Bathurst, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Bathurst’s pineapple industry began in 1865.
Driving from Grahamstown into the decidedly English-looking town of Bathurst in the Eastern Cape, one of the first signs you encounter is: 'There’s no thirst like Bathurst.'
Welcome to the Pig 'n Whistle, said to be the oldest licensed pub in South Africa.
It stands at the heart of this lovely little historic settlement and, although it has changed hands many times, ‘The Pig’ still serves hearty fare and liquid refreshments to travellers exploring 1820 Settler Frontier Country.
‘Pig’ refers to an ancient drinking peg, which determined how much monks and their guests could imbibe from a beer tankard. ‘Whistle’ is a corruption of the word ‘wassail’ (an old English word meaning an alcoholic beverage or to enjoy oneself heartily). In modern terms, ‘pig ‘n whistle’ means to ‘drink judiciously and party hard’. Hmm.
'The Pig' in 1832 was originally opened in 1832. Also established locally in 1832 was the elegant Wesleyan Chapel, which was later besieged during the long series of frontier wars.
A quick stroll around the village will reveal very old buildings bearing Victorian-era names like Bleak House, Morley House and Bradshaw’s Mill.
Bathurst has become a village of retired academics, artists, eccentrics and pineapple farmers.
You will not fail to notice ‘The Big Pineapple’ near the centre of the village. It’s a 16,7m-high, 3-storey fibreglass pineapple.
This monolithic faux fruit looms over a field of real pineapples, the principal crop in the area.
Following the motto of ‘today’s machinery is tomorrow’s history’, the Bathurst Agricultural Museum was established in 1970 as a home for old farming implements.
What began as a 30-item display has now developed into a remarkable museum with more than 1 300 objects. Ox wagons, steam engines, old tractors, ostrich incubators and dairy utensils are but a few farming artefacts to be seen.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Bathurst Agricultural Society
Tel: +27 (0)46 624 5421
Alan Weyer (Spirits of the Past Tours)
Tel: +27 (0)46 622 7896
Cell +27 (0)82 825 2685
How to get here
Bathurst lies 16km inland from the seaside village of Port Alfred, and 40km east of Grahamstown. Travelling from Port Elizabeth, the coastal and inland routes to Bathurst are equidistant, at about 170km.
Best time to visit
Bathurst has a relatively temperate all-year climate, but if you enjoy a busy social life then the best time to visit is between Christmas and New Year, when the pubs are full of musicians and the annual ox braai (barbecue) is staged.
Around the area
Grahamstown is nearby and offers plenty in the way of bookshops, historical sites, general shopping and live entertainment. Along the coast, Port Alfred is a colourful and vibey seaside village. There are a number of game reserves like Shamwari, Addo Elephant National Park and Double Drift that are within striking distance.
Tours to do
Alan Weyer’s Spirits of the Past tours in Grahamstown are recommended.
When visiting small towns in the Eastern Cape, it’s advisable to travel by hired car, available from East London or Port Elizabeth.
What will it cost
Bathurst is not expensive to visit. Food, accommodation and general purchases are all reasonably priced.
Length of stay
Using Bathurst as a base for local and regional day trips, you could easily spend a week in the village. If Bathurst is your sole focus, then two days would cover the village experience.
What to pack
Pack for all seasons, because the weather along the Eastern Cape coastline can turn at any minute. It’s generally temperate, however.
Where to stay
Choose from hotels, self-catering options and B&Bs on pineapple farms. You could also stay at the old Bathurst Inn, where the Pig ‘n Whistle is located.
What to eat
Wholesome country fare is on offer – and don’t forget to sample the premier crop: pineapple.
Check the Bathurst Tourism website for details of the local book fair, the ox braai (barbecue) and the agricultural show.
Xhosa traditional crafts: dolls and pipes.