Roodepoort is a large section (206.38 sq km) of Gauteng province (Region C) directly to the west of Johannesburg that was integrated into the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality in 1998. Today Roodepoort is home to about 200,000 people from all walks of life, and its properties are divided among various residential suburbs, mining towns, agricultural holdings, and commercial districts.
Roodepoort, meaning “red valley,” sits on the western edge of the Witwatersrand, a range of sedimentary rocks rich in gold, and its population began to grow in the late 1800’s gold rush. Comparable to America’s “Wild West,” Roodepoort sprouted ramshackle towns around areas where gold was discovered, and the main municipality of Roodepoort was established in 1904. Over time it became known as the western gateway to Johannesburg.
Roodepoort was given city status in 1977. Numerous colorful lower-middle class suburbs grew out of it. Including places like Allen’s Nek, Fleurhof, Helderkruin, Florida, Honey Hills, Radiokop. After Apartheid, the region developed a growing middle class of blacks and immigrants who came to seek work and city life. Today, it is a sprawling metropolitan area that has essentially fused with Johannesburg to become an annex making one giant urban jungle.
Roodepoort is best known for the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, formerly the Wits Botanical Gardens. This is where nature trails wind through 300 hectares of landscaped and natural veld and pristine flora and fauna of South Africa’s highlands are on display against the majestic backdrop of Witpoortjie waterfall.
A breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles hold celebrity status here, where Joburgers come hoping to catch a glimpse of them in their nest by the falls. More than 600 species of native plants, including cycads and flowering water varieties, 220 species of birds, and countless creeping reptiles, insects, and small mammals, such as antelope and jackal, grace the park. Naturally, Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens is Joburg’s most popular outdoor area, and thousands of residents flock here on weekends for exercise and adventure sport.
For those who prefer more manicured greens, the Roodepoort Country Club has one of the most challenging golf courses on the continent. Its Bent grass greens undulate with subtle slopes surrounded by dastardly bunkers between strict fairways that challenge even the best handicaps.
Indoors, the Roodepoort Museum is the primary destination, in the Roodepoort Civic Centre on Christiaan de Wet Road, which features local history and collections of colonial-era artwork recognized as unique among the world’s museums. Here, visitors can see a reconstructed 19th Century Farmhouse and a Late Victorian Home, as well as experience a lounge setting from the mid 1920’s.
Also on display are decorative pieces in ivory, porcelain, and other fine materials from Royal Dux and Royal Doulton, various Chinese and Japanese jewelers, and colonial European knick-knacks.
The rest of Roodepoort, particularly in the city centre, is lackluster and not very friendly to visitors.
Climate and Surroundings
Roodepoort is part of a larger geographical region called the West Rand, which extends westwards to the Magaliesberg and the Witwatersberg mountain ranges, from which the Skeerpoort, Renosterspruit, and Crocodile Rivers descend. Most of the land out here beyond the city limits remains unspoiled and ripe for adventure, with beautiful scenery and superb weather. Summer days are warm, dry and still, while winter days are crisp and clear. Although summer storms will occasionally bring lightening and hail, they are generally brief and sporadic. Winter nights seldom reach freezing except for the coldest few weeks of the season.
The World heritage site, “Cradle of Humankind,” can be visited in the Crocodile Ramble area near Hartbeespoort Dam, where limestone caves yield many fossils, including early hominids. Just forty-five minutes from Johannesburg, this area is loaded with trails for walking, 4×4 motoring, and horseback riding.
There are several quaint, artsy towns to visit featuring small galleries and studios, tea gardens, nurseries, and camping grounds. Some of the more popular places to spend the day include Magaliesberg, Elandsdrift and Muldersdrift. The Hartbeespoort reservoir is a vibrant water sporting venue.
Carletonville is an active gold mining town where workers are still busy down in one of the world’s deepest mines, Western Deep Levels, and a money-mad social class inspires gossip to the point that it spawned a popular soap opera, “Isidingo.” Lepalong on Kleinfontein farm provide tours of caves where a slightly more sophisticated class of people, the Kwena, lived in the early 1800’s.
Krugersdorp is another interesting mining town. Near here, the rugged Abe Bailey Nature Reserve provides a sanctuary for grassland and wetland birds including several species of Flamingoes and robust populations of crakes, swamp hens, herons, African fish eagle and korhaans. Courageous visitors can get a true bird’s eye view of the park at the nearby skydiving club, Skyhigh Tandems.
Life in Roodepoort is adventurous and rugged compared to Johannesburg and the Northern suburbs, with respect to both its urban and outdoors attractions. While it is not ranked among the most desirable places to live in Gauteng, it is certainly at the top of the list for exciting weekend getaways.