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Things to do in Matjiesfontein
Eat, drink, relax and dive into the past
When you spend a weekend in Matjiesfontein, basically everything you can see and do is a must! Take time to walk around, go mountain biking on the farm, play a match on the old tennis court, have a look at the Pink Church and the small Traveller’s Chapel. Visit the beautiful gardens with fountains and splash in the swimming pool, buy a postcard at the post office which is also a gift shop. There is more to do than you think.
Laird’s Arms Pub
Bartenders ABF (Abraham Minies) and Jon Theunissen will bring you much joy with drinks and live-entertainment. Both play the piano like virtuosos and will make you sing along. The fireplace is a popular spot on cold Karoo days. Chat to locals, share a bottle of wine. On the weekends you will often find Oom Kosie’s band playing. During the day the Laird’s Arms Pub offers a pub lunch. We go for the hot Logan soup with Matjiesfontein farm bread, and there is much more on the menu such as fish and chips, curry et al.
The 10-year-old transport museum showcases vintage trains (arrived in 1982 from SA Railway) and beautiful old timers, including two royal Daimlers used by the Queen during the 1947 Royal Tour. Also, have a look at the very old bicycle. The main building of the transport museum is a popular wedding and conference venue.
Marie Rawdon Museum
This is the largest private museum in South Africa. David once said "I don’t know where all this stuff came from". You will find a wide range of historic pieces: Victorian items, a camera collection, an authentic apothecary, a dentist’s surgery, numerous Boer War relics, traditional barber shop and many other artefacts of significance to the village. The art gallery next door, showcasing local artists, is open on sunny days.
On cold days, this is the place to be. Sit next to the oven and have a yummy breakfast or choose from the lunch menu: toasted sandwiches, open sandwiches, lamb pie, salads, scones, koeksister, milk tart.. My favourite is the delicious homemade apple tart with cream. Watch the ladies with their bonnets and ask them how long they have worked here.
London Double Decker Bus
Six days a week at 6pm, except Sundays, entertainer Jon Theunissen offers a tour with the London Double Decker Bus through Matjiesfontein (since 1980). It’s the best way to get a brief insight in history and a tour around Matjiesfontein. Within ten minutes, Jon will tell you tales about the ghost town. "We will take you on the shortest tour of your life. It’s show time! 300 people live in Matjiesfontein, that’s enough people. On your left side you see the first school and the last school. Oh baby, it’s show time. Matjiesfontein was once a British camp. And we’re still going. And we turn to the right because we can’t go left." Jon also tells us that the Logan House was the first house with a telephone, a flush toilet and electrical lighting. We pass Olive Schreiner’s house, the old courthouse, the prison and also learn that the first friendly cricket match between South Africa and England was played here. Jon makes a trip to Matjiesfontein, I hope you meet him.
There are plans for a spa and a space observatory, a space geodesy to be exact (Matjiesfontein is known for clear skies). Game park Aquila is only 45 minutes away. You will have a blast in Matjiesfontein, have fun.
By Antonia Heil | photographs by Desmond Louw