southern foot of the Outeniqua mountains (a nature reserve) near a little river. Rooms are different, so select one based on your space requirements, and whether you want to cook yourself. Relax around the pool. Cats and dogs share the property.