"Om die Dam!" Top 5 Page for this destination Hartbeespoort by CatherineReichardt

Hartbeespoort Travel Guide: 79 reviews and 166 photos

Picturesque Hartbeespoort Dam is about an hour's drive from Johannesburg and slightly less from Pretoria, making it an easy day trip from either - and an obvious playground for people looking to get out of the city for the weekend. It is also on the road to Sun City, and thus, many tourists will pass this way, but perhaps don't realise that there are a few good reasons to stop en route and enjoy what's available 'om die dam' (around the dam).

Firstly, a bit of geological context. Hartbeespoort Dam is a manmade reservoir which was created in the 1930s by damming the Crocodile River where it flows through a narrow gorge in the Magaliesberg (Magalies Mountains). The Magaliesberg is an ancient range of hills which were formed when the sandstone strata was tilted northwards, creating a distinctive profile of steep southern cliffs adjacent to the dam and much gentler northern slopes.

Planning your time in the Hartbeespoort area

There are lots of ways that you can explore the many attractions that Hartbeespoort has to offer, but bear in mind that in order to hit all the highlights, you'll either have to stay overnight, or make a couple of day trips.

One very attractive option is to combine Hartbeespoort with a visit to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site which is located just west of the road to the Dam, north of Lanseria airport. Just bear in mind that if you're planning to visit the Sterkfontein Caves and the Maropeng Centre, this will take you at least half a day, so you'll only have a few hours to play with at Hartbeespoort.

Another option if you're planning to visit Sun City and/or the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is to stop off at Hartbeespoort, either on the way there or the way back (or both). From a planning point of view, allow yourself another 90 minutes to drive to Sun City/Pilanesberg once you leave Hartbeespoort, and be careful not to drive this road in the dark, as there is a real risk of colliding with wildlife or domestic animals on the road. Nightfall comes early in this part of the world, as we're not far south of the Tropic of Capricorn, so in order to ensure getting there in daylight, I would recommend leaving Hartbeespoort no later than about 16:30.

One last hint for planning. Many of the attractions can be quite time consuming, so don't make the mistake of trying to fit too much in. A special word of caution if you're planning to visit the Anne van Dyk Cheetah Breeding Centre, which is, to my mind, the highlight of this area: there are very restricted visiting hours and you have to take a guided tour, so rather select your tour time (and confirm availability) first, and plan the rest of your time accordingly. Similarly, some of the attractions are quite expensive by South African standards - for example, the Elephant Sanctuary and Bush Babies monkey sanctuary - so budget accordingly.

I have a particular affection for the area because we got married in a small game reserve in Broederstroom, a village on the southern shore of the Dam adjacent to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site.

For more ideas on things to do in the more general Magaliesberg region, see my Magaliesberg page.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Easily accessible from either Jo'burg or Pretoria and offers a wide and varied range of activities
  • Cons:Crowded over weekends and holiday periods - and the water quality in the dam is awful!
  • In a nutshell:An ideal day out with a wide variety of things to do that should appeal to all ages and interests
  • Intro Updated Dec 26, 2011
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