You’ll find Greyton at the foot of the Riviersonderend mountains, about 35km from Caledon in South Africa’s Western Cape. It’s a blend of relaxed country village with gravel roads and sophisticated town jammed with restaurants and shops. Throw in a fat dollop of nature and you have a winner. Discover my pick of things to do in Greyton in the Overberg.
The village roads are lined with oak trees and pretty little thatched and gabled houses, many of them dating back to the 19th century. When you walk or bike down one of the gravel side streets, you can almost imagine you’re back in the past, especially when you pass a few horses grazing undisturbed on the verges or notice the leiwater channels that supply irrigation water to the residents. Although the past decade or two have seen a lot of development, so far it has been sensitively handled to reflect the Cape vernacular style so there’s still a rustic, old-fashioned charm to the village.
Today, Greyton is just over a 90min drive south-east of Cape Town via the N2 and R406 (find it on Google Maps here). The route takes you past rolling fields that come to life when the yellow canola blooms in late July to mid-October.
Read on for my top picks of things to do in Greyton.
1. Visit Genadendal Moravian mission village
Read more about our visit to Genadendal
2. Walk in the footsteps of history
Discover how many of the buildings you see today have a past. Find the old post office (now part of a guest house), the original school (now a restaurant), the old produce market (also now a restaurant), or a building that used to house police cells (now part of a lodge). You can also find a Moravian mission church, now sadly unkempt, and St Andrew’s Anglican church, built in 1904. Look out for the gravestone of Greyton’s founder, Herbert Vigne, in the church garden. It was relocated from a neglected cemetery in Caledon, where he died.
3. Enjoy hiking in the Greyton Nature Reserve
There are nine scenic hikes in the reserve, ranging from the 1.5km Noupoort Walk (one hour) to the 7km Gifkloof Trail (two hours) and 5km Maermanskloof Trail (three hours). Enjoy the birds, fynbos plants like ericas and restios, the rolling mountains and some wonderful views over the village, as well as a rock pool here or riverside trail there. You can discover some other trails here.
The reserve is open from sunrise to sunset and you’ll find the entrance at the far end of Park Street. Carry water with you and wear a hat. Know that cellphone signal in the reserve is patchy, with reception usually only on the higher areas. No pets are allowed in the reserve.
If you’re fit and looking for something more physically taxing, take to the Riviersonderend mountains for the 14km full-day Greyton to McGregor hike called the Boesmanskloof trail. Enjoy the scenery and views, the steep ravines, rock pools and waterfalls, the colourful fynbos. Along the way, you may spot Verreaux’s eagle, malachite sunbird and Cape sugarbird, perhaps even a klipspringer, baboon or dassie.
You’ll need to organise transport on the other side or sleep over and walk back over the mountain the next day, making a 28km two-day hike. I did this trail a few years back and can say that the McGregor to Greyton direction is easier than Greyton to McGregor. Make sure you carry plenty of water and if, like me, you don’t enjoy hiking in blistering heat, start early and avoid the mid-summer months.
For more info about the Boesmanskloof Trail, see ‘activities – hiking and walking’ at Cape Nature’s Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. There’s also a 25.3km, two-day Genadendal Trail that starts and ends at the Moravian mission church in Genadendal. You need to make bookings for both these trails ahead of time through Cape Nature, tel 087 0878250 or email email@example.com.
4. Go bird-watching
5. Go mountain biking
Greyton is also a very popular mountain biking destination so for a more active option, take on one of the seven Greyton mountain bike trails. There’s something for everyone, from an easy 9.8km Forest ride with a total climb of just 28m that’s suitable for the whole family, to a 22.6km River Loop, 12km Luislang scenic route with some rocky climbs, all the way up to Bakenskop Black, a challenging 26km route with a total climb of 530m and some rocky descents suitable for advanced riders.
There are also six gravel routes varying from an easy 31km to intermediate loops, as well as a 70km loop for advanced riders, with a total climb of 800m.
Get maps and permits for a fee from the Hub & Spoke at 18 West Street. This is also the place to hire MTBs if you didn’t bring your own, or to get help at the workshop with fixing a bike problem. Enjoy a pre-ride breakfast or post-ride lunch at the coffeeshop. Find lots more info on Greytonmtb.co.za, where you can download GPX files and pay via Snapscan.
In September each year, you can participate in the 76km Pie Run Gravel Grinder MTB event from Greyton to Riviersonderend and back. If that’s too much, sign up for the 30km route instead. (For those who prefer trail running to mtb, there’s the Greyton Brew Run and Greyton Mountain Marathon.)
6. Go shopping
Other shops I love to explore are Greyton Books for good secondhand finds, Fiore Garden Centre for plants, and the Greyton Trading Post for a house stuffed with interesting furniture, crystal, porcelain and other collectables. You might even pick up a replica of Michelangelo’s David as a garden ornament. On our last visit my choice finds were a gorgeous yellowwood writing desk I wish I had space for in my home, and a Clarice Cliff jug for a steal.
7. Explore the art route
There’s also an annual Greyton Art Walk event in November/December, when galleries and studios open from lunchtime on Friday to lunchtime on Sunday. The next one will be held from 1-3 December 2023. Expect to find some 60 artists exhibiting works for sale. Wander the streets to explore home studios, galleries, open-air venues, restaurants and cafes.
8. Taste craft beer
9. Taste wine
There’s a Fire & Wine weekend in July and a Greyton Wine Weekend in November. Contact Greyton Tourism Bureau for dates and details. The Greyton Wine Club also hosts monthly tastings on Friday evenings, with supper.
10. Enjoy a morning market
11. Visit the donkey sanctuary
12. Eat out at Greyton restaurants
Other eateries in town include Pure Café (good choices for vegetarians and vegans), 1854, Vanilla Café, and Rupert’s Bistro. For the best coffee in town, visit Soa se Koffie at 39 Main Road, find her trailer at the Saturday Morning Market (see point 10), or enjoy a cup of Truth coffee at Maanskyn in Oak Street.
13. Visit the Greyton Rose and Garden Fair
14. Get married
15. Stay over at Greyton accommodation
Read about our stay at The Earthy Inn
Greyton’s climate is warm and temperate, with rain all year round – the secret to its lush gardens. June, July and August are the wettest months with around 55-60mm of rain each, and there’s an annual total of around 515mm. December, January and February are the driest months, but each still has around 4-5 rainy days producing 30mm of rain.
The summer months of December, January and February are the hottest, with temperatures getting to around 28 or 29 degrees Celsius. June to August are the coldest months, with minimums of around 5 degrees, rising to 10-12 degrees during the day. A light dusting of snow may fall on the high mountains in winter, a good excuse to relax by a logfire with a glass of red wine or a mug of hot chocolate.
December, January and February are the most popular months to visit Greyton, but that makes it too busy for me. There’s more hustle and bustle, with the result that I believe it loses its small-town magic. But mine is obviously not the majority opinion. Special events like the Rose and Garden Fair in October (see point 13), the Pie Run Gravel Grinder MTB event in September (see point 5), and the Art Walk in November/December (see point 7) also bring in more people, so if you’re looking for a quiet getaway you might want to avoid those weekends. But they definitely bring an appealing buzz and excitement to town and open up opportunities to visit places not usually open to the public.
Given that Greyton is only about 140km (an hour and 30-40 minutes’ drive) from Cape Town, it’s understandably a very popular weekend getaway. At weekends, all the shops and restaurants are open. If you travel mid-week, things will be quieter but some shops and restaurants will be closed while the staff take their post-weekend break.
The ’best’ time to visit depends on what kind of experience you’re hoping for. Although the months of high-summer are hugely popular, as I’ve already noted, my favourites are the shoulder season months of March and April, before the cold really starts to get a grip, or September and October when the winter rains have died down and you get balmy days of around 22-24 degrees Celsius and some 8-9 hours of sun.
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