Kruger National Park & Lowveld, Mpumalanga
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Situated in the De Kaap Valley, Barberton is proud to call the surrounding Makhonjwa Mountains the 'Genesis of Life', as this is where some of the most ancient rocks in the world are found.
This small Mpumalanga town is where geologists from all over the world come to study the origins of life in Barberton's rare green rocks, which only occur in two places in the world, and show evidence of the very first life forms, and how the Earth looked around 3.5 billion years ago. The discovery of these extraordinary rocks have put Barberton on the map as the Mpumalanga town where 'the history of our planet is cast in stone'.
Also found in the Mpumalanga, Makhonjwa Mountains is gold, thought to be some of the oldest, finest gold on the planet, and although Barberton is gaining notoriety for its remarkable rock finds, and is a proposed World Heritage Site, the more recent gold rush is what Barberton is most famous for.
In the 1880's, thousands of hopefuls looking to strike it rich descended on Barber's Reef, an area in the Barberton Valley so laden with gold that it sparkled! It was around this frantic gold rush that the country's first stock exchange was opened in Barberton, which was flourishing with hotels, saloons and music halls springing up, along with very colourful characters who took advantage of Barberton being at its height, with speculators, miners and stockbrokers filling the small Mpumalanga town, and filling their pockets with huge profits.
It was in these very Barberton streets that the flamboyant barmaid and prostitute called Cockney Liz plied her trade at the Barberton Red Light Canteen, where she was a sensation, and soon earned enough money to buy the bar and rename it the Cockney Liz Billiard Saloon. Cockney Liz was not only a huge attraction in Barberton, but also a shrewd business woman who went on to build the Barberton Royal Albert Hall. Cockney Liz is also attributed with naming the Barberton Daisy, now a fairly common little flower, who once caught the attention of Barberton's most notorious courtesan.
Another famous Barberton resident was Percy Fitspatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld, who was editor of the Gold Fields News, and transport rider during the days of the Barberton gold rush. In memoriam, a magnificent statue of Fitspatirick's faithful dog Jock can be seen in front of the Barberton Town Hall
Testimony to Barberton's boom town, gold rush days still speaks for itself on Barberton’s Heritage Walk, where architectural relics of the past are on display in the form of beautifully preserved homes. One of Barberton's oldest buildings is now the Belhaven Museum, restored and furnished to its original appearance in 1904, as an elegant Edwardian home belonging to an upper, middle class family. Another perfectly preserved Barberton house is the iron and wood Stopforth House, built in 1886 by baker and general dealer James Stopforth, whose descendants continued to occupy and maintain the Stopforth family home until 1983.
When looking for your own lodgings in Barberton, you will find unique, homely Barberton Self Catering accommodation tucked away amongst the trees with beautiful surrounding gardens. Nearby, Barberton restaurants offer visitors a huge variety of eateries such as Digger's Retreat, The Gold Mine, African Pioneer Mining, Old Rock Cafe, Umjindi Gallery and many more.
For the outdoor adventurer, Barberton offers incredible activities through mountain forests and streams, over rocky terrain and deep bushveld, such as 4x4 routes, cycle trails, hiking the Fortuna Mine Tunnel route or walking the Barberton Geotrail, which allows visitors to experience first hand the secrets of the Makhonjwa Mountain rocks. Paraglide off Lone Tree Hill, horse ride, or visit the half dozen wildlife reserves within a 12km radius of Barberton, making Barberton a wildlife utopia waiting to be explored.
For the less adventurous, golf lovers can swing their clubs at the Barberton Golf Club, one of the oldest clubs in the country, This uphill course advises golfers to stay out of the buffalo grass which represents the rough.
Then, for a gentler activity, indulge yourself with an English Tea at the Victorian Tea Garden in the historic Market Square.
Barberton is without a doubt a fantastic tourist destination, offering visitors a Mpumalanga town with a colourful and vibrant history, and surrounded by stunning scenery with ample opportunities for adventure, but most of all, Barberton is all about its sense of community, and the welcome it extends to those who come to explore this unusual Mpumalanga town.
Another small Mpumalanga gold rush town about 56 minutes north-west (via the R40) of Barberton accommodation is Kaapsche Hoop, an area of scenic beauty known for its spectacular wild horses. With its misty mountains, this old gold mining town is a popular tourist destination - a haven of Mpumalanga peace and tranquillity. Kaapsche Hoop's fabulous local restaurants, quaint shops and loads of Kaapsche Hoop accommodation (Kaapse Hoop) makes for the perfect holiday. Nestled on the edge of the Mpumalanga escarpment, you'll find Star Graded Kaapsche Hoop Bed & Breakfast accommodation at Kaapsche Hoop Gastehuis (Kaapse Hoop), and Kaapsche Hoop Self Catering Cottage accommodation on an avocado and pecan nut farm. For more info on these superb establishments, see the WhereToStay Kaapsche Hoop accommodation page.
While in Kaapsche Hoop, Mpumalanga, take the Kaapsehoop Escarpment Walk, and hike through a maze of unusual rock formations, and you'll find yourself rewarded with jaw dropping views at the edge of the Kruger National Park & Lowveld Mpumalanga Escarpment.
From Kaapsche Hoop it's an easy 30.7km drive north to nearby Mbombela (formally known as Nelspruit). Known as the gateway to Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park, Mbombela boasts an international airport with regularly scheduled flights to the larger cities of South Africa, Mbombela / Nelspruit, Mpumalanga is the perfect overnight stop before venturing into the Kruger National Park, which is about 53 minutes from Nelspruit / Mbombela accommodation.
When looking for accommodation in Mbombela / Nelspruit, you will find an abundance of lodgings to suit all tastes and pockets in Nelspruit Bed & Breakfast accommodation adjoining the Nelspruit Nature Reserve, only a short drive to Mbombela City Centre. Guests can also find Mbombela Self Catering accommodation (Nelspruit) in the heart of Nelspruit / Mbombela, conveniently located within easy reach of restaurants, shopping malls and the airport. For quests with more specific needs, Mbombela / Nelspruit Special Category accommodation caters for fisherman, weddings, pets, conferences and larger families. See the Nelspruit / Mbombela accommodation page for more info.
With its bountiful sunshine, lush valleys and sub-tropical climate, Mbombela is the ideal holiday destination, which offers adventures to the nearby 3 million year old Sudwala Caves, and for a unique experience, a day at the Nelspruit Croc River Enviro Park will provide fun and excitement for the whole family. Go horse riding on trails through mountain bushveld, or test your driving skills on 4x4 trails over rocky terrain. Challenge yourself on the Nelspruit Golf Course - an18 hole par 71 golf course with lush year-round fairways lined exclusively by indigenous trees. Shop till you drop at Nelspruit Riverside Mall, one of Mpumalanga's largest shopping centres and cinema complexes, then head for the Emnotweni Casino, where guests could strike it lucky on slot machines, blackjack and roulette tables, as well as at the Salon Prive, which caters for those with deeper pockets.
Still driving north, take the R40 for 19.5km to Mpumalanga, White River - a favourite holiday destination for both locals and foreigners looking to enjoy the beauty of the Kruger National Park & Lowveld Crocodile River Valley. Home to numerous craftsmen and Mpumalanga artists, White River is also a great base from which to explore the waterfalls, historic sites and hiking trails of the Mpumalanga Escarpment, and is in close proximity to the Kruger National Park. For the energetic, White River, Mpumalanga offers guests an abundance of activities in and around White River, enough to satisfy even the most enthusiastic outdoor enthusiast. For more info on cycling, abseiling, archery, quad biking, White River rafting, zipline and more, visit the WhereToStay White River Activities page for more info.
When looking for lodgings in White River, stay in Star Graded White River Bed & Breakfast accommodation on the White River 18 hole championship parkland golf course, which also boasts excellent tennis, squash, cricket and hockey facilities, with an outstanding swimming pool adjacent to the White River golf clubhouse. Select White River Bush Lodge accommodation can be found on game farms in the beautiful surroundings of the Kruger National Park & Lowveld, or choose White River Self Catering Cottage accommodation set among beautiful indigenous trees and bustling birdlife. See the WhereToStay White River accommodation page for more options, as well as Special Category White River accommodation which caters for conventions, larger families and weddings.
Suggested Kruger National Park & Lowveld, Mpumalanga route north from Barberton accommodation:
Barberton to Kaapsche Hoop - 49.4km via R40 - 55 minutes without traffic
From Barberton take General St. to R38/R40 (6 minutes, 4.9 km), drive 48 minutes (44.1km) to Kruger St. in Kaapsche Hoop.
Kaapsche Hoop to Mbombela / Nelspruit - 30.7km - 27 minutes without traffic
This route has tolls.
From Kaapsche Hoop drive along Kruger St. (2 minutes, 350m). Drive to Samora Machel Dr/R104 in Mbombela / Nelspruit (26 minutes, 30.4km).
Mbombela / Nelspruit to White River - 19.5km - 18 minutes without traffic
From Mbombela / Nelspruit head west on Madiba Dr/R40 toward Madiba Dr/R40. Continue to follow R40, partial toll road 18.8km. Turn left onto Hennie Van Til St. 180m. Turn right onto Willem Swanepoel St. 210m. Turn right onto Joe Hanna St. 180m. Turn right at the 1st cross street onto Chief Mgiyeni Khumalo Dr/R40 120m in White River.