Hogsback
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 32 35.667 E 026 56.234 | pop. 1,000 | elevation 1,217 m/3,993 ft

Hogsback is a tranquil retreat situated up in the Amatola Mountains surrounded by lush mystic forests with hiking trails, waterfalls, monkeys and mushrooms. It is reminiscent of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and many say that Hogsback was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's works. This area is also home to some impressively large California Redwood trees that were brought to the area and planted by missionaries in the late 1800s.

Take care when driving into or out of town, especially in the dark, as there are an abnormal number of cows that seem to enjoy walking on and sitting in the road.

For a town the size of Hogsback, it's surprising to find that there is enough to keep you busy for at least a few days, if not longer. Art galleries, scenic outlooks and hiking trails abound. Hikes range from easy to difficult and maps are available for sale at the tourist information center and most Hogsback establishments or online. The surroundings are quiet and serene, but locals warn against hiking on your own. For more information on hiking see www.hogsbackinfo.co.za/maphiking


Arboretum and 39 Steps Falls

Arboretum and 39 Steps Falls is an easy walk through the woods right in the heart of town. The arboretum is a "garden of trees" from all over the world, including California Redwoods that were brought here by missionaries more than 100 years ago. It's a 10-minute stroll to the 39 Steps Falls, which is more of a babbling brook down rock steps than a waterfall. For a longer hike turn right opposite the Arboretum onto the Circular Walk and return on the Contour Path, which will take an hour and a half total. Day hikes down to the Kettlespout Falls are also available from here but are considerably more strenuous.


Madonna and Child Waterfalls

Madonna and Child Waterfalls is 4 kilometers out of town and a steep 150-meter hike down to the waterfall, though there are stairs and handrails at spots for assistance. The pond at the bottom of the waterfall is not deep enough for swimming, but you can cool off and enjoy the peaceful surroundings or continue along the paths and explore more of the untamed forest.


Eco-Shrine

Eco-Shrine is a shrine, sculpture, mosaic and painting all-in-one, mounted in a dramatic setting overlooking the valley and the Hogsback Mountains. The shrine was built in 1995 on the private property of the artist Diana Graham, who will guide you around her homage to mother earth and invite you into her working studio. If you don't want to drive up, take an hour hike from the heart of town through indigenous forest along the Bluff Hiking Trail.


Labyrinth

Labyrinth has breathtaking views and the setting is both tranquil and unique. The 1.4-kilometer labyrinth is one of the longest in the world, but it's still not as impressive as the vistas. It's especially good for those in a meditative mood.


Starways

Starways is an eco-friendly art community, pottery studio and performance space. The pottery studio is built in the Xhosa-Zulu style and displays the unique wares of Anton van der Merwe from his wood-burning kiln. A small art gallery hosts works by visiting and resident artists and offers Internet and wifi access for visitors. Dinner theatre performances are held roughly once a month in the Rose Theatre, a circular open-air hut built into the pine trees where you can order wood oven-fired pizza (R120). There are also two cottages for guests who would like to make the community their temporary home (R100/person). The drive up is a little rough, but worth the trek.


Hogsback is heavily dependent on tourism and pretty much every restaurant, gallery and store also doubles as a craft shop selling an array of arts, crafts and other natural treasures.

The Hogsback Arts & Craft Trail is a good guide to craft shopping in town and can be picked up at the tourist office or online at www.hogsbackinfo.co.za/placestovisit.


Starways Pottery & Gallery

Starways Pottery & Gallery is home to award-winning potter Anton van der Merwe. His flame-fired stoneware is both unique and functional.


Misty Mountain Candles & Homemade Cheese

Misty Mountain Candles & Homemade Cheese has unique handmade candles and nine different flavors of natural cow milk cheese. Try the mature and black pepper varieties.


Nina's

Nina's has a variety of specialty foods, knitted crafts and colorful galoshes. They also host the Hogsback Country Market on the first Saturday of every month, when locals come to sell and trade fresh produce and crafts.


Woodlands Center

Woodlands Center has a small supermarket and bottle shop.


Hogsback Supermarket

Hogsback Supermarket has a small selection of food supplies.


Hogsback is full of cute cottages and rustic cabins.


Budget

Away with the Fairies

Away with the Fairies is situated away from the road in the middle of the iconic Hogsback forest and if you squint it might look like where you'd imagine a fairy might live. There is a 15-meter high tree fort and a number of places to braai with a view or just to stoke an evening fire. The active Wizard Sleve Bar has a big screen for sports and cooks up pizza. Away With The Fairies runs a shuttle to and from East London for R125/person.


Swallow Tail Caravan Park

Swallow Tail Caravan Park is pet-friendly establishment with camping and caravan sites spread across the lawn with fire pits, braai facilities and power points. There is a central Trekkers Lounge where guests gather and kick back near the large fireplace. For larger groups, the park also has one self-catering cottage with two en suite rooms and a loft with a few additional beds.


Mid-range

The Edge

The Edge is located on the northern end of Hogsback on the edge of a gorge. There are eight individual cottages - most of which have impressive views. Each cottage is different but most have a kitchen, fireplace and outside deck with a braai and are decorated with original paintings that are very fitting of the Hogsback lifestyle.


Never Daunted

Never Daunted is a quiet place situated far away from the Main Rd with five private self-catering cottages spread throughout the forested property. It makes for a perfect getaway with pleasant hosts and a couple walking trails that meander through the surrounding gardens and forest.


Nutwoods Park

Nutwoods Park is situated in a 3-hectare garden with huge California Sequoia trees and offers B&B or self-catering accommodation. The main house has upmarket double suites each with a fireplace and balcony that opens out onto the garden. Dinners are available but must be booked in advance. The self-catering cottage is away from the main house, sleeps six people and is a good budget option for a family or a group of friends.


Top-end

Hogsback Inn

Hogsback Inn is centrally located and one of the original Hogsback hotels that remains locally owned. They have some impressive recently remodeled suites with fireplaces as well as a number of standard rooms. There are also a couple self-catering chalets that sleep four people (R500) and an on-site restaurant.


Nina's

Nina's is a small café and eatery next to the tourist office with four tables under a large shady oak tree. It is known for its champagne and tequila breakfast specials but also serves a selection of light meals and pizza. Inside is a shop with crafts and specialty foods.


Tea Thyme

Tea Thyme serves tasty home-style breakfasts as well as lunch and light meals in a casual country setting under the trees. It is the perfect place to get a bite or drink while visiting the onsite labyrinth. Dinners are available with a menu that changes daily (dinners need to be booked in advance by 5pm).


Happy Hogs

Happy Hogs has a restaurant area that is attached to the bar and frequently has a good number of patrons enjoying drinks and an evening meal. The kitchen is small so if it is busy you may have to wait a while, but the steaks and atmosphere are great and the bar well-stocked.


Happy Hogs

Happy Hogs is the only active bar in town and generally attracts a good crowd. It is not uncommon to see visitors enjoying libations at Happy Hogs in the evening and indulging in a champagne or tequila breakfast special at Nina's the following morning.