Graaff Reinet Holidays - Eastern Cape Tourism, Western Region
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Lying in a bend on the Sundays River, and sheltering in the shadow of the rocky Sneeuberge Mountains, Graaff Reinet is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape, and is enveloped by the mighty Eastern Cape, Camdeboo National Park, home to the world famous Valley of Desolation - a magnificent geological feature formed hundreds of millions of years ago.
Known as the 'Gem of the Great Karoo', Graaff Reinet is an oasis of lush green gardens, parks and tree lined streets - a startling contrast to the surrounding Eastern Cape semi-desert. Graaff Reinet, an Eastern Cape haven is a safe environment where children are free to run around ... a place where the night skies are clear enough to see countless stars ... an ageless place so steeped in history, Graaff Reinet may very well be the origin of mankind.
Graaff Reinet owes its name to Governor Cornelius Jacob van de Graaff and his wife Cornelia Reinet, who founded the quaint little Eastern Cape town of Graaff Reinet in 1786. To this day, Reinet House, built in 1811 and named after Cornelia Reinet, stands in its newly renovated glory as the Graaff Reinet Museum, which is home to the famous Black Acorn grape vine, one of the largest living, fruit bearing grape vines in the world.
It is here, in the Eastern Cape, Graaf Reinet Museum complex where the Eastern Cape's past is preserved with collections which document the rich history of Graaff Reinet. Also housed in the Graaf Reinet Museum complex is the Old Library, which was opened in 1847 and operated until 1982 until it officially became part of the Graaff Reinet Museum, displaying interesting exhibits which include Bushman rock art, fossils, turn of the century clothes and William Roe's photographic study of life in Eastern Cape Graaff Reinet in the 1800's.
In keeping with the historic flavour of Graaff Reinet, the streets are lined with fine examples of well preserved 19th century Eastern Cape Cape Dutch, Victorian and Karoo architecture. Graaff Reinett has over 200 buildings claimed as National Monuments (more than any other town in South Africa), including some of the original slave cottages.
A commanding presence right in the centre of Graaff Reinet in Church Street is the imposing Dutch Reformed Mother Church. Designed in similar style to that of Salisbury Cathedral in England, this stately Graaff Reinet Eastern Cape sanctuary attracted 2000 people to it's first service in 1887, and still has a large, loyal congregation today.
Another chunk of Eastern Cape history is still evident at the one time ‘men only’ Graaff Reinet Club (also on Church Street), which dates back to 1875. This Graaff Reinet watering hole was a favourite of the Coldstream Guards during the very bloody 2nd Anglo Boer War, and before leaving for England on 20 May 1900, the 'going away' party ended with dancing and firing shots into the bar, which have since been plugged but bear witness to the rowdy carousing.
Visitors to Graaff Reinet are warmly welcomed by the locals who still relate the tale of the Coldstream Guards, and at the Coldstream Restaurant (women also welcome), which forms part of the Graaff Reinet Club, guests feast on true Eastern Cape style fare such as venison, succulent Karoo lamb and ostrich steak. Also try the Agave Restaurant - one of the most romantic restaurants in Graaff Reinet, where creative Karoo cuisine emerges from a classical French background, producing 'French Karoo' cuisine.
Things to do in Eastern Cape, Graaff Reinet:
Eastern Cape, Graaff-Reinet Golf Club
For the golf fanatic, it is an honour to play on the lush green fairways of the Graaff Reinet Golf Club. Established in 1897, the Graaff Reinet Golf Club proudly stands as one of the oldest clubs in the country. Golfers are invited to come and play a game of nine in the midst of some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, surrounded by panoramic views of the magnificent Eastern Cape Sneeuberge Mountains. Facilities at Graaff Reinet Golf Club include a halfway house, bar, putting green and driving range.
Eastern Cape, Hester Rupert Art Museum
Named after his mother, Dr Anton Rupert of the Rembrandt foundation donated this historical 1821 Eastern Cape building to the Graaff-Reinet Town Council in 1965, after restoring to its former glory. The Hester Rupert Art Museum in Graaf Reinett now houses an impressive collection of artworks by South African artists such as Maggie Laubser, Johannes Meintjies and Ernst de Jong. The works displayed in the Graaff Reinet Hester Rupert Art Museum were all donated by the artists.
Eastern Cape, John Rupert Theatre
Named after his father, Dr Anton Rupert restored and donated the 1801 former Colored Mission Church to the community in 1980, as a theatre for both locals and visitors to Graaff Reinett to enjoy plays, musical performances, comedy, dance and touring productions.
Eastern Cape, Obesa Nursery
Just outside Graaff Reinet on Murray Street, visitors will find a huge maze of towering cacti and succulents at the fascinating Obesa Nursery - one of the biggest privately owned nurseries in the world today, which stocks over 7 000 species of 2 million desert plants.
Eastern Cape Camdeboo National Park
Proclaimed a National Monument in 1935, the breathtaking scenic beauty of the Camdeboo National Park Valley of Desolation is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Also known as the 'Cathedral of Mountains', this imposing area of the Eastern Cape inspires a humbling sense of awe with it's towering peaks, carpets of spring flowers and sublime stillness bringing one close to the Divine.
This spectacular, arid Camdeboo Eastern Cape environment is a photographers dream, and playground to adventure lovers who love wide open, expansive landscapes, and seek the thrill of rugged mountain biking and 4x4 trails which take drivers to the top of the Eastern Cape Winterhoek Mountain plateau. Along the way look out for Cape mountain zebra (an endangered species), blesbok, kudu, mountain reedbuck, klipspringer and baboons.
If you prefer your feet firmly on the ground, you will enjoy the Camdeboo National Park hikes along one of the short or long hiking trails. Bird viewing is in abundance, with sightings of over 250 Eastern Cape bird species which include ostriches, southern pale chanting goshawks, lesser honeyguides, speckled mousebirds, brown-hooded kingfishers, and of course, the mighty black eagle which soars overhead.
For the watersport enthusiast, the Nqweba Dam lying within the Eastern Cape Camdeboo National Park covers over 1 000 hectares when full, and provides 'cool' fun for the whole family with boating, canoeing and windsurfing. The avid fisherman will delight in the Nqweba Dam fish selection, as moggel, common carp, African catfish, mullet, round herring, mosquito fish and river goby are plentiful.
If you're in the Eastern Cape Camdeboo National Park area around March, don't miss the annual 'Camdeboo Dam Day', which features the 'Anything That Floats' competition, where contestants create a home-built float and race each other on the Nqweba Dam for a whole lot of fun.
Travelling distances to Graaff Reinet:
...from Camdeboo National Park - 15.8km
...from Nieu Bethesda - 53km
...from Addo Elephant National Park - 153km
...from Port Elizabeth - 225km (closest major airport)