The Historic Town of Bathurst

With a number of well-preserved original 1820 British Settlers’ houses and other historic buildings, the town of Bathurst in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa exudes early 19th century English village charm – complete with what is believed to be the oldest pub in South Africa, the Pig and Whistle, built in 1831. Originally established as an administrative center for the British immigrants who arrived on the east coast of South Africa in 1820, Bathurst and the surrounding area, including the coastal town of Port Edward and inland Grahamstown, became a buffer zone between the Cape Colony to the south and the advancing Xhosa tribes who were migrating from the north.

With Rhodes University being a mere 40 kilometers away, Bathurst is undergoing some development to accommodate the increasing population of academics, artists and retired residents, while at the same time managing to retain its peaceful, slower pace of life. The town is located alongside the Waters Meeting Nature Reserve with its hiking trails, spectacular views and picnic spots offering visitors a pleasant day’s outing. The reserve is home to a number of species of birds and animals, as well as an interesting variety of flora. Visitors can picnic along the edge of the Kowie River, with its picturesque horseshoe bend and dense foliage, while canoe trails and scenic hikes can be arranged.

The giant pineapple on the edge of town is both a landmark and a tribute to the flourishing pineapple plantations the area is known for. Standing at 16.7 meters high, with three floors, the giant pineapple houses a gift shop, tourist center and viewing platform. Other attractions in and around Bathurst include Bradshaw’s Mill with its working water-wheel that was built in 1821 and is a South African National Monument. The Wesleyan Chapel was built by the owner and builder of the mill, Samuel Bradshaw, in 1832, and is a superb example of other Wesleyan churches found in South Africa. Sunday services still take place in this National Monument and the family Bible of prominent 1820 settler, Jeremiah Goldswain, is on display. The St John’s Anglican Church is the oldest of its kind to remain in its original state, and served as a place of refuge for settlers during the tumultuous Frontier Wars of the mid-1800s. Visitors to Bathurst should not miss the town’s Agricultural Museum, with its more than 1,400 fascinating artifacts.

Bathurst is about a ten minute drive from Port Alfred and around forty-five minutes from Grahamstown, making it an attractive holiday destination, or an interesting day-trip for holidaymakers in the Eastern Cape.