Graaff-Reinet is a town on the Sundays River, 300 km north-west of Port Elizabeth, 45 km north-east of Aberdeen and 105 km south-west of Middelburg. It was founded in 1786 and attained municipal status in 1845. Named after Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff, Governor of the Cape (1785-1791) and his wife, Cornelia Reinet (also spelt Reynet).

Located in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is the fourth-oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Swellendam. The town was the center of a short-lived republic in the late 18th century.

Juweel van die Karoo. Popular name for Graaff-Reinet. The English equivalent, Gem of the Karoo, is a translation.

The Great Fish River rises in various headwaters between Graaff-Reinet.

Graaff-Reinet is home to more national monuments than any other town or city in South Africa. It is also known for being a flourishing market for agricultural produce, noted for its mohair industry, and sheep plus ostrich farming.

Adendorp is a village situated 8 km south of Graaff-Reinet, in the Sundays River Valley. Named after the former owner of the farm, N J Adendorff, who sub-divided it into smallholdings in about 1858. Municipal status was attained in 1878.

Aberdeen is a town some 55 km south-east of GraaffReinet, It is named after Aberdeen in Scotland, birthplace of the Reverend Andrew Murray of Graaff-Reinet, relieving minister.

Camdebo is a region south of Graaff-Reinet and north of AgterBruintjieshoogte and the Sneeuberg, extending eastwards towards Pearston and Somerset East.

Compassberg, is a mountain peak of the Sneeuberge range in South Africa. It is located 55 km due north of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape Province. At 2504 metres, it is the highest peak in South Africa outside the Stormberg-Drakensberg massif.

Sneeuberg mountain range to the east, north and west of Graaff-Reinet. This name, Afrikaans for ‘snow mountain’, is probably translated from Khoekhoen Noagore and refers to its blanket of snow which sometimes lasts till the beginning of November.

Valley of Desolation – Region some 5 km south-west of Graaff-Reinet, famous for basaltic columns 90 m to 100 m in height. An area of rugged beauty, it is a popular tourist attraction.


Eastern Province alternative and more popular term for the Eastern Cape Province, which officially came into being in 1786 when the Graaff-Reinet district was established. In 1827 the State Secretary, Bourke, defined the Eastern Province as consisting of the districts of Graaff-Reinet (including Beaufort and the Winterveld), Albany, George, Somerset and Uitenhage. In 1852 Governor George Cathcart determined that it would consist of Albany, Albert, Colesberg, Cradock, Fort Beaufort, Graaff-Reinet, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Somerset and Victoria. When the Cape was divided into seven electoral provinces, the districts of Aliwal North, King William’s Town, East London, Queenstown and Wodehouse comprised the Eastern Province.

In the 1860s, a farmer in the Graaff-Reinet district was apparently the first person to demonstrate that the ostrich could successfully be domesticated, bred in captivity, and the eggs hatched in incubators, while still producing the magnificent feathers. This idea was quickly adopted by farmers in the Little Karoo, where they started growing lucerne as the birds’ favorite food.

Graaff-Reinet falls under the Camdeboo Local Municipality which incorporates the towns of Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen, and Nieu-Bethesda is strategically situated as a portal to the mystical Karoo in an area renowned for its pristine natural environment, rich heritage, diverse peoples and cultures. The area (12,422km²) boasts a number of popular tourist attractions, beautiful landscapes and a healthy climate. Being situated in an arid area within the Cacadu district, Camdeboo faces many challenges, the biggest of which is water.The lack of sustainable and permanent water is probably the most inhibiting factor in the area’s development, as it restricts both agricultural and industrial activities. (

Visit the Eastern Cape Provincial Reserves page or Eastern Cape Private Reserves or maybe you would like to visit the Eastern Cape National Parks page.

Return to the Eastern Cape Towns/Cities page.

Key Statistics 2011

Total population 26,585
Young (0-14) 30,1%
Working Age (15-64) 62,4%
Elderly (65+) 7,5%
Dependency ratio 60,3
Sex ratio 93
Population density 132 persons/km2
No schooling aged 20+ 7,9%
Higher education aged 20+ 10,6%
Matric aged 20+ 25,2%
Number of households 5,932
Average household size 4,1
Female headed households 41,7%
Formal dwellings 93,6%
Housing owned/paying off 63,6%
Flush toilet connected to sewerage 95,4%
Weekly refuse removal 93,2%
Piped water inside dwelling 65,5%
Electricity for lighting 97%