The Wonders of Graaf-Reinet

When you are so close to greatness, it makes sense to take a little venture to explore.  Visiting game reserves allows you the privilege of checking out what the surrounding towns offer too, and when you’re so close to the fourth oldest town in South Africa, you just have to take a break from the safari life for a little while.

A Little History to Tease and Tantalize

If you love your history, or even if you just want that small break from the African Safari life, and want to indulge in some local culture and heritage, then Graaf–Reinet is the town to visit.  Only 40 kilometres from Samara, you can spend a good full day exploring the wonders of this old town.

With two centuries of history to offer, you will find many a willing friendly native, who can tell you all about the adventures of travellers and prospectors that have frequented its streets.  They are a proud and passionate community, and you will be blown away by the extent of their knowledge.

With over 200 buildings and most pre-Victorian style, you will be amazed over and over again, and feel like you have been taken back in time.

What to do in Graaf-Reinet?

There is so much to do, for all ages.  So, be sure to make a list and ensure all your travellers get a little something out of the excursion.

Eat like a King

When in the Great Karoo you must taste some fresh Karoo lamb.  The many restaurants that are scattered across this authentic town will have you booking in advance, and we do recommend you do just that, to avoid disappointment

Cactus Catastrophe

As you are essentially out in a desert of sorts, you have to check out the impressive collection of cacti at the Obesa Nursery.  Put on your waling shoes and take a little trip down the labyrinth of succulent plant life.

Work Work Work

Yes, we know, you are on holiday, but to really experience the town, and the farm life, you want to try out an hour or so on a working guest farm.  That was a real bittersweet phrase, but it will be worth it, when you have pulled up your first home-grown veggie.

4×4 on!

Take a little adventure off the beaten track or more like onto the beaten track, and experience the Great Karoo on a 4×4 trail, either on wheels or on foot. Just don’t get stuck or you would need a forklift to get you out.  The sense of peace and tranquillity will have you lingering for a few hours.

Arty Farty

Oh, yes, there is an art museum, so be sure to go for a leisurely stroll through The Hester Rupert Art Museum, and enjoy the contemporary art works.

Architecture Alive

The buildings are just to die for, and you won’t be disappointed as there are so many to choose from.  Imagine yourself in petticoat- plumped-up dresses or smart bow-tie suits, as you step into one of the aged dinosaurs in Graaf-Reinet.

Drostdy Hotel has a feel of originality where you can imagine the bus boys bustling and the waiters waiting.

Whether you are religious or not you will appreciate, much like when you visit Italy, the Dutch Reformed Church or Groot Kerk, as its known locally.

The Military Museum will take you back into a time when men were men and women watched them in awe as they went into battle, guns and all.

Due to its age alone, the Urquhart House has accumulated much interest.  With its exterior pretty much as it was back in 1806, you will walk with caution as you enter these history-laced doors.  Not only will you feel quite intimidated by its majestic size, but also you will love the authentic Victorian furniture collection, the peach-pipped flooring and the very real farm implements on display.

A magnificent treat would be to go watch a show playing at the John Rupert Theatre in Graaf-Reinet.  Be sure to check out what’s on and book for an exciting evening performance.

Not an architectural wonder, but still a wonder no doubt, if you happen to be frequenting this old town over the festive season, head on over to Acacia Street in Kroonvale.  Here you will experience the sparkling Christmas lights that most of the locals adorn their houses with.  It really is a sight to behold, and one your kids will never forget.  It is safe and peaceful, and will most definitely put you into the Christmas spirit.

Outside of the great town

Just a step or two away is the Valley of Desolation out in the Camdeboo National Park.

If you have more than a day, consider staying overnight here in one of their furnished rustic tent setups.  It is self-catering, but you will get to experience the Great Karoo in a very special manner.

The Valley of Desolation offers amazing panoramic views of the plains of the Great Karoo and you can get to see how the forces of volcanic erosion has changed the landscape over the past 200 million years.

For a view like no other, consider FlyKaroo, where you can see from a birds-eye-view all the wonder of this magical land.  An, if you really have a few extra pennies over, consider a romantic picnic helicopter style in the middle of the Great Karoo.   A great “marriage-proposal” moment for sure! (hint-hint)

With all that in mind, what are you waiting for?  Go visit Graaf-Reinet next time you are on safari or at game reserves out in the Karoo.




Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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