In the late 1700's European settlers started farming in the area of modern day Somerset East even though they were defying the boundary set by the Dutch East India Company. One of the crops grown successfully in those days was tobacco.
The actual town of Somerset East was established in 1825 and was named after Lord Somerset. The town is set in a beautiful area with the Bosberg Mountain nearby.
A variety of farming takes places around Somerset East including merino wool and Angora goats, for their mohair, dairy and citrus.
A number of the buildings in the town have been proclaimed as national monuments. One of these is the Old Pastorie which is now become the location of the Somerset East Museum. Other historical buildings include the Hope Congregational Church, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Officers' Mess. The Officers' Mess houses a collection of paintings by Walter Battiss who is a well-known South African artist.
Other attractions in Somerset East include the Bosberg Nature Reserve and a picturesque 9-hole golf course. The Glen Avon Waterfall is 10 km from the town.
There is a variety of accommodation, including a caravan park, available in the area.