September 24th was National Heritage Day in South Africa and gave us a chance, as a nation, to pause and reflect on a tumultuous history spanning thousands of years of kinship and kingdoms throughout Southern Africa. It is upon this diverse ancestral story that the foundations of modern-day West Coast have been forged and moulded. This a perfect reminder to visit our heritage rich West Coast Museums and experience the true heritage of our people.
Let’s start our heritage journey and our first stop would be !Khwa ttu. This wonderful heritage Centre is a must-visit because it’s an award-winning museum! Experience the authentic warmth of San Spirit, Be ushered into the heart of Bushman culture by one of their qualified San Tour Guides. Their guides come from a diverse range of San communities, each with its language and story. You can choose from various guided tours you will be guided into a new understanding of the indomitable San spirit. They have a wonderful restaurant where you can enjoy culturally inspired foods. The Darling museum would be a great way to reflect on the exceptional history of the Darling area. The Darling museum was founded in 1978 as a butter museum by members of the local Woman Agricultural Association. In this museum, you will find various rooms that feature old age times. You will see a glimpse in the past of how their houses looked like back then as well as the butter museum, to the parlor saloon, etc. They also have a mystery trail and you can join the fun by picking up clues along the way. In Malmesbury you will find the Malmesbury Museum, located in a former synagogue, the building is so well reserved and it showcases the Jewish roots of the area. If you are interested in the great history of Riebeek Valley, you will find the Riebeek Museum located in Riebeek Kasteel. The Wheat Industry Museum is located in Moorreesburg with the title of one of two in the world! This would be a unique place to visit, to witness the history of the Wheat industry of the Swartland. They will take you on a guided tour of this truly amazing museum
Goedverwacht is a small village at the foot of Piketberg, locals named this town a living museum. Here you will find local heritage and traditions. Meet slave- and Khoi- descendants. Enjoy local cuisine, find memorabilia, select handmade crafts, home-grown fresh produce, preserves, conserves, and treats. Hike in the mountains, view ‘Rock art’, but most importantly you will find the Mill Museum. One of the biggest highlights is to view the watermill, which was built in 1839. It is now restored and producing stone-ground flour again since 1945. Today this is the only watermill in South Africa commercially active. After a day well spend at Goedverwacht, Piketberg Museum would be a wonderful stop. The Piketberg Museum has a unique atmosphere of both history and charm. The Piketberg Cultural Historical Museum opened in 1983 at the former home of Mr. Liebenberg and remained at this address for 15 years before moving adjacent to the old Synagogue in Church Street. The building that currently houses the Museum was influenced by Edwardian architecture and the house replicates a homestead from the early 1900s. Most of the furniture dates from the 1920s. The Museum archives contain the fascinating story of the Piketberg Jewish community as well as a priceless collection of original old school yearbooks and photographs of past Piketberg residents.
If you travel to the Cederberg your first stop would be Citrusdal Museum, here you will see exhibitions depicting Khoi and San heritage and early pioneer days. Where history comes back to life you can experience a simpler time to explore Citrusdal’s rich and colourful history. The Clanwilliam Ou Tronk Museum, In this museum you will find many historical artefacts especially if you want to know more about the history behind some of Clanwilliam’s best-known industries such as Rooibos and shoe-making, and personalities such as CL Leipoldt and Tolla van der Merwe. It’s housed in the old jail, and although the year 1808 can be seen on the front of the building it was built long before then. In a town Vanrhynsdorp, Namaqua West Coast you will have to stop at the “old jail”. Take a step back in time and inside you will find Antiques on display, a Succulent Nursery, and gifts. This would be a perfect one-stop, equipped with a museum, coffee shop, and nursery.
The fishing villages in the Weskus have one of the most distinctive heritage stories to tell. In Velddrif is a museum called SA Fisheries Museum, this is a must-see if you would like to know all the history surrounding the fishing industry of the Weskus. It exhibits the colourful history of the fishing industry along this coast from the courageous days of whaling and whalers to present-day pelagic and lobster fishing. This visitor’s experience is intimately intertwined with the colourful local history and culture of the Weskus, presented in the museum by multi-media presentations and guided tours of this informative facility. The West Coast Fossil Park is one of the Weskus icons and we are very excited to showcase this part of our heritage to our visitors. The park is situated near Langebaan Weg, they have exceptionally well-preserved remains of fossil fauna that date to 5.2 million years ago. At this time many animals that are now extinct, such as sabre-toothed cats, short-necked giraffes, hunting hyenas, and African bears roamed the Weskus which then had a more subtropical climate with lush, riverine forests and open grasslands. Phosphate mining operations at Langebaanweg uncovered these rich fossil deposits. The fossils include bones of over 200 different animal species. This represents possibly the greatest diversity of five-million-year-old fossils found anywhere in the world. Hopefield Museum is located in the Weskus town called Hopefield. You will find a small but interesting museum put together, for the most part, by the local tourism office, with the help of generous donations from the local community. They offer a variety of items on display for tourists that loves antiques. On display, you will find lovely period pieces of furniture, a beautiful piano, garments, and linen, crockery, utensils, and collectables from the region. A collection of old Irons adorn a shelf and antique radios make an interesting display. Be sure not to miss out.