Barberton, known as the "Gem of the Lowveld" is situated 350km east of Pretoria in the picturesque surroundings of the De Kaap Valley. This area is one of the most beautiful wilderness area with ever-changing mountains, pristine savannah, bushveld, indigenous riverine and mountain forest, all intersected by gin clear perennial streams. The plant species diversity is second on the Cape Fynbos with 2 100 different species and still counting.
Barberton is a bird watcher’s haven with more than 400 species being recorded here, along with 24 different amphibians and reptiles.
Augusta Rogerto first discovered gold in Barberton on 20 June 1883. It was in 1884 that Graham Barber discovered a rich reef of gold in the area, and it wasn't long before a bottle of gin was broken on the rocks, and the camp was proclaimed as Barberton. Soon, thousands of diggers were lured to the valley and with their arrival a collection of shacks, stores and canteens sprang up. It developed a real frontier mining town characteristic and the bars included the notorious Cockney Liz where barmaids got tipped for pouring drinks amongst other activities! Although the golden days have disappeared, Barberton is still a town full of character, with an economy based on agriculture including timber production, citrus, tobacco and various fruit and vegetables. During 1886 Barberton was at the height of its boom. The Lost City of Eureka is situated in the scenic Barberton Mountain lands. This is the sites of one of the richest gold discoveries in the earth’s history. Men’s endeavors to become rich quick, is evident in places like the Golden Cathedral. This is an amazing feat of human achievement and was entirely done by hand, more than a century ago. Barberton can boast as the town where South Africa's gold mining industry really began.
San rock art exists throughout the hills and mountains of the area, and visitors are afforded a glimpse into the lives of these interesting nomads. More modern sites of cultural interest include several buildings of the boom time era that have survived and been proclaimed provincial heritage sites. Some of these nostalgic relics include the fade of the Gold Stock Exchange, the first in South Africa, the Lewis and Marks Building (the first double storey in town). Museums in the town include Belhaven House Museum with its interesting displays on geology and mining, Swazi history and general history of Barberton, as well as the Stopforth and Fernlea Houses, two original wood and iron houses, which also contain museums. Another building of historical importance is the 1901 South African (Anglo-Boer) War blockhouse, while a fascinating excursion would be to visit the ruins of Eureka City with a local tour guide. For those tourists interested in local literature, Barberton is well known as "Jock of the Bushveld Town", and a statue of the terrier can be seen in front of the Town Hall. The Diggers Retreat Hotel has an interesting frieze of scenes from Jock's life along its walls, painted by wandering artist Frederick Genal.
The beautiful De Kaap Valley is renowned for its ancient rock formations which are 4-billion years old, while the town itself is famed for its indigenous Barberton Daisies which flower in August through to December in explosive displays of red, pink, orange or yellow.
Visitors to Barberton can soak up the old mining atmosphere of the town by arranging to pan for gold at Noordkaap, 14km out of town. Other activities to keep you busy include going on lovely scenic drives or checking out the 20km cableway from Barberton to the Havelock Asbestos Mine in Swaziland, which is a marvel of engineering.
Perfect thermal conditions in the area mean that paragliding is popular and experienced pilots take off from the 425m high Lone Tree hill. Less daring challenges include numerous good hiking trails.
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