Barberton is a beautiful and charming small town nestled in the stunning De Kaap Valley and surrounded by the magnificent Makhonjwa Mountains in Mpumalanga.

The average tourist may not have heard of the Makhonjwa Mountains, but scientists have been studying them for decades. Barberton lies in in a valley that has some of the oldest sedimentary rock formations and has become something of a geological mecca with international geologists and biologists visiting the area regularly. The town also has a colourful gold rush history, beautiful natural scenery and plenty of exciting outdoor activities.

An interesting tourist destination, Barberton offers museums, statues and old buildings as well as access to half a dozen nature and game reserves all within a 12 km radius and within an hour you can find your way to the Kruger National Park. Barberton is also an enticing area for adrenalin junkies and adventure sports seekers. The town and its surroundings offer paragliding or microlight flying, 4 x 4 trails, quad biking and horse riding as well plenty of hiking and mountain bike trails.

There are a number of choices for accommodation when visiting the area, from B & B’s, Guesthouses, self-catering, game lodges to backpackers’ accommodation, camping and caravan sites

Places to Visit

Things to do and see

Climate

Rainfall occurs mainly in the mid-summer months, with December and January seeing the highest levels.

Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 17˚C and 29˚C.

Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 6˚C and 21˚C.

Transport

There are daily flights from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town into the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mombela (Nelspruit). Car rental companies are available for easy access to the surrounding areas with Barberton only half an hour away along the R40. Road trips from Johannesburg to Barberton on the N12 and N4 will take just under 4 hours.

Festivals

August – Pecan Festival: Pick your own pecans! Live music, beer garden, food stalls and plenty of kids activities. Held at the Cradle of Life in Badplaas

History

The first payable Gold found in the valley was the Pioneer Reef, discovered by French Bob (Augustre Robert) on 3 June 1883. This discovery was the lure for the largest onslaught of fortune seekers to reach South Africa up to date. Among those to come to the valley were Graham Barber, from Natal, and his cousins Fred and Harry Barber.

Barberton was founded in 1884 and was so named after the Barber family who found what they called “Barber’s Reef" – a reef so rich that it glittered with gold. In June of 1884, the Mining Commissioner of De Kaap Valley, David Wilson, christened the town with a bottle of gin over a lump of rocks and thus the lively career of the town commenced.During 1886 Barberton was at the height of its boom. Two stock exchanges traded night and day. Dozens of canteens, liquor shops and music halls competed with the mines to make the greatest profits in town.

Flashy beauties such as Florrie, the Golden Dane and Cockney Liz reigned over a frenetic night life. Cockney Liz was a particular favourite and would parade on a billiard table before her clientele and impishly snap her garters.

It was all a bubble that had to burst. So much money had poured into Barberton that it was hopelessly overcapitalized with too many investors chasing limited profits. The gold of the Witwatersrand was also discovered at this time and there was a large exodus from Barberton. Stock exchanges, newspapers, bars and gambling halls closed down. Some mining activity saw Barberton through this crisis, but it had to undergo transformation. From being one of the infamous glamour towns of the mining world it turned sober and honest.

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