The Star of the West, Kimberley’s oldest pub, lies within sight of the city’s famous Big Hole, a perfect location for a tavern that grew out of the same diamond rush that put the city on the map.
Established around 1870, the Star of the West was originally a corrugated iron shack where thirsty miners paid a tuppence for a beer and a half-a-penny for a glass of wine. Many myths and legends prevail, of which “Madam” Diamond Lil is the most famous. A picture of her can be seen hanging on the wall.
The Star of the West is a national monument and a great tourism attraction for many around the world, and is equally well known on various continents. Legend has it the bar counter and rich wooden fittings were salvaged and brought to the city by sailors who survived the wreck of their ship, Star of the West, on the West Coast. In recent years these have been restored and the pub is an excellent place to soak up a little history. There is an exact replica of the “Star of the West” in Australia.
Saved from demolition in the 1980s by Ivan Freel, who restored the dilapidated Kimberley pub to its former glory, today it continues to slake the thirst of Kimberlites, along with hordes of visitors visiting this historical Northern Cape city.
Legend has it that the extensive wood panelling and gloriously fashioned bar counter were built from the timber of a yacht called the Star of the West which was wrecked off the West Coast and brought in bits and pieces to Kimberley by the surviving sailors.
As much a living museum as a pub in Kimberley, most of the original Star of the West pub remains thanks to the painstaking restoration undertaken by Freel.
Included in the restoration was the discovery of the original yellowwood bar counter and the battered Bovril urn that was used to dispense hot broth to hungry miners on their way to work in the mornings.
Also dating back to the pub’s early days are the wrought iron and wooden barstools, the honky-tonk piano (which still sounds good) and the fascinating memorabilia and ancient sporting photographs adorning the walls.
About the only things that have changed over the years are the beer prices and the bathrooms. Until 1886 the toilets consisted of nothing more than old buckets in a dark corner. These days, however, the toilets are as modern as they come. The beer is a bit more costly but still good value and worth every drop in this historic drinking hole with its priceless atmosphere.
The Star of the West, opposite the Big Hole and close to the Kimberley Mine Museum, is one of the most famous buildings in town so it’s very easy to find. The Kimberley tram, a favourite with visitors, stops right outside the front door if you ask the driver to.
There is plenty to keep you busy in Kimberley: do visit the impressive Big Hole and Kimberley Mine Museum and other historical attractions. Outside town are a number of good birding spots and nature reserves.
The Star of the West has a good kitchen and serves up a number of typical pub-style food such as bangers and mash alongside more traditional South African dishes.