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Looking for the perfect Gauteng day trip that won’t break the budget? Cullinan is a small town bursting with quirky and fun things to do, and its incredible history makes it a must-see for any South Africans looking to experience something different.
The small town is roughly 30 km east of Pretoria and 80km from Johannesburg, and despite its size, is a major player in the diamond mining industry. Named after diamond magnate Lord Thomas Cullinan, the town is home to the mine where the world’s largest diamond was discovered in 1905.
A sparkling history
Cullinan, originally a bricklayer, discovered the Premier diamond fields in 1898 when he found a 3-carat diamond on the surface near a farm fence. He correctly guessed that the gem must have been washed down from a higher diamond-bearing area. Patience was key and the savvy businessman had to wait for the farmer who lived on the precious land to pass away before he could buy it and open the Premier mine in 1902.
On the 26 January 1905, The Cullinan Diamond was discovered. It is still the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found at 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g). The gem was later cut up, producing 96 minor brilliants and 9 major stones, of which the largest 2 are part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
Fun fact: when the rough diamond was first transported out of South Africa, detectives were assigned to the steamship supposedly carrying it and a parcel was locked in the captain's safe and guarded for the entire journey. This was all a ruse however, the stone on that ship was a fake, and the Cullinan was sent to the United Kingdom in a plain box in the post.
What to do in town
Cullinan is heaven for antique-collectors and there are a number of stores, boutiques and gift shops you have to visit when passing through, particularly on Oak Avenue.
If all your shopping works up an appetite you can pick one of the many restaurants to enjoy a delicious meal, snack or cake and coffee. If you’re really hungry and in the mood for something a bit different, visit Cullinan’s Oppistasie restaurant.
The diner (which was built in 1902) is famous for its whopping 18kg burger, more than enough food for a few people! The beefy treat is only available on pre-order so you’ll need to call a few days before to make sure its available (and then you can skip a few meals in advance to make space for the delicious feast). If you’d like something a bit more manageable, Harrie’s Pancakes is famous for its delicious variety of both sweet and savoury pancakes.
The area is great for outdoor adventures and some of your options include abseiling, zip-lining, horse riding, quad biking and trail walks.
Keep your eyes peeled for diamonds
No trip to Cullinan would be complete without a visit to the mine, and tours are available for entering the mine shaft, hoist room, big hole, and the display room.
Fun fact: the mine has produced more than a quarter of all the world's diamonds that are greater than 400 carats. It is also the only significant source of blue diamonds in the world.
If you’d like to learn even more history you can visit McHardy House, the first building in the town and originally the home of William McHardy who was the general manager of the Cullinan Diamond Mine. These days the house is a museum.
Travel in (vintage) style
Why not pair a day in town with a ride on a 60-year-old steam train? A vintage steam train departs from Friend of the Rails' private Hermanstad Station in Pretoria, and is the perfect way to travel to the historic town Cullinan while taking in wonderful scenery along the way.
You’ll disembark at the old Cullinan Station and have four hours to relax and explore the historical town before heading back.
Explore Cullinan and the surrounds with these great deals:
A self-catering bushveld escape for up to 6 people at Mangwa Valley Game Lodge
Escape to the African bush with a stay for 2 at Zebra Country Lodge
An adrenaline-packed kids quad biking experience at Horse Riding Adventure
An exhilarating quad bike safari for one with Horse Riding Adventure
A scenic horse ride in the country for 2 people with Horse Riding Adventure