Cullinan is a small, well-preserved 19th Century mining town northeast of Pretoria. Founded in 1902, and named for the founder of the Premier Diamond Mine, Sir Thomas Major Cullinan, the semi-rural community is made up of mining families, farmers, artists, and on weekends, bikers and families looking to escape to the country.
Cullinan village was built on what was once a farm called Elandsfontein, which belonged to Willem Prinsloo. Prospector Thomas Cullinan, having established the farm’s diamond-bearing potential, acquired the farm, and established the Premier (Transvaal) Diamond Mining Company LTD, now the Cullinan Diamond Mine.
Cullinan village is situated in Dinokeng, in the north-east corner of South Africa's Gauteng province. Its close proximity to Pretoria and Johannesburg, its Victorian charm, and its reputation for yielding some of the largest diamonds ever discovered, make it an interesting tourist destination today.
Quirky and quaint, the town of Cullinan’s focal point is Oak Avenue, which is lined with jacaranda and oak trees, cottages with 'broekie-lace' (intricate wrought-iron work) and picket fences, bric-à-brac shops, restaurants, and the must-see is Jan Harmsgat se Agterplaas (literally, 'Jan Harmsgat's back garden'), a garden theatre-cum-gallery that rarely fails to delight visitors with its junkyard glamour.
Diamond mine tours are de rigueur when visiting Cullinan, with surface, motorised, and underground tours of the working mine on offer. Cullinan’s open-cast mine is the fourth biggest ‘big hole’ in the world, and is 3 times the size of Kimberley’s Big Hole. When you’re finished ogling this enormous crater, visit the Diamond Hub next-door, where you'll be able to see replicas of the mine’s most famous gems and diamond-cutting demonstrations.
Historical and cultural attractions in Cullinan include murals painted by Italian prisoners of war during World War II at the Cullinan Recreation Centre, the McHardy House museum, St George's Anglican Church designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the Willem Prinsloo Agricultural museum, the Sammy Marks Museum, and Cullinan Station.
Dig below Cullinan’s surface and you’ll find fascinating stories. Meet Onverwacht’s ‘black Afrikaners’, descended from freed Malay slaves, or local historian John Lincoln, who knows Cullinan inside out, and who will bring the South African War of 1899-1902 (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) and an alternative history of diamond mining to life.
For authentic cultural tours, Charl Pretorius of Kwalata Game Ranch in nearby Rust de Winter is your man. If you’ve never visited a township, Refilwe ticks all the boxes with stops at a shebeen, a sangoma, and a traditional meal, or go on a tour of an Ndebele or Zulu cultural village.
Game ranches, outdoor sports and adventure activities, golf, wellness spas, and steam train trips ensure that Cullinan village sparkles for more than its famous diamonds.
How to get here
From Johannesburg via Pretoria: Follow the N1 north towards Pretoria, and staying on the N1, take the Pretoria East/Polokwane split. Take the N4 east (towards Witbank), then take the Rayton/Cullinan (R515) off ramp, left in the direction of Cullinan.
Best time to visit
Cullinan is a year-round destination.
Where to stay
Accommodation options range from 5-star guesthouses to zany cottages constructed from reclaimed construction materials and junk.
Around the area
South African War (also known as 'Anglo-Boer War' block houses and Italian World War II prisoner of war camp at Zonderwater; provincial nature reserves of Rust de Winter, Roodeplaat, and Leeuwfontein; Roodeplaat and Rust de Winter dams; Loopspruit winery and Ndebele village; the Nan Hua Buddhist temple in Bronkhorstspruit; and the Tswaing Meteorite Crater, near Hammanskraal.
Tours to do
History, cultural, and diamond mine tours are on offer.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Cullinan Star Cut™ is a unique 66-facet cut, with 8 more facets than the standard 58, giving stones exceptional brilliance.