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Chrissiesmeer: South Africa's Hidden Gem

Chrissiesmeer is a hidden gem in South Africa, offering a delightful blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful getaway, this charming town has something to offer everyone.

The Chrissiesmeer region is also called Matotoland, which is derived from maxoxo, the Swazi word for frog. No less than thirteen frog species are recorded in the area.

Chrissiesmeer landscape

Scottish Nostalgia

Chrissiesmeer was nicknamed the “New Scotland” by early settlers in South Africa due to its resemblance to the Scottish Highlands. When Scottish immigrants arrived in the region during the mid-1800s, they were struck by the rolling hills, misty landscapes, and an abundance of freshwater lakes that reminded them of their homeland.

The Scottish immigrants found the area’s climate and natural beauty to be reminiscent of Scotland. The numerous lakes in Chrissiesmeer, similar to the lochs in Scotland, also contributed to the comparison. The lush, green surroundings and cool, misty weather further reinforced this similarity.

This nickname, “New Scotland,” was a way for the Scottish settlers to connect with their roots and pay tribute to the landscapes they left behind. It’s a testament to the power of nostalgia and how early settlers often sought to recreate familiar elements of their homelands in their new surroundings.

7 great reasons why Chrissiesmeer is worth the trip

Grey Crowned Crane Uganda National Bird Crane
Grey Crowned Crane, Uganda's National Bird

1. Unique Lake District

Chrissiesmeer is often referred to as the “Lake District of South Africa”. It’s home to a cluster of 23 natural lakes, making it a unique destination. These lakes are incredibly serene and offer stunning views, perfect for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

The largest (around 9 km long, 3 km wide, with a circumference of 25 km, and 1500 ha big) natural body of fresh water in South Africa is in the wetlands of Chrissiesmeer and is the start of four big river systems, all flowing in different directions. Namely, the Vaal, Komatie, Olifants, and Usutu Rivers. Thus, making this serene region an ecological wonder combined with its beautiful rock formations and impressive mountains.

Blue Crane Bird South Africa national bird
Blue Crane, South Africa's National Bird

2. Birdwatcher’s Paradise

If you’re a fan of birdwatching, Chrissiesmeer is a dream come true. It’s renowned for its birdlife and is considered one of the top bird-watching destinations in South Africa. You can spot a wide variety of birds, including flamingos, herons, and many others, making it a great place to hone your birdwatching skills.

With more than 270 lakes in the immediate area, Chrissiesmeer is a real bird paradise. Every year nearly 20,000 birds come into the area to breed. The Chrissie Pans support 287 species of birds.

The best time of year to spot over 287 species of birds is from September to March. 

3. Indulge in a Gin Tasting Adventure

It’s THE place to be for an unforgettable gin experience with a whopping selection of over 50 local and international gins!

If you’re ready for a real treat, dive into a Gin Tasting Adventure where you get to explore a world of botanical flavors and artisanal craft.  It’s like a flavor expedition, unlocking your taste buds’ hidden treasures. 

So, if you’re up for a journey of botanical exploration and sensory delight, The Gin Shop is calling your name. Your taste buds will thank you later!

4. Go “frogging”

Every year, around the first week of December, an exciting event unfolds in Chrissiesmeer. It’s the time when the hunt for a unique frog species, known as ‘Mampharra padda’ (padda means frog in Afrikaans), begins.

You’ll find both eager visitors and friendly locals coming together to participate in a thrilling quest to catch as many of these little hoppers as possible. To join in the muddy adventure, make sure to pack your trusty pair of boots and a raincoat – you’re in for some wet and wild fun!

And that’s not all – after a day of frog-catching excitement, frog experts gather around the campfire to share their tales and wisdom. As the night sky blankets the scene, you can savor a delicious meal, making it the perfect ending to an eventful day.

The exact dates for the Frog Festival (Padda Nag) may vary so it’s always a good idea to stay updated on the dates to make the most of your visit.

stargazing

5. Stargazing

Stargazing is popular in Chrissiesmeer. The town’s location in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa offers excellent opportunities for stargazing. Due to its relatively low light pollution and clear night skies, Chrissiesmeer is a favored destination for both amateur and professional astronomers.

Many visitors and locals enjoy stargazing in the area, especially around the lakes and countryside, where the night sky can be truly spectacular. On a clear night, you can witness a breathtaking display of stars, planets, and celestial phenomena.

If you have an interest in astronomy or simply appreciate the beauty of a starry night, Chrissiesmeer is a fantastic place to relax and observe the wonders of the night sky. Don’t forget to bring a telescope or binoculars for an even more detailed view of the cosmos.

Frog Coffee Shop Chrissiesmeer

6. The F.R.O.G. Shop

The atmosphere is warm and friendly. Pop in for breakfast or brunch and try their homemade pies. Super tasty!

It’s most certainly worth a stop, and a great opportunity to buy some traditional South African rusks, home preserves, and old-fashioned sweets.

This coffee shop/restaurant is most certainly worth a stop. Head over to their Facebook for more details.

Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, UNESCO World Heritage Site, south africa, travel and home, travelandhome min
Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains
Badplaas, scenic roadtrip drive from chrissiesmeer, south africa, mpumalanga min
Badplaas' scenic landscapes
Badplaas, a forever resort, mineral pools, near chrissiesmeer, south africa, mpumalanga
Badplaas Resort, R38, Badplaas, eManzana, 1190, South Africa | Phone: +27 17 844 8000

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7. Scenic Drives

The surrounding countryside offers stunning scenic drives. You can explore the Mpumalanga Highlands Route, which takes you through beautiful landscapes and charming villages. Don’t forget your camera for those picturesque vistas. 

Barberton

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
From Chrissiesmeer: 1h45m

A roadtrip to Barberton will take you about 1h45. The main attraction in Barberton, South Africa, is the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Situated in north-eastern South Africa, the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains comprises 40% of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world’s oldest geological structures.”UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

Amersfoort, near Chrissiemeer

From Chrissiesmeer: 1h15m

Not to be mistaken with Amersfoort in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, this Amersfoort is a small town in Mpumalanga, South Africa. It is known for its historical charm and the main attraction in the area is the Amersfoort Heritage House.

Badplaas

From Chrissiesmeer: 50 minutes

The main attraction in Badplaas, Mpumalanga, is the Badplaas Resort. This popular resort is known for its relaxing and rejuvenating hot spring mineral waters. The natural hot springs in Badplaas are believed to have therapeutic properties due to their high mineral content, and they have been drawing visitors for their health and leisure benefits. The resort offers a variety of pools, both hot and cold, where you can soak and unwind. A perfect day trip from Chrissiesmeer.

Getting There

The nearest airport is O R Tambo International, Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa.

The public transport infrastructure from the airport to Chrissiesmeer is not a Travel and Home recommendation. Instead, plan a road trip via the N17 the 248km ride will take around 2h41m. Similarly, via the N12 the 264 km-ride will take you about 2h45m.

Travel Tip(s)

Look for free cancellation options: Some hotels offer free cancellation up until a certain date. Booking accommodations with free cancellation can provide flexibility in case your plans change.

Check the map view: Booking.com has a map view feature that shows the location of hotels. This can help you identify accommodations in areas that are both desirable and affordable.

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