For those travellers who like to see historic British Colonial buildings – especially those built at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign – the Eastern Cape centre of Queenstown is an architectural treasure house. Its churches, administrative buildings and schools echo a past of wealth and stylish elegance that made Queenstown the gem in the crown of the old Eastern Cape.

Did you know?

The steam locomotive outside the Queen’s Casino & Hotel in Queenstown once transported Britain’s then-Princess Elizabeth.

As you’re driving through the bustling Eastern Cape Midlands centre of Queenstown, it’s quite difficult to imagine the original hexagonal design of the town.

But if you go back in time about 150 years to the era of the various Frontier Wars of the Eastern Cape, you’ll find that Queenstown was established as one of a string of outlying forts. The surveyor, Thomas Bowker, took an open lot of ground and established the fort in a hexagonal shape with six thoroughfares down which cannon fire or rifle fire could be directed. Today, the famous Hexagon of Queenstown has been turned into a large garden.

Queenstown is a very good spot to begin an Eastern Cape heritage tour because it was once the most prosperous settlement in the area. Many of the Victorian-era buildings in the form of schools, churches and administrative offices have remained intact.

In the late 1840s, a British Colonial official came riding past this spot on the Komani River. He looked down the valley and up at what was later named the Madeira Mountain. Returning to Grahamstown, he told his bosses he had found a place so pleasing it could be named after Queen Victoria herself. That is how, in 1853, this site came to be named Queenstown.

Visit the Queenstown Frontier Museum on Shepstone Street and you’ll learn fascinating things about the early era of the town. Exhibits include a full-size, furnished frontier cottage and a natural history collection.

An old steam locomotive called Queenstown used to be parked outside the museum, but has since been moved to the lot outside the Queens Casino & Hotel, a large leisure complex of shops, bars, a casino and luxury accommodation.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Queens Hotel & Casino
Tel: +27 (0)45 807 9700

Queenstown Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)45 839 2265

How to get here

Queenstown lies approx. 180km north-west of East London on the N6 highway.

Tours to do

Queenstown forms part of a number of tour packages available from operators in East London – see the listed Eastern Cape Tourism website for tour guide details.

Get around

Self-drive is your best option.

Length of stay

Set aside one day for your visit to Queenstown.

Where to stay

Queenstown has a number of guest houses and self-catering establishments, but also has the upmarket Queens Hotel & Casino – see listed website for details.