Bathurst, Eastern CApe
Destination Activities,  DESTINATIONS,  Eastern Cape,  Eastern Cape Small Towns

8 Reasons to visit Bathurst in the Eastern Cape

Nestled in the heart of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa, the quaint town of Bathurst holds a special place in the country’s history. Steeped in colonial heritage, Bathurst offers a unique blend of charm, tranquility, and interesting attractions.

A Glimpse into Bathurst’s Past

Bathurst takes its name from the influential British Secretary of State for War, Henry Bathurst. Established in 1820 as a settler town, it quickly became a thriving hub for British immigrants. Today, the town still has echoes of its colonial history, as evidenced by its architecture and historical sites.

Street view of Bathurst

Despite Bathurst often being overlooked, it is home to numerous hidden gems that are waiting to be explored and appreciated. In this blog post, I will delve into eight reasons why you should put Bathurst on your travel list.

1. The Big Pineapple

The big Pineapple, an iconic symbol of Bathurst

One of Bathurst’s most iconic landmarks is the Big Pineapple, a colossal structure standing proudly at 16.7 meters tall. Built in the early 1980s, this unique attraction pays homage to the region’s thriving pineapple industry. Visitors can explore the pineapple museum, climb to the top for panoramic views, and enjoy delicious pineapple treats. The Big Pineapple has become a symbol of the town’s agricultural heritage and a must-visit destination for tourists.

2. The Pig & Whistle

The pig and Whistle Inn

The Pig and Whistle Inn in Bathurst, South Africa, has a fascinating history that dates back to its establishment in 1831. The inn holds the distinction of being reputed as the oldest continuously licensed pub in the country. It was named after the Pig and Whistle Inn in Newbury, England, reflecting its connection to British settlers who arrived in Bathurst during the 1820s. Over the years, the inn has served as a central meeting point for locals and travelers, offering them a place to socialize, relax, eat and enjoy refreshments. Despite the passage of time and various changes, the Pig and Whistle Inn has retained its historical charm and character.

3. Historical Landmarks

The historical landmarks of Bathurst both fascinate and provide valuable insights into the region’s history.

3.1 The Powder Magazine

The Powder Magazine in Bathurst

The Powder Magazine in Bathurst holds an intriguing place in the town’s history. It is all that remains of the military camp which defended the town during the early years. Built in the early 19th century, it served as a storage facility for gunpowder during a tumultuous era of frontier wars and colonial conflicts. Today, it stands as a testament to Bathurst’s past, reminding visitors of the challenges and conflicts that shaped the region.

3.2 St. John’s, the Oldest Unaltered Anglican Church

St John's church in Bathurst

Constructed over the span of three years from 1834 to 1837, St. John’s Church stands proudly as the oldest unaltered Anglican church in South Africa. Not only does it hold historical significance in terms of its age, but during the tumultuous 6th and 7th frontier wars, this sacred place served as a fortified stronghold and a sanctuary for the local community.

3.3 The Bradshaw Mill

The Bradshaw Mill in Bathurst is a fascinating historical site that harkens back to the town’s early industrial development. Dating back to the 1820s, this water-powered mill played a crucial role in grinding wheat and maize, providing a vital service to the local community. The mill’s stone construction and the remnants of its machinery stand as a testament to the ingenuity of the early settlers.

3.4 Bathurst Agricultural Museum

The Bathurst Agricultural Museum offers visitors a unique glimpse into the farming practices of the past. The collection of vintage farming equipment on display provides a tangible link to the challenges and innovations of early agricultural life. From antique tractors and plows to horse-drawn carts and threshing machines, the exhibits bring to life the hard work and ingenuity of generations of farmers.

3.5 The Bathurst School

Small school in Bathurst

Constructed in 1831 to accommodate the growing number of children, the Bathurst School has stood the test of time. It remains in constant use to this day, serving as an education institution for children from a local township.

3.6 The Toposcope

Built in 1829, this circular stone structure sits atop a hill, providing visitors with sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Moreover, it stands as a cherished heritage site, commemorating the 1820 settlers and their descendants. The Toposcope is also adorned with plaques bearing the names and ships of the parties that arrived in the Eastern Cape in 1820, forming a compass-like display to indicate the locations of the different settler groups.

4. Arts & Crafts

Bathurst is known for its vibrant artistic community. Art galleries and craft shops dot the area, showcasing the talents of local artists. Visitors can explore these establishments, peruse unique artworks, and perhaps even bring home a treasured piece of South African craftsmanship.

5. Annual Festivals

Throughout the year, Bathurst comes alive with a series of lively festivals and events. The Bathurst Agricultural Show, held in April, celebrates the region’s agricultural heritage with livestock exhibitions, equestrian displays, and various entertainment activities. The Bathurst Country Affair, held in August, showcases local artisans, musicians, and food stalls, offering a great experience for visitors of all ages.

6. Country Charm

Farmland surrounding ‘The Big Pineapple’

Surrounded by lush farmlands and rolling hills, Bathurst offers a peaceful retreat. The area is excellent for birdwatchers, with numerous bird species inhabiting the nearby estuaries and forests. Visitors can also embark on scenic drives and explore hiking trails in the region.

7. A Base for Coastal Trips


With the beautiful coastline just a short drive away, Bathurst serves as an ideal base for coastal travels. Popular seaside destinations nearby include Kenton-on-Sea and Port Alfred.

8. Restaurants and Pubs

A home-cooked Sunday lunch at the ‘Pig and Whistle’.

Aside from the well-known Pig and Whistle Inn, there are a few more notable venues also. Most of the restaurants and pubs lie along the strip of road running through the center of Bathurst. Established many years ago, the Bathurst Arms has become a beloved gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. The pub exudes a traditional charm with its rustic decor and cozy seating areas. The Bathurst Arms also offers a great menu of pub grub, featuring classic dishes and local favorites. Whether you’re looking to catch up with friends, enjoy live entertainment, or simply soak in the authentic pub atmosphere, the Bathurst Arms is a must-visit destination in Bathurst.

With its rich history, cultural treasures, and natural beauty, Bathurst is a destination that captivates the hearts of its visitors. From its colonial heritage to its vibrant artistic community, the town offers a diverse range of experiences. Whether you’re immersing yourself in history, admiring local craftsmanship, or enjoying the tranquility of the surroundings, Bathurst will leave you with lasting memories and a longing to return to this hidden gem in the Eastern Cape.

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