Put an adventurous spin to your get-aways this year by visiting the Makana region and discover its heart through heritage sites, historical buildings, safaris, indigenous bush, kloofs and grasslands.
Start your adventure with Makana with these 50 things to do:
Check out the Astronomical Toposcope on Gunfire Hill in front of the 1820 Settlers’ National Monument. It shows the cardinal points and positions for the rising of certain constellations.
While at the Monument, view the City right through to Makana’s Kop that is situated in the township. For more information, contact the 1820 Settlers Monument on 046 603 1134.
Experience the topmost turret of the Observatory Museum. Here, you will find the only genuine Victorian camera obscura in Southern Africa and is such a great way of viewing the City. While you are at the Museum, don’t miss out on some of the other historic treasures such as the Meridian room, Diamond Gallery, open clock-works, fine Victorian furnishings and a relaxing garden. For information on visiting times, contact the Observatory Museum on 046 622 2312.
Explore the Spooky City of Makhanda by night with a haunt and history walk for you and your friends and family. You can explore the 200 year-old city of Makhanda by visiting historical locations believed to be haunted. These locations are from historic buildings to prisons and cemeteries. Book your haunt and history walk with Brian Jackson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take along some hiking buddies and walk up to Ntaba eZono (Makana's Kop) to get a fantastic view of Makhanda. It is a steep and rocky slope of which many locals also refer to as Mount of Sin.
Make arrangements to visit the St Philip's Church in Fingo Village to see the sculpture of the Black Madonna.
In Fingo Village, you will also find the Lobengula grave site of the Zimbabwean Lobengula family. For more information contact King Lobengula Lodges and Tours.
Nearby is the Egazini Memorial. This is the site where the Battle of Grahamstown took place in 1819. On 22 April 2019, traditional leaders from all over the Eastern Cape gathered at the Egazini Memorial Heritage Site to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle between the amaNdlambe and the British forces. Learn more here.
Afterwards, make your way to east of Newtown to see the graves of the World War 2 soldiers.
Another interesting historical site to visit is Bully Kohl's grave site - located just south of Phola Park informal settlement, towards the Xolani township. Many locals claim the school children's revolution actually started in Makhanda, and Bully was a casualty of the state of emergency here.
When you make your way back to the town centre, do visit the Old Gaol which was opened in 1823 and used until the 1970s. Public hangings were conducted inside this building until 1862. Thereafter, a black flag would indicate that the death sentence had been carried out within the prison walls.
Just across from the Old Gaol is the Albany Museum which was founded in 1855. Together with its Research Department, the Museum has six buildings under its umbrella namely, the Natural Sciences Museum, History Museum, Observatory Museum, Fort Selwyn, Drostdy Arch and Old Provost, a military prison that was built in 1838. Contact the Museum for more information on 046 622 2312 or email@example.com.
Nearby the Old Provost, check out the small number of gravestones of military men who died in the Frontier Wars.
Did you know that the Drostdy Arch, which is now the entrance to Rhodes University, was built as an entrance to military grounds? It was designed by Major Selwyn and built by the Royal Engineers in 1842.
Take a walk down High Street and you will see plenty of historic buildings. Take a moment to read the plaques that reveal the story of the buildings. They were built with materials such as stone and stained glass that come from around the world. A fine example is the Town Hall –a specimen of Gothic Revival architecture, completed in 1882. It has five different types of stones that can be connected to five different countries.
Another example is the historic church in Riebeek East which holds special significance in the History of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (Dutch Reform Church) in South Africa. The church bell was cast in 1861 in Dublin Ireland; the clock was manufactured by Henry Carter Galpin of Grahams Town in 1873; and the locks on all the doors in the church were manufactured by J Carpenter at his factory called Summerford Works in New Road, Willenhall, England - Source: Kruger, L. R. (1981-09) Thesis (MTh) -- Stellenbosch University, 1981.
Also take a walk through the flora and fauna up to Fort Selwyn located on Gunfire Hill near 1820 Settlers’ National Monument. It was built in 1835-36 to protect approaches to town and guard its water supply.
Makhanda also has the oldest letterbox in the country. Write a letter to someone special and post it in this historic post box on the corner of Worcester and Somerset Streets.
For more information about the political, military and social history of these historic sites contact Professor Pat Irwin on firstname.lastname@example.org
Witness the grand architecture of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George. The Cathedral is home of the Anglican Diocese of Makhanda and is situated at the intersection of High Street and Hill Street. The interior of the Cathedral will tell a story of many generations that had a hand in building this iconic structure – taking a period of 160 years to complete. Each builder from the same family used their own architectural style and each of those styles are visible to the eye.
Visit the Cathedral to hear about its story: "The surveyor who laid out the original plan for Graham’s Town in 1814, identified the site as being ‘a very convenient site for a church’, but it was not until the arrival of the 1820 Settlers that the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, sought support from the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Bathurst, for ‘a British Population of upwards of 3 000 persons (including the Military) totally destitute of any place of worship whatsoever.’ The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) and the colonial treasury found the £4,404 15s required to pay for the construction”.
Take beautiful photographs of the Cathedral and be inspired by its grand size, stained glass windows (that are priceless, though valued at R20 million), and the impressive bells and clock.
Find special mice in the Cathedral and read their story. An artist signed his plaques by carving mice in the wood. Find these plaques to get some insight into this grand building.
Listen up and be inspired by church organs:
According to the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, the Church possesses the only pipe organ suitable for concert performances in Makhanda and has also been used by Rhodes University for training its organ scholars. It was built by Bevington of London in 1860.
Nearby, the organ at the Commemoration Methodist Church was installed in 1875 and is the third-largest pipe organ in South Africa. This building also has impressive Gothic Revival style architecture worth seeing.
The Wesley Methodist Church, at the corner of Market and York Streets has the first and only organ in South Africa to be proclaimed as a National Monument. This pipe organ is in regular use and was ordered during the mid-1830s by Lt Colonel Henry Somerset for his home in Grahamstown (Makhanda).
Make it a special event and book a Heritage or Church Tour with Graeme Holmes on 083 271 0279 or Holmesey27@gmail.com
Do some walking, trail running and cycling at Manley Flats.
Round up your friends and try out the Oldenburgia Day Trail: The Oldenburgia hiking club has marked a one-day trail on the city’s southern commonage. The 17km circular and clockwise route begins and ends at the top of Mountain Drive, not far from the toposcope. The start is just a few kilometres from the town centre and can be reached by car from the caravan park off Grey Street. For more information, you can visit the club's Facebook Page : www.facebook.com/oldenburgiahikingclub
Here are more trails that you can also try out:
Two River Trail: https://tworivertrail.co.za/
Assegaai Trails: http://www.assegaaitrails.co.za/hiking/
Cannon Rocks Nature Trail: https://cannonrocksvillage.co.za/nature-trail#start
Alexandria Trail: https://www.sanparks.org/tourism/activities/hikes_walks_trails.php
Waters Meeting Nature Reserve (Bathurst): Ranger/Manager: 079 496 7979 or 076 423 3492.
Albany Trails (Near Port Alfred): https://www.facebook.com/albanytrails/
Looking for more outdoor fun? Check out the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency’s (ECPTA) Nature Reserves guide. It’s packed with ideas for family and eco-adventure holidays. You can experience the great outdoors from visiting the Great Fish River to Wild Coast nature reserves. The guide has comprehensive information on well positioned campsites, hiker’s huts, forest huts or farm-style lodges that offer the very best in affordable and comfortable nature escapes. For more information, visit the ECPTA website: visiteasterncape.co.za
Here are more outdoors things to do:
Take lunch and picnic at our Makana Botanical Gardens (Bots) off Lucas Avenue, Grahamstown. The Botanical Gardens are open everyday from 08h00 to 17h00. You can also take out your dog for a walk in the gardens provided that you clean up after them. Botanical Gardens is on Rhodes University's grounds and therefore receives its regular security patrols. However, one can never guarantee hundred percent safety. It is always advisable to be cautious and not wander alone. Here is a contact number to reach the Rhodes Campus Security or Grounds staff for further queries: 046 603 8111.
Organise the perfect picnic date for you and your loved one at the Grey Dam near Makana Resort or Jameson Dam off the Highlands Road. It is an outdoor haven for lots of selfie opportunities.
Later, ring up the pals for a safe braai session at The Settlers’ Dam recreation site. For many years, this has been a favourite spot for picnics and braais. Don't forget to take Covid-19 precautions i.e. limited number of people at the gathering, social distancing and wearing of masks.
Get a hole in one for breakfast, lunch and golf: Only 7kms out of town, check out the Belmont Golf Club for a family outing or round of golf with the pals. The Club is located on the Belmont Valley Road. Take a drive and discover the most awesome views and hospitality. The Belmont Golf Club caters for everyone. For more information and upcoming golf day events, contact: 082 807 3234 or visit www.facebook.com/belmontgolf and www.facebook.com/belmontgolf
Visit a Nature Reserve: The Thomas Baines Nature Reserve is just 15kms from Makhanda on the Kenton-on-Sea Road (R343). There’s so much to do here – game drives, canoeing, hiking, camping, picnics and bird watching. Look out for Cape buffalo, eland, red hartebeest, bushbuck, kudu, oribi, aardvark, warthog, vervet monkeys, genets and many other small animals.
Take a self game drive by taking the Southwell-marked left turn about 20kms after Salem on the R343 travelling towards Kenton. The turn off is shortly after Kariega Reserve’s main gate. Please ensure you stay on the roads as this is private land.
Treat yourself and the family with an upmarket safari experience with Shamwari, Pumba, Kariega, Llibela, Kwandwe and Bucklands Private Game Reserves.
Pumba Game Reserve offers value for money day safaris. Check out: pumbagamereserve.co.za
And for more information on the Private Game reserves that you can visit, check out: www.grahamstown.co.za
Other fun things to do in Makana:
Shop for local arts and crafts at a mere touch of a browser: The National Arts Festival has given you an opportunity to browse the National Art Festival’s Village Green online – a directory to talented crafters and their beautiful wares. Check out: www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/virtual-green-home/
Another online treat is the local virtual market, TRADE at Home. No need to brave the shops to do your shopping for locally made goods. You can safely purchase edibles, home-made crafts, photography, art and so much more from the comfort of your home using the Facebook Group, Trade at Home. If you aren't already part of this Facebook group, pop over to TRADE at Home by searching for the virtual market’s group name: TRADEatHome on Facebook and join up.
You are required to agree to a few rules and then you are all set to join us on the online platform and share it with your friends so that you can enjoy the market together! At the virtual market, you will be able to browse a wide selection of beautiful things from individual traders in Makhanda and surrounding areas. You will be able to shop with each trader directly and all sales and delivery or collection arrangements are between you and the trader.
Visit ILAM: If you are an African music and literature enthusiast. You will be able to view their display of traditional musical instruments. For more information, visit: www.ru.ac.za/ilam or contact 046 603 8557
Visit Amazwi South African Museum of Literature. Previously the National English Literary Museum, Amazwi is a museum that houses archival material relating to South Africa's literary heritage. It is located on 25a Worcester Street. For more information, visit: www.nelm.org.za or 046 622 7042
Go bird watching: Makhanda is a bird-watcher’s paradise! The Botanical Gardens alone has over 30 species of birds.
Visit the world’s biggest pineapple: Take a drive to Bathurst and visit Summerhill Inn and the Big Pineapple. Buy pineapple products and stay for Sunday Lunch. This festive season, the Big Pineapple will be hosting a market every Saturday. See you there! For more information, contact: 046 625 0515.
Information in this article may change without notice.
Should you wish to visit any of the Museums in Makhanda, please make contact with them first to confirm visiting times as they will differ during this lockdown period.
Please note that there is always a risk attached to outdoor activities. The use of any of the trails mentioned in this article or Makana Tourism website is done at your own risk. Please exercise caution and familiarise yourself with the necessary skills for safe walking, running or cycling on the trails especially during unpredictable weather conditions and when coming into contact with wildlife such as baboons or snakes.