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About George

INDEX

1     Why Visit George?

2    General  Information

3    Getting Here

4    History

5    Education

6    Cuisine

7    Transport

8    What to do…

Why Visit George?

“A small town with a big heart and stunning views of the Outeniqua Mountains”

george-surroundings

George is the sixth oldest town in South Africa, situated in the stunning Western Cape Province and is referred to as the Capital of the Southern Cape. This town with its 203,253 inhabitants is a popular holiday destination, conference centre and the administrative and commercial hub of the Garden Route George. It is situated beneath the magnificent Outeniqua Mountain range, and surrounded by a remarkable blend of rivers, rich farmlands, forests and wild flowers. Its stunning scenery is a major attribute of the town. Overall the town has a comfortable, small-town ambience. The mountains play a huge part in the beauty and drama of the region. Everywhere you go, whichever way you turn, you can see the mountains.

George has a city-like infrastructure but it doesn’t forget its small town roots.

Like most towns in South Africa, you’re struck by the sense of spaciousness in George – you never feel cramped or hemmed in because the streets are wide, the white buildings add to the sense of space, and there’s colour everywhere with lots of flowers and trees.

The majority of people in George are Afrikaans-speaking, but all Afrikaners can speak English, because English is a required subject at South African schools. Similarly, most English speaking people in South Africa can speak Afrikaans.

A very good selection of shops is available and the town has the biggest Shopping Centre in the Garden Route being the Garden Route Mall. Many people from the surrounding regions come to George to do their shopping, that’s why George is called the Shopping Mecca of the Garden Route.

Much of the town is laid out in city-block fashion, east/west and north/south, making it very easy to find your way about.

George also has an extremely sophisticated infrastructure with banks, conference facilities, businesses, major shopping chains, transport and sporting facilities, yet retaining its small town and country atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. The town is also a major accommodation centre with a vast array of facilities on offer to suite every taste and pocket.

George has many coffee bars and restaurants catering for different tastes and also some cheerful outdoor cafes and restaurants.

George has many historical landmarks to be visited, like The SlaveTree, an ancient English Oak planted by Landdrost van Kervel. Known as the Slave Tree because of the very large chain and lock embedded in the trunk.  This tree has been declared a national monument. The King Edward VII Library building is said to be the best example of Edwardian architecture in George.

George has superb golf facilities and was the venue for the first ever Presidents Cup to be played outside the United States. The 2003 event attracted all the big stars and a few ex-presidents!

George also has theatres and five cinemas to choose from.

All round, George is quite an exciting place to visit with lots of fun filled things to do, from having fun with the family to exciting adventures for the adrenalin junkies…

General Information

Country                     :               South Africa

Province                    :               Western Cape

District                       :               Eden District Municipality

Municipality                :              George Local Municipality

Founded                    :              1811

Government               :              Local Municipality

Mayor                         :              Charles Standers

Total Area                  :               1,072 km2 (413.9 sq mi)

Population                  :               203,253

Time Zone                  :               SAST (UTC+2)

Postal Code               :               6530

Area Code                 :               +27 (0)44

Getting Here

The city of George sits upon a 10km plateau between the impressive Outeniqua Mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the South, halfway between Cape Town, 431kms by car, and Port Elizabeth 335km along the N2 highway, and is the heart of the Garden Route. With Mossel Bay to the West and Knysna to the East, the entire region is a visual paradise. The township of Pacaltsdorp lies to the south.

How to get to George

GPS Coordinates: 33°58′S 22°27′E

History

It is time to get in your time machine and travel back in time to the year 1811 when it all began…the birth of the beautiful city of George…

The beginnings of the town date back to the year 1776, when the Dutch-East Indian Trading Company established here one of its timber supply bases. But the town was officially only founded in 1811 by the British who named the place after the then King George III.

George was laid out in the early 1800s by the magistrate, (a Landdros), Adrianus van Kervel, who initially named it Georgetown after the current British monarch. The original town plan decreed that ‘streets be 91m wide and lined with trees to protect pedestrians from the scorching sun’.

The town of George was established in about 1810 as a woodcutter’s outpost who supplied timber to the Cape Colony. Nowadays, you can still relive this flourishing timber industry at the George Museum, housed in the old Drosdy, and visit the timber route which also takes in interesting furniture shops like Touw Meubels, Woodcraft and De Steyl.

Historic buildings George

Initially George grew very slowly, mainly because roads viable for ox wagons were missing in the hardly accessible Outeniqua Mountains. Only with the opening of the Outeniqua Pass in the year 1847, trade with the inland could develop and George began to flourish. Read more...

Education

George has a fantastic Educational infrastructure and is known as the tertiary hub of the Southern Cape, hosting the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, together with a number of private colleges.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Saasveld, offers two centres of excellence – School of Business & Social Sciences offering Financial Information Systems, Information Technology, Marketing, Management, Tourism and School of Natural Resource Management offering Agricultural Management, Forestry, Game Ranch Management, Nature Conservation, Wood Technology.

UNISA is Africa’s leading distance learning institution and are an Open Distance Learning institution that is motivating a future generation.  They offer internationally accredited qualifications and have world-class resources that inspire learners to create meaningful futures on their own terms.   George hosts a UNISA branch situated in central town.

Schools in the area include the Afrikaans-medium George High School established in 1947 and Outeniqua High School established in 1923. The English medium school is York High School and there is also a double medium technical school named PW Botha College. Glenwood House is an English medium co-ed Independent school from Grade 000 to Grade 12.

Cuisine

Satisfying your hunger is no problem in George.  With a vast variety of restaurants in the city and surrounding areas, there would certainly be no problem satisfying the craving and busting the hunger…

Transport

Having your own transport in George is not a necessity,  you can utilise one of the local taxi’s or car hire services to get around.  For the more adventurous, site seeing by foot is also an option.

Or why not try something a bit different that will provide you with a memorable sight seeing experience?  There are currently no other scheduled passenger train service to George but there are some vintage train trips to the Garden Route.The most well known and scenic train trip is on the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe between George and Mossel Bay.  Safely said, you have not completed your visit to George unless you have gone on this amazing stream train trip.

The George Airport, is situated approximately 7 km from the city centre and has scheduled flights to Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport (Durban) and OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg). George Airport was formerly known as P.W. Botha Airport, named after the Mr PW Botha, state president who lived in this part of the country. This airport was built in 1977 as an exact replica of the Keetmanshoop, Namibia airport.

What to Do…

What to do in George

Beaches

Although not on the seaside, glorious beaches and bays are literally moments away from the centre of George.  George is 8 km away from the coast so you need to organise some transport to get to the beaches.

Victoria Bay, 9km from the centre of town and has the ‘perfect’ surfing waves. This is a vibey, surfer beach in a very steep valley. It is beautiful and one can watch dolphins and whales aplenty, particularly between June and November.  The angling is pretty good too.

Herold’s Bay is just outside town, which is the most popular bathing beach with its tidal swimming and rock pools.  This is a very pretty beach in a small coastal town. The town can get pretty busy in peak season but is generally very quiet and nice.

Victoria Bay George

There are some other magnificent beaches in the George area that is worthwhile visiting like Blue Whale Resort near Pacaltsdorp, Glentana, Oubaai, Breakwater Bay, Kaaimans River, Kleinkranz, Wilderness.

Golf Courses

Then of course, there’s Fancourt Hotel & Country Club Estate that has transformed George into a golfing Mecca. With two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Gary Player and a new third course – the Links, Fancourt is a proud member of the renowned ‘Great Golf Resorts of the World’.

Arial View of Golf Courses in GeorgeFancourt’s origins flow back to the 1850s when Sir Henry Fancourt White built a country house, ‘Blanco’ at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. After his death, his son Ernest Montagu White, later re-named the house Fancourt in memory of his father and made substantial improvements.  In1994 the German IT billionaire and his wife, Hasso and Sabine Plattner bought the estate, effectively giving birth to the new style Fancourt as we know it today. Built on the origins and history of the past, according to the Fancourt website, ‘the heart of Fancourt is now the modern clubhouse, but the old Manor House will always hold its soul’.

Fancourt hosted the globally prestigious golfing Presidents Cup in 2003, watched by some 800 million viewers, and was more recently the setting of the international Mandela 46664 Aids Benefit Concert.

If Golfing is your game, George is definitely your playground…

Scenic Drives

Drives are a very popular leisure activity in South Africa, because the roads are generally wide, in good condition, relatively empty and a pleasure to drive on. People often go for drives on a Sunday afternoon to a favourite hotel or restaurant for afternoon tea and scones or to the top of a pass just to look at the view, or to a national park to watch the baboons – there’s always a good reason to go for a drive!

Driving along and through the nearby mountain passes is a must.

Several good view sites are strategically positioned along the circular drive, which leads from George over the Montagu Pass and returns to town via the Outeniqua Pass.

Outeniqua Pass - Hieronymus Cruse was the first European explorer to traverse the rugged Outeniqua Mountains in 1668 – even today the forests are dense. The highest point is Cradock Peak at 1578 m, with prominent George Peak nearby at 1337m. Possibly, ‘Outeniqua’ stems from a Khoi word meaning ‘people carrying bags of honey’.

Montagu Pass - a national monument rewarding motorists with breathtaking views. The Montagu Pass completed in 1857, was built by convicts under the stewardship of Sir Henry Fancourt-White. It took him and 250 convicts only 4 years to complete this arduous task. With distinctive low stone retaining walls edging its serpentine gravel curves, plenty of view sites, restaurants, galleries and shopping opportunities, this drive is a delight.  It cost £35,799 and £1,753 was spent on gunpowder to blast 5½ miles out of solid rock. Look out for the stone-walled Old Hotel where the original Wagon and Montagu Passes converge. Near the summit, the road meets with the Railway Pass, an extremely challenging mountain steam rail pass.  One of South Africa’s first toll gates was also set up here, proclaimed in the Government Gazette of 24 February 1848. The first toll-keeper, John Smith, collected an amount of £400.13s.8d in its first year of operation.

Montagu Pass George

Seven Passes Road - the original road between George and Knysna, winding through indigenous forests, Beyond Wilderness, just 15km east of George, between the Kaaimans River and the Wilderness National Park towards Kynsna, is the Seven Passes route which took 15 years to build in the 1880s, now proclaimed a National Monument.  You’ll find yourself winding through indigenous forests, crossing Edwardian bridges, steep ravines, farmlands and affording dwellers a mosaic experience of the countryside with many beauty and picnic spot opportunities along the way, and it is a highly pleasant 2½hour journey.

Seven Passes Route

Train Trips

The town is also home to the western terminal of the Outeniqua ‘Choo-Tjoe’, a vintage steam train that runs daily (except for Sundays and certain holidays) between George and Mossel Bay, an absolutely essential element of any visit to George or the area.

Nature Reserves & Parks

George is nestled deep in the Cape Floral kingdom, the smallest but ecologically richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, home to some 8 000 plant species, with approximately 70% being unique to this area. It is dominated by fynbos such as the King Protea, South Africa’s national flower, and the beautiful Red Disa, the floral symbol of the Cape Province.

The Garden Route is also the largest natural forest area in South Africa. Forestry operations inside the 65 000 hectares carefully conserve, manage and harvest the sought-after stinkwood, ironwood and the highly prized yellow-wood trees.

George Nature Reserves

Look out for the centrally situated Garden Route Botanical Gardens with plants that are indigenous to the Southern Cape region. The Garden Route Botanical Gardens are the only indigenous botanical gardens in South Africa. Guided tours can be arranged and entrance is free. The Garden is open daily.

Historical Places

Don’t miss the Slave Tree (one of the town’s most famous landmarks) 100m from the museum on York Street, an ancient English Oak planted by van Kervel in 1811, with a very large chain and lock embedded in the trunk. Legend has it that slaves were chained to this tree to await auction, but there are doubts as to whether or not this was the case.

George DrosdyThe George Museum is housed in the old Drostdy, the court buildings that also formed a part of the original Landdrost’s home, and has a fascinating collection of Victorian bric-a-brac with items from the private collection of Charles Sayer, long time editor of the George & Knysna Herald, a newspaper established in 1881. Its theme is the flourishing Timber Industry. Dominating the oldest part of town. Displays reflecting local social history. Special exhibits include The Lakes area; physical and cultural aspects and pictorial essays on scenic beauties. Famous Timber museum situated on premises, Ruby Reeves fantasy fairy paintings, Anglo Boer War Expo and more.

Pacaltsdorp Church is the oldest in the George district, completed in 1825. The Norman-style church has thick stonewalls and features a tall square tower topped by battlements. Across the road is the little mud house in which the first missionary, Charles Pacalt of the London Missionary Society, lived after arriving in 1813.

Dutch Reformed Church GeorgeThe Dutch Reformed Mother Church was consecrated in 1842 after taking 12 years to build with its 23 metre domed tower and 1 metre thick walls. It was constructed by a supervisor and a number of skilled slaves who continued to work as ‘apprentices’ after the emancipation of slaves in 1834. Completed in 1843, St Peter & St Paul Catholic Church in Meade Street is the oldest Catholic Church in South Africa. St Mark’s Anglican Cathedral was designed by Sophy Gray and built in 1850, attained cathedral status in 1911. It was the smallest cathedral in the southern hemisphere until extensions in 1924-25. The nave is the oldest section. Its most distinctive feature is the number of stained glass windows in relation to its size

Completed in 1843, St Peter & St Paul Catholic Church in Meade Street is the oldest Catholic Church in South Africa. St Mark’s Cathedral, built in 1850 is known as the smallest cathedral in the southern hemisphere, its most distinctive feature being the number of stained glass windows in relation to its size.

Pop into Meade House, one of George’s oldest and most beautiful houses. Highly rated, The Conservatory there serves breakfasts, lunches, teas and coffees, and boasts a wine collection amongst the best in the country.

Outeniqua Transport MuseumThe Outeniqua Transport Museum where one can view a variety of steam locomotives including a narrow gauge, the Emil Kessler.

The Outeniqua Railway Museum is the only National Railway Museum in South Africa. Locomotives, P.W.I. Equipment, coaches and road transport items are on display.  There are also fun filled Steam Train rides for the children and cheerful playground at the Saki Macozoma Fairground.

Family Fun

Red Berry Farm in George where you can handpick your own strawberries, eat them or drink them all day long. Mini train ride for all ages winding its way through strawberry fields on 700m of track. A unique train experience for both young and old

At Thembalethu, Khulani Xhosa Village welcomes you to the world of traditional Xhosa crafts and culture.”Come and Experience Xhosa hospitality and culture and feel the rhythm of Africa.” The village is an extremely popular tourist attraction where visitors can enjoy Xhosa singing, dancing, storytelling, rituals, beer and bread – and above all, warm African hospitality.

Outeniqua Power Van – 3 to 5 hour guided tours in motorised rail trolleys on the railway line between George and Oudtshoorn, winding up the Outeniqua Mountains. Enjoy the spectacular views.

Garden Route Dam - 46 acres under water, breathtaking views.

Bado Kidogo - enjoy a marvellous time on the bird breeding farm, observing 100 different bird species and + 300 aviaries.

Outeniqua Country Hop - Farm products, arts and crafts route from Herolds Bay via Blanco, Waboomskraal to Herold and back to George.

Outeniqua Hiking Trail is A 108km /7 day world renowned hiking trail, which takes you through fynbos, dark forests, plantations and mountainous regions. Shorter sections may also be hiked.

hop-cheese-strawberries

Silver Lily Cheese Farm is situated on the Geelhoutboom Road on the rural outskirts of George, easily accessible from all main roads. Silver Lily Cheese Farm invites you on an aromatic cheese tasting adventure. Enjoy handmade Dutch style farm cheese (10 flavours); watch the interesting process of cheese making then sample some in the form of a cheese platter lunch accompanied by a glass of wine or fruit juice in the tranquil surroundings of the Outeniqua Mountains.

House of Ngamathuba is a unique open-air market in beautiful surroundings, just opposite the Wilderness Hotel in the heart of the Garden Route, where one can enjoy browsing through the stalls with quality arts and crafts available for purchase.

Arts and Crafts

Strydom Gallery - Established in 1968 to make the Southern Cape public more aware of South African Art, this gallery has become well known nationally and internationally for its unbelievable variety and good value for money. Never less than 160 important artists, including painters, sculptors, print-makers and potters are represented. Also available are artist’s materials and a printmaking studio which is housed in beautiful early 19th century buildings. It was originally a house and horse stables and now part of the Marklaan Centre.

Marklaan Centre - A unique shopping mall of 15 businesses housed in cleverly renovated 19th century buildings, grouped around an intimate village square. Holds the best in South African Art, crafts, coffee and specialist shops in a delightful and tranquil atmosphere. The Farmers Market held there every Friday morning – is not to be missed.

Adrenalin Activities

george-activities

Enjoy exciting and “real” adventures with an adrenaline twist in and around George!

  • Abseiling
  • Canyoning
  • Caving at Oudtshoorn
  • Climbing Wall
  • Sand-boarding
  • Wave-rafting
  • Deep-sea Angling
  • Dolphin Paragliding
  • Quad Biking
  • Paintball
  • 4 x 4

George has so much to offer and is really worthwhile visiting…