Makassar was the gateway to eastern Indonesia for hundreds of years, and it was from here that the Dutch controlled much of the trade that passed between the West and the East. You can investigate the city’s historical core — that keeps some colonial charm — around Fort Rotterdam, which include the remains of an ancient Gowanese fort and some spectacular Dutch buildings. These are some of the top sights in Makassar.
Among the best-preserved samples of Dutch naval architecture in Indonesia, Fort Rotterdam was constructed on the site of a Gowanus fort, itself built to repel the Dutch Eastern India Company. Having failed to keep the Dutch, it was reconstructed by the new masters of Makassar following their 1667 conquest, also includes several beautiful, well-restored colonial structures. You will walk the enclave’s stout ramparts, see sections of the first walls and visit the Museum Negeri La Galigo, inside.
While foreign visitors have a tendency to marvel at the architecture, local tourists remember the fort as the last residence of national hero Prince Diponegoro who led the revolt in Java contrary to Dutch occupation. He was imprisoned for 25 years till his death in 1855.
Just far enough away from Makassar to shed most (although not all) of the rubbish, the white areas of Pulau Samalona are popular with day trippers, particularly on weekends. There are patches of (degraded) coral offshore, some reef fish, and snorkeling gear for hire. Compared to Makassar harbor, the water’s quite clear. Cold drinks (including beer) and fresh fish are available but bring your own water. It may take a full two minutes to walk around the entire island.
Boat charters for up to eight people (return 400,000Rp, 25 minutes one-way) can be located at the various peers along the Makassar waterfront.
Pantai Losari is a kilometer-long beachless promenade that stretches south to Masjid Amirul Mukminin, the ‘floating mosque.’ It is a fantastic place to catch some sea air daily, but springs to life through the night with unlimited snack carts hawking Pisang Epe (a grilled banana decadence) to grinding teenagers.
Pelabuhan Paotere, 4km north of the city center, is a large port where Bugis sailing ships berth. It is a working port, with requisite bustle and grime. However, the ships are photogenic, and people usually friendly. The port and the nearby fish market are all atmospheric places from sunrise until mid-morning when giant salmon and each sea creature possible are traded.
Take a blue bemo to the corner of Jl Cakalang and Yos Sudarso. From there it is a 1km walk: head north beneath the highway bridge, taking your first right, then an immediate left.
Museum Negeri La Galigo
Spread out across two buildings inside Fort Rotterdam, Museum Negeri La Galigo has an assortment of exhibits, including Paleolithic artifacts, rice bowls from Tana Toraja, Polynesian and Buddhism sculptures, musical instruments and traditional costumes — many followed by blocks of poorly translated English text. It is a small collection, but worth the admission and half an hour attention.