A Brief Overview
The ‘Gold Rush’ town of Barberton was the Johannesburg of its day in the 1800s, with people coming from far and wide to ‘strike it lucky’ on one of the many surrounding gold reefs. Nowadays people still flock to Barberton, but it is no longer the gold that draws them, but the amazing array of tourist attractions the town has to offer. Barberton is situated in the De Kaap Valley in the heart of Mpumalanga, fringed by the Makhonjwa Mountain Range. With its mild Lowveld winters and summers that are slightly cooler than Nelspruit’s Barberton provides the perfect holiday getaway the whole year round, especially as it’s just 3 ½ hours’ drive from Johannesburg via the N17 & R38, and 30 minutes from Nelspruit along the R40. Barberton was official declared a town in 1884 and named after Graham Barber who discovered one of the town’s rich gold-bearing reefs.
Yet it wasn’t until the discovery of Edwin Bray’s Golden Quarry in 1885 that the town transformed from a simply mining camp to a thriving Gold Rush “Boom Town”. The then Transvaal’s first stock exchange was opened along with hotels, billiard saloons and music halls attracting colourful Gold Rush characters like Cockney Liz and Sir Percy Fitzpatrick’s iconic dog Jock . Then almost as soon as the Gold Rush came to Barberton it disappeared, and people moved on but the buildings remained. Barberton’s Heritage Walk is now one of the Town’s key attractions, along with the various mining tours and gold panning experiences that allow tourist to get a taste of life in the Gold Rush days. Yet there is more to Barberton than gold.
The mountains that surround Barberton contain some of the rarest rocks on the plant. Rocks that only occur in two places in the World and allow you to step back in time and visualise what the Earth’s surface would have looked like 3.5 billion years ago. The Geotrail is Barberton’s newest attraction and allows visitors to uncover for themselves the secrets that lie hidden in these rocks, including evidence of the first life forms visible to the naked eye! The area surrounding the town is also South Africa’s second largest biodiversity hotspot, after the Cape Floral Kingdom, making it a wildlife wonderland waiting to be explored. So whether it is iconic African animals you seek or rare endemic butterflies, Barberton has it all. Including, 350+ species of birds which can be seen along the many birding routes, hiking trails and nature reserves the area is famed for. For those looking for more of an adventure, Barberton has lots to offer.
With numerous 4x4 routes, some of which will challenge even the most experienced drivers. Quad bike adventures that immerse you in nature and allow you to explore the Ghost Town of Eureka City, cycle trails for mountain bike enthusiasts and road racers, and even paragliding experiences. The town of Barberton and its surrounding area can be explored in almost every way imaginable. While for those wanting take in the culture of the area, Barberton’s new Township Tour is about challenging preconceived perceptions and showcasing the sense of community spirit that can be found there. With the huge range of accommodation and fabulous restaurants on offer, there is no reason why Barberton shouldn’t be on your SA Bucket List. So whether it is a thrill seeking adventure, nostalgic trip back in time, the answer to life on earth or simply a beautiful place to enjoy, Barberton has got it all and so much more!