Part of scenic Route 62, Montagu is a gateway to the Klein Karoo. ELAINE KING finds out what to do in this popular little village.
Montagu is only two hour’s drive from Cape Town; and a couple of hours from the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape. There is more than enough to do here for a good couple days, with a wide range of fun activities for every member of the family.
When the time is right and you will catch the spectacle of spring blossoms on the town’s fruit trees – dubbed the Koo Valley, South Africa’s dried fruit capital, from where most of South Africa’s deciduous fruit comes from. Of course, any mention of Montagu is incomplete without a mention of the world-famous Montagu Springs, which bubbles up some 3km from the earth. First discovered in the 1700s, the springs have become so well-known that the town was declared a health resort in 1936. Enjoy a choice of warm bubbling water whether you visit a resort, or just the pools as a day-trip.
What to do in Montagu
CYCLING: The area is renown for cycling. Get a map, and a bike if you need one, from the Montagu Hotel. It offers marked-out maps for all levels of proficiency. The hotel also offers bike storage for serious cyclists. Montagu has two great MTB events coming up that cyclists won’t want to miss: The Karoo Poison on 11 September, 2021, and Hills challenge, 30 October, 2021.
HIKING: Montagu is surrounded by mountains and boasts a plethora of great hiking routes. Get your map from tourism at the hotel and get walking.
ROCK CLIMBING: This is one of the top rock-climbing destinations in South Africa, as you’re surrounded by amazing rock formations. Become a dassie. Contact David Webster for guided rock climbing, mountain biking tours or hiking tours. See www.rainbowglen.co.za or ask Tony for guided mountain tours, abseiling and scrambling: email@example.com
STROLLING: Walking around this town is a history and art lesson in one. There are 26 historical treasures on the Historical Walk through Montagu map. See one of the oldest houses in South Africa while you enjoy picturesque Georgian, Victorian and Cape Dutch architecture.
WINE CELLARS: Wine lovers are spoilt for choice with more than 50 wine cellars in the valley – complete with olive tasting and cheese tasting and factories. See www.visitwinelands.co.za and stock up from Montagu Winery before you leave. A must-visit is to Van Loveren. Home to fabulous cheese and wine tastings, there are a host of choices from Taste of Africa – All About Pinotage, Shades of Chardonnays, Undiscovered Gems like Red Muscadel and Date Dipped in Dark Chocolate. Most wine farms these days are kid-friendly with an area for them to play. It’s also home to Tangled Tree wines produced through sustainable farming on the Van Loveren farms.
The Robertson Wine Valley also warrants another long lazy afternoon, but so does Ashton Winery, and actually, it would be easy to spend days on wine farms in the area.
RESTAURANTS: When it comes to eating you can’t miss the Burgundy Gherkin Italian Restaurant in the Main Road, which specializes in alcoholic milkshakes, or any Turkish delight, litchi, popcorn, you name it, for kids.
The Purple Pickle is actually purple and you can’t miss it in Bath Street. Great for the family, burgers to die for, 400g ribs as good as they come for R95 with all the trimmings. There are many restaurants to keep you happy for days!
TRACTOR TRIPS: Enjoy a tractor trip to the summit of the Langeberg mountain – it’s the stuff that memories are made of, as The Protea Farm pulls its load of sightseers up the mountain reaching an altitude of 1500m above sea level. It offers a bird’s eye view of the Koo Valley, down into the Robertson Valley. Book.
HOT SPRINGS: To visit the hot springs, see here.
TRADOUW PASS: Drive the Tradouw Pass, one of the most picturesque passes in the country. It connects Barrydale to Swellendam and Heidelberg.
Other Montagu activities include the Donkey Sanctuary ande Guano Cave. Note: stock up on citrus fruit of South Africa. Visit Montagu Farmstall in Bath Street or Locarno Dried Fruit and Nuts in Du Toit Street for dried peaches, raisins, sultanas, nuts and fruit sweets sold at great prices.
Montagu Country Hotel
A good base for overall enjoyment is the Montagu Country Hotel – the only original art-deco hotel in South Africa. It’s home to period furniture, ornaments and art characterised by the Art Deco style. The original hotel was built in 1875, burnt down and was rebuilt in 1922. This ‘old lady’ has always been an integral part of the town.
The south-facing deck of Feathers & Flatcaps Coffeeshop and Cocktail Lounge welcomes the morning sun. Light lunches and scrumptious platters can be enjoyed whilst sipping some of the regions’ finest wines, cocktails and mocktails, or speciality Bootlegger coffees. Charlestons Restaurant serves breakfast and dinner overlooking peaceful green gardens.
The Lubbe Lounge – dedicated to Gert Lubbe who played an integral part in the establishment of Route 62 – is perfect for a pre-dinner drink.
The Montagu-Ashton Tourism Office is also based here.
PJ Basson is the face of the Montagu Hotel, but also the go-to-man in Montagu having lived here for 22 years with his wife Colene constantly gentrifying the ‘old Montagu girl’ and sourcing new Art Deco treasures for the hotel. He is famous for his cars which have tickled the fancy of overseas guests, but also carried many a bride and celebrity. Book a trip in an American dream car – a powder blue 1956 or a chill-red 1964 Cadillac Sedan DeVille – and its more than likely that PJ will be your tour guide. For car enthusiasts this is a thrill, but on the drive around Montagu town, PJ will point out all the historical and important sites also. Ask him to take you to the best viewpoint of the town. In fact ask him anything about the surrounding area and you will get it all from the horse’s mouth.
Where: Montagu things to do
Montagu activities: www.capecountryroutes.com