Graaff-Reinet is home to more national monuments than any other town or city in South Africa . The remarkably preserved architecture of the town bears vivid testimony to its historic links with the old Cape of the Dutch East India Company. Craftsmen and artisans came from the Cape came to build the town and the mark of their skills may still be seen everywhere along the picturesque streets of lime-washed houses, in the moulding of gables and pediments, fanlights, doors, chimneys and other architectural details. It’s a fascinating insight into the past and how South African towns looked a century and more ago.
Umazizhake, the vibrant black township on the hill above Graaff-Reinet, provides an equally historic insight into township architecture, as well as pre and post Apartheid South Africa.
Museums and Galleries
In Graaff-Reinet every home is a museum, declared acclaimed author Lawrence Green. He might have added that virtually every museum is also an historical monument and an architectural gem.
Reinet House, originally the Dutch Reform Church parsonage and home of Andrew Murray, is now a cultural museum of great beauty and interest.
The Old Library Museum houses a series of priceless collections of fossils, antique clothing and photographic records. The museum is also home to the Robert Sobukwe wing, a moving documentation of the life of the founder of the PAC.
Urquhart House: Victorian furniture is on display in this splendid gabled house, which is also home to a genealogical research centre.
The Old Residency: find the Felix Lategan collection of guns and the memorabilia of the Middellandse Regiment in this historical monument.
The Hester Rupert Art Museum : A superb collection of South African art is housed in the magnificent old mission church, the sixth oldest church building in South Africa and one of only three remaining built on the traditional cruciform plan.
The Jan Rupert Centre, the Johannesburg Station Panels by celebrated artist Pierneef are on display in this neo-Gothic building that was also once a mission church.
The landscape itself is also a gallery, from important San rock paintings and engravings to installations by contemporary artists.
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The Great Karoo
This vast semi desert with its seemingly endless plains and castellated mountains provides a perfect escape from city crowds and concerns. It’s a stark landscape but also one of dramatic beauty and endless fascination, where you can enjoy crystal clear air, spectacular dawns and sunsets – and brilliant stars.
Graaff-Reinet is the fourth oldest town in South Africa , founded in 1786 as the furthest outpost of the Dutch East India Company. The nineteenth century saw it grow from a wild frontier station into a prosperous staging post and farming centre, thanks to its strategic position on the main route between Algoa Bay and the developing interior.
Valley of Desolation
There’s no better place to see the drama of the landscape, to learn about its geological evolution or to view the amazing setting of the town, or to watch the sun rise or set over the Plains of Camdeboo than from these extraordinary cliffs and crags. You may also be lucky enough to see the resident pair of black eagles circling at sunset.