According to legend a German land surveyor who had participated in the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War named the town on the banks of the Vaal River Paris, since it reminded him of Paris on the River Seine. The Vaal River is more than one km wide near the town and is studded with islands, such as Gold Island, Woody Island, Steyn’s Island and Groot Island. The many camping sites, caravan parks, and pleasure resorts on the banks of the river make the town a popular holiday destination. Parys is small and peaceful and many people have chosen to retire here. The river is part of the town and strolls and picnics on its banks are a regular local pastime.
Adventure And Sport
Abseiling: Abseiling is yet another adventure sporting activity that visitors to Parys may indulge in.
Angling: Many anglers and adventurers flock to Parys over weekends and holidays. Angling and fly-fishing venues include Fish Eagle Caravan Park, Hanzet Distillers, Hakuna Matata Adventures, Rocky Ridge, The Dell and Thabela Thabeng.
Dimalachite Holiday Resort: Adventurers flock to this resort on the Vredefort Road, which is ideally suited for white-water rafting, hiking, mountain-biking, abseiling, horse-riding, fly-fishing, deep-water angling and game drives.
Gliding and micro-light flying: Parys has facilities available for gliding and micro-light enthusiasts.
Golf: Golf Island can lay claim to a 9-hole golf course. The Island is connected to the riverbank by a suspension bridge that was built high enough to allow access to the island, even when the river is in flood. The bridge was built in 1919.
Hadeda Creek River Tours and Safaris: Enjoy staying in a safari-style tented camp, do some river rafting, quad biking, fly-fishing, abseiling or simply enjoy being out of doors.
Hiking: The 20 km Likkewaan Hiking Trail, with its abundance of animal and bird life, passes several historical battle sites and disused diamond diggings. Other trails include the Buffelskloof, Kruin, Rooihaas (“Red Rabbit”), Boat and Paddle and the Stap en Delf (“Walk and Dig”) Hiking Trails. There are also several shorter trails.
Khaya Ibhubesi (Home of the Lion): This resort offers you a unique “African” experience with its rustic log cabins, chalets, traditional Zulu huts and beautiful riverside lodges. Excellent European and African cuisine is served in the different restaurants on the premises.
Klein Paradys Christian Camp Resort: This adventure farm borders the Vaal River and has chalets, caravan and tent stands and facilities for water sports, hiking, abseiling, rock climbing, as well as a 4×4 route and quad biking facilities.
Mimosa Garden Holiday Resort: The resort has several chalets, a restaurant and all the usual amenities and sporting facilities.
Mountain-biking: Try the popular Likkewaan Mountain Biking Trail with or without a guide. Guided tours are available on request. Offtrax, on the Savannah Game Farm, also offers guided mountain biking tours.
River-rafting: Parys is one of the most popular river-rafting venues in the country. Several companies offer rafting opportunities for private as well as corporate groups. Book at Hadeda Creek (River Tour Safaris), Dimalachite and Sunwa Ventures, in town. As the river is so wide at Parys, the rapids increase as the water rises, causing a 900-m long continuous rapid dubbed the “Theatre”.
Art And Crafts
Antique shops: Driving down the main street, Bree Street, of Parys is like being transplanted to an earlier era. Antique shops line the street and many display their wares on the street corners and pavements, compelling most tourists to stop and take a better look at the treasures they have inside their shops.
Art Gallery: The Art Lovers Coffee Shop and Art Gallery in Bree Street was once a church building. Today, it houses a selection of exquisite handmade merchandise, individually styled silverware, unique ceramics and works of art. Other art galleries in Bree Street include The White House and Plum Tree Coffee and Art Gallery. Enjoy a scrumptious meal that is an artwork in itself and tastes every bit as good as it looks.
Art Route: Parys has its own Art Route, which is open to the public on the first weekend of every month. Many artists find inspiration in the town’s tranquil setting on the river bank and surrounded by the hills. They use media such as paint, clay, iron, wood and sand to express their creativity.
Metal Art: Die Blakermakers, also situated in Bree Street, make and sell functional metal art items and Big Five lamps.
Wenman-Smith Studios: The studios in Bree Street sell exclusive African artefacts and functional but exclusive pottery items.
Mampoer tasting: Visit Hanzet Distillers in Skandinawie Drift Road to taste some of their brews that include ”witblits”, liqueurs and apple sours.
Fauna And Flora
Game-watching: Several private game farms and ranches, such as Buffelskloof Nature Reserve, Chazen Game Farm and Savannah Game Ranch, cater for visitors who would like to do some game watching.
Savannah Game Lodge and River Retreat: This 1 000-ha private nature reserve comfortably nestles in a bend in the river. Cheetahs are bred on the reserve and a variety of game can be viewed.
Smilin’ Thru Game Farm and Resort: The resort is situated 10 km outside Parys on Road R500 to Fochville. Smilin’ Thru is on the banks of the Vaal River and allows for game viewing, water sports, white-water rafting and much more.
History And Architecture
Anglican Church: The relatively “new” Anglican Church in Dolf Street was built from blocks of blue granite (ironstone) in 1915. The blocks came from the Relief Camp held by the British during the Anglo-Boer War, which is today the site of the festival grounds.
Dutch Reformed Church: The beautiful old Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1899 and played an interesting role during the Anglo-Boer War. The British troops parked two cannon beside the church, believing that the Boer troops would not shoot at their church. During the fighting, the church building was damaged considerably. The original pulpit was also removed and sold to a congregation in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1960s. The streets around the church were named after the first four ministers who served in the church.
Liebenberg Koppies: Liebenberg Koppies, the historic site where a party of Voortrekkers, under the leadership of Barend Liebenberg, were killed in 1836, lies just across the river on the Fochville Road. The site has been declared a National monument and a bronze plaque commemorates the sad event. A small number of Voortrekkers escaped to a nearby island, “Vlugeiland” (Flight Island).
Ox wagon “Trek” Monument: This monument, commemorating the Great Trek of 1838, is located between Heap and Loop Streets next to the Sasolburg Road exit from the town. The memorial was built from rocks carried by hundreds of local inhabitants from the veld. The perimeter was constructed from rocks taken from Liebenberg Koppie and grinding stones from the ruins of Matabele “kraals” in the district. An authentic drag-shoe used by the Voortrekkers when they crossed the Drakensberg Mountains with their ox wagons was placed on top of the monument.
Ox wagon “Trek” Monument at the High School: This monument, situated in the grounds of the High School in Schilbach Street, was erected in 1938 to commemorate the Voortrekkers’ Great Trek of 1838. The tracks of one of the wagons that took part in the trek were imprinted in a slab of concrete in front of the monument, which contains a message and vow made by all the pupils of the school. The sealed envelope may only be opened on 5 November 2038.
Palm Court Hotel: The current Parys Palm Court Hotel is one of the few turn-of- the-century buildings to have survived the ravages of time.
Parys Museum: The Museum is housed in the town’s old Magistrate’s Office, a building erected in 1904 and built in the architectural style of the short-lived “Orange River Colony” period. The building was proclaimed a National monument in 1986. The museum offers visitors a detailed overview of the local cultural, political and geological history of the town. Definitely worth a visit!
Reformed Church: The design of the Reformed Church building on the corner of Loop and Van Coller Streets by the architect, Johan de Ridder, started a new trend in church design. The church was opened in 1955. The church is built in the shape of a tent – symbolising the Biblical reference that man’s life on earth is but a temporary life in a “tent dwelling”.
Town Hall: The current town hall dates from the 1930s and was designed in the Art Deco style.
War Memorial: The War Memorial in front of the Town Hall is believed to have been erected by ex-servicemen after the First World War. It is constructed out of pink granite blocks obtained locally and contains the names of the local men who died in these wars. A second block was later added containing the names of people who had fought and died during the Second World War.