Elgin South Africa Relaxing on the deck of South Hill's Pumphouse Cottage. Photo by Janine Avery

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When one thinks of South Africa’s famous Cape Winelands, the names of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Constantia are ones you’ve likely heard. But Elgin, a lesser-known wine area of South Africa’s Western Cape, is also worth adding to your travel bucket list.

At just over an hour’s drive from the Mother City of Cape Town, this hidden gem is one that few international tourists add to their South African travel itinerary. And wrongly so, as it’s an area known to locals for its breathtaking scenery, flourishing orchards and thriving wine industry. 

Although small in size, the Elgin Valley has plenty to keep you entertained for a few days, from exploring the lush landscapes to engaging in outdoor activities and indulging in delectable wines and culinary delights.

Farming Thrives in Elgin, South Africa

Wine tasting at South Hill Vineyards is an experience not to be missed
Wine tasting at South Hill Vineyards is an experience not to be missed. Photo by Janine Avery

Farming is not just a way of life in Elgin; it is the backbone of the local economy. Elgin’s fertile soil, favorable, mild climate and cool ocean breezes have made it a hub for farmers for generations.

The region is renowned for its apple and pear orchards, berry farms and vineyards. Their crisp apples are so delicious that they’ll make your doctor very happy. The juicy pears will have you dreaming of orchard picnics, and the crisp wines will have you sipping like a connoisseur in no time. 

The agricultural industry provides livelihoods for many residents and contributes significantly to the region’s prosperity. But, not only do the farms create jobs, they are also one of the main reasons visitors come to the area – to experience the authentic farm-to-table goodness that Elgin offers.

And with plenty of thriving farm stalls to visit, from Peregrine to the Orchard and Houw Hoek Farm Stalls, there’s no shortage of places to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, locally produced meats, and homebaked pies and cakes. 

The Food and Wine Scene in Elgin

Farm to table deliciousness at South Hill Vineyards
Farm-to-table deliciousness at South Hill Vineyards.
Photo by Janine Avery

For foodies, one of the best places to experience Elgin’s growing gastronomic scene is at the Elgin Railway Market. Book your tickets onboard a charming historical steam train or get here under your own steam to experience a vibrant atmosphere celebrating local flavors and ingredients.

Fresh, seasonal dishes and homemade delights from a range of local suppliers are served with a backdrop of live music. The poke bowls, artisanal fudge and homemade pasta with beef ragu are all an absolute must-try.

Sipping on local apple cider at Everson's
Sipping on local apple cider at Everson’s. Photo by Janine Avery

And what better to wash down all that delicious grub than a cold glass of something refreshing? Elgin is renowned for its exceptional wines with a particular focus on cool-climate varietals. The area benefits from its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which brings cool winds in over the mountains, resulting in a longer growing season and slower grape ripening.

The farms here are particularly loved for their crisp and vibrant Sauvignon Blancs, balanced Chardonnays and delicate Pinot Noirs. Also, finely crafted MCCs made in the traditional Champagne style.

Don’t miss the chance to indulge in wine tastings and cellar tours at various vineyards and wineries. Here you can learn more about the world of winemaking and savor the exquisite flavors that Elgin’s vineyards have to offer. Some of our favorites include South Hill Vineyards, Charles Fox and Amenkerk Wine Estate.

An Outdoor Playground

Flying high at the Cape Canopy Tours
Flying high at the Cape Canopy Tours. Photo by Janine Avery

Elgin is also a paradise for nature lovers. From rolling hills covered in vineyards to natural valleys with bubbling rivers and the majestic Hottentots-Holland mountain range, there are plenty of places where you can get your walking shoes on and immerse yourself in the great outdoors. 

Elgin has also become increasingly popular among mountain bikers seeking adventure off the beaten path. There is an extensive network of well-maintained trails, catering to riders of all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned experts. The terrain varies from smooth, flowing singletracks to challenging technical descents and rocky climbs.

The mountain biking community here is also vibrant and welcoming and at Trail’s End, you will find bike rental, a shop, and a workshop as well as a Bicycle Museum and bike training area with a mini pump track and flow trail.

If you’re looking for even more of a thrill, Cape Canopy Tours in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve offers an exhilarating and eco-conscious adventure like no other. This thrilling canopy tour takes you through a network of zip lines, cliffside platforms and a swaying wooden bridge suspended high above the valley floor. It offers the unique experience of taking in the awe-inspiring views of rugged mountain terrain, lush fynbos vegetation and sparkling waterfalls. 

Authentic Accommodation Options in Elgin

The beautiful Pumphouse Cottage at South Hill Vineyards
The beautiful Pumphouse Cottage at South Hill Vineyards. Photo by Janine Avery

When it comes to accommodation in Elgin, you’re spoilt for choice. From cozy guesthouses in the countryside to luxurious wine estates offering a taste of the high life, there’s something to suit every style and budget. 

One of my favorite options in the valley has to be South Hill Vineyards. The farm offers a 12-sleeper villa with a private pool and garden. However, it’s the quaint converted pumphouse cottage that, for me, holds the most appeal. This secluded and romantic one-bedroom cottage is set away from the main restaurant and wine-tasting area. It is surrounded by Pinot vineyards, overlooking a small farm dam.

There is a small kitchenette, a pretty lounge with a pot belly fireplace, a private courtyard with wood-fired hot tub and braai (BBQ) facilities. It’s equipped with all the amenities you need to make your stay comfortable, while still being able to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Elgin and South Hill Vineyards are also part of the Cape Country Routes, which allow visitors to South Africa to discover its hidden gems through a series of unique road trips. Along the way are a selection of accommodation options that are owner-run and hold a charming appeal. These are the type of places where guests are encouraged to linger longer, meet the locals and enjoy true South African hospitality.

Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip

Ready to Go to Elgin, South Africa?

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your walking shoes, don’t forget your camera, and come hungry as you get ready to embrace the laid-back atmosphere of exquisite Elgin.

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Author Bio: Janine Avery is a lover of travel, adventure, wine, and good food. She is passionate about wildlife and conservation and was raised by a bundle of scientists, botanists, researchers, biologists, and creatives. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, she loves traveling with her husband and toddler, taking her audiences on adventures both locally and throughout the globe. She is also the first to confess that she’s been badly bitten by the travel bug.

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