Historical things to see and do in Cradock

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If you ever find yourself driving through the town of Cradock in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, stop for a while and explore some of what the town has to offer. With the town of Cradock dating back to 1813, there are so many historic sites that make the town what it is today. Not only is it the birthplace of famous stories by epic writers, but it is also a place of war heroes, anti-apartheid activists, and migratory farmers. Experience Cradock’s history by travelling back in time at one of many historical spots.

We made a list of historical things to see and do when you visit Cradock:

Explore early pioneer history in Cradock

The Great Fish River Museum depicts the early history of the pioneers dating from 1840 to 1900. The main building houses the history of Cradock, the 1820 Settlers, and the Voortrekkers while historic items such as an ox wagon, a hearse, and a horse cart from the period are on display outside. There is also an entire section of the museum dedicated to the famous Cradock Four.

Getting there: The Great Fish River Museum is behind the town hall, 87 High Street, Cradock.

Contact: +27 48 881 4509

An old wagon on display at the Great Fish River Museum in Cradock
An old wagon on display at the Great Fish River Museum

Learn more about the Cradock Four

The story of four well-known anti-apartheid activists, Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Fort Calata, and Sicelo Mhlauli, is a tragic one. Secret police stopped them at a roadblock in 1985 as they returned home from a meeting in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). Nobody saw them ever again, but their burnt bodies were discovered subsequently. Their deaths caused a national outcry at the time, and the day of their funeral was the beginning of the end of apartheid. You can learn more about them at two locations in Cradock. The Fish River Museum and a special memorial at the Lingelihle Township celebrate their lives today. I have not visited the memorial, so can’t give any more information about the condition it is in, whether it is worth a visit, or whether it is safe to go there.

Getting there: The Great Fish River Museum listed above. The memorial is at the Vusubuntu cultural village in Lingelihle, which is an informal settlement.

Historic churches in Cradock

The Dutch Reformed Mother Church (1868) makes an architectural statement in the centre of town and is the most prominent church in Cradock. The design is based on the St Martin’s in the Field Church in Trafalgar Square in London. The British soldiers apparently used the roof as a lookout point during the Anglo-Boer War. Unfortunately, there aren’t any tours to see the inside of the church, but at times it might be open. Take photos early in the morning or in the evening if you want a photo without cars and trucks to spoil the view. The tourism office in town can provide information on other historical churches in Cradock, of which there are many.

Getting there: The church can be found at 79 High Street, Cradock.

The place of the Cape mountain zebra

A 16km drive from town takes you to the Mountain Zebra National Park. The park was first proclaimed in 1937. The reason for the proclamation of the park was to save the Cape mountain zebra from extinction. At the time, the founder herd consisted of six animals, but today these animals can be spotted across much of the park. Cape mountain zebra are smaller than plains zebra with shorter, stockier legs and more solid stripes. You can see lions, buffalo, and various antelope species in the park. It is the only South African National Park offering cheetah tracking on foot. Read our article to find out why you should not skip a visit to this park when you visit Cradock.

Victoria Manor and Die Tuishuise

Die Tuishuise offers historical accommodation in Cradock
Die Tuishuise offers historical accommodation in Cradock

Victoria Manor is one of the oldest hotels in South Africa, constructed in 1848. Many historical characters visited the hotel, including Cecil John Rhodes. The cellar is a cosy pub today, but rumours go that it was a prison cell during wartime. Stop by for a coffee, or a drink at the pub, or stay for the night. Die Tuishuise forms part of the development. These mid-19th century houses were the homes of the craftsmen and artisans of the era. Each house resembling the lifestyles of the Settlers back then, and come with their own unique themes. These units offer accommodation for couples and bigger groups. They come with a kitchen, lounge, and bathroom.

Getting there: Market Street, Cradock

More information: More information: www.tuishuise.co.za

The Story of an African Farm

Olive Shreiner Museum in Cradock
Olive Shreiner Museum

This one on our list of historic things to do in Cradock is one for all the book lovers out there. This museum celebrates the life of political activist, feminist, and author Olive Shreiner. The Olive Shreiner House Museum has an exhibition on the life and work of Schreiner and as well as her siblings, and a small book collection from Olive Schreiner’s and her husband’s personal libraries. She wrote the famous The Story of an African Farm while working on a farm in the area. Visit the museum to learn more about her life.

Getting there: 9 Cross Street, Cradock.

Contact: oschreiner@telkomsa.net or +27 48 881 5251

More sites to see

Visit the tourism office for a list of more historic sites to see in Cradock. Other historic sites in Cradock include the Jurie Lombard Watermill and the municipal office building built in the mid-1960s. There is even a shrine in Durban Street that was once a horse drinking trough used in the 1800s. I was a little disappointed about the condition though. Spend some time exploring Cradock – the new and the old. 

Cradock is 250km from Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), where the nearest international airport can be found.

Did we miss anything in the town of Cradock that you would highly recommend? Did you visit any other historic sites in Cradock that you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments below.

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