As the fourth-oldest town in South Africa and with more than 220 buildings which are well-preserved national monuments, Graaff-Reinet should be on every tourist’s list of places to visit.
This Karoo town, 750m above sea level, lies inland and is built on the banks of the Sundays River, which rises a little further north on the southern slopes of the Sneeuberge and splits into several channels.
No matter if you’re on your own or with family, Graaff-Reinet is the ideal place to visit. Visitors from around the globe are drawn to the town’s crisp air, pretty streets, beautiful natural scenery and the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you want to experience everyday life in the town with honest Karoo food and hospitality, or choose to have a more nature-based experience with wildlife viewing, outdoor walks and the like, this tranquil town offers the best of both.
Sandra Will, Graaff-Reinet Tourism, says the surrounding Camdeboo National Park and the town’s rich history make Graaff-Reinet unique.
“The town was established in 1786 and was named after Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff and his wife (whose maiden name was) Reynet. It was the fourth district to be proclaimed in South Africa and became a seat of government or ‘drostdy’. In the mid-19th century, it was one of the starting points for the exodus of the Voortrekkers and some of the farms in the area relate directly to famous Voortrekkers,” she says.
Sandra says that although many quaint guesthouses and new businesses have opened up in Graaff-Reinet, the town has retained its family-friendly atmosphere.
“There’s a quiet and friendly atmosphere around town. The property market is active with more and more people seeking to retire here. It’s also a great place for young families, with good schools and the general freedom kids experience here.”
As resident Bernie Parkes says, “Graaff-Reinet is easily one of the most beautiful towns in South Africa, but my favourite aspect is its people. We’re a tight-knit community and we’re always willing to go out of our way to help one another.”
The median price is R990,000 for a typical property such as a three-bedroom house. Most of the housing stock and accommodation in Graaff-Reinet is in the form of houses, with only a tiny percentage – 2% – in the form of flats or in a complex.
- Valley of Desolation: this geological wonder of weathered dolerite rock pillars is a national monument with magnificent views over the Karoo plains.
- Camdeboo National Park: located on the outskirts of the town, this natural wonder boasts interesting flora and fauna.
- Stretch’s Court: a picturesque restored street of Karoo cottages with brightly painted shutters and doors.
- Reinet House Museum: a Cape Dutch building, which formerly served as the Dutch Reformed Church Parsonage.
- The Karoo architecture on tree-lined streets.
- Dutch Reformed Church: a national monument in the heart of the town.
- Drostdy Hotel: a Cape Dutch building erected in 1806 as the local seat of government. It has been beautifully restored in recent years.
- Pioneers Restaurant: for great Karoo food.
- Our Yard Roastery and Cultural Stop: for amazing fresh juices, coffee and more.
- Botanical Gardens Club Restaurant: for tasty steaks.
- Polka Restaurant: for delicious freshly baked goods.
- De Camdeboo Restaurant at the Drostdy Hotel: for sumptuous breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Blue Magnolia Nursery and Coffee Shop: for a lovely meal in a picturesque setting.
- The Coldstream Restaurant: for scrumptious local cuisine.
- Graaff-Reinet has 220 national monuments.
- The world’s biggest private cactus collection can be found here.
- The Groot Kerk is the only historical church in South Africa with a chimney.