Once upon a time, by the late 1930s, some 50 years or so after the first discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, there were eight gold mines near Springs, making it one of the largest single gold-producing areas in the world.
Today Springs has become a regional economic hub, with mining replaced by manufacturing and engineering industries, such as chemicals, processed metals and foodstuffs, including the only Kellogg’s factory in South Africa.
The town is famous as the birthplace of South African Nobel Literature laureate Nadine Gordimer, and is also known for its art-deco architecture – some of which is in disrepair. It’s reputed to have the second biggest collection of small-scale art-deco buildings in the world after Miami in Florida. There are no formal guided tours but if you start at the well-maintained 1938 Springs Fire Station and make your way round the city on foot or by car you should see up to 30 interesting examples.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities in Springs, from small, intimate shopping centres to two major downtown shopping malls: The Avenues and Palm Springs. Nearby The Avenues you’ll find popular bars, clubs, nightclubs and discos.
If you’re a birder, a must-visit is the Marievale Bird Sanctuary within the Blesbokspruit area, designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance for waterbirds in 1986. Consisting of large, open, shallow stretches of water formed by run-offs from construction and the mines, it’s now full of sedges, reeds, bulrushes, duckweed and other vlei vegetation. It’s one of the best wetland birding spots in Gauteng, where you can tick off over 220 species and maybe even spot a rarity such as a black-tailed godwit, Pacific golden plover, pectoral sandpiper, Baird’s sandpiper or spotted crake, all observed here in the last few years.
If you’re a car enthusiast, then check out the township of Daveyton, once known as the Chevrolet Township. You might still spot an old Chevrolet car or another classic model once used regularly as taxis in the township.
Springs boasts a number of parks, including Pioneer Park adjacent to the CBD. A peaceful oasis in the middle of town, it’s set around an ivy-covered mineshaft and includes a tree-lined lake, lovely aloe gardens, a stone bridge, streams, fountains and a functioning, authentic Dutch windmill.