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Queenstown

South Africa Holiday: Queenstown

Queenstown in the Eastern Cape was founded in 1853. The town was laid out around a central hexagon where cannon fire down six thoroughfares radiating from the centre. The canon have been replaced with gardens.

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Queenstown, founded in 1853, was originally a military outpost designed to protect the British settlers from attack during the time of the Frontier wars. The town was laid out around a central hexagon, which was to be the lager to which the citizens would flee in time of trouble. Although still a distinguishing feature of the town today, the hexagon was never used for its intended purpose.
Queenstown Town Hall
Queenstown became a service town for farmers in the district. It was known for the quality of its wagon building and for the general quality of its (often) imported merchandise. Educational Institutions also flourished.
In the late 19th century, Queenstown prospered, and the huge local sand stone public buildings were built, most still standing today. The magnificent Town Hall facade is an example, as are the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church and the Dutch Reformed Church.
After the world wide depression in the 1920's, Queenstown once again entered a period of prosperity while still acting as a supply and educational center for surrounding farmers and smaller towns. After 1948, and the beginning of the Apartheid era, the district changed character as white owned farms were bought out and the land incorporated in the Transkei and Ciskei and settled with people. Queenstown has since then been a service centre for these people.
Mlungisi (the traditional "Location") has been incorporated into Queenstown since 1984. Mlungisi was perhaps best known as a training ground for political activists, and also for the dedication of its school teachers. Many of the leaders of the present government have had links with the town through its political connections over the years. The political clout of Mlungisi was demonstrated by the residents� participation in a consumer boycott in 1985. The motivating factor was the atrocious conditions pertaining in the township.
Ezibeleni was a town established near Queenstown in the 1960's as part of a master plan to move all Black people to the homelands. It was incorporated into Queenstown after 1984.
The Lukhanji Municipality came into being on 5 December 2000 and includes Queenstown, Whittlesea, Sada, Lesseyton and surrounding rural areas.

The Hexagon

Queenstown�s original hexagon layout is unique in the world and was planned to enable the defence of the settlement along each of the streets, radiating like the spokes of a wagon wheel from the central point.
Fortunately it was never necessary to fire a shot in anger. Subsequently, the Hexagon became a market place and later, with its beautiful fountain and garden, was declared a National Monument.

The Town Hall

The Town Hall foundation was laid in 1882 with the clock tower added in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria�s diamond jubilee.
In addition to being the venue for theatrical and other productions, it still houses the municipal offices and seats the Town Council � the purpose for which it was built.

The Frontier Museum

The museum was built as a school but now houses, among many other interesting exhibits, a fully rebuilt and furnished frontier cottage. The history of the area is exceptionally well documented and illustrated in the most interesting manner.
In the grounds is a 1921 British-built steam locomotive that was used to pull the Royal Train when King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret visited Queenstown in 1947. There is also a stone drinking fountain for horses, dating back to the Victoria era.

The Old Market Building

Queenstown�s Hexagon has been a centre of commercial activity for the surrounding farming area since the early nineteenth century when it was used as a market place for selling produce.
The Old Market building on the West side of the Hexagon which now houses the Business Plaza complex replaced an earlier open-sided structure in the 1850�s. After falling into disuse, the market building was threatened with demolition in 1884. It was saved by public pressure and declared a National Monument. In 1989 the building was redeveloped by the Small Business Development Corporation and now comprises of commercial outlets.

Gardens

Queenstown is renown for its beautiful gardens. This will become eminent when driving or walking through the suburbs.
Lovers of nature and gardens will enjoy the year-round beauty of the Memorial Gardens in Shepstone Street and the quiet tranquillity of the Walter Everitt Sunken Gardens in the eastern entrance to the town.
The Berry Reservoir off the end of Milner Street is virtually within the residential area and provides a beautiful, tranquil haven for picnickers, fishermen, walkers.

Hiking Trails

For the more energetic, two Aloe walking trails originate from and return to the waterside of the Berry Reservoir.
Well laid out and signposted, there�s a shorter one taking about three-quarters of an hour for the casual stroller and a longer walk of about two and a half hours for the more serious hiker, both offering marvellous views of Queenstown.

Lawrence de Lange Game Reserve

The reserve is situated on the slopes of the Madeira Mountain, which overlooks the town from the west and provides panoramic views of Queenstown and its surrounds.
The species of game include: eland, gemsbok, kudu, blesbok, springbok, ostrich, zebra, Indian water buffalo, wildebeest, rhinoceros, giraffe and many others.
The reserve is also home to the indigenous Aloe Ferox, which is a magnificent sight in winter when it is fully clad in scarlet.
In summer, the tamboekie thorn (Erythrina acanthocarpa), also known as �wag-�n-bietjie� � as its hooked thorns make progress difficult) which is unique to this area, adds its colour to the many species of acacia which are covered in yellow flowers.

Longhill Nature Reserve

On the northern boundary of the town lies the aptly-named Longhill.
Entry to this reserve may be obtained through a gate opposite the Lawrence de Lange entrance and the drive includes delightful picnic spots offering pleasant views of the town, while several species of antelope and other wild animals can be seen along the road.

Bongola Dam

The Bongola Dam, about 5 km from town on the Dordrecht road, is one of the town�s main sources of water. The wall was begun in 1905 and was for years the largest concrete dam wall in South Africa. Incidentally the origin of the name Bongola has cause some controversy, but it is believed by some to have been derived from the Xhosa word �mbongolo� meaning donkey, as these animals were extensively used in the construction of the dam.
Now a popular recreation spot, the beauty of the dam is enhanced by the close proximity of hills which hold the expanse of water in a deep basin. The surrounds of the dam are equipped with picnic spots under shady trees.
The dam is widely utilised for all sorts of water sport such as yachting, power boating, water-skiing and wind surfing.
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