King Williams Town, Amatola

Considered one of the most interesting towns to visit in the region, along with Grahamstown, King Williams Town began its life on the banks of the Buffalo River as a mission station in 1834. About 50km west of East London, King William's Town is renowned for its beautiful stone buildings, many of which date back to the Frontier wars.

King Williams Town has a number of interesting museums - one of which houses the body of Huberta the hippo who walked some 1500 kilometres across KwaZulu Natal to the Eastern Cape in the early 1900’s and the Amathole Museum has the biggest collection of mammals in Africa.

King Williams town is also associated with political unrest during the apartheid era. Inextricably linked with Bisho - the two are regarded as one - because of its part in recent freedom liberation, King William’s Town is closely tied to Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness movement, whose grave is just outside Ginsberg and is now a Garden of Remembrance.

Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki hail from the area (it is just a short trip along the N2 to Umtata) and many tourists now follow the Nelson Mandela Route, which starts in King William’s Town, to Umtata and the Nelson Mandela Museum.

Today King William’s Town is the administrative capital of the Eastern Cape. Despite this, the town is worth visiting for its natural beauty. The botanical gardens are renowned and Jacarandas that line the streets come into flower in spring. Nearby are the Rooikrans and Maden Dams, which serve as great places to fish and pursue water sports and, should you be attempting the 100 km Amatola Hiking Trail, the town is only 22 km from its start and serves as an ideal base.

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King Williams Town is all about jacarandas and history. The road in and out of the town has pretty scenery and the museums are good to see.

May 2011

Zinhle (Mpumalanga)

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