Waking up to Wakkerstroom

Although unassuming at first glance, Wakkerstroom offers much more than bird sightings and the occasional snowfall in winter. A finalist in Kwela’s Dorp of the Year, we find out what’s happening in this country hamlet on the Mpumalanga/KZN border.

In the 90s, word about Wakkerstroom’s prolific bird life got out, and the town experienced a tourism boom. Surrounded by high-altitude grassland to one side, and a protected wetland reserve on the other, the area houses a variety of unique biomes – and attracts scores of binocular-wielding, strange hat- wearing enthusiasts.


Not your scene? Never fear, as there’s more. As is often the case with historic towns in picturesque settings, it has also been attracting a steady flow of artists, artisans and foodies, keen to escape the rat race and tackle life at a gentler pace. It has given rise to a community proud of its dorpie and its offerings. Need to know why you should go? Here’s our top reasons…





From the Paul Kruger Bridge on the outskirts of town, built in 1893, to the historical St Marks Church and Oppikopi Museum, buffs will marvel at the amount of fabulous buildings and sites to visit. The area experienced its first white settlements in 1853, with the town being established in 1859. Don’t miss the cemetery, which houses the graves of the first settlers, as well as those of British soldiers killed during the First and Second Boer Wars. Ossewakop commemorates the centenary of the Great Trek.





Try The Bistro at Metamorphis (072-252-5781) for Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Portuguese-inspired fare, combined with local art. The Garret Emporium (076 927-6643) offers pastas and light meals, and The Mucky Duck (074 833-8691) and The Wakkerstroom Hotel (073 077-3864) are perfect for families with children. The Owl and Hare (082 453-3690) stock locally brewed Kraft beer and serve hearty breakfasts and pub grub.


Sit on the deck at The Oude Stasie (082 418-8906) with a glass in hand and enjoy the unsurpassed views out over the Vlei. De Kotzenhof (083 452-3363) serves coffee and delicious homemade cakes as well as prebooked dinners. Another great option is Staffordshire Knot Restaurant and Pub, with good wholesome food in a country setting and a mountain biking trail on the grounds (082 495-2361).





From pottery to painting and everything else in-between, the arts are alive in Wakkerstroom. On display everyone, the village also hosts an annual Art Fair, on from 15 to 17 June. Some of the local artists will open their studios to the public, and will present hands-on courses, demos and talks. Up and coming artist Jan Tshikuthula is this year’s guest artist, and will open the event at a street party on the Friday evening. For more, see





We said we wouldn’t mention it, but play along. Pack your binos and a flask of tea and settle into one of the four bird hides near Paul Kruger Bridge within walking distance of most cottages and guesthouses. Otherwise, call Lucky Ngwenya (on 083 227 0128) for a birding tour, or visit the BirdLife South Africa Wakkerstroom Tourism and Education Centre just out of town.




Buy irises directly from the source at Runnymede Iris Farm (017-730-0482), founded by Brenda Carter almost two decades ago and continued by her daughter Sue Danridge. In winter, you could catch up to 200 different varieties in bloom, but the garden is worth a stop any time of the year.



Walks and trails


Horse riding is a popular pastime in the area and outrides can be booked at the information centre (083-277-8738) in town. Details regarding trails and walks can also be obtained from the centre or online.



First stop!


Stop by the Information Centre on Badenhorst Street before you do anything. They’ll have all the phone numbers, maps and information you need to explore Wakkerstroom. If you’re a keen birder or want to find out more about the town, the Wakkerstroom Bird & Nature Guide by Warwick and Michèle Tarboton (R90 at the Information Centre) is a great source.


Vote for Wakkerstroom!


Get ready to show your support from May 27 at 6pm to June 1 at 12am, when the final voting round for Kwela’s Dorp of the Year takes place. SMS ONLY the town’s name (Wakkerstroom) to 33157. Only 30 sms’s per number, and each sms will cost R1,50. Free sms’s do not apply – and you won’t receive a confirmation after sending.



Contact the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association on 083-277-8738 or find reams of information at

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