Gem of the Karoo

Graaff-Reinet is situated in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. It is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape and the fourth oldest in South Africa after Cape TownStellenbosch and Swellendam.

The town lies surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park in a bend of the Sundays River and in the shadow of the Sneeuberg Mountains. Although the town is found in the heart of the Karoo, with flat sandy plains and incredibly hot summers, the Camdeboo Park breaks this sandy monotony with towering mountains and rich greenness. The area boasts many outdoor activities such as paragliding, horse riding, trout fishing, hiking trails, microlight flying and game viewing.

Graaff-Reinet is home to over 200 buildings that have been claimed as National Monuments, a higher percentage of buildings than is the case in any other city in South Africa and has long been justly renowned for its attractive and well-preserved homes and buildings. The town also has an entire street which was restored, including its slave cottages, making it one of the most atmospheric and intriguing small towns of Southern Africa. Graaff-Reinet has retained much of the character of a 19th Century town and is well worth a visit because of it.

There is plenty of accommodation in Graaff-Reinet including a Caravan Park, Guest Houses, B & B’s and several Hotels.

Places to Visit

Things to do and see

Climate

Rainfall occurs mainly in the autumn months, with March seeing the highest levels. Winter nights can drop below freezing.

Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 11˚C and 30˚C.

Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 2˚C and 16˚C.

Transport

There are flights into Port Elizabeth International Airport, from all major cities in South Africa, on a daily basis. Car hire facilities are available and the airport is approximately 264 km from Graaff-Reinet.

Festivals

May – Wine Tasting & Stoep Sitting Weekend: A number of Western Cape vineyards bring their finest produce to Graaff-Reinet and for two days wine lovers wander from stoep to stoep sampling the wares.

October – Karoo-lus: A culture rich festival celebrating our traditions, our lifestyles, food, music and arts.

History

Graaff-Reneit was founded in 1786 by the Governor, Cornelius Jacob van de Graaff, his wife's maiden name was Cornelia Reinet.

The first settlers were a rugged crowd and there were scandals of wild doings, shootings, rustlings and other outrages. The Government hoped that by establishing a town - with a minister and tax-gatherer - order would be maintained. Accordingly, a church, revenue office and a gaol were built on a site in a huge 'U' bend of the Sundays River. The hopes were to be only partly fulfilled.

In 1795 the inhabitants of Graaff-Reinet drove out the representatives of government and declared an independent republic, with Graaff-Reinet its capital. The 'republic' was overthrown by the British a year later.

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