1. Wine Farms
The geological makeup of the Elgin Valley creates certain weather patterns, which in turn allow for the production of unique wines. Wine farms in the area range from smaller boutique wineries that focus on traditional methods to larger wine estates that also produce their own cider. Grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Shiraz are grown in the area and a selection of Methode Cap Classique sparkling wines. The Elgin Valley’s “cool climate” wines are celebrated annually at the local wine festival, and tasting rooms are either open to the public or can be arranged by appointment.
Grabouw / Elgin is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country and the ideal location for eating fresh, local cuisine. Restaurants in the area range from family-friendly establishments with wood-fired pizzas to eateries run strictly according to sustainable principles. From casual meals around communal tables to romantic fine dining at upmarket establishments, there is a general focus on using fresh, local produce. This approach is complemented by a range of wines from surrounding estates and many restaurant owners will be pleased to offer personal recommendations and insights into the menu, as well as suggestions of places to visit and things to do in the area.
To mark the end of the wine harvest, the Elgin Valley hosts an annual Cool Wine and Country Festival in May. This celebrates both the growing wine industry and various local business in the area, which open their doors to the public during this time. Other festivals include the popular Elgin Open Gardens festival, where both private and public gardens are opened for viewing, and the local horticultural industry is celebrated for its range of cultivated plants. The annual music, theatre and movie programme at the Hope @ Paul Cluver forest amphitheatre is also a popular attraction during the summer months.
4. Mountain Biking
The mountainous terrain of the Elgin Valley allows for an assortment of challenging trails and the area has become one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in the country. Some of the trails have even been voted as some of the best in the Western Cape. Many wine farms offer trails on their farms and nature reserves in the area offer routes to suit any level of experience. The rugged mountainous terrain of the area offers a challenging environment for both leisurely cycling and focused training and certain trails in the area are included in famous mountain biking competitions such as the ABSA Cape Epic and the Wine2Whales race.
5. Nature Reserves
The Elgin Valley falls between the Hottentots Holland Mountain Range and the Groenland Mountains, an area that is home to a unique variety of mountain fynbos. This natural heritage is conserved within various nature reserves such as the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO recognised conservation area and the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. Both reserves offer various outdoor activities such as mountain biking, waking and overnight hiking trails. A recent addition to the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve is the Cape Canopy Tour - an innovative way to appreciate a previously inaccessible area by ziplining across platforms suspended above a gorge.
6. Outdoor Events
Well known for its variety of smooth and rugged mountain biking trails the Elgin Valley hosts various events held throughout the year that allow outdoor enthusiasts to make the most of the surrounding terrain. Popular events include the ABSA Cape Epic endurance race, the Wine2Whales race and triathlons such as the Totalsports X-Terra event in Grabouw. Trail running is also a popular sport in the area as in various other parts of the Western Cape and the PUMA trail and the Green Forest Trail Run offer challenging trails through various parts of the Grabouw / Elgin Valley area.
Apart from apple farming, Elgin Valley is also known for its variety of cultivated plants including roses and other fresh cut flowers. These flowers include chrysanthemum, alstroemeria, various types of lilies, sunflowers and peonies. There are also wholesale nurseries in the area that sell small, medium and large indigenous and ornamental trees and shrubs, which are adapted to the weather conditions of the Western Cape. Other specialised nurseries sell rare species of plants, including ornamental grasses. Many of these nurseries and greenhouses are open to the public during the Elgin Open Gardens Festival which takes place annually in November.
8. Local Produce
The Grabouw area is known for its abundance of fresh produce and all kinds of fresh food, preserves and home baked goods are easily available for purchase at farm stalls along the N2 highway or in local shops and restaurants. Famous local products include a variety of wines from surrounding wine farms and cider which is available from at least three different producers in the area. Raw honey is also produced by the local apiary and the area’s concern with sustainably sourced ingredients is reflected in the variety of quality foodstuffs available including produce such as olives and olive oil from surrounding farming districts.
Grabouw and the Elgin Valley are just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town and the nearby international airport, so spending a weekend here is a conveniently accessible getaway. Various accommodation options provide an escape for couples, families and groups. These include offbeat and quirky hideaways in the pine plantations with innovative rooms each designed by different local artists. Other options include retreats and self-catering cottages on the outskirts of the town which offer a quiet, secluded break in the countryside. For those planning a special event, celebrations such as weddings are regularly hosted in the area and various venues cater to both small and larger gatherings.
For those interested in history the town of Grabouw has a unique heritage, mostly influenced by the growth of agriculture in the Elgin Valley region. Several heritage buildings can be seen in the town, and you can even enjoy a meal in the newly renovated trading store, or at the well-maintained train station that houses a variety of Victorian-era memorabilia. The area is also home to museums that show the history of farming in the area and demonstrate the evolution of farming in the region. Unfortunately, some of these museums are currently not open to the public, but should reopen as soon as sufficient funds are available.