Don’t Skip: Montagu, South Africa

Beautiful landscape near Montagu

Beautiful landscape near Montagu

Intro to Montagu

Known as the Gateway to the Karoo, Montagu is a quaint town known for fruit, hot springs and outdoor activities. A scenic, two-hour drive from Cape Town, Montagu makes a great weekend trip. If that’s not enough reason, Montagu’s location on Route 62 secures it a spot on the longest wine route in the world. The town of Montagu was founded in 1851, with the focus on some of the same things it’s known for today, namely the mineral springs and agriculture. Farming is still a major source of income, and the farmlands north of town are known in particular for apples, pears, apricots and peaches. There are also many vineyards in the region as well as herb farms.  The town is nestled between the between the Keisie and Kingna Rivers and surrounded by the Langeberg mountain range. Our arrival in Montagu was typical for a Sunday afternoon in any small town.  Everything was closed. This was one of the things we ended up appreciating about Montagu: it wasn’t all about tourism. We felt like welcome visitors, but no one was bending over backwards to please the tourists.

Montagu Village

The Art Deco, Georgian and Dutch Cape buildings are concentrated along Long Street.  The historic houses are lovely, and it’s nice just to stroll around soaking up the atmosphere. The street also has a regional museum featuring local history and a medicinal herb garden.  Saturday mornings are reserved for the local Village Market. It’s held in Euvrard Park, and is open generally until 12:30 pm. Fill up on local eats. Buy some fresh-baked bread, goat cheese, Dutch specialties and fresh fruit and vegetable. There are arts and crafts, handmade items and jewelry as well.

The Longest Wine Route

Montagu is located at one end of the famous Route 62, known as the longest wine route in the world. Wine tours can be arranged from town. Just ask about the popular Route 62 Wine Tours. An hour or so down the road, we looked at a multitude of wineries, then decided to shoot over to the town of McGregor, to visit the McGregor winery, it being a family name and all.  After a great wine-tasting with a friendly hostess, we purchased a bottle of Special Reserve and a bottle of Muscadel, both irresistible.  The grapes come from a co-op of growers, and the vineyard has a rich history.  If you want to give them a try, you can buy these and other South African wines from the region online or check the South African section of your local packie.

The Great Outdoors

Also within easy reach of Montagu are several Wildlife Reserves and a Bird Sanctuary. The Montagu Mountain Reserve is super accessible, and has a number of popular hiking and walking trails. We especially liked the number of tortoises here!  A word of caution, though, the Cape Cobra is another possible creature sighting. There are some good photos and info on the Montagu Mountain Reserve Facebook Page. Rock-climbing is very popular in the area as well. You can hike up into the Langeberg mountains that surround the village, or walk along the nearby rivers as well. Be sure to ask locals and take a good map before heading out alone. There’s some great information, including downloadable hiking maps on the Montagu village website. A boat cruise along the Breede River is another popular option.

Cogmanskloof Pass, Montagu

Cogmanskloof Pass connects Montagu and Ashton

Cogmanskloof

Cogmanskloof Pass connects Montagu the town of Ashton. The views along its 6.5k length along the Kingna River are beautiful.  The most famous part of the pass is a short tunnel. The window created by the tunnel looks out to the Little (Klein) Karoo, a long valley bordered by the Swartberg and the Langeberg Mountains of the Western Cape. Passing through the tunnel is like entering another world, and we felt like we’d arrived in a whole new region.  On top of the tunnel, we might not have noticed Old English Fort (built in 1899 during the Anglo Boer War) if we hadn’t logged the coordinates into our GPS for a quick geocache.  It was a nice hike to the top, with more pretty views of the mountains. Montague lies below on the other side of the pass.

Montagu Nature Garden

The Montagu Nature Garden, established in 1954, is another great spot to take a walk. There is a loop trail a mile or so long surrounding the property, nothing strenuous. At the end of a short climb, from Bessiekop, you get panoramic views of the Village below and the Cape Folded Mountains in the distance. The garden’s mission is “To preserve and develop an indigenous wild flower garden with plant species representative of those in the Klein Karoo and marginal Fynbos bio-geoghraphical zone.”

Hot Mineral Springs

At a temperature of 43 C/109 F, the hot springs are nice and toasty. They are said to have great healing powers, and people visit from far and wide to dip in here. The springs have been developed, and the Avalon Hotel, where they are located, has many other amenities, including a water-slide. They pump the water in directly from the rock into the pools. The water isn’t treated or changed in any way, but it is chlorinated for hygiene reasons. There is a fee to visit.

De Bos Guest Farm, Montagu, South Africa

De Bos Guest Farm

Where We Stayed

We had a wonderful stay at De Bos Guest Farm. Our double en suite (which was about the same as we’d been paying for a shared bath) was in the converted barn.  Bungalows (sleeping up to 6 people) and campsites are also options here. There’s even a private garden cottage with fully equipped kitchen and private braai (grill) area.The country home decor was welcoming and refreshing, and we felt totally comfortable.  The place is a working farm, specializing in pecans.  There are also horses, peacocks, chickens and the like, and plenty of space for pitching tents. It’s a peaceful, beautiful spot, and somewhere we’d gladly return. We had breakfast one morning at nearby Fresh Cafe, which as you might imagine was fresh and healthy.  I had kiwi, apple, banana topped with hearty meusli (complete with seeds, almonds, oats, raisins and sultanas), yogurt and local honey.  The cappuchino was a work of art.

More photos of Montagu and the surrounding region

For more inspiration, check out our other posts on South Africa.

About the author

Tamara and Donny have wandered together since 2004, with no cure for their insatiable wanderlust. They write about discovering new destinations including beautiful photography, plus budget travel tips and how to give back through travel.