Activities in Graaff-Reinet
Valley of Desolation
High up above Graaff-Reinet lies the Valley of Desolation, one of the prime attractions of the area. The dolerite crags of the Spandaukop, the Agtersfotein and the Eerstefontein rise up dramatically from the Camdeboo Plains and the Great Karoo beyond. Even more impressive than the view itself is the rapid change in the vegetation from the dusty shrubs of the plains to the more lush, thicker plants of the uplands up here on the higher slopes.
This is suitable for a quick drive and short walk, or a whole day, whatever your time allows.
The World's Largest Grapevine.
The 'Black Acorn' grape vine was planted in 1870 in the garden of the Reinet House (then just the parsonage) by Charles Murray, son of Andrew Murray, and also the minister of the NGK Church. By 1983, the root stem of the vine had reached a circumference of 3.10 metres, but it has subsequently had to be cut back because of vine rot. It is expected to make a full recovery and will regain its former size. It has borne fruit every single year.
The Reinet House
The Reinet House is the premier museum of Graaff-Reinet, which is saying something in a town full of interesting museums. It was formally the parsonage of the Dutch Reformed Church, and its most famous resident was the Scottish parson Andrew Murray. He and his family quickly became "the" family in Graaff-Reinet; the shutters of his study window have remained closed since the day of his death as a mark of respect...look at any photograph of the front of the building and look at the window to the right of the front door.
The house, built between 1806 and 1812, is huge, and it takes several hours to walk around, given the fascinating collections in the house, in the cellar and around the gardens outside. The main floor shows the house as it was when Andrew Murray lived here, and, as always in these kinds of museums, the kitchen is the most interesting place! In the cellar below, collections of odds and ends over the years have created an amazing sequence of rooms devoted to arts and crafts, medical care, even computing and telephony! There is a carriage house, a blacksmith's and yet more carriages, including some period hearses.
There are lots of places in and around Graaff-Reinet area to do bird watching. At the Valley of Desolation and on the road to it, the following Karoo and mountain species were sighted: Black Eagle, Booted Eagle, Palewinged Starling, Layard’s Titbbabbler and others.
The Old Library Museum
The Old Library museum in Church Street is home to four separate collections, each one of which is worth the visit. Next door is the Hester Rupert Museum of Art. Note that this isn't then end of the museums in Graaff-Reinet, with the ever-expanding Reinet House museum and the Old Residence just 100 metres away down Parsonage Street.
The Old Library dates from 1847, and is a beautiful building in its own right. The museum (and others in the town) have a good selection of books about the town and its people.
The official opening hours are Monday to Friday 08:00-12:30 and 14:00-17:00 and 09:00-12:00 on weekends.