Modimolle, known until recently as Nylstroom, supports a farming community and gives entry to the Waterberg Mountains. The town is surrounded by game farms and holiday resorts, as well as by farms on which grapes, peanuts and cattle are produced. The annual Grape Festival is one of the social highlights of the community and many visitors come here for that purpose.
The old name of Nylstroom originated with a group of 1860 Voortrekkers, led by Adam Enslin, called the “Jerusalemgangers” (“Jerusalem Travellers”), who left the Cape in search of a better life. They thought that if they travelled long and far enough, they would find the Holy Land. A pyramid-shaped hill, the Kranskop, and the fact that the Nyl River flows in a northerly direction at this point, convinced the travellers that they had reached Egypt and they named the nearby river Nylstroom (Nile River). The town of Nylstroom, with its jacaranda-lined streets, was laid out on the farm Rietvallei in February 1866.
Modimolle refers to a hill (also known as Kranskop) that the local Africans regard as their holy mountain Modimolle, meaning “Place of the Spirits”.
Adventure And Sport
Cycling Festival: Modimolle attracts many visitors to its annual Cycling Festival, which is held during the first week of January.
Donkerpoort Dam: The dam supplies the town with water but also doubles as a spot for fun and relaxation in the sun. Angling for carp, black bass and barbel is a popular pastime. Donkerpoort Dam lies 11 km north-west of the town on the Vaalwater Road. Visitors are welcome to use the caravan park and barbecue facilities.
Outdoor Activities: The area offers various scenic hiking trails, adventurous 4×4 routes, hunting expeditions, sky-diving and horseback-riding.
Fruit: Farmers grow grapes and soft fruits such as peaches and watermelons in this vast Bushveld Region.
Entertainment And Shopping
Festivals: The Cycling Festival takes place during the first week of January, followed by the Grape Festival a week later. These festivals often feature some well-known national artists and attract many visitors from across the country.
Hot Springs and Resorts: Modimolle has no less than eight hot spring resorts from which to choose.
Nylsvley Express: A luxurious and lavish colonial train makes regular trips to the nearby Boekenhout station.
Fauna And Flora
Nylsvley Bird and Nature Reserve: Nylsvley is one of the biggest grass flood plains in the country. This internationally acclaimed wetland of some 16 000 ha is home to many water birds. The reserve also is home to the endangered roan antelope and tsessebe.
History And Architecture
Bakkers’ Pharmacy: Tradition and history are the order of the day at Bakkers’ Pharmacy in Potgieter Street. The third generation of Bakkers are carrying on the tradition started by their ancestor, Gerrit Bakker, who opened up his pharmacy in 1910. The family has been in the same building for 82 years and welcomes visitors who come in to see the antique photo equipment and medicines that are preserved in glass cases. The hitching rail, where farmers used to hitch their horses or oxen when they travelled to town for Nagmaal (Holy Communion) or to stock up on medicines, can still be seen in front of the pharmacy.
Concentration Camp Entrance and Cemetery: The town suffered its share of sadness during the Anglo-Boer War. The entrance to the concentration camp can be seen in Van Riebeeck Street at the main entrance to the primary school. The people who died in this camp are buried in the cemetery in Voortrekker Road. The Red Obelisk in front of the Town Hall was erected in memory of the women and children who died in the concentration camp.
Famous Local Historical Residents: Famous historical figures who lived in Modimolle include Gerhard Moerdijk, the talented and famous architect of the impressive Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria and of at least 80 churches around the country, and General CF Beyers, the first Commandant-General of the army after the founding of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The town is decorated with various busts and statues that honour historic figures who contributed to the history of the town, such as Adv. JG Strijdom, Eugene Marais (Afrikaans writer), General Beyers and JD du Toit (Afrikaans poet).
Grave of Ernst Olferman Collins: Collins was the founder of Modimolle in 1866 and died in 1868. He is buried in the local cemetery.
JG Strydom House and Museum: Visit the Modimolle Museum where the history of the town and the surrounding areas, as well as that of JG Strijdom, a former South African Prime Minister who had close links with the town, is charted in interesting exhibits. Strijdom was known as the “Lion of the North” and his house, furnished with his belongings, can be seen in Church Street in the town and is open to visitors. The Waterberg Museum is part of this complex.
MOTH Memorial: In 1986 the members of a local MOTH (Memorable Order of the Tin Hat) unit decided that a memorial should be erected to commemorate those who gave their lives for their country in the past, the present and the future.
Old Locomotive: The “Nylstromer”, was constructed in 1865 and was the first locomotive to travel between Pretoria and Polokwane (Pietersburg) It was withdrawn from service in 1949 and today stands proudly in front of the Railway Station.
Reformed Church: The big white church building in Calvin Street was designed by Gerhard Moerdijk and built in 1929. It is still in use. Next to this church is another one, one of the oldest church buildings north of Pretoria, dating from 1889.
Kranskop (Modimolle) Mountain: The solitary mountain just outside town is 1 365m high, all that is left of the high-lying Waterberg sediments that covered this area many years ago, but have since eroded away The local African people who call the hill “Modimolle” regard the solitary hill as a holy mountain. Legend has it that the architect Gerhard Moerdijk got his inspiration for the design of the Voortrekker Monument from the shape of this mountain.