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Prince Albert in the Karoo - Hotels & Activities

No, it's not a ghost town! Blessed with an abundance of water, Prince Albert is your proverbial oasis in the desert (Karoo). Not only does the town quench one's thirst, but the tranquility of the Karoo filters into the psyche of its peaceful people - serious crime is rare. The source of Prince Albert's water is the "fonteintjie" (small spring) high up in the Swartberg Mountain range, and residents pray that it will never run dry. With their deep reliance on its water for their sustenance, it's not surprising that several of Prince Albert's establishments are named after the Swartberg (read further to see which). Alongside Montagu, Prince Albert is our favourite "dorp" in the Karoo.

Restaurants Accommodation Things to do Weekend in Prince Albert

Panoramic view of Prince Albert in the Karoo

In 1890 Prince Albert enjoyed a short-lived "mini-boom", when gold was discovered on the Kleinwaterval farm. Unfortunately the quantities were meagre - a total of only 1,225 ounces was mined - and Prince Albert's economy quickly reverted back to its agricultural roots.

Getting to Prince Albert

21 Dec 2016. After spending the weekend in Hermanus at the Aloe Lodge, we got in our VW minibus and headed for Prince Albert. Google maps indicates that it's some 4 hours to drive from Hermanus to Prince Albert; taking the R43 to the N2, then heading east on the N2; then north on the R43 past Villiersdorp and join the N1 just north of Worcester. Along the way, keep an eye out for South Africa's famous Shosholoza Meyl train.

Shosholoza Meyl train in the Karoo

Go past Matjiesfontein and Laingsburg, and then turn onto the R407 and as you approach the foot of the Swartberg Mountains (and border of the great karoo), an oasis arises from the desert - Prince Albert.

When to visit Prince Albert

When to visit revolves around what temperature you enjoy. The summer months can get really hot, so you may want to avoid December, January and February. The best times to visit are probably the spring and autumn months. If you're at all interested in theatre, then try time your visit for when there's something on at The Showroom.

Average temperatures in Prince Albert
Source of weather info: World Weather Online

Where to stay in Prince Albert

In the warm summer months you want to be sure to stay at a spot with a pool and airconditioning.

De Bergkant Lodge

Salt water swimming pool

Free wifi

3 and 5 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

info@debergkant.com

www.debergkant.com

Tel : 023 541 1088

As the name implies, De Bergkant is situated on the Swartberg mountain end of Prince Albert, and is opposite the road from the lah-di-dah restaurant. They are rated the number 1 Bed and Breakfast in Prince Albert, on Tripadvisor. Enjoy the large rooms and an outdoor breakfast in summer, with the birds chirping around you. When Petronella Lotz married Helmuth Luttig, Petronella's father, Carel Lotz, built De Bergkant as a wedding present. The house is a national monument.

De Bergkant Lodge in Prince Albert, with name plate.

Prince Albert Country Stay

46 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

princealbertcountrystore@gmail.com

www.princealbertcountrystay.com

Tel : 023 541 1077

Cell : 072 637 2826

For those with large families, Prince Albert Country Stay has a cottage with 3 single beds and 4 bunk beds.

Mai's Guest Lodge

Has a pool & airconditioning & wifi

81 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

maisguestlodge@gmail.com

www.maisbandb.co.za

Tel : 023 5411 188

Cell : 072 635 0902

At the time of writing Mai's was the 2nd best rated B&B in Prince Albert (De Bergkant Lodge was rated number 1).

Mais Bed and Breakfast in Prince Albert

Swartberg Hotel

77 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

info@swartberghotel.co.za

www.swartberghotel.co.za

Tel: 023 541 1332

Note the colourful rubbish bin in front of the Swartberg Hotel, which informs that in 1839 Victoria was crowned Queen of England, and that she married (her first cousin) Prince Albert on the 10th of February 1840. Behind the bin is a sign on which is written "Victoria Room Restaurant", one of the Swartberg Hotel's 2 eateries (the other is "The Coffee Shop" alongside it).
Swartberg Hotel from front with chalkboard

Motorbikes visiting the Swartberg Hotel in Prince Albert

Bushman Valley

Klaarstroom Road
Swartberg Private Nature Reserve
6930
Prince Albert
Western Cape Province
South Africa

bushmanvalley1@gmail.com

bushmanvalley.com

Cell: 082 452 8134

Karoo Rust

Self catering

Cnr Church & Luttig Streets
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

 

www.karoorust.com

Tel: 023 541 1518

Cell: 971 400 8495

Very punny!

Karoo Rust self catering with a rusty car in foreground

Karoo Rust self catering accommodation

Karoo Lodge

Has a pool

66 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

elsabegeorge@karoolodge.com

www.karoolodge.com

Tel: 023 541 1467

Cell: 082 692 7736

Karoo Lodge guest house

Karoo View Cottages

Self-catering
Pet friendly

Magrieta Prinsloo Road
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

www.karooview.co.za

julie@karooview.co.za

Tel: 023 541 1929

Die Kuierhuis

(self-catering)

51 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

 

Tel: 023 5411 675

Die Kuierhuis self catering accommodation in Prince Albert

Sudden Comfort B&B

Swimming pool

63 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

info@suddencomfort.co.za

www.suddencomfort.co.za

Tel: 023 5411 028

Cell: 023 5411 028

Sudden Comfort B&B in Prince Albert

Sudden Comfort B&B in Prince Albert, with parking lot

Sudden Comfort B&B in Prince Albert

85 on Church Self Catering

Swimming pool

85 Church Street
Prince Albert
6930
Western Cape Province
South Africa

at85onchurch@gmail.com

www.at85onchurch.com

Tel: 082 882 8289

There's a certain attraction in the ordinariness of 85 on Church, with its typical Karoo tin roof and gravel pavement. A true Karoo house, which has not been jazzed up to look like anything other than the authentic article. At the time of writing, 85 on Church was rated (by Tripadvisor) as being 2nd out of the 5 options for self-catering rentals in Prince Albert (Karoo View Cottages was ranked number 1). The property can accommodate up to 8 people. In winter months you can enjoy a gas heater as well as wall heaters, to ensure you don't get frozen. There is a braai area. Situated on Church Street, the property is within walking distance of Prince Albert's "centre".

85 on Church self catering unit in Prince Albert

 

Things to do

  1. Travel to Die Hel (see above)
  2. Hike to the top of the Koppie
  3. Visit Gay's Guernsey Dairy
  4. Visit Villa Kruger Art after Dark (artist is Hennie Boshoff)
  5. Eat at African Relish
  6. Take the Prince Albert Red Bus Tour
  7. Visit the Fransie Pienaar Museum
  8. Visit the O for Olive Farm Shop
  9. Visit Wolwekraal Nature Reserve
  10. Visit The Showroom
  11. Visit The Story Weaver (takes you for a walk around the town and shares stories and facts)
  12. Visit Avoova
  13. Visit the Watershed
  14. Visit Greg Kerr Art Gallery
  15. View the Dutch Reformed Church
  16. Pay respects at historic NG Kerk Cemetery
  17. See the 5 Blue Gum trees artwork
  18. Hire a bicycle & explore the dirts going into the countryside
  19. Buy art at "True Karoo Gallery Shop"

Hike to the top of the Koppie

At sunset, hike to the top of the koppie on the western end of Prince Albert, and take a few photos of the town.

View of Prince Albert from the hill above it

A bit of Karoo magic - here's a labyrinth I discovered on the path at the top:

Labyrinth found above Prince Albert

Part of the Groot Swartberg range, created by sediments deposited over 300 million years ago - time has no meaning:

Part of Groot Swartberg range, taken from a koppie above Prince Albert

Gay's Dairy

Go visit Gay's Guernsey Dairy, at the site of the buildings of the farm Queekvalleij, to taste cheese, drink milk and drinking yoghurt. The dairy is a family run business. Remember to take a cool bag so you can take some away with you.

Gay's Dairy in Prince Albert

African Relish

Select a short half-day course or a full weekend course, and learn how to cook. They also offer accommodation, and are centrally situated on Church Street. www.africanrelish.com

African Relish cooking school in Prince Albert

The Showroom Theatre

Some locals were wary of the Showroom opening up, fearing it might change the nature of the quiet country town for the worse. Fortunately Prince Albert's Showroom Theatre is world-class. When setting your travel dates, be sure to check whether they coincide with a theatre performance. The Showroom is centrally situated at 43 Church street.

The Showroom Theatre in Prince Albert

Prince of Africa

Prince Albert isn't the only prince in town. The Prince of Africa store sells craft and mohair (fabric created from Angora goat hair) goods. The shop is located at 97 Church Street between the Karoo Slaghuis and the Swartberg Hotel. The owner of the store is Di van der Riet Steyn, and she is the artist who designed all the jewelery on display. Many of the items have been knitted together by locals in the community. Al the ceramics in the store were made by Di's friends.

Prince of Africa in Prince Albert - they sell mohair and craft goods

Click here to see Prince of Africa's Facebook page. Alternatively, you can phone Di at 023-541-1454, 021-541-1016or email divdrs@telkomsa.net.

The NG Kerk cemetery

It was used for burials from 1844 to 1884.

NG Kerk cemetery in Prince Albert

Dutch Reformed Church

The Dutch Reformed Church looms large over Prince Albert. The best photos of it are taken early in the morning from within Pastorie Street.

Prince Albert's Dutch Reformed Church

Blue Gum Tree Artworks

These 5 blue gum treees were preserved into artworks, on Church Street in Prince Albert. The sculptors responsible were Richard Forbes, Jeffrey Armoed, Leon Campher, Jaco Stalmeester and Willem Swanepoel. The artworks were finished on the 11th April 2007. Hat tip to ABSA for sponsoring the work.

5 Blue Gum trees preserved as artwork on Church Street in Prince Albert

As you walk along Church Street watch out for the colourfully painted rubbish bins, which inform you of bits of trivia like "The first motor car travelled over the Swartberg Pass in 1904 belonged to and was driven by Dr. G. Russel of Oudtshoorn". The painting of the bins was done as part of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the town, in 2012.

Painted Prince Albert Rubbish bin which says that "The first motor car travelled over the Swartberg Pass in 1904 belonged to and was driven by Dr. G. Russel of Oudtshoorn"

Hire a Bicycle

Hire a bicycle from Prince Albert Cycles on Church Street, and go for a ride into countryside. They also hire out E-Bikes,if you'd like to take it a bit easier, or if you cycling partner has a Tour d' France level of fitness and you're struggling to keep up.

Prince Albert Cycles shop

Karoo Gallery Shop

Pop by the True Karoo Gallery Shop in Church Street, and purchase some genuine Karoo art, mostly made out of bits of old wire, glass, wood and ceramic that the artists (Colette and Trudy) found lying around in the town.

True Karoo Gallery Shop in Prince Albert

Restaurants

A word of warning for those who are from the city; at Prince Albert's restaurants the pace is slow, either embrace it or you're not going to enjoy your meal.

Enough Farm Roastery

The Enough Farm Roastery is a new restaurant in Prince Albert. It's situated in De Beer Street, I don't have the number but it's on the stretch of De Beer Street between Deurdrift and Pastorie. If Prince Albert is laid back, then the Enough Farm Roastery, by virtue of not being situated on Church Street, has an even more laid back feel to it.

We arrived at about 14h00 on Tuesday (a party of 4 adults and 6 children) and found ourselves the only ones there. A couple of us ordered the lentil babotie, which was enjoyable, although slightly on the dry side once the chutney was added it was close to perfect. The kids loved the waffles they made, which were thick and filling. The iced coffees were most enjoyable. Just after we ordered we saw a water getting R50 from the till, and running off - turns out they'd run out of ice cream to make the milkshakes with, and were racing off to Spar to get some more :)

If you've got children in tow, they'll have some space to run around in, in the garden next to the restaurant.

Here's an interesting garden at the Enough Farm Roastery:

Garden at the Enough Farm Roastery

Tables at the Enough Farm Roastery:

Tables at the Enough Farm Roastery

Lah-di-Dah

Lah-di-dah describe themselves as being a "fancy padstal", but really they are one of our favourite spots for breakfast/brunch or even a light lunch. On a sunny day sit outside in their back garden. We took our kids there with us, and they enjoyed running around in the garden. They offer the "best coffee in town". For those who want to go online, the wifi is free. Lah-di-dah is situated opposite the street from De Bergkant guest house, at 6A Church Street. Its phone number is 023-541-1846.

Lazy Lizard Restaurant

We didn't get a chance to visit The Lazy Lizard.

Lazy Lizard restaurant

O is for Olive

The restaurant, "O is for Olive", is a stretch out of town along a dirt road, and is not worth the effort of getting to. We (4 adults & 6 kids) arrived there for lunch, and told them we'd take an outside table. The dishes on the table hadn't been cleared. Eventually after 30 minutes of waiting we took the dishes inside, and a waitress told us that they'd run out of food, and could only serve drinks and sweets. Why they didn't tell us in the first place, I don't know.

Outside sitting srea at 'O is for Olive'

And as the name would suggest, there are olive trees. Here's a photo of them from the back:

Olive trees at 'O is for Olive'

7 Arches Gallery Cafe

"The Coffee Shop"

Note to avoid disappointment: this is not an Amsterdam style coffee shop! The Coffee Shop is owned & run by the Swartberg Hotel together with its other restaurant - the Victorian Room Restaurant which is alongside on Church Street. Outside there was a chalkboard saying "Swartberg Hotel Deli Shop. Gift Bags. Olives & Olive Oil. Jams & Preserves. Fresh baked bread. Baked Goodies. Greeting Cards. Kiddies soft toys."

The Coffee Shop in Prince Albert

And another angle:

"The Coffee Shop" in Prince Albert

La-Di-Dah

A family friendly owner-managed restaurant, with space at the back where the kids can run around (no pool to have to worry about the little ones falling into). In fact, you can request a picnic basket and relax on the lawn next to the dam.

  • Address: 6a Church Street

  • Phone: 023 541 1846

Simply Saffron

They service up food on Friday and Saturday evenings. BYOB - they're not licensed. When not being a restaurant they offer yoga sessions and a "healing room" where you can enjoy reflexology and massages.

They're situated at 10 Church Street.

Simply Saffron in Prince Albert - thatch roofed house at 10 Church Street

Swartberg Arms

Fancy a simple burger and chips in a laid back environment? Thhe Swartberg Arms is the spot to grab some pub grub. They also serve the likes of pizza, lamb chops, bobotie, steak and schnitzel; but the burgers are their speciality. Before you get into your car, check whether they are open - on some evenings it's from 5pm until 9pm.

Moving to Prince Albert

Are you thinking of moving to Prince Albert? If you're looking for peace, quiet, friendly people and little crime; it's the place for you. In terms of selecting your house; generally speaking the houses further north have less crime - and we're mostly talking petty crime. Stay away from the prison, as the warders throw regular parties there (!). Select a house which receives the leiwater - the borehole water generally comes out with too little pressure. You'll be thought of as an "inwoner" for quite a while, but persevere and after a while you'll become a local and there'll be no looking back.

 

Barbara Davis's Weekend Visit to Prince Albert

11/12 May 2013. Too little, too far? Definitely not. Someone asked me why we are going all the way to Prince Albert (4-hour drive from Cape Town) just for a weekend and not much to see. Well, as it turns out, there was quite a lot to see and this was probably our best local away-weekend that we have ever had. Advertised in the Country Life magazine, was an offer of a 2-night stay at Dennehof B&B (4 star) which included a trip down to Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) in their 4x4 with their tour-guide at what we thought was a very reasonable price – R1500 per person. We arrived in Prince Albert at about 14h00 on Friday and after booking into Dennehof we headed straight for Church Street, the main street where it all happens! We had a good lunch on the verandah at the Swartberg Hotel, before exploring the gift and antique shops on Church Street. We also went into some of the side roads and really enjoyed all the little, well-maintained houses.

Our first amazing find was a small Wine Estate called SoetKaroo, where the husband and wife team make dessert wine from their own grapes. They do everything on their farm – grow the grapes, prepare and bottle the dessert wine.    We tasted their Red Hanepoort - Red Muscat D’Alexandrie and boy was that good – no doubt we bought some. They are a registered wine estate – in fact the first in the Great Karoo – and the wines are only sold from their cellar.

Soetkaroo wine tasting

Our next find was Gay’s Guernsey Dairy – also in Church Street.   Here all their products are natural, unpasteurised and free of hormones and antibiotics.    At the back of the dairy are the fields and you can see the Guernsey cows happily grazing in the fields – I thought I saw one of them smile!!     Inside, we tasted various cheeses in their specially fitted cheese room (we thought we were in Holland for a moment) - our favourite being the Cumin cheese and their Parmesan cheese.   The names of the cheeses reflect the local heritage such as Prince Albert Royal, Prince Albert Regal and Queen Victoria.

At this stage it was nearing 18h00 so we decided to visit the Bush Pub for a beer, which we saw advertised along Church Street.   This was a real outdoor bush pub and on a Saturday and Sunday, you can buy your braai meat at the pub and they provide a huge communal fire on which you can braai your meat.    We thought this was a great idea but as our trip down Gamkaskloof was planned for Saturday, we could not partake in this.

Unfortunately a truck had overturned on the road outside Prince Albert and hit one of the transformers which plunged Prince Albert into darkness. As a result, the options for dinner were limited so we settled on a burger at the Swartberg Arms, which I must say was quite delicious. Our room at Dennehof had its own fireplace and after a couple of hours in front of the fire with a sherry or two, we went to bed fairly early in anticipation of our trip to “Die Hel” the next day.  
The next morning we awoke to another perfect day and after the most scrumptious 4-star breakfast, our tour guide picked us up and after collecting 3 other guests we were on our way. The turnoff to Gamkaskloof is along the Swartberg Pass. Our guide, Lindsay, however, took us first to the top of the Pass (Die Top) so that we could see the views from there - the stillness and the view from “Die Top” was quite breathtaking. Lindsay was a very knowledgeable guide and he was able to answer all our many questions.

After “Die Top”, we backtracked a bit to find the turnoff to Gamkasloof (“Die Hel”).    Here again, we stopped at various spots where Lindsay would impart his vast knowledge on the area. He told us where the name supposedly came from: an animal inspector called Piet Botha visited the valley in the 1940s and used a particularly difficult route known as the 'die leer' into the valley. When he was asked about his trip he described the experience as "hell".  The name then stuck although according to the internet the locals don’t like the name and prefer to be called “kloovers” – meaning canyon dwellers. The road to the end was 48km long and this took us 2,5 hours – it seems unbelievable but the road was quite treacherous – I hope that this shows in the pictures.  We crossed 1 or 2 rivers and according to Lindsay many people underestimate the depth of the rivers and get stuck – they then have to wait for someone to come along to rescue them – we were very pleased that our guide was very experienced and responsible.

Gamkaskloof - Die Hel

One of our companions in the car was scared of heights so each time the drop was on his side, we had to swop places in the car so that he could look at the view – this was quite amusing. At one place along the road where it is really narrow, you have to look at a particular spot and if no cars are coming you have to wait 5 minutes before moving along because if you get stuck with a car in the opposite direction you have to reverse a long way on a very narrow, steep and winding road.   We were again very grateful for our experienced tour guide. We saw 2 Klipspringers and Black Eagles along the way.

When we got to the bottom Lindsay took us into some of the original houses that were built in the early 1800s and related some of the stories and history of the area. This is a fascinating experience to see where these farmers lived and how they coped and the stories of how some of them walked out of the valley to seek medical help or to bring supplies is really quite amazing – it led us to discuss how easy life has become and perhaps how lazy we have all become as we have all the comforts at hand. 

There is only 1 remaining born and bred inhabitant of Gamkaskloof who retained property – namely Annetjie Joubert (neé Mostert).   She returned in the late 1990’s and converted the original farmstead into guesthouses. There’s a caravan park and campsites which are apparently quite well supported in summer and a kiosk and licensed restaurant at which we had lunch that day – a very tasty lunch of lamb chops and vegetables and coffee pudding and custard as pudding. Cape Nature now own most of the land (except that which Annetjie Joubert owns) and we visited their office in The Hell.    It was quite interesting as they have the history of the area on display. We proceeded on our return trip and arrived safely back at Dennehof around 16h30. It was a most enjoyable day and it led us to reflect that South Africa has many beautiful places and our visit to Prince Albert and Gamkaskloof certainly confirmed for us that Prince Albert, which is 250 years old, is one of them and why it was voted as Town of the Year for 2012.

Gamkaskloof


May 2013

And here's what the former Minister of Tourism has to say about Prince Albert:

Tweet from Derek Hanekom about Prince Albert: "Off the beaten track. Such a quaint, friendly place."

 


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