The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa


Afrikaans name: Cradock

Cradock Municipal Buildings

Cradock's Municipal Buildings

Photo © hannesthirion -

Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape town of Cradock is home to approximately 30 000 people. The picturesque town is a blend of many different architectural styles such as Victorian, Colonial and modern. 'Die Tuishuise' are a collection of Victorian-style townhouses which have been fully restored and converted into self-catering accommodation allowing guests to fully immerse themselves into Cradock's history.

Sir John Cradock, whom the town was named after, founded the town towards the end of the Fourth Frontier War. Cradock was originally founded to be a frontier stronghold in 1812 and the original structures were converted into a jail and official buildings were then added to it.

The area around Cradock is well-known for its farming produce. Wool, beef, fruit and mohair are all produced nearby. In the early 1900's this area was well-known for its ostrich farms. It also includes 3 irrigation dams that are found in the headwaters of the Great Fish River.

Visitors should have a look at the Dutch Reformed church which was built in 1868. The church was designed to be an exact replica of St Martins-in-the-Fields in London. It is said that this design was chosen because the minister's wife, who was from London, suffered from homesickness and that the church's structural design would be able to help her cope. A local legend that surrounds the church is that in August of 1868, the builder of the church refused to hand over the keys until he was paid in full. The consecration ceremony that was scheduled for the opening was postponed for an hour while the congregation attempted to raise the outstanding fees. Inside, the church's birth register can be found and it includes the name of Paul Kruger. Kruger was born in 1825 on a farm near Steynsburg. He then went on to become the President of the South African Republic in 1883. Alongside the church, the vivid Van Riebeck Karoo Garden can be found.

Cradock was home to Olive Schreiner who was a South African writer, best known for her novel, "The Story of an African Farm" during the late 1900's. Recently, the house that she used to stay in has been restored and turned into the Olive Schreiner Museum. The local library – which is the second oldest library in South Africa, has kept her memory alive by stocking copies of all her books; they even have 3 of her manuscripts. Approximately 20 km south of the town on the top of Buffelskop, Schreiner's tomb can be found.

27 km west of Cradock, travellers can find the Mountain Zebra National Park. The park was founded in 1937 to protect the extremely rare Mountain Zebra. When the park opened, there were only 6 Mountain Zebras in the entire region. After being open for 13 years, no progress had been made to save the species and the numbers continued to dwindle. In 1950, a local farmer donated his herd of 11 Mountain Zebra to the park and three years later, the first foal was born. Over the years, the number of Cape Mountain Zebras in the park has increased and today the park has a wide variety of plant and animal life. Those who visit the park also visit the Doornhoek House Museum, an original homestead which is more than 100 years old. In the home relics can be found that were made during the Anglo-Boer War by Boer prisoners. The park has a rich cultural history and boasts no less than 30 archaeological sites. Visitors can also see the Rooiplaat plateau where numerous Bushman paintings cover the walls depicting what life must have been like in the past.

Salpeterkop is quite an unusual place to visit but it is home to a very interesting sight. Salpeterkop was once a look-out post built by the British during the Anglo-Boer War and is about 20km north-west of the town. Although those who want to visit the area must endure a 420m climb to the post, it is worth it. British soldiers who were stationed at this post carved a chessboard in a slab of iron flatstone as well as carved their names and ranks in many of the smooth rocks scattered around the site.

Although Cradock may seem like a small town, it has a lot to offer throughout the year. The town comes alive during its festival seasons when many people descend upon the town. The Karoo Food Festival is held in March and is a celebration of the local community and its food, perfect for anyone who loves to try as well as learn something new. July is a hotspot for authors and avid readers alike as the town hosts the Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival which is a celebration of South Africa's literary heritage. Adrenaline seekers flock to the town during October for the Fish River Canoe Marathon which is a two day event that covers 80km.

Share your thoughts about Cradock

Approaching Cradock

Above - Approaching Cradock

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Dorps Huisies in Cradock

Above - Street next to the Victoria Hotel where all the "dorps huisies" have been converted to overnight accommodation

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Victoria Hotel Cradock

Above - Victoria Hotel

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Dutch Reformed Church Cradock

Above - Dutch Reformed Church (1866), Cradock

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Dutch Reformed Church Cradock North

Above - Dutch Reformed Church (1971), Cradock North

Photo © Johan van Zyl

St Peters Anglican Church

Above - St Peters Anglican Church (1869)

Photo © Johan van Zyl

References and further reading

Book of the Road - 4th edition - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2019 - Page: 115

Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 155

Country Life - Issue 182 - Author: - Published: 2011 - Page: 31

Country Life - Issue 192 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 54

Country Life - Issue 212 - Author: - Published: 2014 - Page: 102

Country Life - Issue 225 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 50

Country Life - Issue 244 - Author: - Published: 2016 - Page: 27

Country Life - Issue 252 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 22

Country Life - Issue 253 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 34

Country Life - Issue 263 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 48

Country Life - Issue 271 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 44

Country Life - Issue 271 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 58

Country Life - Issue 273 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 74

Country Life - Issue 278 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 54

Country Life - Issue 280 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 46

Country Life - Issue 282 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 52

Getaway - Vol 27 No 01 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 89

Getaway - Vol 31 No 09 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 72

go! - Issue 085 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 27

go! - Issue 085 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 48

go! - Issue 166 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 146

go! - Issue 190 - Author: - Published: 2023 - Page: 42

Mooiloop! The Book - Author: SABC 2 - Published: 2016 - Page: 158

On Route - A region by region guide to South Africa - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 1995 - Page: 287

On Route - Explore South Africa region by region - 3rd edition - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 2014 - Page: 183

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Published: 1986 - Page: 143

Road Tripping South Africa - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2014 - Page: 17

Southern Africa from the Highway - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1991 - Page: 222

The Pictorial Motoring Atlas of South Africa - Author: Maxwell Leigh - Published: 1987 - Page: 62

Where to Watch Birds in Southern Africa - Author: A. Berruti and J.C. Sinclair - Published: 1983 - Page: 102


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