Driving into the sleepy town of Graaff-Reinet, known as the Gem of the Karoo, is like taking a step back in time. The main road is lined with small businesses, coffee shops and art galleries, and is wide enough for two oxwagons to pass by one another. Established in 1786, it is the 4th oldest magisterial district in the country, and it’s hard not to be taken in by the authenticity and charm of this heritage town. Whether you’re just passing through after a visit to Samara or staying a while, there are plenty of things to do in Graaff-Reinet. To whet your appetite and to help you make the best of your time in Graaff-Reinet, we’ve highlighted a few of them here.
1. Take a Step Back in Time
With over 220 heritage sites, Graaff-Reinet is a historian’s dream. A stroll through the centre of town can easily turn into a multifaceted South African history lesson.
A visit to the Old Library Museum offers a chance to see the Lex Bremner fossil collection, Rock Art exhibition and Stone Age Collection, as well as the Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe Permanent Exhibition. Make sure not to miss the architecture of the Dutch Reformed Church, or Groot Kerk, which commands the full attention of the main road. The structure is truly mesmerizing, and the space is a prime example of an important aspect of Afrikaans culture and tradition. Another standout is the Reinet House, where a Black Acorn grapevine that was planted in 1870 still grows today. Take the time to soak up some of the rich history of this small town – you’ll find it in the most unexpected of places.
2. Taste the Latest Brew at the GRT Brewery
Steeped in old-town charm, yet boasting innovative products and flavours, the GRT Brewery is a new and welcome addition to Graaff-Reinet’s main thoroughfare. Set in restored stables, which date back to the 1800s, GRT Brewery preserves the allure of its historic setting, while celebrating the art of craft beer brewing. Their signature beers include a Black Indian Pale Ale, a Red Ale and the popular GRT Ale. Their beers range from bold and fruity, to crisp and refreshing, and are perfectly paired with a hot Karoo day.
Address: 20 Church Street, Graaff-Reinet
3. Walk through a Cactus Labyrinth at the Obesa Cactus Nursery
Whether you’re a plant lover yourself or an admirer of those blessed with green fingers, the Obesa Cactus Nursery is a sight to behold. The nursery is situated a short distance from the centre of town, and while it sells a variety of plants, the ten spikey hectares of cacti are a visual experience unlike any other. With 7000 species of plant, and over 350 000 individuals grown each year, this Graaff-Reinet attraction is one of the biggest cacti nurseries in the world. The nursery focuses on the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered plants. Obesa offers you the chance to walk through forests of decade-old cacti towering five to ten meters above the ground – an experience you won’t easily find elsewhere.
Address: 49 Murray Street, Graaff-Reinet
4. Look out over the Valley of Desolation
A trip to the world-renowned Valley of Desolation is an absolute must when considering things to do in Graaff-Reinet. A tar road offers easy access to the panoramic viewpoint, which is located within the Camdeboo National Park, a short 14km drive from Graaff-Reinet. Watch as the plains of Camdeboo stretch out from the base of towering dolomite columns. Not even pictures do this view justice – so make sure it has a spot on your bucket list.
5. Dabble in some Art and Culture
Meander down Church Street and pop your head into a gallery or two. For an intimate glimpse into the town’s history, visit the Hester Rupert Art Museum. On the 26th of July 1966, after much controversy regarding what the building would be used for, the museum opened with the help of 83 artists, who donated 90 paintings in total. Today the collection has grown to 126 works by 106 artists, and showcases the work of those who supported conserving the building for prosperity in the 1960’s.
Another town favourite is the Imibala Gallery, who often run dynamic exhibitions with a percentage of proceeds going to charity. For more information on the great work that the Imibala Trust does, visit their website.
Less than an hour from Graaff-Reinet, Samara Private Game Reserve is the ideal location from which to experience the magic of the Karoo. For more information on this intimate luxury game reserve, and our recommendations on other things to do in Graaff-Reinet, visit the Samara website, call +27 (0) 31 262 0324 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Image credits: South African Tourism, Clive Reid, GRT Brewery Facebook, notesfromafrica.wordpress.com, www.graaffreinet.co.za
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