Whilst Balfour made recent headlines when Jacob Zuma visited the town in the midst of service delivery protests from locals in the Siyathemba township, and his subsequent return in May 2010, Johannesburg residents know the town because it lies plum in the middle of one of the closest areas for weekend breakaways. Located south east of Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, just off the R23 that leaves the N3 north of Heidelberg and heads into the province of Mpumalanga, Balfour nestles in a region given over mostly to farms, game farms and bushveld. Balfour is a small coal mining and maize farming town originally called McHattiesburg after the man who founded it, Frederick McHattie. This was later changed and named for the British Prime Minister of the time, Arthur Balfour, after he gave a speech on the town's train station platform in 1905.
Balfour lies in what is known as Cosmos country, the south western area of Mpumalanga that is at the centre of the country's coal mining. It is called Cosmos Country because it is this area that annually explodes with varying pink and white cosmos flowers during autumn, a breathtaking sight for any visitor. It is also Big 5 country, and the grasslands, vleis and low lying hills provide not only the perfect space for cattle farming but also for various game farms. This makes a game spotting holiday close to home more than possible for Gautengers and fleeting visits to Johannesburg, ensuring that one gets a taste of the Bush without having to travel all the way to the Kruger National Park. This farming country and ideal for a leisurely stroll across the nearby koppies, especially when cosmos flowers are in full bloom during autumn. Life in the centre of town is quiet so it's well worth doing a private tour of the surrounding region, during which local guides narrate the history of the surrounding region that also stretches to Greylingstad, Val and Villiers. Along the winding banks of the Suikerbosrand River and situated on the Balfour Dam you'll find Fortuna Resort – a peaceful, privately-owned hideaway that is known for its camping and caravanning facilities, and quad biking track. The kids will be entertained by the putt putt golf course, playground, trampolines, heated and cold swimming pools and the possibility of catching any of the five freshwater fish species.
Few know about Balfour Dam along the banks of the Suikerbosrand River or Welgelegen Manor – the architectural landmark built by one of South Africa's greatest architects – both of which lie quietly in Balfour.
The most interesting historic landmark in the Balfour area is the Welgelegen Manor House. It was designed by none other than Sir Herbert Baker, the architect who designed the Union Buildings and Groote Schuur Hospital among numerous other buildings and historic landmarks. The restored manor house has been transformed into a five-star guest house and numerous recreational activities – such as walking, hiking and lawn sports – are centred here. Otherwise play a round of golf at Summerfield golf course close by. Balfour is certainly the town to visit if you have little else on your agenda besides reading and unwinding.