The Quiet (not really) Surprise awaiting you in Elgin/Grabouw
When next you’re looking for a quiet getaway that’s not too far from Cape Town, you might well think that a few days in the beautiful surrounds of Elgin / Grabouw would be a perfect choice: only one hour’s travel away; surrounded by the green loveliness of apple orchards; dark, tranquil forests; well-appointed hotels where you might enjoy glorious views and some peaceful reading time in a shady spot. And a wee drop of apple juice…
Or maybe not.
We suggest you take a relook at Elgin as a place to not only unwind, but where you’ll have a blast of fun exploring a range of adventurous new experiences that have been set up – from floating across mountains, to innovative tours, to wine sampling in environments geared to calm the soul and feed the imagination. Let’s look at just a few of the options that await the intrepid traveller who wants to get away and wind down – but also fire the spirit.
The Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
The Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve comprises around 70,000ha of scenic stretches of mountain terrain. Established for the conservation of fynbos, the area also supports buck and hundreds of bird species. If you’re lucky, you will spot a rare sighting of a leopard. Hiking is a chief pastime here – but there is something else quite astonishing that awaits you in this breathtakingly beautiful area.
The Cape Canopy Tour was placed second on the list of the world’s hottest new tourism experiences for 2015 by Lonely Planet (the only African attraction to make the list). This particular adrenalin-pumping experience will definitely blow your mind. Set across a 13-platform route, you will glide across mountain scenery and as though in your own wide-angle movie. Kitted out with your safety gear, you’ll be driven to the start – and once the exhilarating experience is over, you can enjoy a meandering walk back to where the truck will take you down the mountain again. No real stress, just thorough delight, even if initially you may believe you have a fear of heights.
Once you are in the stunning regions of Grabouw and the Elgin Valley, just going walkabout is really not enough, you need to move faster and yet at a comfortable pace to take in the views. A horse? You might think so, but no – you’ll be riding a Segway (after a little practice) and taking the least strenuous tour through the magnificent vineyards and scenery. Sophisticated, comfortable, leisurely and mesmeric. Not to be missed for a unique mix of relaxation and a warm feeling of upliftment and real engagement.
Kamazoo Quad Bike trails
For those who want to up the excitement even more, the fun offered by quad bikes is suitable for those with a sense of adventure and who like to push the envelope ever so slightly. Suitable for both novice and expert alike, there is excellent training offered, plus safety equipment. It’s great for families or group outings. Trails run through the forests, mountains and orchards of the beautiful Elgin valley. You can choose between 1, 2, and 3 hour, ½ and full-day tours. These tours are constantly being updated and changed, so even if you’ve done this challenge before, there are always new routes to explore!
There’s nothing more soothing than a bit of quiet fishing in a mountain stream. Elgin has got you sorted – there are no less than three trout dams stocked with Rainbow Trout. All the equipment you’ll need is easily available for rent. Now this is a really good time to spend lazing under a tree while actively pursuing the art of attaining your own lunch. Picnic baskets are in supply should your fishing prowess fail to produce the necessary sustenance. Fortify this delectable treasure with a glass of wine – and what a way to spend a quiet day!
There are two museums – and both are worth an intriguing wander. There’s always a fascinating history to every tradition – and no less so that with the rise of the apple farms in Elgin. Exhibits range from maps which show how apples were brought from Europe over several centuries (beginning with Jan van Riebeek himself), to a collection of old machinery used to bring apples from the orchard to the table, and the ultimate delicious juice we have come to know and love.
There is nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than browsing through appetizing locally made products in a farm stall where you will always find a unique array of individual taste sensations. There are several excellent farm stalls in the Elgin valley. Three of the best are located along the N2: The Orchard Farm Stall is famous for its fresh loaves of bread. The Peregrine Farm Stall sports the popular Red Tractor Café where you can enjoy coffee and a variety of cakes before stocking up with some superb produce at the deli. The Houw Hoek Farm Stall is well worth a visit, offering breakfast, lunch and a delightful coffee stop. Stocking up with delectable goodies for home has never been better.
And if all the above excitement works up a thirst, then there are always the enticing wine routes. Perhaps a big surprise for some, is the fact that the famous Elgin apple is well-challenged by the glistening grape. There are wine farms galore in the Grabouw/Elgin district, a fascinating collection just waiting for your exploration. Places to wine taste abound, offering memorable experiences as much as the variety of tastes on promotion.
Here are just a few suggestions to whet the appetite!
The Tasting Station: A pile of old suitcases outside gives you an indication of a vintage ambiance that awaits inside this old station; an interior that gives you a sense of slower time, opportunity to indulge the senses, kick back and sample a couple of glasses entirely at your own pace.
Oak Valley: This apple, pear and wine farm boasts an impressive network of mountain bike trails, also a delightful deli called the Pool Room where you can engage in some serious wine tasting. Set right at the end of the road leading through Elgin, you will find this lush, spacious farm, home to more than 4000 oak trees.
The Iona Wine Estate: Definitely worth a visit for the magnificent surroundings of the world heritage site, Kogelberg Nature Reserve Biosphere. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and at its elevated level, Iona is South Africa’s coolest vineyard in every sense of the word.
Thandi Wine Estate: South Africa’s first agricultural Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) project has exceeded all expectations. It is the first wine brand to receive Fairtrade accreditation. The company is owned by 250 farm-worker families, who hold 55% shares in the company; Thandi Wines is a studied project that has really empowered disadvantaged farming communities. Profits are used for various upliftment projects such as a crèche for farm worker’s children, tertiary education bursaries and basic adult education.
For information on accommodation and activities at any of these destinations, send an email to [email protected] or contact Tourism on +27 (0) 86 132 2223.
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