Heilbron lies in the district known the Riemland – “place of thongs”. The thongs are made from the hides of the animals of the vast herds of game that used to roam the open savannah. The long vanished Leghoya people inhabited the area until they were driven away by Zulu and Matabele tribes. The European Trekkers followed next and clashed regularly with the Zulus and Matabele. A town was established here in 1890 and called Heilbron (“Fountain of blessing or well-being”) because it was situated near a strong fountain that provided sufficient water for both man and beast. Heilbron is a typical, peaceful Free State town surrounded by stock, dairy, maize, sorghum, wheat and sunflower farms and also boasts two huge conservancies, Ghoya Africa and Francolin Creek.
Adventure And Sport
Angling: Sweethome Fishing Paradise is situated on the banks of the Vaal Dam approximately 30 km from Heilbron and has a guest house, as well as camping and caravanning facilities.
Golf: The town has its own 18-hole golf course. Visitors are welcome.
Hiking: For a hike of a more historical nature try the hiking trail at the Vegkop Battlefield site, 20 km out of town. There are several superb hiking trails in the Ghoya Africa and Francolin Creek Conservancies.
Holiday Farms: Mooifontein Holiday Farm offers guests accommodation in a beautiful 1922 sandstone farmhouse dating from 1922, and Lekkerlag Farm, a fully operational dairy farm, offers accommodation in a garden chalet. Mooidraai Holiday Farm offers all the usual holiday farm amenities.
Hunting: Leeupoort Safaris have several hiking and game viewing trails and accommodation is provided in a bush camp on the banks of the Renoster River. Hunting is allowed during the hunting season.
Tierbank Safari Tented Camp: The camp is well suited to those who like to “rough” it. Angling, swimming and non-motorised water sport opportunities exist.
Water Sport: Eeufees Dam on the Renoster River is the ideal venue for most kinds of water sports and angling.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
Ruins: The long vanished Leghoya people who lived in this area left behind the ruins of several corbelled houses. The ridge overlooking the site where the Battle of Vegkop took place was formerly the stronghold of a Sotho tribe. The ruins of their abandoned huts, kraals and walls give an indication of how they used to live.
Riemland Wine Route: The Heilbron area leg of this route includes visits to three Western Cape retail wine cellars such as the Boland Cellar, trading as Francolin Creek Wine Cellar, on the farm Dipkraal; the Van Loveren Cellar, trading as the Goedehoop Cellar, on the farm Goedehoop and the Swartland Cellar, trading as Stadlerheim Cellar, on the farm Schuttersrus. A fourth cellar that will stock Simonsig Wines will be opened on this route shortly. Spend the day tasting wine and have lunch at one of the picnic spots in the new Ghoya Africa or Francolin Creek Conservancies.
Traditional Healers: The African National Healers Association, a group of traditional healers, who use methods rooted in ancestral medicine to diagnose and prescribe cures, can be contacted through the Municipality.
Fauna And Flora
Francolin Creek Conservancy: The conservancy is situated on the farm Diepkraal where the Francolin Creek Wine Cellar is also located and has beautiful scenery, game and bird-viewing, hiking and horse-riding. The Francolin Creek Guest Lodge serves home-cooked farm food and as a special treat, one of its famous “bush braais”.
Ghoya Africa Conservancy: This relatively new conservancy was founded in 2001 on the farm Goedehoop and, in collaboration with other local farmers and landowners stretches over 6 000 ha of savannah grassland and hills criss-crossed by rivers, dams and big open skies. The conservancy includes the Moratiwa and Oppie Plaas Nature Reserves and the farm Schuttersrus where the Stadlerheim Wine Cellar is located. The Goedehoop Wine Cellar and Guest House that offers accommodation in a restored 1892 farmhouse, is also part of the conservancy. Herds of game have been reintroduced and established in this area and visitors can expect to encounter zebra and many different species of buck and antelope, as well as smaller mammals and many species of birds. The ”Fishing Spot”, set along a perennial stream surrounded by huge trees is the ideal place for a picnic and to swim and angle to your heart’s content. River rafting on the Renoster River is great fun. Game and bird hunting is allowed during the hunting season and horse riding and hiking opportunities abound. Four eco-friendly hiking trails, the Ghoya, Springbok, Blesbok and Johnny Walker Trails have been established in the conservancy. Accommodation is available in Buys Huis, a two-roomed, mud and stone hut that sleeps 11, is solar powered and offers ultimate isolation and silence.
Riemland Game Bird Project: Birdlovers may want to visit the Windheuwel Lodge Research Centre where scientists from the University of Cape Town and Pretoria Technikon research the life cycles and mating habits of guinea fowl. Game bird hunting is allowed in season.
Tau Thaba: For a close encounter with lions visit this farm situated about 16 km from Heilbron. Facilities include accommodation for ten people, a “boma” and entertainment area.
History And Architecture
Mother and Child Monument: The Mother and Child Monument was erected in honour of the 787 Boer women and children who died in the Heilbron Concentration Camp during the Anglo-Boer War.
Riemland Museum: The Riemland Museum is housed in the old Jewish Synagogue in Langmark Street and depicts the chronological and cultural history of the district, as well as the facts behind the Battle of Vegkop.
Vegkop Battlefield Monument and museum: The Vegkop Battlefield Monument and Vegkop Museum were erected as a reminder of the battle between the Matabele and the Voortrekkers at Vegkop in 1836. Although the Voortrekkers gained the victory at Vegkop, they still suffered severe losses and had to repulse many subsequent attacks. There are culptures by renowned South African sculptor, Coert Steynberg, at the site.
Voortrekker Centenary Memorial: The Voortrekker Centenary Memorial is situated in town.