Five things to do in Elgin

2013-03-07 07:34
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Elgin Top Five

Wine, apple orchards and a luxury trailer park. We explore the Elgin Valley.

Growing up in the holiday town of Betty's Bay on the Whale Coast, there were only two ways to escape the relative isolation (which is of course its charm) and access the bounty offered by "the other side of the mountain" i.e. anything between Gordon's Bay and Cape Town. 

Either you took the winding and picturesque Clarence Drive, skirting the False Bay coastline or the equally pretty forested and apple orchard-lined Houw Hoek Pass. 

I always preferred the former. I associated it with relaxed weekend outings to the mall (yup, malls were biggies for us village kids) and eating ice-creams in Gordon's Bay on the way back home. 

The latter, however, inspired a measure of trepidation. You see, it was the preferred route for those dreaded afternoons when my mother would pick my brother and I up from school and we'd rush along the N2 to our once-a-month or so orthodontist appointments in Durbanville. I always ended up feeling hot, bothered, slightly dizzy and temperamental as only a teen can be. 

So, I guess it's not surprising that I sort of avoided this stretch of road for the longest time after my teeth were declared straight enough to have my braces removed. But somehow it must have known how I felt, because, sheesh, has it been making an effort to draw me back or what? 

I gave in to the call recently and headed into the heart of the Apple-scented world surrounding the pass for a bout of thorough exploration. Located only about 70km from Cape Town, it proved to be an easy and enjoyable drive and I'm happy to report that none of the old, unpleasant symptoms of those long ago teenage afternoons recurred. 

Here are five of many, oh so many, fantastic things to do in the area: 

Check out Old Mac Daddy luxury trailer park

Possibly the coolest accommodation offering in the whole of South Africa, Old Mac Daddy has perfected the balance between luxury and laid-back leisure, design and outdoor delight, fun, fantasy and eco consciousness.

We arrived at about 16:00, just in time to see that soft afternoon light descending upon the shiny silver Airstream trailers nestled against an incline of pine trees with apple orchards at its base. Once we'd checked out our trailer for the night, we headed for a scout around and found a beautiful farm dam with a dreamy wooden deck complete with fluffy-cushioned wicker couches. Perfect for a relaxing glass of wine.

Going by the name of Digit, our trailer was a colourful expression of the fun side of maths: numbered sheep dotted the ceiling, a barcode fridge kept things cool, a hopscotch course invited you to play and a refresher course in shoe-tying decorated the one low wall. A large wooden balcony served as a living area. Perfect for more wine!

Even if you aren't spending the night there, paying the property a visit comes highly recommended. To make it worth your while, make a booking at the Brinny Breezes restaurant. The light wood interior and massive windows overlooking the rolling hills of the Elgin Valley will make you feel like you've stepped into a magical moment of Scandinavian spring. 

Check out the Old Mac Daddy website for more details. 

Visit the Elgin Apple Museum in Grabouw

Yes, there's a museum for that and you will find it among leafy oak trees right next to the main road of Grabouw! 

While learning about the ins and outs apples in South Africa may not sound like the most fascinating way to occupy your time ever, I can tell you, it really is quite intriguing. The museum's exhibits range from historical maps, depicting how apples spread from Europe to the rest of the world in centuries past (it was Jan van Riebeek who first brought them to the Cape, FYI) to a selection of old-fashioned machinery that used to be implemented in the process of getting the apples from the orchard into your fruit bowl. 

There's also a section dedicated to kitchen utensils, cook books and household self-helps, which probably formed the backbone of many-a Victorian era farm home. 

Cost: Free! Located on the premises of the Barrel & Bear pub, you pick the keys up from the barman and head through the different rooms at your own pace. If you feel inspired, leave a donation as well as your name in the guestbook. 

Go quaff some wine at the Tasting Station in Elgin

It was quite by chance that we decided to stop at the old station in Elgin. It looked pretty and we wanted to take some photos. On closer inspection, however, it turned out that this was no abandoned building, but rather a chic little space called The Tasting Station. A stack of old suitcases at the entrance set the scene for its vintage appeal and light wood tables inside, each with a pretty protea arrangement, a small brown paper bag of dried apples and sparkly wine glasses seemed to say "you have no choice, but to sit down and indulge your senses".

So, we did. 

The bubbly tasting room assistant, Dianne de Vries, presented us with a list of Winters Drift wines dating from 2010 to 2012 and informed us that tasting was free. We made a selection of two white, two rose and a shiraz while she told us more about the town. 

This month also sees a new addition to the Tasting Station in the form of a deli, which will offer guests the chance to chill out on the lawns while enjoying a delectable picnic. 

Cost: Free for wine tasting, however, you will definitely dish out some cash to buy, especially if you see what fantastic specials they run on a monthly basis. This month a purchase of six bottles of 2010 wines will get you six more free. Check out the Winters Drift website for more details.

Explore the Oak Valley Estate

Right at the end of the road leading through Elgin, you will find the breathtakingly lush Oak Valley Estate. Home to more than 4 000 oak trees, it's no surprise where this 30 hectare apple, pear and wine farm gets its name. 

Apart from its general beauteousness, the farm also has an impressive network of mountain bike trails, a chic deli called the Pool Room (guess it has something to do with the crystalline clear blue rectangle of water around which the tables have been arranged) and wine tasting. 

All in all, it's definitely one of those places where a whole day can be whiled away without you evening noticing the passage of time. 

Farm stall hop

The Elgin valley offers a mouth-watering array of farm stalls, of which three of the best are located conveniently right along the N2. Coming from Cape Town's side, The Orchard will be the first on your left-hand side. Turn in here to purchase a farm fresh loaf of bread while the kids get rid of their wiggles on the massive green lawn. 

Next up, you will see Peregrine Farm Stall on your right. Enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch or a slice of cake at the Red Tractor café, pop into the Elgin Tourism office for a few travel tips and stock up on wines and farm produce at the deli. 

Finally, a few kilometres further, you will find the Houw Hoek Farm stall. Now I don't want to be biased, but this is definitely my favourite of the three. Typically, less busy than Peregrine and currently better stocked than The Orchard, it's a great spot for breakfast, lunch, coffee, or just a spot of shopping. 

To end off my trip, I used the Europcar Roadtripper app to map out the route I took. It's a fun way of reminiscing about your favourite journeys or planning ones you've been dreaming about. Check outEuropcar's Facebook page to find the app and read this article for more information on how it works. 

Thanks to Europcar for the trusty Chevy that took me all the way from Cape Town right to the Southern Tip and back again.

 
Read more on:    travel south africa
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