The town is renowned for its excellent trout fishing conditions. Sheep and dairy farming take place here as well as maize, potatoes and timber are produced. Coal and a black granite are mined around Belfast. Around 6 million tulip bulbs are produced here annually for export; the flowers are discarded. Belfast is 2,025 m above sea level and one of the coldest and highest towns in South Africa.
It was named after Richard Charles O'Neill from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who owned the farm on which the town was built.
In October 2009 the town of Belfast was officially renamed to eMakhazeni when Arts and Culture Minister, Lulu Xingwana, approved the name change of over 42 locations across northern South Africa, with major other towns affected including Nelspruit (now Mbombela) and Waterval Boven (now Emgwenya).