As we head towards to the heart of the summer season and anticipate the annual influx of local and international tourists to the Cape, I’m excited to partner with Avios, the travel rewards programme, to bring you a series of recommended Hidden Treasures within the city and beyond. My first is Elgin. Land of Apples, Farm Stalls, Adventures and MCC.
Of course Cape Town continues to delight with its leading points of interest and popular options for meals, day visits and exploring, yet it is no secret that most travellers and locals are seeking an escape that will take them beyond the obvious, away from the queues, traffic and crowds, to lesser known areas of discovery.
The Elgin valley is found just over an hour’s drive from the city beyond Sir Lowry’s Pass, it borders the Kogelberg Biosphere and is where 65% of the country’s apples are grown. Elgin offers a myriad of attractions whatever your interest, cool climate wines and endless views of orchards and vineyard-covered hills; a rather untouched area that calls to true nature lovers.
These are some of the places I when visiting
On approach look out for the historic Houwhoek Inn, set among ancient oak trees, this is the oldest licensed hotel in South Africa, established on the site of a toll gate in 1834 it holds tales of early explorers who stopped here for a meal as they headed inland, now particularly popular for Sunday lunch. Do stop in at the landmark Peregrine Farmstall, which is stocked to the brim with fresh produce and preserves sourced from the region, a good place to get an idea of local food offerings.
Belfied Wine Estate just behind Peregrine is home to a couple of beautifully appointed self-catering cottages, as well as a trio of award-winning wines. This idyllic piece of land has been in the Kreft family’s care for ten years, during which time old buildings have been renovated, a vineyard nurtured to full production and a perfect garden grown.
Another favourite spot will take you to the end of a long dirt road and South Hill Wines with their generous landscape. The Gallery Restaurant serves fine food and bursts with local art exhibited on all the walls and even in the gardens a good spot for a leisurely lunch with a group of friends. The very Valley is also home to Appletiser, our world-famous soft drink company too.
Sticking with products of the vine, Elgin is home to South Africa’s only dedicated bubbly estate, Charles Fox MCC which is a must visit. Here you can take a tour and lesson in production followed by a tasting. Their brut is in my opinion, a triumph.
Let’s not forget though that this is apple country, which means that cider rules. Three local brands to look out for are Everson’s Cider, Windermere Cider and Cluver & Jack. If you don’t make it to any of the farms for a visit, be sure to order some with your meal.
For a delicious pizza, stop in at Brinny Breezes Restaurant at Old Mac Daddy, which also offers accommodation in their antique Airstream trailers that lux-up the hillside and an assortment of adrenalin pumping activities at Daddy’s Adventure. The arts are not forgotten here, make a note to attend one of the performances at the Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre, in its unique and rather awe-inspiring setting with a towering Eucalyptus forest circling the intimate open-air arena. Their website has the schedule up.
All this food and drink may call for a bit of energy to be burnt off.
Elgin is a mountain biker’s dream with some of the most demanding and spectacular single tracks for professionals and amateurs to enjoy. It is easy to understand why the annual AMSA Cape Epic comes through this valley. For something more social though you might even opt for a bicycle wine tour with tasting stops – just don’t forget your helmet.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve is the place for flora and fauna enthusiasts with Nature Discovery Tours offering quad biking through the reserve with qualified field guides. The reserve, with more than 1600 fynbos species in 18 000 hectares, forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. If you don’t fancy a quad ride, there are numerous one and two-day hikes you can explore.
Before heading back to the city, consider ziplining with Cape Canopy Tours in the Hottentots Holland Nature reserve. The tour consists of 13 Platforms, eleven thrilling slides with some over 300m long, and a suspension bridge positioned high above a waterfall, all guaranteeing an unforgettable experience.
Get some fresh off the comb honey from Bradford Apiaries, visit the Elgin Apple Museum, one of only two in the world, and buy some greenhouse cut flowers and roses. After all, this is the country. If wine is your focus, the Elgin Wine has an interactive map to help plan your taste and tour journey through the many Vineyards.
The whole area begs for long walks and relaxed living, which means that you may even consider an overnight. If yes, take a look at South Hill Estate, Old Mac Daddy and Belfield Cottage. Also, keep your eye out for Avios accommodation offers in Cape Town with the Protea Hotel Group, City Lodge Hotels, Tsogo Sun Hotels and the Three Cities group by visiting Rocketmiles, adding Cape Town as your location. For more information do contact Elgin Valley Tourism.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member of Avios simply go to www.avios.com and sign up for free to start collecting points when booking flights, hotel chains stays, purchasing petrol, car rental and on everyday purchases through partners. Connect with Avios on Facebook and Twitter. For more Hidden Treasures.
Thank you Avios for sponsoring these posts, you have inspired me to think about the Hidden Treasures that I love exploring in and around Cape Town, reminding me how lucky I am to call this area home. Photos are taken from the Peregrine Farmstall, Old Mac Daddy, Belfild and Elgin Wine Valley websites.