As South Africa’s fourth oldest town, Tulbagh is naturally one of the most historic places in the Western Cape. Aside from its rich history, this charming little town offers plenty of breathtaking natural scenery, excellent accommodation gems (including a plethora of pet-friendly options) and outdoor activities to entertain young and old.
What makes Tulbagh really special though is the small town charm. This includes a wealth of preserved, well-maintained Cape Dutch national monuments found within this scenic town.
Visit the Best Local Attractions in Stunning Tulbagh
After a day trip to Tulbagh, this town now ranks as one of my best Western Cape towns.
So I want to share some of the best sights to enjoy when visiting Tulbagh and its surrounds.
1) See the Sights Along Church Street (including Danie Theron House, Ballotina, The Wagon Shed and more)
Arguably the most famous part of Tulbagh is the endlessly beautiful Church Street. Church Street offers the largest collection of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Edwardian provincial heritage sites anywhere in South Africa. It is therefore an unmissable stop in this cutesy town.
Some of the streets’ famous attractions include a mixture of public buildings and private residences. These include the likes of:
Ballotina (43 Church Street):
Built in 1815, this is one of my favourite stops in the whole of Church Street. This is the only original, neo-classical gable on this half of the street. It has survived both the Victorian influences and the devastating earthquake that struck Tulbagh in 1969.
This house, now a private residence, has a fascinating history, which you can discover through its signage at the front of the garden.
Something you will notice in Church Street is that, even the private residences, have an information sign outside of them. These signs detail the building’s history, build style and more.
As you walk along the street, it’s fascinating to read the signage and discover more about each landmark.
Pijnappel and Yellow Wood Houses
The Pijnappel House was one of my more delightful town discoveries. Many Cape farms and houses, including BOSJES, have a tie to pineapples. In the olden days, pineapples were a key aspect of hospitality.
During the baroque era, they were also often a popular decorative centrepiece in homes. As much as they played an influence on communal gatherings and hosted dining affairs – pineapples also inspired or influenced many different architects and artisans of this time.
In November 2016, Tulbagh’s Pijnappel House and some neighbouring homes suffered extensive fire damage to their thatch rooves. Luckily, though, the Pijnappel House’s iconic pineapple artwork on the gable survived and is easily discernable today.
The next house is the Yellow Wood House. It draws its name from the beautiful yellow wood floors and ceiling work throughout. It forms part of the Cape Dutch Quarters Hotels’ self-catering accommodation options.
These two homes were two of my favourites in Church Street.
Wagon Shed and Honey Oak
The Wagon Shed – and the house directly across the road, named Honey Oak – are both pre-industrial homes, built sometime during the mid-1800s.
The Wagon Shed, true to its name, was formerly used for lodging the family in one side – and the slaves and livestock (when needed) in the kitchen on the other side.
Personally, I liked the look of the Wagon Shed. This property and its garden definitely caught my attention for their uniqueness.
For more information on the Wagon Shed and Honey Oak, please see here.
Honey Oak is another adorable and fascinating building, which seemingly doubles as an accommodation gem.
When the earthquake struck Tulbagh, Danie Theron is the only thatched and gabled home on this half of Church Street to have survived. This landmark home is another eye-catching architectural beauty.
It is named after Danie Theron, a famous Boer War military leader and master scout who grew up here.
For more information on Danie Theron, have a look at the sign outside the home.
Bonus spot (though not in Church Street)
Parsonage (4 Van Der Stel Street):
Directly across from the Ballotina – if you cross the main Twee Jonge Gezellen Road to Van Der Stel Street – is the U-shaped Parsonage. This is another local gem that I fell in love with.
Completed in 1765, this building features a beautiful, original Holbol gable. It survived a fire in 1950, as well as the earthquake some few years later. (Although it has had some major restorations over the years.)
It is a private residence, apparently still used for the NG church minister. However, you can admire it from the street – and, trust me, the building and its grounds are worth seeing.
2) Visit Oude Kerk
As part of four museum buildings in Tulbagh, the Oude Kerk (Old Church) is one of the more iconic and unmissable stops in Tulbagh.
Although I was too late to visit it properly, I nevertheless enjoyed admiring this beauty from the outside. The grounds are tranquil and offer incredible views of the surrounding town centre and mountains.
Built in 1743 and established in 1925, the Oude Kerk Volksmuseum is one of the Western Cape’s oldest museums. The Oude Kerk is one of the “last surviving cruciform churches built by the VOC (Dutch East India Company).”
It has retained its original form and houses a special collection of Cape furniture. This includes the original table “on which the capitulation of the Dutch to the British was signed in 1806”. The church also has a restored, historic cemetery, which looks especially peaceful.
If you would like to visit the Oude Kerk, please contact the museum body directly. Or purchase a pass from the Earthquake Museum and enjoy access to the Oude Kerk, Earthquake Museum, Victorian House and the Christo Coetzee Art Museum and lastly, the Pioneer House.
3) Pay a Visit to the Earthquake Museum
Although it was closed at the time of my late afternoon visit, another worthy Tulbagh attraction is the Tulbagh Earthquake Museum. It provides historical accounts and photographs of the devastating 6.5 earthquake that struck Tulbagh, and the surrounding Boland region, on 29 September 1969.
As terrible as this earthquake was, it brought the Tulbagh community together, uniting them in their time of need.
More importantly, help came from all over South Africa, as the other provinces contributed towards rebuilding and restoring this charming Cape town.
The museum, found at 4 Church Street, has a small entry fee for adults, pensioners and children. It is open Monday to Friday, 09:00 am – 17:00 pm and on weekends and public holidays until early afternoon.
Note: Opening times may vary so call and plan ahead over weekends. For full seasonal operating hours, please see the museum website or contact +27 (023) 230 1041.
4) Visit Pioneer House
Pioneer House, one of the town’s museum gems, depicts the home and lifestyle of a working class family during the 1800-1920s.
If you would like to visit the Pioneer House, please contact the museum body directly. Or purchase a pass from the Earthquake Museum and enjoy access to Pioneer House, Earthquake Museum, Victorian House and the Christo Coetzee Art Museum and lastly, the Oude Kerk.
5) Admire the Eye-catching Victorian House and Christo Coetzee Art Museum
One of my favourite buildings in Tulbagh is the Victorian House, a beautiful terracotta coloured building with eye-catching terracotta and white striped iron roof finishings. This stunning building, which doubles as a museum, is a wonderful example of a rural Victorian home.
Housed within, we also have the Christo Coetzee Art Museum, which pays homage to South African artist, Christo Coetzee. Coetzee moved to Tulbagh in 1972 after marrying painter and writer, Ferrie Binge.
In 2020, some of Coetzee’s artwork became available to the Oude Kerk Volksmuseum. Since then, they have deposited a selection of his works into the Victorian House Museum at 14 Church Street.
If you would like to visit the Victorian House and Christo Coetzee Art Museum, please contact the museum body directly. Or purchase a pass from the Earthquake Museum and enjoy access to the Victorian House and the Christo Coetzee Art Museum, Pioneer House, Earthquake Museum and lastly, the Oude Kerk.
6) Explore the Church Street Kitchen Gardens
One of my best, most enjoyable discoveries in Tulbagh’s Church Street are the beautiful Church Street Kitchen Gardens. The gardens are surrounded by the beautiful Cape Dutch houses and are designed to highlight the historic setting and traditional agriculture of this region.
Open to visitors who respect the garden and do not damage anything, the Church Street Kitchen Gardens are generally open seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset from what I can gather.
Not only does this incredible garden offer a wealth of fruit, vegetables and herbs but it also supplies local restaurants, residents and more. It is a community initiative, so a host of partners, volunteers, workers and the local community make it a success.
The gardens are chaired by Jayson Augustyn-Clark, a passionate local hotelier, board member and heritage activist in Tulbagh.
Jayson has also compiled an amazing audio tour, available through VoiceMap. Much of the information cited in this post was sourced from Jayson’s descriptions.
Visitors can also seemingly purchase fresh garden produce from the garden gates – but you would need to enquire directly for more information on this.
7) Check out the Nederduitse Gereformeerde (NG) Kerk
No small town in the Western Cape is complete without a formiddable NG Kerk taking pride of place – and Tulbagh is no exception. I didn’t explore the church or its grounds but I definitely admired its unique building from a distance.
It is well worth seeing simply from an architectural point of view.
8) Head into the Tulbagh Wine Route and Discover Local Wine Farms (Montpellier, Twee Jonge Gezellen)
The Tulbagh Wine Route is one of the most seriously underrated and unexplored regions in the Western Cape. After a brief drive through the Tulbagh winelands, I am dying to go back and explore these wine farms properly.
Not only are the wine farms here blessed with stunning settings and dreamy mountain vistas – but they also offer everything from hilltop chapels (like Montpellier), innovative night harvesting concepts (Twee Jonge Gezellen) and much more to enjoy.
To name only a few, Tulbagh wine farms include:
- The House of Krone
- Rijks Private Cellar
- Lemberg Wine Estate
- Waverley Hills
- Twee Jonge Gezellen
9) Eat at Paddagang or Readers Grill
I have not eaten at any Tulbagh restaurants but if you are looking for a bite to eat along Church Street, there is Paddagang and Readers Grill to enjoy.
Other Tulbagh eateries include:
- Olive Terrace Bistro
- Kole & Deeg Tulbagh
- Poplers Restaurant
10) Stay at Waterval Country Lodge
A few years ago, my work enjoyed a wonderful teambuilding weekend away at Waterval Country Lodge. This peaceful farm lodge and bush camp venue is situated a short drive outside of Tulbagh.
Everything from the accommodation (which includes lovely Guinea Fowl Lodge and glamping-style tents) to the setting and venue facilities here are beautiful. The venue caters to weddings, team building getaways and conferences so it is very adaptable.
Guests can also enjoy a pleasant walk or hike around the farm, as it is situated within a nature reserve. There is even a short waterfall hike to be enjoyed here.
Honestly, the location is picture-perfect and tranquil. Based off our past experience of it, I can definitely recommend Waterval Country Lodge.
Other accommodation gems in and around Tulbagh include:
- Saronsberg Vineyard Cottages
- Reflections Guest Farm
- Mountain Cabin
- Vindoux Guest Farm
- Guinevere Guest Farm
- Cape Dutch Quarters
- La Bruyere Farm
11) See the Seasonal Canola Fields
Another highlight when visiting Tulbagh are the seasonal canola fields that turn the farmlands and countryside into dense fields of golden yellow blooms.
The canola generally blooms from late August to early October. Although this can sometimes vary slightly from season to season and may be earlier or later some years.
If you are unsure if the canola is out when planning your trip, email a local tourism body or check on Instagram’s location feature to scout the region in advance.
12) Pass through Nuwekloof Pass
I don’t have any photos from Nuwekloof Pass but it’s a really scenic, lovely pass to drive through. In fact, after my two visits to Tulbagh, this pass now ranks as one of my favourite in the Cape. It’s yet another natural attraction near Tulbagh. 🙂
13) Soak up the Panoramic Mountain Vistas that Surround Tulbagh
One of the most special things about Tulbagh and its surrounds is that, no matter where you are, at any given time you enjoy incredible mountain views. I stopped a few times during my drive around the area simply to get out and admire the mountains.
Tulbagh is surrounded by three mountain ranges: to the west, there are the Obiqua Mountains; to the north the Winterhoek Mountains and finally, to the east, the famed Witzenberg Mountain range.
Most of my historical information and facts were sourced from:
Please note: I have reworded most of the information cited in my own words – but some is directly quoted from the above sources.
These are just some of the best local attractions you can enjoy discovering in tranquil Tulbagh! 🙂
About the author
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust - Travel Writing and Photography, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. Despite having a national diploma in Journalism and working as a content writer by day, Tamlyn's preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.