Uniondale – a small Karoo town – found its way to South African hearts through late night campfire stories of Maria Roux. The story of Roux, Uniondale’s legendary hitchhiking ghost, has been raising hairs for nearly 40 years. But don’t be fooled by the goosebumps. There’s much more to do in Uniondale than waiting for the clock to strike twelve.
Uniondale is home to one of South Africa’s biggest cycling events and it’s in close proximity to parts of the Garden Route and the Baviaanskloof (the third largest protected area in South Africa). The charming old-world Karoo town is surrounded by the crinkles of the Kammanassie Mountains, rocky formations and a palpable placid atmosphere. The streets are quiet, the views are spectacular and the voices are filled with fables. It’s a small town with a big heart and there are plenty of things to do in Uniondale to keep you busy.
Definitely not a Ghost Town: Things to do in Uniondale
#1 – Get up for sunrise or sleep in for sunsets
Nothing beats a Karoo sunrise and it’s no different in Uniondale. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl; the sunrises and sunsets are beautifully unspoiled. Enjoy the sky’s canvas with its splattered shades of pink and strokes of orange and red.
#2 – Explore on Two Wheels
Explore Uniondale and get on the dirt roads with a mountain bike. The Karoo 2 Coast, a 100km off-road race from Uniondale to Knysna, is a mountain biking highlight for many South Africans and it usually takes place in September.
But wait there’s more! Big plans are underway to make the town even more bicycle-friendly and to add to the list of things to do in Uniondale. Keep your ears to the ground for further developments.
#3 – Drive through Uniondale’s Poort
The Uniondale Poort (R339) connects Uniondale with Knysna and is a scenic drive through a geological wonder of golden rock formations and waterfalls.
#4 – Drive up to the Old Boer Fort
Just up the hill from the old church you can find an old Boer Fort; a provincial heritage site constructed during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902). Once you’re at the Fort, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the the whole valley of Uniondale.
Going Somewhere Slowly Tip: You don’t need a 4×4 to get to the top, but do ask around about the road condition before you go.
#5 – Marvel at the Architecture
The streets of Uniondale are lined with historical buildings; seven of which are declared historical monuments. Just walk around and stand in awe of all the architectural structures; from the *nagmaalhuisies to the Anglican Church designed by South Africa’s first female architect, Sophia Gray.
#6 – Caffeine fix at Penny Lane Tea Garden
For light snacks, curios and a chat about the yesterdays and tomorrows of Uniondale over a cup of coffee, drop by at Penny Lane Tea Garden in Voortrekker Street.
#7 – Visit the Watermill and the Watermill Restaurant
The largest Watermill in the Southern Hemisphere is located in Uniondale. The Watermill (built between 1852 and 1854) operated until the 1950s. Nowadays it’s a national monument as well as a gourmet restaurant. The chef at the Watermill Restaurant cooks, bakes and blends everything to perfection – from lamb curry to ice cream.
#8 – Explore Uniondale on a Tuk-Tuk
Unfortunately I could not experience this for myself, but it sounds like an adventure. Dirkie Coetzee, the Tuk-Tuk man, takes you around Uniondale to give you a local view of all the spots and stories. This is definitely something to add to your list of “Things to do in Uniondale”.
Visit the Beauty Centre (Skoonheidsentrum) in Voortrekker Road for more information or contact Dirkie Coetzee at 071 152 1046.
#9 – Ghost of Uniondale: Listen for yourself
If you google the “Ghost of Uniondale” you’ll see that there are a dozen different stories. If you go to Uniondale and ask around you’ll find that there are a dozen more. A lot of two cents got added to the Ghost of Uniondale but the story put Uniondale on the map for travellers; it entertained ghost hunters and it’s part of South African campfire fables.
#10 – Stay in the oldest Guesthouse in Town
There are a handful of guesthouses in this small town, but the Townhouse Guesthouse in Uniondale distinctly stands out because of the history.
Read more about this Guesthouse: The Townhouse Guesthouse or contact 044 752 1331 to make a booking!
Have you ever been to Uniondale?
Comment below and share your tips of things to do in Uniondale!
*nagmaalhuisie – Literally translates to Holy Communion House. Farmers used these houses as an overnight house when they came to town to attend church.
*Some of these photos have been taken by Karen Share – Photographer and Fellow Road Tripper for this trip.