Hit the Road from Port Elizabeth to Graaff-Reinet | Inspire
Hit the Road from Port Elizabeth to Graaff-Reinet
People to Watch
People to Watch

Hit the Road from Port Elizabeth to Graaff-Reinet

The eastern Karoo isn't a typical desert. There are no soaring sand dunes or metre-high cacti. But this unique landscape offers its own natural charm and drama.

Graaff-Reinet is an easy three-hour drive from the coastal city of Port Elizabeth. Head west on PE's mercifully uncrowded highway system and you'll soon find yourself on the Eastern Cape's self-proclaimed Mohair Route. The roads – sometimes paved, sometimes not – are ramrod-straight, flanked by herds of Angora goats and the occasional foraging pig. The landscape grows drier, scrubbier and more mountainous as the drive progresses, with very few cars on the road. 

What better opportunity to test the highway cruising and gravel travel ability of the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d Coupé? Its off-road capabilities, coupled with the refinement you'd expect from a luxury sedan, means this mid-size SUV has it all.

The historic town of Graaff-Reinet is surrounded by Camdeboo National Park, where the Valley of Desolation treats visitors to views of dizzying rock formations and colourful sunsets.


The Drosty Hotel is Graaff-Reinet's oldest and most luxurious hotel. A weekend stay at the noble old Drosty – restored to offer modern elegance along with historic charm – is an experience in itself, with Graaff-Reinet's quaint, walkable streets and towering church spire an added bonus.

The five-star Samara Private Game Reserve, 45 minutes east of Graaff-Reinet, is a must-visit for seasoned bush-lovers seeking a different kind of wildlife experience. Samara's successful cheetah conservation programme has created a thriving population of cheetah, and this is one of the few places in South Africa where guests can track wild cheetah on foot. The lucky ones might also spy an aardvark digging for termites. Samara's accommodation, food, scenery and service are flawless in every way.


Camdeboo National Park is home to the Valley of Desolation, where a row of tall, craggy rock spires tower over the green-brown desert. Camdeboo offers overnight accommodation and hiking trails, but the Valley of Desolation is also an easy outing from Graaff-Reinet. Take a bottle of wine and watch from the viewing deck as the late afternoon sun paints the mountains pink.

The tiny, quirky town of Nieu-Bethesda, less than an hour's drive from Graaff-Reinet, makes a worthy day trip. Nieu-Bethesda's Owl House, created by eccentric artist Helen Martins, is a unique body of work. The small Karoo house is covered in layers of crushed coloured glass and the backyard is a sea of cement-and-glass sculptures portraying camels, deities, and owls, of course.


Polka, a whimsical café on Somerset Street in Graaff-Reinet, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a menu that appeals to everyone. The shady outdoor courtyard is a great place to stop for coffee while strolling through town.

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