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Graaff-Reinet is a town in Karoo Heartland.


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 newly established Camdeboo National Park of about 15,000ha.

Chuch Street is the main street of the town.

Get in[edit]

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

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][add listing]

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

  • Graaff - Reinet, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [1]. Graaff-Reinet is the oldest town in this area, known as the ‘Athens’ of the Eastern Cape, and is recognized as the home of magnificent examples of Karoo architecture and over 220 heritage sites, more than any other town in South Africa. Another unique characteristic of the town to look out for is one of the largest grape vines in the world, which was planted in 1870. The town lies on the banks of the Sundays River and is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park.  edit
  • Dutch Reformed Church, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [2]. 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.  edit
  • Hester Rupert Art Museum, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [3]. 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.  edit
  • Hugenot National Heritage Site, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [4]. This National Heritage Site marks the arrival of the French Huguenots of South Africa, who form an indelible part of history.  edit
  • Jan Rupert Centre, +27 (0) 49 892-4248, [5]. The Centre, which started out as a mission church, now houses the Pierneef Art collection.  edit
  • Nqweba Dam, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [6]. 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.  edit
  • Old Jail, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [7]. The jail, situated on the banks of the Sundays River was built in 1861. One of its many inmates was Anna Rabie, the last South African woman who was publicly executed.  edit
  • Old Library Museum, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [8]. 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.  edit
  • Pyramid, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [9]. The Pyramid, situated on Magazine Hill, pays tribute to the forming of the Union of South Africa in 1910.  edit
  • St James Church, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [10]. This beautiful building, erected in 1850, is the oldest original church still in use in the town.  edit
  • Valley of Desolation, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [11]. The geological phenomenon of the Valley of Desolation, declared a National Heritage Site, lies within the Camdeboo National Park. The Valley was formed millions of years ago by weathering erosion, creating a type of oasis in the midst of the aridness of the Karoo. The diversity of the fauna and flora is incredible and attracts over 220 species of bird, is home to 336 plants and 43 types of mammal.  edit
  • War Memorial, +27 (0)49 892-4248, [12]. 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.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • 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.
  • Visit the Valley of Desolation, (Head north out of Graaff-Reinet a few kilometers towards [[Richmond (South Africa)|Richmond]], then turn left into the reserve. Then turn left again after the entrance gate to drive south into the mountains.), (049) 892 3453 (, fax: (049) 892 3456), [13]. The Valley of Desolation is one of the highlights found in the Camdeboo National Park, where breathtaking cliffs and columns of rock make a haven for dozens of kinds of birds. There is a steep, curving drive to the top of the mountain, with an incredible view of the areaThe dry Karoo air means the view is not the least bit hazy. Best go at sundown as the shadows stretch out over the landscape. There is a short (45 min. hiking trail at the top, and other, longer trails within the park. R100 per Overseas adult per day (discount for RSA, SADC residents - starting from R35 per person with local South African ID documents).  edit
  • Camdeboo National Park, (Surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet - Main office a few kilometers towards Middleburg, then turn left into the reserve), (049) 892 3453 (, fax: (049) 892 3456), [14]. The Valley of Desolation is situated in the Camdeboo National Park, this parks surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
    The Valley of Desolation was formed hundreds of millions of years ago & today it's one of South Africa's great natural wonders. Camdeboo National Park provides the visitor with insights into the unique landscape and ecosystem of the Karoo, not to mention awesome scenic beauty.
    The Valley of Desolation is a premier tourist attraction in the Karoo region with more than 100 000 visitors per year. The road to the top of the valley was tarred in 1978 and today provides tourists with easy access to the viewpoints with their panoramic views of the landscape. The viewpoints at the Valley itself provide a breath-taking view of piled dolerite columns against the backdrop of the plains of the Great Karoo and a timeless sense of wonder at a landscape said to be the product of the erosive and volcanic forces of nature over a period of 200 million years.
    There is amazing game viewing & Birding opportunities whilst visiting the area, with approximately an additional 19km of gravel roadways throughout the park, provide visitors with the opportunity to view the entire range of indigenous game species in this, their preferred habitats. For birding enthusiasts, nearly 250 bird species have been recorded in the Park.
    There are numerous walking trails available throughout the park
    • The Crag Lizard Trail (45 minutes) starts at the Valley of Desolation parking area and extends for about 1.5km via the Valley viewpoints. It is marked with the Crag Lizard logo. • The Eerstefontein Day Walk starts and ends at the Spandaukop gate. There are three route options of 5km, 11km and 14km with good rest spots at Eerstefontein and Agtersfontein. • The Gideon Scheepers Trail is an hour long walk, starting at the Gideon Scheepers Monument, which commemorates a historic figure, and ending at Barbergat on the R63 to Murraysburg.

    Your day ticket to visit the Valley of Desolation also allows you to access the following 4x4 routes
    Koedoeskloof 4x4 trail (grade 3 to 4)
    This trail provides a drive to the top of the mountain, providing unique and spectacular views of the landscape. The trail can be completed with a return journey following the same track in about three hours but the Karoo tranquility and scenic vistas beg for a full day outing. The turning point of the trail, which lies on top of the mountain in the Winterhoek area of the Park, is the perfect place for a picnic lunch or tea break, with a picnic table provided here. The Koedoeskloof 4x4 trail is accessed via the Valley of Desolation gate, with the turn off to the trail well signposted about three kilometres after entering the park. No booking is necessary for those who wish to complete the trail and no fee is payable, apart from the Park conservation fee. Visitors can only attempt the trail in a 4x4 vehicle (no 2x4's with diff lock).
    Driekoppe 4x4 Trail
    This is a scenic grade 2 trail. Wildlife that may be seen in this section of the park includes Cape mountain zebra, kudu, mountain reedbuck,klipspringer and baboons. The flatter bottom-lands support populations of springbok, black wildebeest and ostrich. Duiker and steenbok are also common. You can follow the track past the water supply pump, to the top of Hanglip with its panoramic view of the Camdeboo plains or follow the stream bed down Wolfkloof to the waterfall. You can also walk a circular route by following the left hand turn off. Both 2x4's and 4x4's can make use of the trail.

    Fishing is also an option in the nearby Nqweba Dam that forms part of the Camdeboo National Park. The dam, when full, covers over 1 000 hectares, providing cool relief during hot summer days and a base for a variety of water activities. Boating, canoeing, fishing and windsurfing are allowed on the dam (permit fees apply).
    The Nqweba Dam attracts a wide variety of birds as well as wildlife such as buffalo, gemsbok, springbok and black wildebeest which come to drink from the waters. Fish species which occur in the dam include moggel (Labeo umbratus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), mullet (Mugil cephalus), round herring (Gilchristella aestuaria), mosquitofish (Gambusia affinus) and river goby (Glossogobius callidus).

    In the past year numerous developments have taken place within the Camdeboo National Park.
    1. Inaugural Roof de Karoo mountain bike traverse held in March 2017 – A Mountain Bike race starting at a picnic site in the Mountain Zebra National Park outside Cradock and ending the following day at the historic Winterhoek homestead at Camdeboo National Park, Graaff-Reinet. 175km of amazing Karoo landscape. 50 teams partook & it was a great marketing opportunity for Graaff-Reinet.
    2. The Corridor between Mountain Zebra & the Camdeboo National Park is comprising of numerous private farms, who all have conservation ideals.
    3. Additional abolition facilities were added at various spots throughout the park
    4. Additional 4x4 routes were added in the Eastern section of the park, to ensure 4x4 enthusiasts have plenty routes to pick from.
    5. A viewing deck at the Valley of Desolation was varnished & maintained.
    6. In the pipeline is a route (new) to make the Valley of Desolation viewpoint accessible for people with disability. This year is planned to add handrailings. A future wheelchair friendly route will be available.
    7. Winterhoek Homestead offers accommodation with guests having exclusive use of this section of the park for birding & game viewing. Hiking is also permitted in the area.
    8. The annual birding weekend was held in March 2017 & was received with great delight by birding ethusiasts from the Eastern Cape, who travelled to the Graaff-Reinet area to enjoy the numerous birding excursions on offer. (Birdwatching whilst canoeing was introduced this year).
    9. An active Sanparks forum, that is well representative of the diverse spectrum of the Graaff-Reinet community, ensures that all population groups feel they benefit from the park in the area.
    10. Granaat Society – also called “Friends of the Park” supports numerous development projects in the park & donated plaques / identifiers of plant species that were erected along the Crag Lizard Trail leading to the viewpoints at the Valley of Desolation.

    Tourists have numerous options when visiting the Valley of Desolation – Since their day ticket also covers the following:
    • Braai facilities en-route to the Valley of Desolation
    • Picnic areas with amazing viewpoints
    • Bird Hide & watering holes
    • Hiking along designated routes – clearly marked on the visitors map
    • 4x4 routes – clearly indicated on visitors map
    • Mountain Biking
    • Birding & Game Viewing throughout the Camdeboo National Park
    • Detailed visitor information & informative map of the area available from Sanpark office within the park.
    R100 per Overseas adult per day (discount for RSA, SADC residents - starting from R35 per person with local South African ID documents).  edit
  • Day ticket to Camdeboo National Park allows you to visit the Valley of Desolation, enjoy the picnic sites in the park, drive the 4x4 routes (clearly marked) other routes (19km dirt roads) are easily accessible with car. Bring along your mounntain bike or go hiking in the park. Be sure to return to the Valley of Desolation for sunset.
  • Visit the Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of town.
  • Reinet House Museum - had been the family home of Andrew Murray.
  • Hester Rupert Art museum - contempory South African Art - amazing selection of South African art.
  • Jan Rupert Art Centre
  • The Old Residensie Museum - Firearm and War Museum
  • Urquart House Museum.
  • Obesa Succelent Nursery - biggest cacti & succulent nursery in the Southern Hemisphere.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Most shops are located in Church and Caledon Streets around the Dutch Reformed Church which is in the center 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][add listing]

For the best meals in Graaff-Reinet visit:

  • Karoopark Guest House's restaurant (Karoopark Guest House), 81 Caledon St., +27 (0)49 892-2557 (). Homely typical South African food - try the Kudu Steak / Lambpotjie or Karoo Lamb Chops. Catering for vegetarains too.  edit
  • The Coldstream Restaurant on the Eastern side of the Church in the centre of the town
  • Polka Restaurant in Somerset Street one block west of Church Street.
  • Numerous coffee shops in town for breakfast & lunch options - try Blue Magnolia - close to the Dutch Reformed Church.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • 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 ([email protected]), 3 Parsonage street (Near the Reinet House.This immensely pleasing restaurant located in the historic Parsonage Street is not only itself part of the town's history but is full of interesting ...), +27 (0)49 8926059. A la Carte menu,Cosy Pub,Beergarden. What are the secrets of Pioneers' success? Simple - excellent food, plenty of it, old favourites as well as some interesting surprises on the menu and, last but not least, friendly and efficient service. Pioneers offers great value for money.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Camdeboo Cottages (email - [email protected]), 16 Parliament Street ((situated just off Church Street)), 0498923180, [15]. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 10AM. Camdeboo Cottages offers B&B & Self-catering accommodation in the heart of historical Graaff-Reinet. Consists of nine self-catering cottages (all national monuments) and 9 en-suite rooms (with Double beds, DSTV & aircon).
    These cottages form a secluded courtyard with covered carports, a swimming pool & garden.

    Bed & Breakfast or self-catering is available & a variety of evening meals are on offer - dinner is served in the cottages or on the veranda next to the swimming pool

    All cottages have :

    *Electric Blankets on all beds in the winter
    *Flatscreen TV's with DSTV - Satelite TV
    *En-suite bathrooms with showers (Old-fashioned cast-iron baths upon request)
    *Fully equipped kitchens with a stove, microwave & fridge
    *A lounge/dinning room in each cottage with aircon
    *Secure parking
    *Coffee & tea making facilities in all units
    *All linen and towels are provided
    *Rooms are serviced daily
    *Breakfast and dinner is also available / Meals provided
    *Fan & aircon in all units / in the winter all beds have electric blankets.
    *Swimming pool with braai facilities available to all visitors.
    *Restaurant facility available - Try the delicious Karoo Lamb or Leg of Springbok on the menu.
    *Room service available upon request

    Activities in and around Graaff-Reinet:
    *Bird Watching in the Camdeboo National Park
    *Game Viewing in the Camdeboo National Park
    *4x4 Routes in the Camdeboo National Park
    *Cycling and mountain biking in the Camdeboo National Park
    *Golf - great 9 hole grass course in the Karoo
    *Hiking Routes in the Camdeboo National Park
    *Museum Visits - A must is the Reinet House Museum & Hester Rupert Art Museum
    *Sight Seeing - more than 200 private homes are declared National Monuments
    *Valley of Desolation
    *Township Tours by arrangement - please phone Chantelle 071 670 4747
    *Guided Town Walks - please phone Chantelle 071 670 4747
    *Day trips to Nieu-Bethesda & Aberdeen
    (-32.252060,24.534037) edit

  • Karoopark Guest House - 3 star graded (email - [email protected]), 81 Caledon Street, Graaff-Reinet (Near the Dutch Reformed Church in the center of Graaff-Reinet), 0498922557, [16]. checkin: 1PM onwards; checkout: 10AM. Karoopark Guest House is located in the main street of Graaff-Reinet. It has an a'la Carte Restuarant and pub, a swimming pool and secure parking. The Guest House is within walking distance of shops, banks and historical places of interest - A must see whilst in town is teh the Valley of Desolation - situated 17km outside of town. Tours are on offer to all the mayor highlights Withond, the house drink, is locally brewed at the Reinet Museum and no one can leave town without a taste. Karoopark is a great place to soak up the ambiance of the Karoo. Starts from R450 per room. (-32.2505188748935,24.5301103591919) edit
  • Buitenverwagten B&B & Health Hydro, 58 Bourke Street, +27 (0)49 892-4504, [17]. A 4 Star Guest House with beautiful gardens close to the centre of town.  edit
  • Cypress Cottages, 76 Donkin Street, +27 (0)83 456-1795, [18]. A 4 star Guest House in quiet tree-lined street away from the hustle and bustle of town centre.  edit
  • De Erf Manor House, (3km outside Graaff-Reinet), +27 (0)49 893-0313, [19]. checkin: 14h00. 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. R420 pp sharing. (32° 17.384' S,24° 32.715' E) edit
  • Samara Private Game Reserve, (Off the R63 towards Petersburg, 55 km), +27 (0)49 891-0558, [20]. A 5 star experience on 28 000ha. A unique Great Karoo experience with wonderful staff to pamper you and see to your every need.  edit
Graaff-Reinet seen from above.
  • No 4. Rothman Street, (Graaff-Reinet), +27 (0) 83 560 7367 (), [21]. 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.  edit
  • Obesa Lodge, 64 Murray Street, +27 (0)49 892-3143. Self-catering or B&B, beautiful succulent and cacti gardens. Reasonable rates.  edit
  • Villa Reinet Guest House, 83 Somerset Street (Map available on website), 049 892 5525, [22]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 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. (24o 31' 44 E,32o 15' 11 S) edit

Get out[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.
  • Chantelle The Tourguide (Chantelle, the local tour guide in Graaff-Reinet), 16 Parliament Street,Graaff-Reinet (operate from Camdeboo Cottages), 0716704747 (), [23]. Available every day - contact her to book a tour of Graaff-Reinet - be it a trip to the Valley of Desolation / guided town walk in the historical part of Graaff-Reinet or a Game Drive in the Camdeboo National Park. More recently started with Night drives in the Camdeboo National Park - game viewing by spotlight - amazing to see the Karoo animals at night. Price varies on the size of the group.  edit
  • 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 049-8923978
  • Visit the Mountain Zebra National Park that is 150km away.
  • Visit Nieu-Bethesda (53km from Graaff-Reinet) with the Owl House, Fossil Interpretation Centre, Craft and coffee shops, art centres, Ganora excursions - 60km aways.
  • Kalkop Meteorite Crater
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