This beautiful old town, widely regarded as the most beautiful town in the Gauteng region, lies at the foot of the Suikerbosrand (“Sugar Bush Ridge”). The Blesbokspruit meanders through the town, supporting dense stands of trees in its flood plain. The town started life in 1862 as a trading post built by a German, H J Uekermann. A town later developed around the trading store and Uekermann named it Heidelberg, after the university town in Germany. Heidelberg has managed to retain its typical rural atmosphere, an atmosphere enhanced by the numerous, lovingly preserved, Victorian buildings.
Adventure And Sport
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve: The Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve has a 66 km long network of hiking trails that are especially suitable for children and less accomplished hikers. Hikers may choose between day and overnight hikes. The reserve has six overnight huts that have been built at strategic places in the reserve, all within a day’s walk of the starting point. However, bookings for accommodation should be done well in advance. The Cheetah (4,5 km) and Bokmakierie (10–17 km) trails are the day walks on offer. Visitors will enjoy the beautiful scenery and, for those who truly want to get away from it all, there is a special meditation hut set in a remote area of the reserve.
Entertainment And Shopping
Aventura Kareekloof: The Aventura resort is situated within the boundaries of the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve but does not form part of the reserve. It caters mainly for caravanners and campers but day visitors are also welcome.
Heidelberg Kloof: Heidelberg Kloof is a popular picnic and barbecue spot with a swimming pool, restaurant and playground for children.
Fauna And Flora
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve: An hour’s drive from Johannesburg, the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve offers a welcome escape from the bustle of city life. It is home to a wide variety of plants, birds and animals. Hikers are welcome to follow one of several self-guided hiking trails that are clearly marked out. The wild flowers and trees along the routes are a lovely sight and visitors may also choose to make use of the caravanning, picnic and barbecue facilities. The Reserve has a Visitors’ Centre that offers an interesting exhibition and the Diepkloof Farm Museum gives insight into the past of the reserve.
History And Architecture
AG Visser House: The home of renowned Afrikaans poet, A G Visser, now deceased, also known as “the singer of Suikerbosrand”, is situated on Van der Westhuizen Street. The house has been renovated and is being converted into a museum.
Concentration Camp Cemetery: The graves in the Concentration Camp Cemetery are of the women and children who died in British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902).
De Rust: The lovely old Victorian Mansion on the Meyerton / Vereeniging Road dates back to 1906. The original wallpaper still covers the walls.
Diepkloof Farm Museum: This Farm Museum is situated 20 km from Heidelberg in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. The Diepkloof farmhouse dates back to 1850 and has been restored to its former beauty.
Heidelberg Jail: The old Heidelberg Jail, situated on Jordaan Street, was completed in 1888. Salmon van As, a local Boer, was executed here by a firing squad for shooting a British officer during the Anglo-Boer War.
Heidelberg Transport Museum: Regarded as one of the ten best small country museums in South Africa, the Heidelberg Transport Museum was established in 1975. The museum is housed in the (renovated) old railway station. The curator of the museum now occupies the stationmaster’s living quarters. The General Waiting Room, Ticket Office and Baggage Rooms have been refurbished as exhibition rooms and the Ladies’ Waiting Room serves as the administrative offices. The museum has a fascinating collection of old modes of transport such as penny-farthing cycles and “boneshakers”. Included in the collection are an eighteenth century sedan chair, a field ambulance, a horse-drawn fire-engine and several veteran and vintage cars. More modern exhibits include the Formula 1 machines raced by the Scheckter brothers of South Africa.
Klipkerk (“Stone church”): The cornerstone of the beautiful sandstone Klipkerk was laid in 1890. The church managed to survive a fire and the collapse of its spire and may be visited by appointment only.
Saint Ninian’s Anglican church: Built in 1882, this church was formerly known as the soldier’s church because British troops attended the church during the Anglo-Boer War. Even the two twin oak trees in the grounds have a distinguished history. Their names are Albert and Victoria and were planted from a batch of saplings sent out from Britain to commemorate their wedding anniversary.
Town Hall: The Town Hall, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, lies south of the Klipkerk and was built in 1939.
Triumvirate Monument: The Triumvirate Monument outside the magnificent Town Hall consists of an obelisk with the busts of Boer leaders Paul Kruger, Piet Joubert and Marthinus Pretorius. It commemorates the negotiations entered into with the British at the end of the first Transvaal War of Independence when Heidelberg was the seat of the Boer Government. Gerhard Moerdijk, the renowned architect of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, designed the monument.
Heidelberg Transport Museum: The Heidelberg Transport Museum is home to a historical old iron horse, Locomotive 816, a Class 16C locomotive and one of only thirty built in Glasgow to a South African design. This steam locomotive hauled the “Corridor Dining Express” on the route between Johannesburg and Durban for many years and frequently stopped at Heidelberg Station. After 55 years of working all over South Africa, this stalwart veteran of the iron tracks retired to a specially laid out line at the Heidelberg Transport Museum.