Graaff Reinet Travel Guide (Eastern Cape)

Graaff Reinet

Eastern Cape Attractions

Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape is home to some of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture and is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park. There are over 200 heritage sites in Graaff Reinet alone more that you will find in any other South African town. The people of Graaff Reinet are very friendly and keen to share their history and experiences. Church Street and Caledon Street are where you will find most of the shops in Graaff Reinet also near the Dutch Reformed Church (see photo) in the centre of the town. For maps and information on the area its worth popping into McNaughtons Bookshop which has a good selection.

Graaff Reinet, the fourth oldest town in South Africa, is found in the heart of the area known as the Great Karoo and on clear nights provides wonderful star gazing experiences. Other popular activities in the area include paragliding and microlight flying. There are a number of museums in Graaff Reinet worth visiting including the Reinet House Museum which is the most visited museum in the whole of the Eastern Cape.

The Dutch Reformed Church

This beautiful church, which is actually a replica of Salisbury Cathedral, stands proudly at the centre of the town. Thie early Gothic Style church can hold up to 1000 people and its steeple rises to a height of 150 feet. It was designed by the Architect J. Bisset and the stone to build it is thought to have been cut and prepared by a local farmer. When you see the scale and beauty of the building you will understand what an impressive feat this must have been. 

The Drostdy Hotel

The Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet is a Cape Dutch building dating all the way back to 1806.  Drostdy is actually a dutch word which means 'magistrates court'. The last few decades has seen lots of changes to the structure, that was designed by the french architect Louis Thibault, and after a recent renovation it now stands proudly and is open to visitors. Part of the hotel includes the 'Stretch Court', which are Karoo Cottages that have been restored and now provide overnight accommodation. There are 51 rooms in total at the hotel and everyone of them differs in size and decor. The restaurant at the Drostdy Hotel receives rave reviews and is well worth a visit.

As well as taking a stroll through the tree-lined streets of the town don't forget to venture out a little further to visit the modest grave of Robert Sobukwe who was one of the great anti-apartheid activists.

The Old Library Museum

The Old Library Museum takes you on a trip back in time back to when the first plants and animals wandered the Karoo plains right up to the more recent settlement of Graaf Reniet. The fossils and archaeology are well presented as well as the history of the people and politics of the region charting back some 250 years. The Old Library Museum is presented in such a way that all age groups are catered for even the young ones. 

Graaff-Reinet Top Tip

There are 5 museums in Graaf-Reinet and if you plan on visiting all 5 then you can buy a discounted ticket at each of the museums which will allow you entry to all 5 for a discounted price. Better than paying for all 5 individually!

Camdeboo National Park

The Camdeboo National Park is over 19,000 hectares in size and includes the Valley of Desolation a National Monument of significant geological importance. The Valley of Desolation is located at the top of the Camdeboo National Park and has some amazing cliffs and rock columns that are home to an array of wild birds. The steep and winding road that leads up to the top has some amazing views along the way. At sundown the shadows seem to stretch for miles across the landscape. From the top car park there is a hking trail up to the Beacon where the views are just amazing. Be sure to wear good walking shoes (not saddles or slip slops) as the terrain is not flat. Recommended times of the day to visit are early morning or as dusk is approaching. The park also includes the Nqweba Dam where there you can take part in watersports or go fishing. There are a number of picnic sites and also trails for day time or even overnight. There are also sunset boat cruises on offer on the Nqweba Dam.

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