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A beautiful heritage town that blossomed out of an earthquake disaster, Tulbagh is situated in a valley labelled ‘Het land van Waveren’ (the country of Waveren) by a Dutch governor who travelled here in 1699. Waveren was a prominent family from Amsterdam at the time. The governor granted land to Dutch families and a village developed over time.
Tulbagh is named after a later governor of the Cape, Ryk Tulbagh, an intellectual and popular leader with the people. The town is deep in a valley ringed by 5 separate mountains ranges, the perfect environment for the growing of wheat, deciduous fruit and grapevines.
In 1969 Tulbagh experienced a massive earthquake of roughly 4.5 in magnitude (6.3 on the Richter scale), and much of the town was destroyed. It took a few forward-thinkers to realise that a restoration project rather than a rebuild should follow and an entire road of beautiful Cape Dutch-style homes were returned to their original splendour. This road, called Church Street, is today the town’s main attraction and worthwhile visiting.
Top 6 reasons to visit Tulbagh
1. Visit the museum in Church Street to get an insight into the 1969 earthquake disaster and appreciate the restoration work that ensued. An entrance ticket gets you into the magnificent church across the square and a few other homes.
2. Eat lunch under the trees in the courtyard of old slave quarters now occupied by the Paddagang (frog passage) Restaurant. Several giant eagle owls have made their home in the trees and a resident peacock strolls the grounds.
3. Travel a short distance out of town to De Oude Drostdy, the old magistracy that has been restored, still with its original yellowwood beams and period furniture on view. Wine tastings are served under candlelight in a dungeon below the house.
4. Relax and unwind with a fynbos therapy body wrap and massage at Vindoux Treehouse Guest Farm & Spa. The essential oils used are naturally produced from surrounding fynbos (fine bush).
5. Tulbagh has an established wine route to enjoy the premier wines produced in the region. A popular stop is Waverley Hills Organic Wine & Olive Estate where both wine tastings and olive products are offered. Most cellar tours along the route are by prior appointment.
6. Music acts range from classical to contemporary at the Saronsberg Theatre Tulbagh. The venue packs in the crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings. Steakhouse and pub on the premises.
The nearest airport is Cape Town International Airport, 118km away. Car rental agencies are located in Cape Town and Paarl and at the airport or order a rental online and collect at a convenient location. Shuttle service companies, tour operators and metered taxis offer drives through to Tulbagh but a rental is the most practical and cheaper option.
Did you know?
The Tulbagh Dutch Reformed Church has been preserved in its original cross shape and is the oldest in the country. It is one of the few buildings that escaped serious damage during the 1969 earthquake.
With fine, clement weather, Tulbagh lends itself to outdoor pursuits. Ask your host to book an activity such as game viewing, mountain bike riding, horse outrides offered through the vineyards and hiking through fynbos and indigenous forests.