The fertile land and pleasant climate of this area on the banks of the Mooi River (Fair River) convinced the Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter and his followers to settle here in 1838. It is the oldest Voortrekker town of the old Transvaal province and for 17 years it was the capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. The name is a combination of “Pot” (Potgieter), “chef” (“chief” or “leader”) and “stroom” (stream). Potchefstroom is only one hour’s drive from Johannesburg and has several museums and national monuments to capture the interest of visitors.
Adventure And Sport
Boskop Dam Nature Reserve: Boskop is located in the Mooi River valley some 20 km north of Potchefstroom. It is best known as an angling reserve and hosts a number of annual fishing competitions. The reserve harbours a varied wildlife population that includes black and red wildebeest, eland, springbuck, zebra and blesbok, as well as a rich variety of bird species. The colourful yachts bobbing up and down on the waters of the Boskop Dam lend a festive air to the reserve. The grassy banks are ideal for leisurely picnics and a campsite with basic facilities offer accommodation. Day visitors are welcome.
Buffelskloof Day Hikes: The Buffelskloof Day Loops (hikes) offers various hiking routes from 4 to 17 km in length through a nature reserve. The walks range from easy to very difficult. Facilities include picnic sites, a kiosk and a tea garden. Biking can also be done. There is a lodge available for accommodation. Facilities and accommodation for the Buffelskloof Day Walk, the Buffelskloof Mountain Biking Trail and the Buffelskloof Rock Climbing Trail are similar.
Drift to Drift Canoe Trail: The Drift to Drift canoe trail will take approximately 2 days to complete as it is 30 km long. It is not particularly difficult and is a guided tour. Overnight huts are available on the routes. Participants have to be able to swim.
Dome Mountain Biking Route: The Dome Mountain biking routes vary in length and degree of difficulty (1-2 days). The routes will take you through farms and a private nature reserve. There are huts on the trail and a guide is available.
Boot and Paddle Hiking Trail: The Boot and Paddle trail includes a combination of hiking and canoeing activities. The trail takes approximately 2 days to complete. The 16 km guided canoe trip is done under the supervision of a competent guide. The trail goes through a reserve and farms. There are houses at base camp and overnight huts along the trail.
Old Mine Route and the Rooihaas Hiking Trail: The Old Mine Route is an overnight hike that lasts 2 days. The first day is of average difficulty and the second day is easy. Hikers walk in a nature reserve. Accommodation consists of houses at the base camp as well as overnight huts. The Rooihaas overnight hike is slightly longer (2 days and 2 nights). This 23,3 km hike is considered as being of average difficulty. It passes through a nature reserve and farms and people can overnight in huts along the trail.
Potchefstroom Country Club: The Potchefstroom Country Club: With an 18 hole Golf course (9 of which are played across the Mooi River), tennis courts, bowls and squash courts, this is a must for everyone.
Potchefstroom Lakeside Resort: Relaxation comes naturally at the Potchefstroom Lakeside Resort. Superb accommodation, camping and caravanning facilities, water sport, fishing, mini-golf, a super tube and playgrounds are all there for the visitor to enjoy.
Summit Hiking Trail: Both the Summit hiking trails are 23 km long and take 2 days to complete. One is average to difficult and the other is difficult. Both routes take the hiker through a nature reserve and several farms. Accommodation facilities include overnight huts, houses at base and a campsite.
Vredefort Dome Biking Trails: The Vredefort Dome area offers a number of trails such as the Dome Day Trails. These trails consist of three cycling routes and vary in difficulty from average to difficult. The services of a guide are available. Accommodation facilities and catering are also available. The Askop is another mountain biking trail in the vicinity of the Dome. This trail is 65 km long and very difficult and can take 1 or 2 days to complete. Accommodation is available at the base and on route and catering is available on request. The Iron Man mountain biking trail is equally long and just as difficult. Accommodation and catering facilities are similar and bikers can also make use of the services of a guide.
Art And Crafts
“Aardklop” Festival: For 5 days during the end of September the “Aardklop” festival is held. Celebrating Afrikaans and Afrikaans culture with programs in art, dance, film, music and theatre, this festival is an annual opportunity to renew contact with the language and to stay up to date with new developments in arts and culture.
Art Market: A market is held each month in the City Council gardens. An interesting variety of home industry products and local crafts are on sale.
North West Schools Festival of English, Drama and the Arts: This September festival is hosted by the University of Potchefstroom and sponsored by the Grahamstown Foundation, with programmes that include theatre presentations, workshops and lectures. The aim is to inspire and challenge pupils through dance, poetry, singing, visual art and writing.
Schoemanati farm: Schoemanati, near Schoemansdal, is an award-winning distiller of Mampoer (traditional Afrikaner alcoholic beverage) and visitors are welcome to visit the farm. Talks are given on the history and the production of the drink. Tasting sessions will allow visitors to sample a bit of ‘Afrikaner culture’. Visitors who enjoy the taste can buy a few bottles to take home with them. A house on the farm dates back to the Anglo-Boer War.
Fauna And Flora
Boskop Dam Nature Reserve: The Boskop Nature Reserve lies some 20 km from Potchefstroom in the Mooi River valley. The reserve safeguards a varied wildlife population that includes black and red wildebeest, eland, springbuck, zebra and blesbok, as well as a rich variety of bird species. The grassy banks are ideal for leisurely picnics and a campsite with basic facilities offer accommodation. Day visitors are welcome.
Dome Bergland Nature Park: This park has a large variety of rare plant species.
OPM-Prozesky Bird Sanctuary: Nearly 200 species of birds return every year to nest in the reeds and bulrushes of the OPM-Prozesky Bird Sanctuary on the banks of the Mooi River. Year after year, avid bird lovers make this pilgrimage with them.
History And Architecture
Andrew Carnegie Library and City Hall: The stately City Hall in Edwardian Classic design was inaugurated in 1909. The clockwork and bells were manufactured in the Netherlands. It is one of the oldest existing city halls north of the Vaal River.
Dutch Reformed Church: The exceptionally designed stained glass windows add to the attraction of the country’s oldest Reformed Church, dating from 1891. Incidentally, it is also the oldest stone-built Reformed Church in South Africa.
Goetz/Fleishack Museum: The Goetz/Fleischack Museum is the only house dating back to the 1850s that is still standing.
Mosque: The Mosque is a distinctive and charming building and was erected in 1925.
Old Fort: The Old Fort is the remains of the fort from which the British defended the town against a 95-day Boer siege during the Anglo-Boer War. The soldiers who lost their lives in the siege are buried in the cemetery nearby.
Pioneer Route: The town and surrounding areas are steeped in history and the Pioneer Route takes visitors past several of the town’s 14 well-known museums and monuments and the 60 architectural masterpieces. Buildings of note include the Andrew Carnegie Library, the City Hall and the Main Potchefstroom Museum. Other sites of interest include the Old Gunpowder House, a magazine from the Anglo-Boer War, the Old Police Station Building, the Kruger Kraal Opstal, the Heimat building of the University Campus and the Old Magistrate’s Office in Greyling Street.
Potchefstroom Museum: In a series of innovative exhibits, the Potchefstroom Museum teaches you more about the lifestyles of the people of yesteryear and how they interacted with one another. The exhibits include a wagon dating back to the Battle of Blood River, a collection of Otto Landsberg paintings and artefacts depicting local San history. The museum shop sells lovely memorabilia.
Powder Magazine: The early inhabitants of the town built the Powder Magazine in 1857. When the British captured the building during the Anglo-Boer War, they used it to their strategic advantage.
President Pretorius Museum: The first State President of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic or ZAR), Marthinus Wessels Pretorius, spent his last days in the stately home now called the President Pretorius Museum. Pretorius built this house himself in a charming Cape architectural style.
Totius House Museum: The well-known Afrikaans poet, theologian and translator, JD Du Toit, lived here. His house has been converted into the Totius House Museum.
St. Mary’s Anglican Church: The magnificent stained glass windows of St Mary’s Anglican Church, which was built in 1891, create a wonderful display of light and colour.
Vredefort Dome Conservancy: Some 2000 million years ago, a massive meteorite struck the earth near the present day town of Vredefort in the Free State. This structure is regarded as the biggest and oldest clearly visible impact structure on Earth, bigger even than the Sudbury impact structure in Canada. The impact created a magnificent reef, which is now crisscrossed by several hiking trails. The area is so different in geographical shape and vegetation from the surrounding areas that it is justly considered a natural wonder. Today several landowners have combined their resources to create the Dome Conservancy, a prime adventure tourism site that caters for the needs of campers, hikers, cyclists, rock climbers, canoeists, fly-fishers, abseilers and white-water rafters.
Oak Avenue: The view down the 7 km Tom Street is truly magnificent. The road is lined by more than 700 oak trees, the longest line of oaks in the Southern Hemisphere.