Did you know?
Lions for export to Europe were once kept in a massive cage opposite the Victoria Manor.
If you want a snapshot impression of 19th-century South Africa, just walk into the foyer of Cradock’s Victoria Manor at sundown and have a pre-dinner sherry.
Visually editing out the modern-day guests who come from all over the world to experience the Karoo, you’ll find yourself back in the days of buck hunters, transport riders, gentry dripping with jewels, card players and hard military men in gleaming mess dress.
The curving balustrade, the dark wood finishes, the woven carpets, comfortable period furniture, conversation nooks, even the confiding hotel Dalmatian – the combined effect speaks of a bygone era.
Cradock was a frontier town, where you crossed from the Eastern Cape into the wilder unknown hinterland, usually heading north.
Here at ‘The Vic’ you had your wagon fixed, loaded up with essential supplies, and had your last taste of creature comforts before that great adventure on the vast prairies under the skies of southern Africa.
Built sometime in the mid-1850s, this historic hotel has hosted the likes of Cecil John Rhodes, Olive Schreiner (who lived in Cradock at one time herself) and, in the 1880s, all manner of diamond and gold prospectors.
During the South African ( Anglo-Boer) War, the Victoria Hotel was commandeered by British forces, who turned the cellar into a jail for captured Boers.
In later years, legends of The Vic include that of a farmer who made it his habit to ride his horse into the hotel and right up to the bar. He would order a brandy for himself and a beer for his steed – to be served up in a Cadillac hubcap.
Records show that the hotel has gone through several renovations in its life, but none so loving and dedicated as those initiated by its current owner, Sandra Antrobus.
She bought ‘the foremost hotel on the frontier’ in 1994, and revived it from a dilapidated old hulk to a thing of Victorian splendour.
Antrobus brought in an army of carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters and craftsmen and restored the hotel, now called the Victoria Manor, to its status as the prime social spot of the Eastern Cape midlands.
The 21 en-suite bedrooms combine modern services like in-room television with four-poster beds, and modern showers with slipper baths on clawed feet.
The service is efficient and welcoming, from the dining room staff in elegant red, to those behind the bar, receptionists and turn-down ladies.
And don’t be surprised if, after checking in, you find Antrobus and her husband, Michael, helping you with your luggage. It’s all part of the Victoria Manor ethic of excellence ...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)48 881 1322
How to get here
Cradock is an about eight-hour drive from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. It lies on the N10 highway, approx. 250km north of Port Elizabeth – just less than three hours’ drive.
Best time to visit
Cradock is most pleasant in the shoulder seasons of autumn (April to May) or spring (September to November). It has very hot summers and chilly winters, when it’s not unusual to see the town ringed by snow-capped hills.
Around the area
From Victoria Manor, many destinations in the Karoo are no more than a few hours’ drive. Places like Nieu Bethesda, Somerset East, Graaff-Reinet and Bedford are all very good day-trip options. For those who prefer some pampering (massages, manicures and facials), ask about the African Angels of Comfort Zone, situated opposite the hotel.
Tours to do
A guided tour of the Mountain Zebra National Park outside Cradock will be a highlight of your trip.
Cradock is small enough that you can reach many of its interesting sites and museums on foot.
What will it cost
Victoria Manor's rates are approx R470 single (bed & breakfast); R690 double (bed & breakfast); and dinners are R140 per person.
Length of stay
Most travellers stay at the Victoria Manor for two nights so they can experience the various attractions of the Cradock area.
What to pack
Dinner dress is casual to semi-formal, while day wear is casual. Pack seasonally and for outdoor experiences.
Where to stay
The Victoria Manor is part of the Tuishuise complex, a series of 30 Victorian-era cottages along Market Street.
What to eat
Breakfasts are fresh, English-style and generous, but the culinary highlight of the Victoria Manor and Tuishuise is supper time, and a grand buffet of hearty Karoo fare.
Cradock has a number of annual events, including the Schreiner Festival in July and the Fish River Canoe Marathon in October.
The classic Karoo wind-pump miniatures being sold on the road south to Port Elizabeth. Also enquire about mohair products, and Karoo Lavender toiletries.