Straddling the N12, 450km south-west of Johannesburg, Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape and the only settlement designated as a city in this extensive province. Kimberley and its history are indelibly linked to diamonds, so much so that it’s often called the Diamond Capital of the World.
This is where the amazing 83-carat “Star of South Africa” diamond was found. It’s also home to the head office of international diamond giant De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd.
The most famous landmark of the diamond rush, and Kimberley’s main icon, is the Big Hole, dug by hand during the search for the sparkling gems. However, that is not all Kimberley is about. It offers a cultural experience through its museums, galleries and historical buildings.
Interspersed amongst its modern expansion, the city retains much of its early character in suburbs such as Belgravia and Kimberley North. The city centre is compact and the neighbourhoods leafy and pleasant.
Along its streets the atmosphere is balanced somewhere between frenetic and laidback. There’s an excellent variety of accommodation, plenty of history, some unmissable tourist attractions, wildlife and adventure activities nearby, and a pinch of nightlife.
Look out for
The Big Hole Museum is the number one attraction in Kimberley. It recaptures not only the diamond mining past of the city, but also the ambience and character of life in the late 19th and early 20th century South Africa.
Monuments, memorials, and grand old buildings - Kimberley has a fine collection of historical sites and most of these can be seen on two mapped out walks that will give visitors a sense of its history and architecture. The Belgravia Walk encompasses 33 sites of interest, and the North Walk, around 40 sites. Maps are available from the tourism information office.
The McGregor Museum has some good displays covering a range of interests. Besides the main building there are satellite museums in town, including the Duggin-Cronin photographic gallery and a number of houses preserving the city’s affluent past.
The Wildebeestkuil Rock Art Centre - 16km from Kimberley has rock engravings created by the Khoe-San people on a sacred hill.
The William Humphreys Art Gallery is one of the most important galleries in the country and houses a collection of works from South Africa as well as old masters.
Bird watching - Kamfers Dam, 2km north of town on the N12, is renowned for its colony of lesser flamingos.