Graaff Reinet

Travel Guide Africa South Africa Eastern Cape Graaff Reinet

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Introduction

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 15,000 ha.

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Sights and Activities

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

Graaff - Reinet, ☏ +27 49 892-4248. 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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Pierneef Art Museum.
The Old Residensie Museum - firearm and war museum.
Urquart House Museum.
Reinet House Museum - the most visited museum in the East Cape.

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Getting There

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 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.

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Getting Around

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.

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Eat

Gordon's Restaurant (Andries Stockenstrom guesthouse), 100 Cradock St, ☏ +27 49 892-4575, ✉ info@asghouse.co.za.
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.

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Drink

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 (pioneersrestaurant@telkomsa.net), 3 Parsonage St (Near the Reinet House. This immensely pleasing restaurant located in the historic Parsonage Street is part of the town's history.), ☏ +27 49 892-6059. 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.

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Sleep

Camdeboo Cottages (email - info@camdeboocottages.co.za), 16 Parliament St (situated just off Church Street), ☏ +27 49 892-3180. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 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).
Karoopark Guest House - 3 star graded (email - info@karoopark.co.za), 81 Caledon St (Near the Dutch Reformed Church in the center of Graaff-Reinet), ☏ +27 49 892-2557. Check-in: 1PM onwards, check-out: 10AM. Karoopark Guest House is located 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.
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.
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.
No 4. Rothman Street (Graaff-Reinet), ☏ +27 83 560-7367, ✉ caryer@isat.co.za. 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, ✉ ansiewaterval@webmail.co.za. 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.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.

South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.

There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.

Post

The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.

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This is version 7. Last edited at 10:50 on Jun 2, 20 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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