The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa


Afrikaans name: Uniondale

Uniondale countryside

Beautiful scenery near Uniondale

Photo © Johan van Zyl

Western Cape

Located near the coast of the Western Cape, Uniondale is a quaint town that 4,100 people call home. While Uniondale may appear to be in the middle of nowhere, it is actually in the prime position for travellers who are looking for a central spot to stay in between the Great Karoo and Baviaanskloof.

Uniondale was officially established in 1865. Initially there were two towns, Lyon and Hopedale but after the Dutch Reform Church was built, the towns came together to form Uniondale. Uniondale was mainly known for ostrich farming and wagon building and its ostrich farming roots are still evident today.

During September, Uniondale teems with activity in preparation for the Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Race. This bike race spans over 100 km of unforgiving terrain as cyclists travel from Uniondale, through the Karoo and Diepwalle Forest to Knysna.

For all the golfers out there, you may be looking forward to teeing off at the Uniondale Golf Club but you may be in for a bit of a shock. To save water in this arid climate, you may notice a lack of lush green grass. You may also notice the odd Springbok or herd of sheep that can be found on the course.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then you will be in for a treat at the Williamsburg Mountain Reserve. The reserve is 40 km outside of Uniondale and is a great place for a mountain biking. This reserve is very popular amongst bird watchers as there are over 150 different bird species, including several rare species. The dams are filled with wild trout and it is popular for fly-fishing.

There are many great places to see whilst visiting Uniondale and one place to visit is the old water mill. The mill was built in 1854 and used in the town until about 1949. The task of renovating the mill was lead by Dalene Matthee, who is a renowned writer, in 1977 but it soon fell into disrepair. Only recently has it been re-renovated and converted into a restaurant and gallery. The water wheel is actually the biggest in South Africa.

The first school in Uniondale was built in 1843 and now has become home to the Little Theatre Café. This theatre and café is home to a special project that assists orphans and children who are in difficult situations. The project provides the kids with a place for them to meet and do their homework as well as allow them to take singing and music classes. The Little Theatre Café and the children involved in the program often put on performances which are fundraisers to keep the program going.

There are a couple of legends that you may come across when visiting Uniondale. One that you will definitely hear about involves Marie Charlotte Roux. Roux died tragically in a car accident on her way into the town but motorists have claimed to have seen her and offered her a lift into town, only to have her disappear midway through the journey.

Another name you may come across is Gideon Scheepers, a Boer soldier who rode into Uniondale and arrested the magistrate. Scheepers locked the magistrate in his own jail, released all Boer prisoners and threw away the key. Although this is not entirely true, the story lives on. There is a well-preserved Boer War Fort a short distance from the town that may have inspired this legend. It is one of the original forts that surrounded the town during the Anglo-Boer War.

What is there to do in the Uniondale area?

Uniondale area

Above - Uniondale area

Photo © Johan van Zyl

References and further reading

Things ewe never knewe about South African place names - Author: Ann Gadd - Published: 2015 - Page: 211

The Pictorial Motoring Atlas of South Africa - Author: Maxwell Leigh - Published: 1987 - Page: 47

Southern Africa from the Highway - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1991 - Page: 184

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Published: 1986 - Page: 121

On Route - Explore South Africa region by region - 3rd edition - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 2014 - Page: 98

On Route - A region by region guide to South Africa - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 1995 - Page: 90

Mooiloop! The Book - Author: SABC 2 - Published: 2016 - Page: 106

go! - Issue 142 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 108

Country Life - Issue 258 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 28

Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 123

Caravan & Outdoor Life - Issue 692 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 32

Book of the Road - 4th edition - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2019 - Page: 150

For more info: Uniondale


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