Professional reviewer Pippa de Bruyn puts TripAdvisor to the test and ranks the rankings in the charming Klein Karoo village of Montagu. Photos by Teagan Cunniffe.
Also read: Guide to Graaff-Reinet accommodation
Public review sites such as TripAdvisor are useful in trip planning, but the lack of a comparative and specific voice – where each property is viewed according to criteria by the same individual – is where they can fall short for the traveller needing to make the right choice. In our series to find the best places to stay in Southern Africa, I scoured Montagu in search of its best accommodation.
Using TripAdvisor as a base, I checked out 34 of the top-ranked options in the Hotel, B&B/Inn and Speciality Lodgings categories, as well as a few unlisted newcomers. You won’t find a better, tried and tested guide to the best places to stay in Montagu.
Why Montagu is an excellent choice for a short break:
- Surrounded by mountains and watered by two rivers, the town is in a lush valley of gardens, orchards and vineyards, and borders a nature reserve.
- A peaceful, relaxed and authentic semi-rural atmosphere.
- Small and safe enough to walk everywhere: an evening stroll to a restaurant along the town’s quiet streets is a real highlight.
- Hot springs to soak in, good rock climbing and hiking as well as mountain-bike trails.
- Two hours from Cape Town.
- An array of personally managed accommodation options which are fairly affordable, particularly from May to August.
Best-dressed bedrooms and best breakfasts
1. The Vineyard Country House
TripAdvisor ranking: No.1 of 24 (B&B/Inns)
Thank you TripAdvisor reviewers – this time the collective voice that rated this the No.1 B&B is spot-on. These are the most beautifully dressed bedrooms in Montagu, and the gourmet breakfasts served as three beautifully presented courses are the best I’ve had at a B&B anywhere. Each of the six rooms is entered from its own semi-private lounge-terrace area, has vineyard views, and is furnished in beautiful pieces owners Louise Smith and Lauren Zarges have picked up from auctions. There’s plenty of space – public areas are not shared with the owners (they live off-site at the bottom of the vineyard) – and the large swimming pool amid vines is a boon. The hosts cook four-course dinners some nights (enquire when booking). The only slight drawback is the proximity to the main road: by day trucks can thunder past, but at night it’s silent.
Room tip: There’s not a duff choice to be had, but try to book Room 5 – the most private, with an outdoor shower and a wrought-iron king-size bed.
Cost B&B: From R450 to R650 per person per night sharing. Children under 12 by arrangement.
Best (off-the-grid) self-catering
2. Klein Nektar
New find, unlisted
At the end of a long dirt driveway that leads through a working smallholding, you’ll find this low-slung, two-bedroom (both with double beds) farmhouse, surrounded by an olive grove, Chardonnay vineyards and sheep. The Montagu centre feels miles away, yet restaurants are within easy strolling distance. Tastefully furnished and comfortably equipped, with a deep, shaded stoep on which to lounge and admire the views, this is a truly peaceful respite. There is no electricity, no Wi-Fi and limited cellphone reception – ideal for the jaded city dweller needing to defrag.
Best B&B for value, views and winter
3. Montagu Vines
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 2 of 24 (B&B/Inn)
Eight garden rooms in two wings on either side of the main building overlook lawns shaded by oak and milkwood trees. An olive grove with the looming Langeberg Mountains forms the final backdrop and six of the rooms (three standard and three luxury) have their own patio with chairs to enjoy the view. (A further two, located behind the original wing, have private patios with garden but no expansive views.) Aside from this, each room has its own entrance and a fireplace made up with logs ready to be lit. The splash pool is tiny but beautifully located (it has the same views) and is best enjoyed with a glass of wine which Ursula Blamey (a kind, diligent hostess) will happily arrange. Restaurants are a 10 to 15 minute walk from this part of town.
Room tip: Book one with a view.
Cost: September to April B&B R450 per person per night sharing; May to August B&B R415 per person per night sharing. No children under 12.
Best self-catering guest farm for children and pets
4. Rainbow Glen
TripAdvisor ranking: No.14 of 26 (Speciality Lodging)
Rainbow Glen wins hands down due to the beauty of its location, green shaded lawns and a large pool in what feels like the backyard of the surrounding mountains. It’s not luxurious, but the views and sense of space are worth their weight in gold: just seven units, each with their own sit-out and braai area. Facilities and finishes are basic but it’s clean and cheap. It’s family-owned and family-aimed: bunnies, chickens, a play area and cool pool are a hit with kids. Well-behaved pets welcome.
Room tip: Favourites are the stand-alone Muskadel (sleeps eight in three bedrooms), Almond because it’s on the end (sleeps four) and stand-alone Prospect (sleeps two). All have kitchenettes but are within walking distance to restaurants.
Cost: Prospect from R450 per night for the cottage; Almond from R600 per night and Muskadel from R1200 per night.
Best small hotel
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 11 of 26 (Speciality Lodging)
Mimosa bills itself as a guest lodge, but with a good on-site restaurant and 23 rooms, I’d rate it a well-functioning small hotel. It’s a smaller property than Montagu Country Hotel (No.1 Hotel), which has a spa and two pools, but service levels are on a par, and I prefer the ambience, décor, location and 19th-century architecture. The nine classic rooms in the original 1859 building (ask for a room with a shower if this is your preferred ablution) offer good value; whereas the suites in the garden offer more space. Mimosa produces its own wine and a complimentary tasting precedes the four-course dinner. It’s one of the top places to eat in town. There is limited seating so book in advance.
Cost: B&B Classic R1092 (double occupancy); B&B Garden Suite R1620 (double occupancy). Four-course dinner R350 per person. Children sharing with two adults from R150 (three to six years old). Children younger than two free.
Good value for arty types and horse lovers
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 11 of 26 (Speciality Lodging)
Another gorgeous location, this time on the Kingna River, with just four en-suite garden cottages, each with their own bold décor, and surrounded by a two-hectare Arabian stud farm. Each cottage (of which one sleeps four comfortably) has its own entrance and is free-standing so guests enjoy total privacy. The pool is large; the gardens peaceful and the horses (not for riding) magnificent.
Room tip: The only slight drawback is that it’s a bit too far to walk to restaurants at night.
Cost: B&B R450 per person per night sharing. Children and single rates on request.
Best value self-catering with hospitality
7. 4 Seasons
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 1 of 26 (Speciality Lodging)
Tucked behind a gate on the main retail drag are three small, fully-equipped self-catering units, each with their own entrance and braai, arranged around a paved area surrounding an enormous oak tree. Ignore the so-called luxury unit that sleeps two – the real bargains are the two-bedroom units for R800 per night. Neat as pins, they have luxuries such as hand-embroidered linen and have been thoughtfully equipped by owner-manager Carina Joubert, who also makes restaurant bookings. This is a bargain if you’re passing through, particularly for a family of four.
Cost: R800 per unit (luxury unit sleeps two, others sleep four).
Best for vintage appeal
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 4 of 24 (B&B/Inn)
This is an authentic South African B&B experience – nothing fancy, just a chance to share Corrie and Tielman de Villiers’ 1912 double-storey thatched home, located in a large garden on Montagu’s main road. Décor is old-fashioned and comfortable: pretty wallpapers, high ceilings, creaking timber floors, brass beds with quilted covers and Victorian claw-foot baths.
Room tip: If you appreciate vintage, you’ll love rooms 1 to 4, located upstairs in the original thatched home. The garden suites have less character but do have their own entrances.
Cost: B&B from R435 per person per night sharing. No children under 12.
Best place to learn something new
9. In Abundance Guest House
TripAdvisor ranking: Unlisted (only opened a week prior to inspection)
Located in quiet Rose Street on the Keisie River, with beautiful mountain views, a 10-metre pool set in a large timber deck, lovely furnishings and beds draped in quality linens, this well-groomed B&B is a welcome newcomer to Montagu’s country-chic line-up. It’s fairly intimate: Martly Calitz’s property is a renovated home rather than a smallholding, with just four double rooms (a great getaway for a group of eight), but what sets Martly’s B&B apart is the series of all-inclusive ‘experience’ weekend packages she is planning, from teaching guests how to make craft beer to specialised cooking courses using local ingredients (check the website for details).
Room tip: No.4 for its private sit-out.
Cost: B&B from R550 per person per night sharing. No children under 12.
Worth a mention
Space allowing, I’d rate 7 Church Street Guest House (No.3 B&B/Inn) as No.1 B&B for gregarious hospitality. It’s truly a labour of love – five enormous rooms in a huge, gorgeous bird-filled garden, created over a period of almost 14 years by Mike and May Worthington-Jones, who look after their guests with the same care. B&B from R525 per person per night sharing.
Les Hauts de Montagu (No.3 Speciality Lodging) is generally considered the top choice if you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion. It has luxurious rooms on a working farm just outside town, with sweeping views. B&B from R650 per person per night sharing. The only drawback is it doesn’t serve dinner.
Kogman & Keisie (No.15 Speciality Lodging) was undergoing a massive renovation at the time of inspection and should be offering five lovely new bedrooms with fabulous views over the village and the nature reserve. Owner Petrus Jansen also invites guests to pick their own organically grown vegetables. B&B from R350 per person sharing.
A self-catering bargain is the cottage in the back garden of Koo Karoo Guest Lodge (No. 8 B&B/Inn). It’s basic but clean and sleeps five for R305 per unit per night.
If you like large, busy resorts, Montagu Caravan Park (unrated) enjoys a wonderful location on rural Middel Street. The best units to book here are the Lake Chalets which go from R550 per unit per night (sleeps four people).
Montagu’s busiest resort remains Avalon Springs (No.16 Speciality Lodging), right on the hot springs. It attracts a diverse range of holiday-makers with hotel prices starting from R300 per person per night, including breakfast, and self-catering units from R800 (sleeps four).
Where to next? Tweet us at @getawaymagazine and @pippadebruyn with locations you’d like us to research.
This article first appeared in the February 2015 issue of Getaway magazine.
All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before travelling.