You're Going to Love Graaff Reinet
Founded in 1786, Graaff-Reinet is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape Province. Recognized for its Karoo architectural heritage, it is a historical farming village known for its Merino sheep, Angora goats, and ostriches.
Graaff-Reinet is bordered by the Sundays River and encircled by the Camdeboo National Park. Formed millions of years ago, the park is known for its springboks, red hartebeests, buffalos, bat-eared foxes, and Cape mountain zebras populations.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Graaff Reinet
1. Natural Wonders
The Valley of Desolation attracts more than 100,000 tourists a year. The panoramic views of the valley allow visitors to marvel at 200 million years of volcanic rock formations.
2. Architectural Heritage
To take in the Cape Dutch architectural legacy of Graaff-Reinet you can visit the Drostdy Hotel, the John Rupert Theatre, Reinet House, Urquhart House, the Anglican Church, Te Water House, the Old Library, and the Hester Rupert Art Museum.
3. Culinary Route
The cuisine of Graaff-Reinet is recognized for its local sourcing and includes dishes such as milktart, koeksisters, rusks, and Karoo lamb and venison.
4. African Crafts
African Adventure and Out of Africa sell curios and crafts, such as wood masks and painted ostrich eggs, as well as Zulu, Ndebele, and Masai jewelry.
5. Art Culture
The Pierneef Museum features a collection of 32 colorful landscape paintings by South African artist JH Pierneef. The Hester Rupert Art Museum showcases modern art from more than 100 South African artists.
What to do in Graaff Reinet
1. Glamping In Graaf Reinet
The Camdeboo National Park should be every traveler's first point of reconnaissance in Graaf Reinet. Stay in luxury or rough it out - the choice is yours! This vast, 75 square miles of wild, native bush features craggy, sheer cliffs, large birds of prey and other wildlife such as antelope and zebra and great hiking trails where travelers will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the sunset. The preservation efforts of the Karoo biome means that campers can take advantage of the multiple activities such as eco-tours, bird watching, cycling and fishing, to name a few, without disturbing the natural terrain.
2. Beauty And Mortality Collide
Don't let its sheer cliffs, perilous drop and jagged terrain scare you: the Valley of Desolation, as it's ominously called, is a breathtaking sight and a testament to the sublime formations of geology. Its almost 90-degree vertical cliffs and circular columns of dolerite are, thanks to the volcanic activity in the area, within Camdeboo National Park. Once you're done contemplating the sheer height and stunning view of the vast terrain, take the opportunity to delight in sighting nearly 220 species of birds and 336 types of plants on your way up.
3. Step Back In Time
A former home, now paying homage to the past as a museum, the Reinet House has been standing for the last 150 years - and counting! Its unique Cape-Dutch architecture gives visitors a sense of what living in what is now Graaf-Reinet must have been like. The home is an interesting mix of man-made and natural elements - much like Graaf-Reinet itself. A stunning banyan tree, for example, grows in the backyard, with its vines and roots extending plentifully. For history buffs, there are guided tours that will take the afternoon but fill you with stories.
4. Well-Preserved Faith For A Well-Preserved Town
If you visit during the day, you'll be able to witness its stunning Dutch-style architecture, beautiful steeple and interior woodwork, all well-maintained. But if you visit during the evening hours, you'll see this magnificent old church transformed by twilight. With its pristine grounds and high arches, the church is a jewel in the heart of Graaf-Reinet.
5. Take The Afternoon Off With Local Brews
Part of the "Culinary Route" of Graaf-Reinet and Camdeboo National Park, the GRT Brewery is a staple for all those who come to this South African town. Its beautiful courtyard is where locals and travelers alike sit down after a day's worth of nature-based activities and unwind to the taste of expertly-brewed local beers on tap. Indulge in interesting and eclectic local dishes such as a fillet-trio of springbok, beef and ostrich. Or, tuck into some Karoo lamb, a uniquely flavored meat that owes its distinct taste to the bossies the lamb feeds on, found nowhere else in the world.
When to Visit Graaff Reinet
The best time to visit is in fall, April to May, or in spring, September to October.
How to Get to Graaff Reinet
Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ) is the nearest major airport. It's 2 hours and 45 minutes to Graaff-Reinet by car.
From Cape Town, you can take Highway N1 to Beaufort West and then the R61 to Aberdeen, where you'll connect with the N9 to Graaff-Reinet. Travel time is 6.5 hours.
From Cape Town to Graaff-Reinet you can take the Intercape coach, which takes 7 hours and 15 minutes. Fares average R350.
Where to Stay in Graaff Reinet
The Drostdy Hotel features upscale accommodations in 19th-century cottages. Facilities include a spa, an art gallery, three swimming pools, and top-notch restaurants. The Karoopark Guest House is set on a historic plantation with guest houses on the grounds.
Popular Neighborhoods in Graaff-Reinet
Historical Graaff-Reinet - Historical Graaff-Reinet, on the Sundays River, is enclosed by the Camdeboo National Park. The town features many examples of Karoo architecture and more than 220 heritage sites.
Camdeboo National Park - Camdeboo National Park draws visitors to its scenery. With breathtaking views of the Valley of Desolation, the park also showcases a variety of wildlife and flora.
The Valley of Desolation - the Valley of Desolation is a wondrous landscape, which is the result of 200 million years of erosion and volcanic activity.
Where to stay in popular areas of Graaff Reinet
Most booked hotels in Graaff Reinet
The Cost of Living in Graaff Reinet
The area around Church Square in downtown Graaff-Reinet has a variety of shops selling local artifacts, clothing, and wine.
Groceries and Other
Shoprite Checkers, Spar, and Pick N Pay are three chain supermarkets in downtown Graaff-Reinet that carry all essentials, as well as take out items. The town is relatively affordable. A quart of milk is R7.
Where to Eat in Graaff Reinet
Polka Cafe serves South African-inspired nouvelle cuisine with specialties such as Karoo lamb and bobotie, a curry with a baked egg crust. Entrees average R75 to R130. Veld to Fork features farm-to-table fare. Specialties include mixed grill dishes and barbecued springbok kebabs. Dinner averages R300.