Montagu is a great outdoor destination in the Klein Karoo in Western Cape, South Africa. It is a charming town with many historic buildings, places to eat and plenty of places to stay, from campsites to more luxurious guest houses and hotels.
Montagu has hiking trails, the best climbing spots of South Africa, historical architecture, restaurants and more.
How to get to Montagu
Montagu is about 2h 30min and 185 km drive from Cape Town. It is on the famous Route 62 through the Klein Karoo. You can get to the nearby Ashton by bus, but a car is the most convenient way to get to Montagu, especially if you want to explore the surrounding area.
When we were there in March 2021, it felt a bit empty with many vacant holiday homes, most likely a result of the pandemic and lack of foreign tourists.
The best way to explore Montagu is to take a stroll through town. You can, for instance, start at Joubert Park and walk the Lovers Walk along the Keisie river to the upper end of Barry street. From there you can make your way down via St Mildred’s Anglican Chapelry to the Leidam Bird Hide. It is quite special to have a bird hide in the middle of town, and the Leidam offers quite some birds.
After that, Bath street and its side streets are worth checking out, as well as the main street called Long street where you will find characteristic Cape Dutch and Victorian houses. There are many historical buildings along these streets, like the Dutch Reformed Church, the Joubert House and Old Mission Church. These latter two form the Montagu Museum. The Joubert House was built in 1853 and is the oldest house in the area. The museum shows the life of the last part of the nineteenth century and also showcases a collection of historically accurate handmade dolls.
The Old Mission Church, built in 1907, houses a collection of Bibles and church artefacts as well as an exhibition on indigenous medicinal plants and other temporary exhibitions.
Geology of Montagu
Cogmanskloof is the name of the fantastic pass on the southwest (Cape Town) side of town. It’s one of the few places to pass through the dramatic mountains of the Cape Fold Mountain Belt. The mountains and rocks were squeezed together and folded starting roughly 330 million years ago. They were then buried by Karoo sediments, but gradually these sediments eroded, uncovering the solid, hard rocks of the Cape Fold Belt which dominate the landscape today. The rocks themselves are folded sandstone, part of the Table Mountain Group, so similar to the rocks that make up Table Mountain.
The Montagu hot springs exist because of this exciting geology. The folding and faulting created many cracks in the earth that the water uses to rise upwards. Three kilometres underground, the water heats up and is forced up through the surrounding rock. It reaches the surface where the Montague Avalon Hot Springs are today.
Montagu Hiking Trails
There are various trails around Montagu. Most are listed below. For a hiking map of the area, check out this pdf on montagu.org.za.
A short but convenient 500 m walk along the Keisie river from the upper end of Barry street to Joubertpark. There are some reed-covered areas with plenty of birdlife, as well as interesting cliffs. No fee/permit. (map↑)
Montagu Nature Garden
There is a 1.7 km circular walking trail with great views of Montagu and the surrounding mountains in this indigenous wildflower garden. It features plants from the Klein Karoo and marginal Fynbos zones. Entry fee of ZAR 5 p.p. (map↑)
We hiked up the 2.7 km Aasvoëlkrans trail in Montagu, a short but very rewarding hike up a small ridge with great views of the surrounding mountains, beautiful rocky cliffs, the cute town and Cogmanskloof. Read more.
This 2.4 km trail connects Joubertspark to the Avalon hot springs and goes through Badskloof with many rock formations and climbing routes. The route changes with floods. Entry fee charged. (map↑)
This 12.1 km hike takes you to Cogmanskop at 690m with beautiful views of Montagu, ravines and mountains. The trail descends on a ridge into Cogmanskloof valley. Permit required. (map↑)
This is the longest trail (15.6 km) in Montagu to the top of Bloupunt (1266 m) with panoramas of ravines and craggy cliffs with beautiful rock formations. From the top there are views towards all the nearby towns and mountains. Water point halfway to the top and waterfalls along the trail with opportunity for a swim. Permit required. (map↑)
Avalon Hot Springs
The hot springs in Montagu are nestled up against rocky cliffs and set amongst gorgeous palm trees. They’re on the northern side of town and can be reached either by driving or by walking the Badskloof Trail (see above) from the centre of town.
The hot springs are the perfect place to relax and unwind after a hike. There are several natural mineral pools, all at slightly different temperatures. The water bubbles up from the ground at 43 degrees, then is allowed to cool as it passes from one pool to the other. It’s best on weekdays when it’s not busy. For more information about how to visit the Montagu hot springs, click here.
Eating in Montagu
If you are in a self-catering apartment or on a campsite, the Spar in Montagu is very well stocked. In terms of restaurants, there is quite some choice in town. We made our own meal on the campsite as we already had our fill of delicious restaurant meals the days before.
The current top 3 on Tripadvisor is (although there are many more delicious-looking restaurants):
- The Barn on 62* – Slightly upmarket but affordable place for breakfast and lunch.
- The Rambling Rose* – Another great looking place for breakfast and lunch in Montagu.
- 22 Church Street* – Delicious looking contemporary cuisine for lunch and dinner.
Accommodation in Montagu
There is a wide variety of accommodation in Montagu, from campsites to guest houses, apartments and hotels. Check out the places to stay in Montagu on Tripadvisor*.
We stayed at De Bos Backpackers & Campsite* and camped with our Defender and rooftop tent. You can pitch your tent anywhere on the grassy terrain underneath nice, shady trees. There is a large communal kitchen with WIFI and also a pool.
When we were there on a Friday, it was a bit noisy because of a birthday party, but other than that we had a pleasant stay. You can easily walk to town or to Joubert Park to start hiking.
There is another campsite next door, the Montagu Caravan Park*, that looked more family-friendly.
Road Trips from Montagu
Montagu is one of the first stops on Route 62 through the Klein Karoo. Exploring part of this route for one or multiple days is definitely recommendable. We will soon update this section with details of our Klein Karoo trip in March 2021.