Founded in 1884, the town was formed within an area granted to early Voortrekker settlers by the Zulu King Dinizulu. Rich coal seams were discovered soon after and this, along with an expanding agricultural industry, ensured the rapid growth of the town. The coal assets have, mostly, been depleted and this has shifted the economic focus to tourism.
The main tourist attractions are the history and nature sites. Using the Vryheid Town Map below, and starting at the Information Bureau (1), itself a conversion from the old Carnegie Library which was build with funds donated by the Scottish-American philanthropist, take a stroll up the street to the old parliament building and jail, all buildings which were used by the fledging government of the Nieuwe Republiek between 1884 and 1888.
One of the best kept secrets is the Ithala Game Reserve is a magnificent reserve nearby, tumbling from the heights of the Ngotshe Mountains a thousand meters down into a deep valley, carved over the eons by the Phongolo River revealing the world`s oldest rock formations, is a game viewers paradise.
After Boer farmers, who lived in the Vryheid area, had helped King Dinuzulu defeat his rival chief Zibhebhu for succession of the Zulu throne, land that they occupied was given to them by session from the Zulu king along the banks of the Mfolozi River.
On August 5, 1884 the Boers formed the Nieuwe Republiek (New Republic) with Vryheid as its capital and its sovereignty was recognized by Germany and Portugal. It was later incorporated into the South African Republic, but at the end of the Second Boer War the town and its surrounding area was absorbed into the Natal colony by the British.