Close to the ground.

GPS: S 25 47.074 E 031 02.888 pop. 30,000 | elevation 819 m/2,686 ft

Barberton is a historical quiet old town 45 km from Nelspruit. It is known for its surrounding 3.5-billion-year-old rock formations that are said to contain the fi rst micro fossil evidence of life on earth. The town began as a gold mining settlement, with some of the original mines still operating today. In 1883 Graham Barber and his two cousins discovered a rich gold reef. The following year the town was christened Barberton by the gold commissioner with the smashing of a bottle of gin on the Barber reef. The town quickly grew to include hotels, music halls, billiard saloons and prostitutes as miners rushed to join in the prosperity. With the further discovery of gold, more money poured intothe town and some of South Africa’s earliest stock exchanges began operating in Barberton.

Agnes Gold Mine

Agnes Gold Mine will outfit you with gumboots, a hard hat and lamp so you can try your hand at gold panning (in the same area where gold was first discovered in Barberton) and take a tour of both active and inactive underground mines.

Barberton Museum

Barberton Museum is an easy stop to learn about the rich history of Barberton. It has rooms of displays on the regional geology, gold discovery and the prisoner-of-war camp that housed Boer women and children during the Anglo-Boer War. You can also pick up a free map and brochure for the Barberton Heritage Walk around the town.

Barberton Heritage Walk

The Barberton Heritage Walk is a well-posted self-guided tour around the downtown area, covering monuments and historical houses including the 1904 prefabricated iron Belhaven House (Lee St, tours on the hour 10am-3pm Mon-Fri, R10). With the purchase of the Belhaven House ticket you can also go into the 1886 Stopforth House (Bowness St, tours on the hour 10am-3pm Mon- Fri, R10), and the wood and iron Fernlea House (Lee St, open 8:30am-1pm and 1:30-4pm Mon-Fri). Running through the west side of town is an abandoned aerial cable way that was built in 1938 and carried cocopans of asbestos from Swaziland to Barberton and coal in the other direction.

At the Umjindi Gallery and Espresso Bar

At the Umjindi Gallery and Espresso Bar you can watch students work the jewelry craft and view and purchase the final products in the jewelry gallery. There is also an outdoor café that serves tea, coffee and light snacks.

There are two main shopping centers in town as well as a Shoprite (Crown St). The newest and largest is Jock of the Bushveld Center with a large Pick 'n Pay and the Eurika Center (President St).

Barberton is lacking in budget accommodation options. While there aren't any backpackers in town there are a number of guest houses and less expensive hotels.

Kloofhuis Guest House

Kloofhuis Guest House is a historical Victorian house situated in a "kloof" or cliff on the slopes of the Mkhonjwe Mountains. Originally built in 1890 as an office for a local mine company, it was later used as a mess by the British troops during the South African War. In 1996 it was converted into a guest house by present owner Steve Prinsloo.

Fountain Bath Guest House

Fountain Bath Guest House is run by an English couple with good knowledge of Barberton history. Rooms in this B&B as well as the self-catering cabins all have their own entrances into the garden that has placed in local gardening competitions. The premises is the site of the oldest public swimming pool in Transval and boasts the legacy of a few old gold claims.

Chill Inn

Chill Inn is an eight-room self-catering facility that opens up onto a small courtyard and deck with a braai area. The kitchen has a large wood table that would make this a good place for a group, but otherwise the inn lacks character. All rooms have satellite TV and updated bathrooms.

Phoenix Hotel

Phoenix Hotel is the older of the two hotels in town and the rooms are rather dated. On the bright side the hotel has a large restaurant, two bars (The Don and Jocks Tavern & Beer Garden) and a gaming room full of slot machines.

Cockney Liz

Cockney Liz is the more updated of the two hotels in town and is named after the notorious Barberton barmaid/prostitute who would sell her services to the highest bidder during the days of the gold rush. The hotel owns the Old Rock Café and Sportsbar & Grill next door where you can order up a steak and a few beers.

Barberton Manor

Barberton Manor is an old mansion built in 1927 and later converted into a guesthouse. Today it is run by a Dutch couple and is the highest-priced place to stay in the Barberton area. It is exclusive with only three rooms each with king size beds, although depending on your taste you may find the atmosphere a bit stuffy.


Oppitafel is a coffee shop, cocktail bar and Barberton's best restaurant. It is a quaint place - with indoor and outdoor seating - serving steaks, seafood, chicken and pasta as well as traditional South African dishes. When speaking to the owner about the town after our meal he made a number of racist comments.

Co-Co Pan

Co-Co Pan is an old restaurant with basic meals and friendly service. You walk through a convenience store to get to the restaurant and from the restaurant you can walk downstairs to the John Henry Pub for a drink after dinner.

Victorian Tea Garden

Victorian Tea Garden is an English teahouse - conveniently located downtown in Market Square - that serves tea, drinks, light meals and snacks.

Dis So

Dis So has four pool tables and the "biggest rugby screen in the country" on an upper level that used to be a cinema. This is the spot to go in town, especially on a week night when it seems to have more patrons than any other place in town.

John Henry Pub

John Henry Pub is downstairs from Co-Co Pan and attracts a comfortable crowd of locals, but tends to be a bit more popular on the weekends. There is a pool table, outdoor seating and a big screen TV. Food can be ordered from Co-Co Pan upstairs.

Jocks Tavern & Beer Garden

Jocks Tavern & Beer Garden wins the award for the most popular place to drink during the day in Barberton. It's a good spot to stop in for an afternoon beer and catch up on the local scene.