Graafwater was established after the railway junction was built in 1910 between Cape Town and Bitterfontein. The local Dutch Reformed Church of Leipoldtville further developed the town. A few years later Graafwater Dutch Reformed Church formed its own congregation.

Graafwater is the Afrikaans term for "water from a spade" referring to the Afrikaans farming culture in 1910 when the town was established.


Cape Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel passed this way in 1737 and later wrote an account of this shelter. He mentioned a wild fig tree growing out of a cleft at the back of the cave and it can still be found to this day. This cave has been declared a national monument.


One can reach the Heerenlogement (‘gentleman’s lodging’) which is a cave found about 25 kilometers away from Graafwater on the road north to Vredendal. This cave was used by travelers as overnight accommodation during the eighteenth century. The walls of this rock shelter were used by travelers to carve their names or initials on them. About 170 carvings have been counted in the cave.