When next you’re driving between the two major South African centres of Cape Town and Johannesburg, visit the historic halfway point: Colesberg. Its many attractions, which include a farm stay, a walking tour of the town and mountain bike trails, will keep the family entertained for at least a day or two.

Did you know?

Colesberg is named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, a former governor of the Cape Colony. It's earlier name was Towerberg (after the koppie overlooking the town).

Travellers on the N1 between Johannesburg and Cape Town often stop over for the night in the historical Northern Cape town of Colesberg.

Their sojourns are normally all too brief. Colesberg, set snugly in a ring of little hills, has a lot more to offer than an overnight bed. Take the newly established Colesberg Walking Tour, for instance.

Pop in at the local tourist information offices in Murray Street and someone there will organise you a guide for a fascinating three-hour tour through Colesberg.

The area has seen waves of settlement over the past few millennia. First, the Stone Age folk roamed these hills, hunting the antelope that moved through the surrounding area.

And later came the trekboer (nomadic farmer) who, with livestock herds, was in constant search of new pastures. The trekboers were followed by the missionaries, who set up a number of stations and tried to convert the local /Xam San to their congregation. Finally, the settlers arrived and established some kind of formal government – and a settlement called Colesberg in 1830.

The first few decades of Colesberg resembled the first few decades of Tombstone, Arizona, in the United States – they were both gunfighters’ towns, unruly places full of wandering hunters, adventurers, thieves and cutthroats, mostly moving northwards in search of greener pastures.

Gunpowder and liquor were the coin of the day until law and order were established.

The slow rhythms of Colesberg were disturbed at the turn of the 19th century by the South African War (also often known as the Anglo-Boer War). Battles between Briton and Boer were fought all over the koppies (hills) surrounding the town.

Your historical Colesberg Walking Tour will include visits to the Colesberg-Kemper Museum, various churches, the stone magistrate's court, various Karoo-style houses, some old shops in the main street and, possibly, lunch at a former horse mill that currently does duty as a bar and restaurant.

Visit the various cemeteries, ask your guide about a tour of the local township or, if you’re feeling particularly active, unstrap those mountain bikes from your vehicle and take on a listed Colesberg mountain bike trail.

Colesberg is most famous for its racehorse-breeding farms. If you wish to extend your stay in the area, a night spent on a local guest farm would be just the ticket.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Colesberg Tourism Information
Tel: +27 (0)51 753 0678

How to get here

Colesberg is approx. 620km south of Johannesburg on the N1 (about six to seven hours' drive without stops), and approx. 780km (eight hours' drive without stops) north-east of Cape Town, also on the N1.

Best time to visit

Colesberg is best in the shoulder seasons of spring (September to October) and autumn (April to May).

Around the area

The Gariep Route, which takes in the Gariep Dam, Bethulie and Philippolis, has many fascinating attractions for travellers interested in history.

Tours to do

Both the Gariep and Van der Kloof dams have adjoining nature reserves stocked with antelope and small game.

Get around

It's best to drive yourself to Colesberg, and then once you’re in town, most attractions would be within walking distance of your lodgings.

What will it cost

Accommodation in Colesberg is reasonably priced and can range from R250 to R350 pp per night, depending on whether you’re on a self-catering or B&B arrangement.

Length of stay

If you’re planning to explore the area, including the Gariep Route, then set aside three days for your Colesberg visit. Otherwise, come early, do the three-hour walking tour and stay overnight.

What to pack

Pack informally, seasonally and be ready for outdoor adventures like walking. It gets extremely hot in summer (October to April), and very cold in winter (May to August), so pack accordingly.

Where to stay

Colesberg has many overnight accommodation options – see the listed websites for details.

What to eat

If you like pizza, try JC’s Under the Grapevine on Church Street; or for more traditional Karoo cuisine, go to the Plattelander Restaurant, also on Church Street. For English-style meals, try the Horse and Mill on Bell Street.

What's happening

Check the listed Gariep Route and Northern Cape websites for happenings in the area during your stay.

Best buys

Local crafters sell little wire windmills on the outskirts of Colesberg.