Information and history

ID #4980

Graaff-Reinet, Karoo, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Established in 1786 on the banks of the Sundays River, it was named after Governor van der Graaff and his wife Reinet. It was the fourth district in the Cape Colony to be granted a Drostde or seat of local government. An outpost of civilisation in a barren and untamed country, it became the most important trading post with the interior by the middle of the 19th century. It has retained much of the character of a typical 19th century rural town and is unique because:

•    The old town, tucked into a horseshoe bend of the Sundays River, contains more national monuments than any other town in South Africa.
•    It lies in the centre of the 15000-Ha Karoo National Park in which one of nature’s wonders, the Valley of Desolation, is located. Incidentally when I was there a few weeks ago a kudu was seen peering into the window of a second hand store in the middle of the night. Bargain hunting?
•    A conservation policy is practised that ensures that the many splendid atrchitectural examples, from simple Karoo houses to stately Cape Dutch buildings.  Graaff-Reinet is virtually a living museum.

It offers tourists an opportunity to enjoy a tranquil holiday whilst exploring the museums as well as the Karoo National Park.  It is a convenient stopover for motorists travelling to and from Cape to the interior. It has excellent accommodation and a healthy climate. There are many hiking trails in the Karoo National Park and many hunting farms in the district.

It is situated in the Great Karoo, a vast region dependant mainly on pastoral agriculture due to its low rainfall. It is 759-m above sea level.  Summers are hot and the winters cool. It is well served by luxury coaches operating on national cross-country routes. All weather roads converge on the town from all directions. A variety of accommodation is available, including hotels, guesthouses, self-catering accommodation, a caravan park and campground. Attractions include:

•    Spandau Kop. A hill close to the town
•    Dutch Reformed Church. At the head of the main street. The communion vessels are beautiful examples of Cape Silver.
•    Drostde, built in 1806 and now restored, is now a hotel.
•    Town hall and War Memorial.
•    Formerly a Teachers Training College, it is now a national monument and houses the SAP Academy.
•    John Rupert Little Theatre in Parsonage Street. It was originally the London Missionary Society church.
•    Reinet House served as the parsonage for almost a century. It was occupied by Andrew Murray and his son Charles for 82 years. It is now a cultural history museum.
•    Old Grape Vine, in the garden of Reinet House, was planted in 1870. Close by is a water-wheel in working condition as well as the Old Residency that houses the Jan Felix Lategan Memorial gun collection.
•    A unique collection of Karoo reptiles that inhabited the area 200 million years ago.
•    William Roe photographic exhibition
•    Clothing collection and Bushman (Bushmen) art exhibits in the former library building.
•    Urquhart House, with its unusual gable and peach-stone kitchen floor.
•    Hester Rupert Art Museum

Graaff-Reinet is on the N9 south of Middelburg, which is at the intersection of the N9 with the N10. An ideal stopover between the coast and the interior. ASGraaff

Contct:            Graaff-Reinet Publicity Association
+27 (49) 892 4248 telephone

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Last update: 2014-05-14 01:27
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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