Pekan town is said to have existed since the 17th century, but no exact date has been verified. Several Arab and Chinese writers mentioned Pekan.
The villagers at Kampong Mengkasar, about two kilometers before reaching Pekan from Kuantan, are said to be direct descendants of Tok Tuan from Makassar in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Among the well-known figures, Tun Abdul Razak was recognized as having a Sulawesi heritage.
Sultan Abu Bakar Museum displays many artifacts which are important in the state's history and the local Malay culture. The museum was officially opened by Sultan Ahmad Shah in October 1976. It is located in the former residence of the British Resident, which was built in 1929. It was acquired by the Sultan of Pahang in 1948 and was renamed Kota Beram Palace. In 1965, the Sultan moved his residence to a new palace (the Abu Bakar Palace), where the current Royal Palace is situated.
The museum was officially opened to the public in October 1976, in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of the Sultan of Pahang. The first Chairman of the museum was the late YBhg. Dato' Haji Mohd Mokhtar bin Haji Daud and the first Director/Curator was YBhg. Dato' Mohamed Mokhtar bin Haji Abu Bakar. The museum expanded its collections of artifacts very actively during this era up to 1997. The locals eagerly surrendered and provided as gifts certain unique artifacts to the museum. One example of these is a keris (a type of Malay dagger) which was found by a young man in a river about 20 km from the town of Pekan. This particular keris drew a lot of attention, coupled with strange stories of its mystical prowess. The keris is still on display at the museum.
The museum has dedicated galleries focusing on water transportation, personal belongings of the late Sultan Abu Bakar and the late Tengku Ampuan Pahang Tengku Afzan. The museum is currently undergoing renovations (as at Oct 2008). Visitors are advised to call the museum first (contact details available from the Malaysian Yellow Pages).
Other places of interest include the Royal Palace (the Sultan Abu Bakar Palace), Abu Bakar Royal Mosque, Royal Mausoleum, the Royal Pahang Polo Field nearby the Palace, the Royal Pekan Golf Club, birth house of late Tun Abdul Razak at Kampung Pulau Keladi and Silk Weaving Centre.
Nearby the Royal Pahang Polo Field is a long-established Islamic college, known as Kuliah Sultan Abu Bakar (the Sultan Abu Bakar Kulliyyah). It has produced eminent scholars all over the State of Pahang and Malaysia. Its students consistently further their studies in the esteemed Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
Pekan is 15 minutes from clean, sandy beaches. North on the way to Kuantan, there is Pantai Legenda (Lagenda Beach) (with golf course). South on the way to Kuala Rompin is the Pantai Batu 16 (the 16th Mile Beach), which used to have a royal retreat complex.
A one-hour drive from Pekan is Lake Chini, a beautiful freshwater lake which is one of the largest in Malaysia. It features a resort with restaurant, jungle trekking paths and a boat station. Boat trips are available by various routes around the lake. Prices differ according to the chosen routes (duration of boat trip from 45 minutes to 3 hours). There are also Orang Asli (natives) settlements nearby providing a hands-on experience of their living culture.
Pekan offers a variety of delicious food. Being a Royal Town, Pekan enjoys the best kuih-muih (Malay delicacies) which are prepared by the same people or their descendants who used to prepare the same delicacies for the palace. Breakfast menu is aplenty to choose from. One particular novelty for breakfast is the 'roti naik' (a kind of bread quite like the buns you get from supermarkets, but much more nicer). This particular bread can only be found in very few places, Pekan being one of them. Other delicacies are nasi dagang, kuih bakar, ikan bakar (fresh grilled fish) and others.
Kampong Mengkasar is also well known of its Murtabak. It is a unique variant of the original Indian dish that can only be found in Pekan. Although the Murtabak Pekan was not started in Kampong Mengkasar, but it is available here throughout the year. Other murtabak outlets in Pekan like the Murtabak Mawar (also known as murtabak Sultan), only available in the month of Ramadhan.
It is believed that the original Murtabak Pekan was started by an Indian Muslim Restaurant located at the second floor of the central market known as Restoran Salam in early 1970s. It was one of the favorite dish of the late Sultan of Pahang (Sultan Abu Bakar) for breaking fast during the month of Ramadhan. Due to the great demands, more outlets starts selling murtabak all over Pekan. Murtabak has since referred as the special dish of Pekan, and one should not pass Pekan without trying and appreciate its delicious taste.