Tourists and locals often have a single day available to explore the area, but don’t want to spend hours on the road. The solution is Cullinan, the best day trip in Gauteng.
So what do the British Crown Jewels, the Guinness Book of Records and Cullinan have in common? The largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found at 3 106 carats!
It was discovered in Cullinan in 1905 and cut into 105 diamonds. The two largest gems, the Great Star of Africa and Lesser Star of Africa, are now part of the British Crown Jewels.
The Best Gauteng Daytrip
Cullinan is not just another small town. It is a well preserved, old-world mining village where city slickers can slow down and take a deep breath. And have a decent conversation over a cup of coffee or a cold beer.
Only about 35km from Pretoria, this little tourist hub offers plenty to see and do, so let’s start with that, shall we?
Cullinan Diamond Mine
This open cast mine is amongst the biggest in the world. In fact, it is almost four times larger than the famous Big Hole in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape Province!
It is a fantastic opportunity to visit a working diamond mine. There are surface tours as well as underground tours available to cater for all levels of curiosity.
Premier Diamond Tours offers 1,5 – 2 hours surface tours seven days a week at set times, while groups of 10 or more can be accommodated at any time.
Cullinan Tours offers 1,5 – 2 hours surface tours seven days a week at set times. Their 4 hours underground tours are available Mondays to Saturdays, also at set times. They specify that children under 10 may not enter the mine property and children under 16 are not allowed underground.
Please check their respective websites for time tables and ask about booking in advance.
Cullinan Adventure Zone has access to the 150ha farm next to the Elands River and offers a variety of activities for young and old. From zip-lining to horse riding, quad biking to archery and abseiling, you will surely find an activity to suit your style. Visit their website for more detail including pricing and booking information.
Windy Brow Nature Reserve was until recently part of the Cullinan Mine property. It offers hiking trails of various distances and cover different habitat zones. Booking is essential.
McHardy House Museum
This is the very first house that was built in Cullinan in 1903, for the first general manager of the diamond mine, General William McHardy. The property is now owned by the mining company and well preserved by the Cullinan Heritage Society. Open all week except Tuesdays, from 10h00 to 15h00.
St George’s Anglican Church
If you enjoy the designs of British architect, Sir Herbert Baker, you will certainly find this simple square structure pleasing. The information sign at the church reveals that the bell tower was struck by lightning in 1937 which caused extensive damage.
The Zonderwater Museum and the Italian Military Cemetery are situated on the grounds of the Zonderwater Prison. Set up by the Allies during WWII in 1941, Zonderwater became the biggest Italian POW camp during the war.
The museum itself is a single room but it contains the most unbelievable items, mostly handmade by the prisoners of war. The cemetery is well kept and steeped in history. To arrange a visit contact museum curator Emilio Coccia on +27 (0)12 667 3279 or email [email protected]
Do some shopping
Cullinan hosts a number of interesting shops, too many to name individually. Best is to take a leisurely stroll and let your eyes feast on the large variety of artsy products, rustic and rusted items, antiques, investment art, diamonds, jewellery and collectables.
Get something to eat
Whether you fancy something unique served outdoors, fine dine à la carte or simply a hearty breakfast after an early morning bike ride, the options in Cullinan will not disappoint.
A special mention is deserved by Oppistasie Restaurant, located opposite the Cullinan Railway Station in Hotel Street. You will love the old station building which dates back to 1902 and the bar on the railroad tracks.
For special occasions
Why not turn your birthday party or corporate event into a daytrip? You can consider JanHarmsgat for a real treat. Not only selling all sorts of interesting items, but offering the most delightful picnic, or “Le Pique-nique” as they call it. JanHarmsgat is situated at 88 Oak Avenue, or visit their website to order your picnic and get more information.
How to get there from Johannesburg/Pretoria
Via the N1: Follow the N1 north towards Polokwane, then use the R513 (Sefako Makgatho Drive) off-ramp to go east. About 30km later you will reach Cullinan.
Via the N4: Follow the N4 east towards Emalahleni, then use the R515 (Exit 27 Rayton/Cullinan) off-ramp to go north. Travel through Rayton and past Zonderwater Prison to reach Cullinan.
“The nice part about visiting a village is that when you don’t know what you are doing, someone else does”
I would love to hear about your experiences in Cullinan. And if you find the post useful, please share it with a friend.
PS: For a day trip in a completely different part of the world, you can read about Casco Viejo in Panama.