A couple of years ago when we were on our way to Sutherland we took a drive (a very short one) through Matjiesfontein and ever since then it has been on our Bucket List.
Matjiesfontein is a tiny town on the N1, 236km from Cape Town. When you visit Matjiesfontein, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. This tiny town has so much history!
Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by the legendary and energetic Scottish railway man, James Douglas Logan. The village established itself as a fashionable Victorian health spa, and is now well-known for its splendid historical buildings and a peace and timelessness that is rare in modern-day South Africa…
Matjiesfontein is a feast for the imagination, between these walls lie a colourful history that includes international cricketers, fortification during The South African War (formerly known as The Anglo-Boer War) as headquarters of the Cape Command, refuge for Jamieson Raid reformers, and the venue of controversial war crimes hearings.
We checked in to The Lord Milner hotel for a night with some friends, a beautiful Victorian Hotel that was built in 1899 and was used as a hospital during The South African War. Our room had an old Victorian wrought iron 4 poster bed, with a large bathroom with black and white checkered tiles, all very colonial!
Our afternoon was spent lunching at Laird arms and lounging around the massive hotel pool in the huge hotel gardens, seeking shelter from the Karoo heat. We took a walk around the town and visited the largest private museum collection in South Africa, here you will see a huge collection of antique household goods, tools, machinery, medical equipment and war/army memorabilia. Make sure you take a walk around the town and go into all the open old buildings, its great to be reminded how people used to live.
We visited the transport museum which has a collection of vintage cars, a Penny Farthing, as well as some train carriages and a steam engine. It’s interesting to see how people used to travel and to realise just how easy we have it today.
Come 6pm, drink in hand, we all climbed aboard the infamous Red Bus tour of Matjiesfontein also know as the shortest bus tour in South Africa. We knew it was time for the bus tour as Johnny Theunissen (resident entertainer at the Matjiesfontein) blew his trumpet, shouted and ordered us all aboard his Old Red London Bus for a tour of the town. The tour lasts a total of 10 minutes whilst Johnny give’s you a brief description of all the buildings and takes you past the cricket pitch (where the first friendly cricket game between South Africa and England was played). After the bus tour, Johnny escorted us all to the hotel lounge where he showed us the photo of the resident ghost, the trophy that South Africa won in the first cricket match as well as the couch that the royals sat on for a photo.
A candle lit dinner is served in the hotel dining room, a room filled with antiques and a wooden column in the centre of the room (holding up the honeymoon suite). Johnny informed us that the only replica of this column is in Buckingham Palace. Dinner was delicious and is served by waitresses dressed in a Victorian style maids outfit and wine was served by red-jacketed porters.
After dinner we retired to Laird Arms, the hotel bar, where Johnny played the piano and sang a variety of local and international songs for us.
We had an awesome time in Matjiesfontein and would recommend that everyone visit it at least once. All the staff are friendly and welcoming and you really feel like you have been transported back in time.
Book your stay here.
See our stay in photos…