Grahamstown, also known as Makhanda, is a town of 67,000 people (2011) in the Cacadu District of the Eastern Cape. This charming and picturesque small city is well worth a visit. It has maintained its old-time demeanour, and has many examples of buildings in the Victorian, Colonial and Gothic Revivalist styles. It is known as The City of Saints because it has more than 40 churches, and as Africa's Festival Capital because six national events are celebrated here each year.
Frontier Country is a vibrant mix of all the best of Africa - where many intense battles were fought and many famous warriors are remembered. True country hospitality reigns in this area with its world class game lodges, hotels and guest houses. The delightful towns of Alicedale and Riebeeck East are also situated in the area and are fast gaining local and international popularity for their lingering history and the many prestigious game reserves that surround them.
The town was named after Colelen John Graham, its founder in 1812, after the Fourth Frontier War, between the British and Xhosa. In 2018, it was renamed "Makhanda" (prophet) in memory of Xhosa warrior and prophet Makhanda ka Nxele.
There are two airports near Grahamstown. The closest is the Port Elizabeth airport which is 114 km from Grahamstown. The East London airport is 123 km away. There are regular flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and other South African destinations to the airports in Port Elizabeth and East London.
Grahamstown lies just off the N2 highway between Port Elizabeth to the west and East London to the east. From Port Alfred in the south follow the R67 north through Bathurst. From the north a number of different routes converge on Grahamstown. Grahamstown is easily accessible by motorways from Cape Town (887 km), Durban (671 km), and East London (152 km). You could also drive in from Johannesburg (950 km). The road conditions are fairly good if you are coming from any of these cities.
The station is on Ayliff street (right in town). However there is no longer a train between Grahamstown and Alicedale, inland to the west.
For several years there has been talk of reviving the disused rail link between Grahamstown and Port Alfred, but this project is still very far from completion.
Several companies, including Greyhound and Intercape, run long distance buses between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, which stop off at Grahamstown along the way. If you choose to travel like this, remember to take some toilet roll as the bus may run out pretty quickly. Minibus taxis from Raglan Street go to Port Elizaberth R40 3 hours, and East London R60 4 hours.
1 Albany Museum Complex. The original Albany Museum was established in 1855 by the Grahamstown medical-Chirurgical Society. The Museum today consists of a family of seven buildings which includes the Natural Sciences Museum, the History Museum, the Observatory Museum, Fort Selwyn, the Old Provost military prison, Drostdy Arch and the Old Priest’s House.
2 Cory Library for Historical Research. The Cory Library at Rhodes University collects material of all kinds to support research into the history of Southern African and related fields in the social sciences.
Eastern Star Gallery, 4 Anglo African St, ☏ . The Eastern Star gallery takes its name from a newspaper established in Grahamstown in 1871 which was the forerunner of the Argus Company’s famous present-day daily, The Star of Johannesburg.
Fraser's Camp Adventures. Fraser’s Camp offers adrenalin-fuelled teambuilding or family adventures with 6 ziplines that range between 135 & 240 m long. The facility is 38 km from Grahamstown and also offers accommodation on request.
History Museum, ☏ . Established in 1965. The History Museum houses an important collection of historical artefacts as well as a genealogical archive relating to the 1820 British Settlers. The Fine Art collection is also housed in the History Museum, along with important scientific and historical libraries.
3 International Library of African Music, ☏ . Established in 1954. The ILAM houses the largest archive of African music in sub -aharan Africa. Follow ILAM signs from the gate opposite Rhodes University Theatre.
4 The 1820 Settlers National Monument, ☏ . The monument was built to commemorate the contributions made by English-speaking Settlers to South Africa. Since its opening on 13 July 1974, this superbly equipped building has been a centre of creative thought and activity.
Makana Botanical Gardens, ☏ . This is the second oldest botanical garden in South Africa and is home to a number of interesting exotic species of plants representing its European history and is now also home to many local species. Over 160 species of birds has been identified in these gardens. The ghost of Lady Juana Smith is reputed to still wander in the gardens she loved so much.
Natural Science Museum, ☏ . Established in 1855. (A component of the Albany Museum Complex.) This museum has a well known Egyptology section and has excellent displays on the pre history, the geological history and the natural history of the area.
Observatory Museum, ☏ . Established 1982, this building was a 19th century jeweller’s shop and family home. Its connection with the identification of the Eureka, South Africa’s first authenticated diamond, in 1867, prompted De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited to purchase the building and restore it in 1981-1982.
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, ☏ . Established 1946, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity is the leading centre for the study of fishes in southern Africa. The displays are a source of endless fascination.
6 The Provost Prison, ☏ . In 1835, after the Sixth Frontier War, the Governor of the Cape, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, ordered the building of a fortified barracks and military prison on the Drostdy grounds. The Provost Prison, a Jeremy Bentham design called a ‘panopticon’, was completed in 1838. The first and only prisoners it ever housed were mutineers from Frazer’s Camp, who later suffered the most elaborate execution ever staged in South Africa.
Towns close by
Alicedale - This charming Victorian-styled town, situated 65 km outside of Grahamstown, used to be the core railway junction in South Africa before the mid 1990s. Whilst in Alicedale, do not miss out on a trip to the Mohair Museum, a round of golf at the Gary Player-designed 18-hole golf course and lunch at the 4-star Bushman Sands Hotel. A visit to the Bushman Caves, unscathed rock art and safari experiences in game reserves in the area are also recommended.
A visit to Alicedale includes a Cultural Xhosa Village, a rural township experience, the possibility of a donkey cart ride, olive groves, light lunches at the beautifully refurbished historical Railway Station, untouched Bushman Cave and Rock Art. Not to forget the superb Golf Course at Bushman Sands and Leisure Centre where the ladies can pamper themselves in luxury and comfort. Also not to be missed is the Weaving Museum, which is part of the oldest Mohair Factory in South Africa. Abafazi Crafts and Designs is a delightful outlet for beautiful local bead and basket work. An internationally renowned Interior Decor and Designer furniture outlet is also worth a visit. Tel: +27 42 231-1247
Fort Brown - Located next to the Great Fish River between Kwandwe Game Reserve and the Fish River Nature Reserve, Fort Brown sprung up around a British Fortification of the same name.
Frasers Camp - Located near an old lookout tower and near the other settlement of The Coombs, this little settlement is located among grassy hills and is an excellent base from which to explore the Fish River and Kap River valleys.
Riebeek-East - This town lies in the vicinity of the archaeological sites showing cultural activity that predates many claims world-wide, contributing to its status as the cradle of human kind. This typical “platteland dorp” was built around the magnificent Dutch Reformed Church and is surrounded by farms and game reserves.
Salem - This historic village, on the road to Kendon-on-Sea, was founded by early British settlers. The village boasts two Methodist Churches which were erected in 1832 and 1848 which overlook the village green where many a game of cricket has been played over hundreds of years. The village is famous for an event that took place in the Frontier Wars where a resident, Richard Gush, chose to successfully parley with an amaXhosa force that was preparing to attack the village rather than fight.
Seven Fountains - This village, off the N2 about 30 km from Grahamstown possesses a splendid Methodist Church. Founded by Irish settlers in 1820 they named their little settlement after the number of springs in the area.
Sidbury - A small village set out by Richard Daniel in the early 1830s along the lines of an English country Village with Daniel’s house, Sidbury Park, being set a little way from the village. Sidbury boasts two splendid churches, with a number of war graves in the church graveyards.
The Grahamstown area is outstanding for outdoor activities such as fishing, golf, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and skydiving. For the nature lover there are plenty of world class game lodges, private game reserves and a wealth of plant and bird life to discover. Annual events include the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the biggest festival of its kind in Africa, and third biggest in the world, during June/July, the annual National SciFest in March, the Freedom Festival in April, The Eastern Cape Eisteddfod in May and the National Schools festival in July.
Most of the private game reserves in the area are home to Africa’s Big 5 namely the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. The reserves are all free from malaria and are situated between 20 and 60 km outside Grahamstown. There are many accommodation options in the area that cater for everyone’s needs, from luxury accommodation, to self-catering chalets and perfectly neat camping terrains. You can choose one that compliments your ideal African experience. The area also boasts more than five ecosystems, thus enabling the support of many forms of plant, animal and bird life. Go on a sunset game drive, an escorted bush walk or a night drive and let the spectacular valleys, amazing rivers and abundant wildlife inspire you.
- Amakhala Game Reserve, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This private game reserve boasts a wide selection of owner managed accommodation ranging from intimate bush lodges to majestic colonial residences.
- Bushman Sands Hotel, Spa & Golf Course, Alicedale, ☏ , fax: . The 4-star hotel is a delightful blend of rich heritage and modern luxury. Activities range from the great outdoors to pampering and relaxation.
- Great Fish River Reserve, ☏ , fax: . The reserve is rich in history, with several forts bearing witness to the frontier conflicts between Xhosa and settler.
- Kariega Private Game Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This private game reserve is set in 5 000 hectares of pristine wilderness above the Kariega River Valley.
- Kwande Private Game Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ . Situated on the Fort Beaufort road and straddling the Great Fish River, this luxury Big 5 reserve is dedicated to the preservation of the magnificent but endangered Blue Crane.
- Kwantu Private Game Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ . Five-star accommodation, meals, an elephant sanctuary, endangered and exotic wildlife.
- Lalibela Game Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ . Lalibela spans 4 ecosystems and offers luxury accommodation
- 7 Pumba Private Game Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ , fax: . Discover wildest Africa in true luxury at the Pumba Private Game Reserve in South Africa. This Eastern Cape safari lodge has achieved a 5-star rating for its unrivalled beauty, world-class service and the abundance of wild animals on its doorstep. In addition to the famous Big 5 (lions, leopards, buffaloes, rhinos and elephants), guests of the game reserve have the rare opportunity of seeing the magnificent White Lion, stalking prey and lazing under the trees in its natural environment.
- Schotia Safaris, Alicedale, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Schotia is home to many antelope, crocodile, warthog, jackal and lions.
- Shamwari Game Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ . The Cape’s Premier Big 5 Game Reserve. Choose between 5 different lodges, or experience a day programme including a visit to the African Arts & Culture Village.
- Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, Alicedale, ☏ . Home of “Tom the Rhino”, Thomas Baines Nature Reserve is named after the famous 19th-century artist who left a valuable record of the rich diversity of fauna and flora in the region, including the now extinct quagga.
Within a 20 km radius of the city there are over 400 acres of water containing small- and large-mouth bass, barbel, carp, mullet, yellowtail and trout.
Situated in the middle of a region where four geographical zones meet, Grahamstown is a bird-watchers paradise.
The Grahamstown area is a golfer’s paradise, with the Grahamstown Golf Course, and the Gary Player designed Bushman Sands Golf Course in close proximity.
- Grahamstown Golf Course, ☏ .
- Bushman Sands Golf Course, ☏ .
- Boma Helicopters, ☏ . Slinging, film and photo sessions, map making and survey, and reconnaissance, game capture and counting of wild animals.
- Oldenburgia Hiking Trail, ☏ . Grahamstown’s own hiking trail is the Oldenburgia Hiking Trail which is a two-day circular trail starting and ending at the Grahamstown Municipal Caravan Park.
- Mosslands Two River Trail, ☏ . The trail meanders along the Assegaai and Kariega Rivers, mostly under canopy. There are two overnights for 12 people in Reed Cabins overlooking a stretch of water, and an old Settler Cottage.
National Arts Festival, PO Box 304 Grahamstown 6140, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Every year in June/July this festival stages 500-plus productions and exhibitions - predominantly theatre, dance, comedy and music. It is the world's third biggest arts festival, selling 180 000 tickets in 2010.
National Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology, 1820 Settlers Monument (Fort Selwyn Drive), ☏ . This comprises SciFest Africa (formerly Sasol Scifest), SciFest-on-the-Road, National Science Week, Mall Shows, Deep Rural Programme and International Partnerships. SciFest Africa is South Africa's national science festival held annually in late March or early April in Grahamstown. It features over 550 events. Attendance now exceeds 58 000 visitors - it's a great way to get children interested in science, maths, engineering and technology.
Mountain Biking, ☏ . The Eastern Cape is a wonderful place and Radway Green’s well planned routes will take you through the Valley Bushveld with spectacular scenery and birds and game in abundance.
Rock Climbing, ☏ . Grahamstown has been identified as one of the best venues for rockclimbing and bouldering in South Africa, due to its wide variety of easily-accessible routes and crags and the quality of available climbs.
Skydiving, ☏ . The Eastern Province Skydivers Club is situated in Grahamstown. Jumping takes place every weekend. Beginners are welcome.
- Under the Arch. There are two shops under the Drostdy Arch, the much-photographed entrance to Rhodes University. The shop called "Under the Arch" sells wonderful unusual gifts, specialising in crafts from the Eastern Cape region and further afield. They also stock a range of beads and snacks. Don't miss the pottery by local potters Greg Jacobs and Richard Pullen.
- Earth Art Ceramic Production and Studio, 613 Kowie Road, Bathurst, ☏ . Each vessel is hand thrown and decorated to be completly unique.
- Red Café, 127a High St (Upstairs from UPB, just past Postnet), ☏ . A great coffee shop with friendly staff and eccentric customers, owner-managed by Justus. It is licensed and serves delicious light meals. There is an eclectic range of secondhand books on sale.
- 137 High Street Restaurant, 137 High St, ☏ . Adjacent to Rhodes University and within easy walking distance of the High Court. They serve excellent breakfasts, lunches and dinners and the best cappuccino in town. Fresh cakes and scones are baked daily. Specials change weekly as well as their dinner menu.
- Rat and Parrot, 59 New St. A cosy student pub - anyone who has spent any time as a student in the UK will be instantly at home here!
- 1 A Stone's Throw B&B, 9 Stone's Hill (On the R67 towards Port Alfred), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14h00, check-out: 10h30. Offers accommodation with tranquil country living. R790.
- The Cock House, 10 Market Str, ☏ , fax: .
- Colonel Graham Guest House, 2 Lansdowne Rd, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 4 star From R150 per person sharing.
- Henri House B&B, 16 Henry Str, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From R500 for a double and R300 for a single.
- The Highlander, Worcester Str, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Jenny's B&B, 9 Dulverton Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 star From R320 per person sharing.
- [formerly dead link] Protea Hotel, 123 High str, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Local telephone directory: 1023
- International telephone directory: 10903
- Ambulance: +27 46 622-5664 (10177)
- Fire Station: +27 46 603-6000
- Police: +27 46 603-9111 (10111)
- Hospital: +27 46 622-2215 (10177)