In Pilgrim’s Rest the heritage of the first gold rush and subsequent early mining in South Africa has been preserved. You will be transported back to yesteryear when you visit this living museum town which is part of the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga. Learn more here about the history of this village and why you should visit.
At the end of this article are lists, with contact details, of:
- Accommodation establishments in and near Pilgrim’s Rest
- Town Activities
- Other businesses
Brief History of Pilgrim’s Rest
“Wheelbarrow” Patterson was the first to find alluvial gold in Pilgrim’s Creek after leaving the overcrowded diggings at nearby Mac-Mac. His discovery led to the first gold rush in South Africa. Pilgrim’s Rest was officially declared a gold field in September 1873.
Within a year 1500 diggers from across the world were working 4000 claims and these goldfields were among the richest in the world. At the time, finding nuggets weighing around 500g was nothing unusual.
By 1877 the alluvial gold – the gold in the streams and river banks – started to run out. More extensive equipment was needed to recover the gold in veins and lodes within the mountains.
In 1881 a London financier obtained exclusive mining rights for the farm where Pilgrim’s Rest is currently situated and founded the Transvaal Gold Exploration and Land Company.
This company amalgamated with other smaller mining companies in the region and was renamed as Transvaal Gold Mining Estates (TGME) in 1895. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange and became the first mining house in SA to participate in a stock exchange. TGME still exists today as the oldest active mine in South Africa. TGME is currently owned by Theta Gold Mines, a listed company based in Australia.
The property on which Pilgrim’s Rest is situated today was owned by the mine. Most of the historical buildings in the main street were erected during the early mining era. When TGME closed down in 1971 the town was sold to the then Transvaal Provincial Administration. Subsequently it was developed as a heritage site and living museum. TGME mining operations resumed in 1986.
What To Do In Pilgrim’s Rest
You can easily fill up a weekend exploring and enjoying activities in and around Pilgrim’s Rest.
A good place to start is the Information Centre in Up Town. Here you can view the fascinating “Pilgrim’s Gold” exhibit to learn about the gold rush era and the ups and downs of gold mining in the region.
This is also where you buy tickets for the five village museums, the Diggings Site Museum and the Alanglade House Museum. You can also book guided tours, including a gold panning experience. Furthermore, maps and pamphlets are available to guide your ramble through town.
The main street in Pilgrim’s Rest runs from Up Town to Down Town. Along this street you will find the village museums, restaurants and cafe’s, and quaint shops. You can also learn the history of the buildings by using a smartphone app to scan the QR code affixed to each building.
There are no chain stores in Pilgrim’s Rest – the businesses in town are all independently owned. This means that you can find some very interesting and unique products. You can also have studio photographs taken while you are dressed up in vintage clothing. And don’t forget to visit the iconic Robber’s Grave in the historical graveyard above the village.
When you’re exhausted from all the exploring, stop for a rest and refreshments at one of the street cafés, bars or restaurants in town.
Activities in the Outskirts of Town.
Community members were interested in promoting gold panning as a heritage related activity and this led to the founding of the South African Gold Panning Association (SAGPA). National Gold Panning Championships are held in Pilgrim’s Rest every year at the dedicated gold panning site which is within walking distance from Downtown, across the Blyde River (see map below).
The area boasts vast unspoilt natural surrounds. Activities you can enjoy include: a round of golf at the picturesque and well-maintained golf course, excellent fly-fishing, bird watching, mountain biking and hikes or leisurely walks along the banks of the Blyde River. The village is also within easy driving distance of all the other attractions along the scenic Panorama Route.
See below for details of all the accommodation, restaurants and activities in and around Pilgrim’s Rest. You can also keep up with what’s happening here on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at Pilgrim’s Rest SA
We hope to give you a warm welcome to our unique town soon!
Accommodation in Pilgrim’s Rest
Resorts near Pilgrim’s Rest
Restaurants in Up Town
Restaurants in Down Town
Things to Do
Pilgrim’s Rest Map
Decided what you want to see and do in Pilgrim’s Rest? Find your way around with this numbered map. The SAGPA Gold Panning Site is no 3.