Tamlyn’s Insider Guide to Montagu.

Tamlyn Ryan is the founder of Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, a travel writing and photography blog. At this stage it focuses on Tamlyn’s adventures in and around Cape Town and the Western Cape. What originally started out as a Journalism assignment at university, soon became a place for her to share her favourite travel adventures, tips and reviews and passion for writing and photography. The blog now also features an exciting category, Guests’ Corner, which showcases guest interviews with top local and international travel bloggers and writers from across the globe.

5 things I love most about Montagu

  1. The natural surroundings, with the rural farmlands, historic monumental buildings, quiet streets, breathtaking Langeberg mountains and (compared to Cape Town) nonexistent
  2. The friendly, welcoming spirit that the people of Montagu, particularly the nearby farmers, possess.
  3. Definitely the local food… Especially when it comes to braais (otherwise known as the South African, improved version of a barbeque)! But Montagu is also deservedly famous for its dried fruit (I recommend the excellent Capedry factory shop) and marvellous muscadel wine – both of which I love!
  4. The Avalon Springs Resort, which is famous for its hot-water pools, enclosing mountains, quality hotel and adorable mountain chalets.
  5. The small mountain pass, Cogmanskloof Pass, and its well-loved, solid rock tunnel. (There’s an old English fort situated above it, which serves as another point of interest.) Cogmanskloof is famed for its gorgeous mountain scenery, rock climbing (at Legoland) and lastly, for the unfortunate way the pass has previously been closed for days at a time during Montagu’s former floods… But it definitely makes for one of the most memorable entrances to any town!

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

In Montagu, everybody either knows everybody else… or at least pretends to know them. But, jokes aside, it really is naturally friendly town, particularly when you compare to it most other places in South Africa. Here, people will still stop for a chat (usually in the middle of the road or at the tills…), sincerely ask how you are or give a brisk ‘nod’ in greeting. So if you visit Montagu and a bunch of people starting nodding earnestly at you… don’t be alarmed, it’s just a polite greeting.

Top travel tip: On Friday afternoons and Saturdays the town and shops can get extremely busy, while on Sundays (especially after church) most of the town feels on lockdown… So plan your trips and meals in Montagu carefully to avoid any disappointment.

The least touristy thing to do in Montagu

Spending an afternoon ‘shop hopping’… It can be quite boring but only the locals seem to know to visit both the SPAR and Shoprite (and sometimes the town’s smaller shops too) for their best groceries and also, in part, to catch the good daily specials found at both shops.

Best place to enjoy in Montagu…

The water: Poortjieskloof Dam: It’s a vast dam situated on a working farm and it’s great for recreational and water-based activities. Definitely a hit among local townsfolk and neighbouring farmers… I personally have many fond childhood memories from Poortjieskloof. (Entry is free, but there are certain visiting hours and apparently, fishing licenses are now available at the gate.)

The mountains/countryside: Almost anywhere in or around Montagu because the town and its surrounding farmlands are protectively enclosed by the majestic, vast Langeberg mountains – but my favourite place for mountain scenery is now the Koo Valley. This fruitful valley is famous for its winter snowfalls, extreme cold (I would know!) and amazing beauty but, to make it even more interesting, it’s essentially a valley on top of mountains, surrounded by even bigger mountains… Oh, and there’s also a local tractor ride at Protea Farm, which is hugely popular and seems like great fun.

The outdoors: Loverswalk… It’s a short, gentle walk along the banks of the Keisie River, below Kanonkop. It leads through to Joubertpark in town, is wonderfully scenic – and perhaps best of all, it’s free for all to enjoy.

The food: For coffee and cake, I recommend either Rambling Rose (as good as any eatery I’ve experienced in the Mother City) or Die Boord/The Orchard. For anything else, head to the equally popular Die Kloof Padstal, which is beautiful and child-friendly to boot.

The general vibe or nightlife: I would say the Montagu Park Market on Saturdays for the general, buzzing town vibe. It’s a fun local market with great foods, gifts and crafts, and locals love frequenting it as much as travellers do.

Good coffee/tea/wine: For wine, I would venture to Montagu Wine & Spirits Company or the Capedry Montagu Farmstall (they have a great wine boutique), whereas for coffee, you can’t go wrong with Rambling Rose or Die Kloof Padstal.

Meet locals: Again, for me, it’s the weekly Montagu Park Market.

What makes a city/town special for me

The generous or welcoming people, a sense of well-preserved history and unmarred natural beauty or wildlife… I love combining history with present day life, nature with urbanity and good holiday/road trip memories with kind locals… All of which combine to make a city or town extremely memorable and special because it’s sadly something you don’t often find in the world these days.

My favourite small town in South Africa and why

I am going to be incredibly biased… and say Montagu! It remains in my heart and mind wherever I go and most people who have visited it seem to agree that it’s one special town. Also, it’s found along South Africa’s famous Route 62, so it makes for an epic road trip experience.

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

I would travel from Montagu via Swellendam and then onto Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness and Knysna, spending a day or two exploring the lush Garden Route region.

From there, I’d travel through the Eastern Cape cities and towns of Port Elizabeth, East London and Butterworth before slowly passing into KwaZulu-Natal and exploring tiny Kokstad, Pietermaritzburg and of course, Durban… I would spend a few days there (in the city of my birth) and then take a slow journey back home to Montagu or Cape Town. Maybe via Bloemfontein and beyond to reach the Cape because that’s also a unique road trip experience. I’ve done both journeys before and loved them, despite their own set of challenges.

The ultimate bush experience anyone can have in SA

It has to be the Kruger (National Park) or the private game reserves, like Sabi Sand or Timbavati, that surround it… I haven’t been to any of these yet but the Kruger is definitely one of the most highly rated bush experiences in the world, with amazing wildlife and accommodation offerings.

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

I think in places like Botswana and Namibia, you would want to get out and explore the Namib or Kalahari Deserts. In a country like Mozambique, it’s the beaches and coastline travellers are consistently after, while for Zambia and Zimbabwe, I’d go chasing after waterfalls and lakes because they are blessed with the best in Southern Africa and indeed, in the world.

My best beach/island experience in Southern Africa

Hands down Cape Point’s Dias Beach or Preekstoel beach in the West Coast National Park… both are absolutely gorgeous, with aqua waters and loads of holiday atmosphere. They’re like something straight out of the Greek Isles, just with the noble Cape mountains and fynbos thrown in for good measure. I also really love Jeffreys Bay and Struisbaai, as both are perfect beach towns.

The most magical place in South Africa and why

Cape Point… There’s just something so fierce and beautiful about the whole place. It has so much history and somehow, even with its flocks of daily visitors, it feels uniquely frozen in time.

The best places to visit in South Africa for…

  1. Solo travelers: Grahamstown and Cape Town’s City Bowl and Peninsula-cradling suburbs, like Bantry Bay and Clifton.
  2. Couples: The Cape Winelands, the Cederberg, the Garden Route and Cape Town’s South Peninsula. Otherwise, Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route.
  3. Families: Route 62 small towns, Robertson and Montagu. Beyond that, I definitely recommend the Garden Route, especially Knysna, Wilderness and The Big Tree near Tsitsikamma.
  4. Luxury travellers: In Cape Town, Camps Bay and Clifton because they ooze city chicness and glamour. Beyond that, I would definitely say the Cape Winelands, especially Franschhoek. (Although the wine valley is great for budget travellers too!)
  5. Those seeking off-the-grid spots: Unquestionably the Cederberg or the Cape of Good Hope… even when there are other people around you, at times, those places still feel entirely untouched by humanity. There’s a certain wildness to them that makes them feel like pure (travel) magic.

Content writer by day and travel blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her travel blog, Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. Despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing. Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors (and cats…). Catch more travel tips and inspiration on her Facebook page.

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