Matjiesfontein – a town full of surprises

The Karoo has an oasis, just take the train to Matjiesfontein

Let’s put it this way, there are places that just deserve a visit. Places that will stay on your mind. Places like Matjiesfontein.

A while ago I took a train (the Shosholoza Meyl) from Cape Town to Matjiesfontein. The luxury blue train also stops at Matjiesfontein, but the Shosholoza Meyl is a cheaper option for only R80 per person. It’s a cool idea for a day- or weekend-trip from Cape Town.

Where the heck is Matjiesfontein, you may ask? Well, it’s in the Klein Karoo, in the Western Cape, 250km from Cape Town. Easy to find, Matjiesfontein lies on the N1 Freeway which connects Cape Town with Johannesburg.

An oasis in the barren surrounding landscape

I arrive at the Matjiesfontein train station and feel transported to another time. It feels old, comfortable, it feels like a movie set. The guys from the Lord Milner Hotel pick us up in their funny red retro uniforms and we head off to the Laird’s Arms Bar. This is not only a beautiful old wooden pub with a fireplace (really necessary, since the Karoo nights are really cold) but also a place that makes you feel like you’re starring in the movie ’Little House on the Prairie’. Awesome. I watched it often in my childhood and it’s awesome to star in it myself now – just wearing the wrong clothes.

The four musicians at the Laird’s Arms Bar are playing the most loveliest songs. An older guy at the bar tells me that he comes here for the weekends to visit his mom and tries to convince a lady (who is also not dressed quite right for the setting) to dance. Matjiesfontein makes me happy. It feels like a happy world that is great to live in right in the middle of nowhere.

I don’t wanna tell you too much though. It is a small town, a village with a car museum (which is totally worth checking out), a coffee shop, a chapel, a hotel and a few people that are dressed in an old-fashioned way. You will fall in love with Matjiesfontein. Promise.

Tip: Go on a 10-minute-tour with the old red London Double Decker Bus – it stops in front of every building and the driver gives you a quick overview of the history.

by Antonia Heil

Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by the legendary James Douglas Logan.  It became well known for its splendid historical buildings. The entire Village was restored in 1970 and declared a National Historic Monument. Here you can step back in time and take a trip on an old London Bus that does a daily tour, sip on your wine aboard an original steam train, be summoned to dinner by the sounds of trumpets playing or visit one of its two museums. The recently established Transport Museum, featuring old vintage cars and trains is a heaven for old timer-lovers. Matjiesfontein is indeed a great countryside getaway where pure relaxation is enjoyed. In addition, Matjiesfontein has excellent facilities to cater for weddings or conferences.

Cape Town and its surrounds offer an endless array of wonderful things to do, from wildlife and ocean excursions to history as well as food and wine delights. For more Cape Town inspiration check our Things to do section.

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