Mira’s Insider Guide to McGregor.

Mira Weiner, founder of Hot Oven Marketing, lives as a passionate foodie, wine lover and travel enthusiast.  She loves people and their stories; for her it’s these stories that are the heart and soul of a travel destination and it’s these stories behind a destination that really allow you to connect, discover and explore a place. She grew up in a small town called McGregor in the Western Cape and loves exploring the hidden gems of her country, especially those off the beaten track.  She aims to inspire South Africans to be a tourist in their own country by supporting local is lekker.  Job employment and skills development are key factors that are created through the tourism industry and can be an incredible tool used for transformational growth.

5 things I love most about McGregor

  1. The peace and quiet,
  2. The magic of the dusty roads,
  3. The only traffic being cows roaming free and that people and dogs have right of way over cars,
  4. The close community,
  5. Knowing your neighbours – sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing haha!

A few quirky/cool/fun things only locals know about

You’re not supposed to swim in the lei water dam but all the locals have for years. Each week night a different restaurant is open and sometimes it is just a local making soup and fresh bread rolls in the main road. There is a local Facebook page for notices and also used for errands/lifts. So if you have forgotten to buy something at the shops you can see if anyone is going through. Every afternoon in McGregor has an activity including swimming, bridge club, Scottish dancing, tennis, yoga classes and the list goes on!

The least touristy thing to do in McGregor

Fetch eggs from a local farmer, go buy olive oil on tap, have homemade meals delivered to your door, swim in the dam or walk your dog around the dam, swap plants with your neighbour, go to Quiz night at Tebaldi’s and get your hair done at a ridiculous small town fee!

Best place in Hilton to enjoy…

The water: the local lei water dam

The mountains/countryside: Take your feet, mountain bike, motorbike or car for a drive on the Road to Nowhere, you can even stop off for some wine tasting at the award winning family owned farm, Lord’s Wines.

The outdoors: Take a stroll in the Krans Nature Reserve, ride your bike around the village streets or on the outskirts through olive orchards and vineyards, walk through the labyrinth at Temenos Gardens.

The food: On Mondays experience a trip around the world for dinner at 51 (each Monday has a different theme from a different country). On Tuesdays  pop down to the local ice cream shop for a bowl of soup and freshly baked rolls by local chef, Robert Sibitz. On Wednesdays catch up with friends at Open Kitchen with a weekly special. Every last Thursday of the month is Quiz night at Tebaldi’s Restaurant with R10 entrance fee going to a local charity.

On Fridays enjoy a R100 one pot wonder including a glass of wine at Green Gables Dining Room. On Saturdays stock up with fresh produce, home-made pastries, olive oil, cheese, prepared meals, plants, second hand books and even dog treats at the Saturday Morning Market by the church.  It lasts about an hour, so blink and you miss it! Then head down to 51 or How Bazaar for a great cup of coffee and a treat. On Sundays head up to Lady Grey Restaurant at Lord’s Guest Lodge for incredible mountain views and a great Sunday lunch spot!

The general vibe or nightlife: Pop into Grape de Vine for pre-dinner drinks and a good selection of local wines, ciders and craft beers

Good coffee/tea/wine: 51, How Bazaar and Tebaldi’s have great coffee and yummy treats. For something different try fresh mint from the garden with a dash of grated ginger at Tebaldi’s Restaurant. The best wine tasting spots are at the local garagiste, Bemind Wyne where you can meet the winemaker and owner, Ilse Schutte for a tasting or a grappa and eau de vie tasting with distiller and owner Robert Rosenbach at Tanagra Boutique Distillery.

Meet locals: the best spots for meeting locals are either on an early evening stroll around the village, at the local wine bar Grape de Vine, the vibey Saturday Morning Market or at a local theatre production show (live music concerts, poetry readings, films, etc) at Wahnfried.

What makes a city/town special for me

Personally, it is all about the people, their food and their stories!

My favourite small town in South Africa and why

My soul lives in McGregor and it will always be my favourite small town. I have yet to discover anything like it!

If I were to do a 10 day road trip through South Africa, these are the stops I’d make:

I would start with the West Coast for 3 days and then head out onto Route62 for 4 days and end off with 3 days on the Garden Route!Three of my favourite regions in SA…

The ultimate bush experience anyone can have in SA

I haven’t done many but have heard great things about De Hoop, Grootbos, Gondwana and Thula Thula

The ultimate bush experience anyone can have in Southern Africa ( Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia)

I have never been to another Africa country and it is definitely on my bucket list but being well connected to an incredible industry of travel writers I would definitely ask Dawn Jorgensen from the Incidental Tourist, Di Brown from Roaming Giraffe, Lauren and Vaughan McShane from The Travel Manuel and Allison Foat from Cape Town Diva for advice.

My best beach/island experience in Southern Africa

I spent most of my school holidays in Plettenberg Bay so I love the beaches at Nature’s Valley, Keurboom and Robberg as well as the surrounding areas of Knysna, Wilderness and Sedgefield.

The most magical place in South Africa and why

The most magical place in South Africa for me is in the mountains where I live – the Langeberg Mountains surround the special towns of McGregor, Robertson, Bonnievale and Montagu.  An incredible place to reconnect with your soul!

The best places to visit in South Africa for…

  1. Solo travellers: I personally love going on retreats and workshops, I often find that they are geared for solo travelers and you get to be on your own but also meet like-minded people and have company sometimes too. I recently attended a brilliant cheese making course by talented food consultant and cookbook author, Annelien Pienaar at the African Relish cooking school in Prince Albert.
  2. Couples: small town romantic getaways on the West Coast, Stanford, Greyton, Prince Albert, Montagu and McGregor.
  3. Families: Even though I am classified as a “Millennial” I feel like an old soul and I remember growing up in a time without technology so I am of the firm belief that kids should disconnect with their tech and reconnect with nature. Great family vacations should be spent in the outdoors (farms, nature reserves, small towns) or near the sea and even better without signal.  The West Coast, Route62 and Garden Route are all lovely regions for family trips.
  4. Luxury travellers: The tourism industry and offerings in South Africa are so diverse and offer a wide variety of accommodation establishments to suit all traveler budgets. Many small towns even have backpackers to 5 star boutique hotels. For travelers looking for high-end luxury packages I would highly recommend getting in touch with travel designers who can curate amazing travel experiences.
  5. Those seeking off-the-grid spots: On the outskirts of most small towns are incredible gems like Faraway Cottage at Tanagra Guest Farm just outside McGregor or the mountain cottages on the Road to Nowhere at Boesmanskloof die Galg and Onverwacht. I like to read local travel blogs to see where the best spots are, always best to chat to people who have experienced these establishments themselves and you can get first hand advice from them.

Mira, founder of Hot Oven Marketing, feels very blessed to love what she does. Working with the wide and diverse media landscape in South Africa has been a wonderful opportunity and she has met incredible people in the industry that continue to inspire her on a daily basis.  When she is not working, she loves spending time with her family and friends, exploring markets and cooking up a storm! You can find more travel inspiration from her Facebook page.

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