town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Graaff-Reinet is a town of 36,000 people (2011) in the Karoo Heartland. A touch of history wafts around the old houses, the small church and the busy main street of Graaff-Reinet. As one of the oldest cities in South Africa, it is littered with listed buildings from the Wilhelminian era, and has its own flair. The nearby Valley of Desolation attracts thousands of visitors annually with its desert atmosphere.

Understand edit

The Dutch Reformed church dominates the skyline of Graaff-Reinet

Graaff-Reinet was established in 1786 and is the 4th oldest town in South Africa and the oldest town in the Eastern Cape Province. It was established to bring law & order, religion and education to the many Dutch farmers on the Eastern Frontier. It was named after the then Dutch East Indian Company Governor of the Cape, Cornelius Jacob van der Graaff, and his wife Cornelia, whose maiden name was Reinet. The town is renowned for its architectural heritage and at 220 sites, has more national monuments than any other town in South Africa. It was once one of the largest centres in the Cape Colony, as it was on the direct route to the minefields of the interior. Today it still functions as an important farming centre with the raising of Merino sheep, Angora goats, ostriches and game being the main activities in this area of the eastern Great Karoo. It is also well known for the nearby Valley of Desolation, which today forms part of the Camdeboo National Park of about 15,000 ha.

Get in edit

  • From Bloemfontein, take the N9 at Colesberg through Middelburg. You may want to visit Nieu-Bethesda which is 25 km off the N9 on the way.
  • From Port Elizabeth take the R75 for 260 km past Kariega/Uitenhage, Wolvefontein and Jansenville
  • From George take the N9 for 340 km past Uniondale, Willowmore and Aberdeen
  • From Beaufort West take the R61 to Aberdeen and turn left onto the N9. Distance 210 km.

Get around edit

Graaff is small enough to get around the centre on foot. You can arrange tours to the Valley of Desolation using one of the agencies near the church.

See edit

The Valley of Desolation

The old town centre architecture is well-preserved and you can actually feel the Karoo Heartland-atmosphere there.

  • Dutch Reformed Church, +27 49 892-4248. Designed to resemble the neo-gothic lines of England’s Salisbury Cathedral, this is considered to be the finest church of its kind in the country.
  • Hester Rupert Art Museum, +27 49 892-4248. A former activity centre, school and mission church, this building was once saved from demolition by the Rembrandt Corporation and was named after the mother of Anton Rupert, who was the head of the corporation at that time.
  • Hugenot National Heritage Site, +27 49 892-4248. This National Heritage Site marks the arrival of the French Huguenots of South Africa, who form an indelible part of history.
  • Jan Rupert Centre, +27 49 892-4248. The centre, which started out as a mission church, now houses the Pierneef Art collection.
  • Nqweba Dam, +27 49 892-4248. The Nqweba Dam forms part of the Camdeboo National Park and is famed for being the home of a rich variety of birdlife and offers sunset boat cruises.
  • Old Jail, +27 49 892-4248. The jail was built on the banks of the Sundays River in 1861. One of its many inmates was Anna Rabie, the last South African woman who was publicly executed.
  • Old Library Museum, +27 49 892-4248. Visit the museum and allow yourself to get lost in the costume collections, reproductions of San artwork and art exhibits including the Robert Sobukwe photographic exhibition and fossil collections.
  • Pyramid, +27 49 892-4248. The Pyramid, situated on Magazine Hill, pays tribute to the forming of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
  • St James Church, +27 49 892-4248. This beautiful building, erected in 1850, is the oldest original church still in use in the town.
  • Valley of Desolation, +27 49 892-4248. The geological phenomenon of the Valley of Desolation, declared a National Heritage Site, lies within the Camdeboo National Park.
  • War Memorial, +27 49 892-4248. The War Memorial, erected in 1918, features a great bronze angel that stands guard over the names of the men from Graaff-Reinet that died during World War I.

Do edit

The Reinet House Museum
  • Walk around to explore the town centre. Go into one of the restaurants to get a feeling for the old furniture and the way the people must have lived once upon a time.
  • Reinet House Museum - the most visited museum in the East Cape
  • Hester Rupert Art museum - contemporary South African Art
  • Pierneef Art Museum
  • The Old Residensie Museum - firearm and war museum
  • Urquart House Museum.

Buy edit

Most shops are in Church and Caledon Streets around the Dutch Reformed Church which is in the centre of town. On the corner of Parsonage and Church Streets are two little shops called Out of Africa and African Adventure which are both jam-packed with all kinds of curios. McNaughton's Bookshop near to Absa Bank in Church Street has a wide selection of tourist maps, guide books and general information about the area. They also carry a large range of new books with some Africana.

Eat edit

  • Gordon's Restaurant (Andries Stockenstrom guesthouse), 100 Cradock St, +27 49 892-4575, .
  • The Coldstream Restaurant on the eastern side of the church in the centre of the town
  • The Coral Tree in Somerset Street one block west of Church Street.
  • The Wimpy near to Spar in Caledon Street serves a great breakfast.

Drink edit

The Graaff-Reinet Club
  • Get someone to sign you in at the Graaff-Reinet Club next to the Coldstream Restaurant. It is the oldest watering hole in the town and filled with all kinds of interesting collections like historical weapons, caricatures of previous members and even has bullet holes in the bar counter dating from the Anglo-Boer War. Ask for Terrance Gush (usually behind the bar) to tell you all about it.
  • Agave Silver or Gold - produced in the district in the only distillery outside Mexico to produce alcohol from the agave plant
  • Withond (White Dog) - a local variation of Witblits (White Lightning) or Moonshine produced by special license on the premises of Reinet House Museum
  • Karoo Cabernet - (Brandy & Coke) the closest thing locals know to red wine
  • Pioneers Restaurant (, 3 Parsonage St (near the Reinet House), +27 49 892-6059. This immensely pleasing restaurant in the historic Parsonage Street is part of the town's history. A la carte menu, cosy pub, beergarden. Excellent food, plenty of it, old favourites and some interesting surprises on the menu, and friendly and efficient service. Pioneers offers great value for money.

Sleep edit

The Drosdy Hotel
  • 1 Camdeboo Cottages (email -, 16 Parliament St (situated just off Church Street), +27 49 892-3180. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 10:00. Camdeboo Cottages offers B&B and self-catering accommodation in the heart of historical Graaff-Reinet. Consists of nine self-catering cottages (all national monuments).
  • 2 Karoopark Guest House - 3 star graded (email -, 81 Caledon St (near the Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of Graaff-Reinet), +27 49 892-2557. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 10:00. Karoopark Guest House is in the main street of Graaff-Reinet. It has an à la carte restaurant and pub, a swimming pool and secure parking. The Guest House is within walking distance of shops, banks and historical places of interest. Starts from R450 per room.
  • [formerly dead link] Andries Stockenstrom Guesthouse, 100 Cradock St, +27 49 892-4575. 4-star guest house, with Gordon Wright's unbelievable food a highlight.
  • Buitenverwagten B&B & Health Hydro, 58 Bourke St, +27 49 892-4504. A 4-star guest house with beautiful gardens close to the centre of town.
  • Cypress Cottages, 76 Donkin St, +27 83 456-1795. A 4-star guest house in quiet tree-lined street away from the hustle and bustle of town centre.
  • 3 [dead link] De Erf Manor House (3 km outside Graaff-Reinet), +27 49 893-0313. Check-in: 14:00. A 4-star B&B/guesthouse situated on a small farm, offers luxury en suite double bedrooms with private entrances. The most memorable activity at De Erf (est 1806) is consuming fine food (including a wonderful breakfast), which is served in the Blacksmith's Shop. R485 per guest sharing. R650 per single guest (occupying a double room). R200 per child 5-11 years old. Children under 5 years old stay free.
  • Le Jardin Backpacking.
  • Samara Private Game Reserve (Off the R63 towards Petersburg, 55 km), +27 49 891-0558. A 5-star experience on 28 000 ha. A unique Great Karoo experience with wonderful staff to pamper you and see to your every need.
Graaff-Reinet seen from above.
  • No 4. Rothman Street (Graaff-Reinet), +27 83 560-7367, . This bed and breakfast offers 3 units with either 2 or 3 bedrooms, each with en suite bathrooms. Each unit has a kitchenette, lounge and dining area, braai area and access to the swimming pool. Both units are air conditioned and each bed room has two large beds.
  • Obesa Lodge, 64 Murray St, +27 49 892-3143. Self-catering or B&B, beautiful succulent and cacti gardens. Reasonable rates.
  • Villa Reinet Guest House, 83 Somerset St (Map available on website), +27 49 892-5525. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Villa Reinet has eight rooms for double accommodation. All rooms have air conditioning, comfortable beds dressed with percale cotton linen. All are en-suite with complimentary toiletries and hair dryers. Serviced daily. 370pppns.
  • Tannie Peggie's Guest House, 88 Caledon St, +27 49 840-0050, . Check-in: 17:00, check-out: 10:00. Self-catering, sleeps 6 persons in three separate rooms, one room en suite with the other two sharing a separate bathroom. You, as individual or family, gets the entire house to yourself for the duration of your stay. R220 p.p.p.n..

Go next edit

  • The Camdeboo National Park and Valley of Desolation, 14km outside town offers hiking, wildlife (a wide variety of Antelope, Mountain Zebra, Buffalo) and great birdwatching near the dam.
  • Visit Karoo Connections at 7 Church Street for a range of 1/2- and full-day tour options including an interesting Township Tour, a Historical Town Tour and the Valley of Desolation Tour which is a must.Their contact telephone number is +27 49-8923978
  • Go paragliding or microlight aircraft flying.
  • Visit the Mountain Zebra National Park that is not too far away.
  • Visit Nieu-Bethesda (53 km from Graaff-Reinet) with the Owl House, Fossil Interpretation Centre, Craft and coffee shops, art centres, Ganora excursions.
  • The Agave Distillery
  • A historic Karoo Farm
  • Kalkop Meteorite Crater
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