Close to the ground.

GPS: S 32 14.994 E 024 32.098 | pop. 44,000 | elevation 756 m/2,480 ft

The self-proclaimed "gem of the Karoo," Graaff-Reinet is a quaint town in the middle of the Eastern Cape interior, rich in history and surrounded by stark natural beauty. This is South Africa’s fourth oldest colonial town (after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam) and was founded in 1786 by the Dutch East India Company. It is filled with churches and historical Cape Dutch and Victorian styled buildings that are now national monuments. Its welcoming small-town atmosphere makes it a perfect place to leisurely explore on foot and great accommodations, restaurants, museums and sites are all centrally located. The surrounding Camdeboo National Park and its impressive vistas over the Valley of Desolation should not be missed.

You can obtain a pass for all five of the Graaff-Reinet historical museums at any of the museum locations.

Old Library

Old Library has a decent collection of Karoo fossils dating back some 230 million years, which offer a glimpse into the prehistoric reptile world of Graaff-Reinet's past. There is also a photo exhibit on the political life of black nationalist and Graff-Reinet native Robert Sobuke, founder of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

Reinet House Museum

Reinet House Museum built in 1812 to serve as the Dutch Reform Church parsonage, is the largest of the public museums in Graaff-Reinet. The main level is set with period furniture that harkens back to the day when Minister Murray and his family called the building home. Downstairs you can find an impressive collection of old-time fashion among other mildly entertaining smaller exhibit rooms. Behind the house, wander through the courtyard and visit the wagon shed and the millhouse. Note however, that these are not original pieces, unlike the Black Acorn grape vine that was planted in 1870 and now boasts to be one of the largest in the world.

Old Residency

Old Residency across the street from the Reinet House, is a well-preserved example of a 19th-century home. The house has a neat collection of functioning music boxes dating back to 1860, but besides that the only reason to stop by is if you are interested in the firearm exhibit.

Urquhart House

Urquhart House is a museum on the Victorian period that features a handful of farm implements and a peach pip kitchen floor.

Military History Museum

Through the back courtyard of the Urquhart House is the entrance to the Military History Museum, a one-room shrine to the Graaff-Reinet Commando and the town's military history.

Pierneef Museum

Pierneef Museum, housed in the restored Old Missionary Church, hosts the impressive Johannesburg Station Panels - a collection of 32 vibrant landscape paintings by renowned South African artist JH Pierneef. This collection was commissioned in1929 to be displayed in the Johannesburg Railway Station to promote tourism within the country.

Hester Rupert Art Museum

Hester Rupert Art Museum displays contemporary pieces by over 100 South African artists.

Obesa Nursery

Obesa Nursery is a huge maze of towering cacti and succulents located across the street from the brightly colored Obesa Lodge. Wander through the garden to appreciate the great diversity of desert plants like you never have before. The nursery is the private collection of the owner and cactus enthusiast, Anton, who is willing to give you a tour of the garden if you book in advance.

Camdeboo National Park

Camdeboo National Park is a massive 19,405-hectare park surrounding the city of Graaff-Reinet. The park contains 43 mammal species including kudu, wildebeest, buffalo and the rare mountain zebra. There are dedicated game viewing areas in the north of the western section as well as the 1,000-hectare Nqweba Dam. However, the most spectacular feature of the park is the Valley of Desolation - dolomite rock columns protruding high above the empty Karoo Valley and fading into a seemingly endless stretch. The Valley of Desolation scenic overlook can be reached via a steep tar road from where you can take a short walk to viewing points or explore along the 1.5 kilometer mountain-top hiking trail. The
quintessential Camdeboo National Park experience is to bring a picnic or beverages of your choice and soak up the colorful vistas as the sun sets over the Valley of Desolation.

There are also two networks of scenic hiking trails within the park. In the western section, the Eerstefontein Day Trail has 5, 11 and 14-kilometer routes with two pleasant sites to enjoy a mid-hike picnic. The Driekoppe Overnight Trail is located in the eastern section of the park and has one trail hut (R50/person) that can accommodate up to 10 people. The hut can also be accessed via a 4x4 trail.

Windmill Junction

Windmill Junction is filled with antiques, art, mohair blankets and clothing and other odd treasures.

African Adventure

African Adventure is one of the few stores in Graaff-Reinet that has traditional African curios and crafts, including wooden masks, painted ostrich eggs, and a good collection of Zulu, Ndebele and Masai jewelry. Out of Africa just around the corner is by the same owner.


Urquhart Caravan Park

Urquhart Caravan Park has a collection of campsites located on the outskirts of town that have electric outlets and braai facilities as well as basic rondavels, all under a copse of large shady trees beside the mountains.

Le Jardin Backpackers

Le Jardin Backpackers is a cross between a backpackers and a home stay. Owners Terrance and Nita are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to local places of interest and advice for traveling in the surrounding area. If you're looking to experience a slice of middle South Africa and learn a bit about its history this is a good place to stay. Mornings include coffee and Nita's homemade rusks (traditional South African biscuits that are dipped in coffee or tea).

Obesa Lodge

Obesa Lodge is hard to miss with four brightly colored self-catering cottages lining an entire block. These basic and clean cottages have surprisingly muted interiors, but they are a great deal for the price. It's a quiet place to hang your hat and there is a shared courtyard, braai and pool in the backyard as well as a jungle gym for the kids.

Camdeboo Cottages

Camdeboo Cottages are a collection of eight smaller self-catering, 19th-century Karoo-style cottages with thatch roofs and yellowwood floors. They surround a swimming pool, braai, and a small restaurant and bar on the premises. There is also a separate 3-bedroom cottage (6 Parliament St, R1,000) located just down the block. All the cottages are centrally located in town.


Cypress Cottages

Cypress Cottages are two fully restored, charming and spacious Karoo cottages situated across the street from each other. These large and well-equipped houses will make you feel like you're at home with everything you might need - a self-catering kitchen, three en suite rooms with AC, and a large backyard with a braai and shaded dining area.

Villa Reinet

Villa Reinet is situated in a classic 1857 Cape Dutch style home that has been restored and is now a national monument. You can stay within the main house or in the garden-facing rooms in back. The walls and ceilings of the dining room are covered in large handwritten guestbook entries, a unique tradition for returning visitors.


Aa' Qtansisi Guesthouse

Aa' Qtansisi Guesthouse is named for the Khoisan phrase for "we welcome you." You will feel welcomed indeed into this tasteful 1840s home. The house has 5-meter-high ceilings and was recently renovated into a 4-star guesthouse with five en suite rooms each with a flat screen TV, AC and its own country decor. There is a garden sitting area and braai in back beside the splash pool. The enthusiasm and friendliness of hosts Ria and Pierre is tough to beat.

Drostdy Hotel

Drostdy Hotel was once the magistrate's court and administrative headquarters of the Graaff-Reinet area and is the historical heart of town. The main building houses the elegant De Camdeboo Restaurant and the garden courtyard is a great place for an afternoon meal or drink. Behind the main building is Stretch's Court, a small town in itself where accommodation is offered in the fully remodeled former slave-cottages. Rooms are outfitted with antique furniture yet have all modern amenities.


Coldstream is a garden café and restaurant in front of the old exclusive, members-only Graaff-Reinet Club. Whether you are looking for a light lunch or a succulent ostrich steak dinner, chef-owner Inge Weich serves some of the highest
quality fare in town.


Kliphuis is a vibrantly colored restaurant that's a favorite with locals. Come for the large brunch menu and dine in the leafy back courtyard. For dinner, enjoy the excellent selection of wines and savory dishes, including a superb Karoo Lamb Rack with their signature strawberry and mint sauce.


Sarmies is an artsy café slightly set back from the street. Nibble on the selection of salads, sandwiches and sweet desserts in the garden or check out their collection of quality local art. Sarmies is heralded as having the best iced coffee and town, and rightfully so. Its key ingredient is ice cream.

Agave Restaurant

Agave Restaurant is a funky and stylish café and restaurant and a welcome new addition to the Graaff-Reinet dining scene. Their menu features a good selection of creative and flavorful vegetarian dishes and well-executed new twists on old favorites, including Karoo lamb and Malay chicken.

Pioneers Restaurant

Pioneers Restaurant is a Graaff-Reinet mainstay filled with antique trinkets and old photographs that detail the history of the town's buildings. The menu offers a wide selection for meat lovers, but is not very veggie friendly. It's one of the only places to grab a drink in town and with sporadic karaoke evenings and live jazz on Friday nights, it consistently draws a crowd.

Camdeboo Restaurant

Camdeboo Restaurant is a formal restaurant within the Drostdy Hotel. Its menu concentrates mostly on meats, with rib and steak specialties. Vegetarian options are limited to a few appetizers and salads.

Pioneers Restaurant

Pioneers Restaurant is one of the few spots in town to get a cocktail. The establishment hosts live jazz on Friday nights and has occasional specials for ladies and students. If you're lucky you might even catch karaoke night.