by Daniel Roodt
Bathurst, or the centre of the universe as some locals affectionately refer to it, is a small town only a 35-minute drive away from Makhanda. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustling and bustling student life for a day trip (you definitely won’t need more than a day).
Bathurst is rather unique because it holds two records, and the one is rather bizarre. The town is probably best known for the historic Pig And Whistle, the oldest licensed pub in South Africa, and one of three pubs in Bathurst.
The other record it holds is that it is home to the world’s largest pineapple-shaped structure, appropriately called The Big Pineapple. There isn’t much competition worldwide, although there is a similar structure in Australia, but it’s two feet shorter, so we still hold the record.
Anyway, let’s get on to what you can do and see in Bathurst, and when the best time to go there is.
The best day of the week to visit Bathurst is probably on a Sunday because that is when everything is open. If you do decide to visit on a Sunday, the best place to start is the morning market. Home to all kinds of homemade crafts, baked goods like muffins, quiches, cakes and fresh vegetables, amongst other things. It is best to get there around 10-10.30 AM if you want to get fresh produce.
The Farmer’s Market is on the main road that you use to get to Port Alfred. If you are leaving Bathurst, it’ll be on your left, and there will be a lot of cars parked on the side of the road, so it’ll be quite hard to miss.
After loading up on tasty treats at the market, you should pop across the road to Richard Pullen’s Pottery Studio and Two Sages, which is his wife Marcel’s shop. Richard is an award-winning potter and makes all kinds of functional and artistic pottery. Even if you aren’t looking to buy pottery, it is worth going there to admire the beauty.
His wife Marcel has a shop that is joined to his, and she sells all kinds of crystals, incense, jewellery, prayer flags, big cloths/bedspreads, homemade creams and ointments, and all sorts of interesting trinkets. She caters for all budgets, with some crystals and semi-precious stones going for under R100 and others being sold for over R1000.
After visiting the Pullens, you should now hop back into your car and head down the road to the famous Big Pineapple. The Big Pineapple is a three-story fibreglass and metal structure on an experimental pineapple farm. The entrance fee to go inside the structure is R25 per person, and this gives you access to the top where you can get a 360° view of Bathurst and the surrounding area. If you just want to look at the outside and take photos, you don’t have to pay anything.
By now you’re probably looking for somewhere to rest and get an energy boost. The perfect place to refuel before heading to the centre of town is the Lucky Bean Cafe. The Lucky Bean Cafe is on the Pig And Whistle side of the Farmer’s Market and is about 300m down the road from the Pullen’s Shop.
The Lucky Bean cafe sells “Shit hot coffee and ice-cream.” The ice cream is all made right
there in the shop using proper ingredients (no syrups or anything like that). This means that they’re rather pricey, you’ll pay between R30-R45 for a cone, but the quality is amazing, and the scoops are extremely generous. They also have vegan options available.
If you’re looking for a caffeine shot while you’re there, they sell excellent coffee as well. If you don’t feel like ice cream before lunch, you could always head back here for dessert.
Now it is time to hit the town. The centre of Bathurst is very small, and there isn’t a huge amount to see. It is all within walking distance, so you can find somewhere to park and then walk from there. There are two second-hand book shops, and Fables Bookshop is slightly bigger and better stocked, so it is worth popping into if you’re looking for some reading material.
There are a few small shops, including an antique shop, and a little odds and sods store just next to the Pig And Whistle. You will also want to visit Relix, a little second-hand store selling books, antiques and a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It is a bit tucked away, and it is on the hill on the road that leaves Bathurst for Makhanda.
You’ll also want to pop into The Corner, which is where local artist Tori Stowe sells her artworks, fabrics, calendars, doodle pads and crockery. There are also some other things like wooden chopping boards that are sold there. Even if you aren’t looking to buy anything it is worth going there just to look at the ceiling, which is probably the prettiest shop ceiling you’ll ever see.
Time for lunch now, and personally, I would recommend one of three places. If you feel like pizza, you can go to the Pizza Place (previously called Pick-Kwick’s Restaurant) for a lovely wood-fired pizza. All the seating is outdoors, so it is Covid friendly, but you’ll want a jersey.
If you’re after something else, and want a bit more of a variety, you can try The Pig And Whistle. They often have a special Sunday lunch menu, usually a roast of some sort, as well as some vegetarian meals. Otherwise, you could try Lara’s Eatery, which is next to the Lucky Bean Cafe. Lara is a brilliant chef, and the portion sizes are very generous for the price you pay.
If you decide against the Pig And Whistle for lunch, it is still worth having a swig at the Pig before you head back home. There is usually live music there on a Sunday afternoon, and it is part of the Bathurst experience to at least have a drink there.
That is it really. There are a few more little arts and crafts shops like the Workshop, which is on the way out to Port Alfred that may take your fancy. You can fit all of this comfortably into one day, and still get back to Makhanda without having to drive in the dark. However, if you do decide to stay a bit later and end up driving home at night, make sure you keep your eyes open for cattle on the road, especially for the first kilometre or two out of Bathurst.
*All the places mentioned here have the Google Maps link hyperlinked in the article, so just click on the underlined word. If you do get lost and you can’t find the place on Maps, just ask a local, and they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.