The town that is the citrus capital of the Eastern Cape has a unique rustic charm and country feel.
In the heart of the Sundays River Valley, set against the backdrop of the Zuurberg mountains, lies the town of Kirkwood – the citrus capital of the Eastern Cape. Kirkwood is the capital town of the Sundays River Valley Municipality, which also includes Paterson, Addo and Enon. Despite the town’s rustic charm and country feel, it contributes considerably to the citrus economy of South Africa, earning close to R500m in foreign revenue annually.
Kirkwood’s subtropical climate is ideal for growing citrus fruit. With approximately 120km2 of citrus orchards, it is regarded as the centre of one of the largest citrus-growing regions in South Africa. Approximately 18 million boxes of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and other citrus fruit are exported from this region each year.
The Sundays River Citrus Company employs approximately 1,500 people on a seasonal basis to pack the export citrus. There are pack stores in Kirkwood, Addo and Summerville. During the harvest period (April to September), the town comes alive, with tractors loaded with oranges a regular sight on the roads leading into Kirkwood. A lesser known fact is that roses are also grown here. The area boasts wide open spaces with several game lodges, old farmhouses and game farms. No surprise then that the town has been hosting the annual Kirkwood Wildsfees for the past 15 years. This festival is one of a few in the country to be owned by the community through a non-profit company.
It’s a small, quiet place, away from the city’s rush. The views are breathtaking and the smell of blossoms in late autumn and spring is something extraordinary.
Selma van Wyk, resident
Where to stay:
- Kronenhoff Guest House: A Cape Dutch style house in the Sundays River Valley bordering the Addo Elephant National Park.
- Broadlands Country House: This country house offers an outdoor pool and impressive garden.
- Lemon3Lodge: A modern four-star guest lodge surrounded by lemon trees near Addo Elephant National Park.
- Deer Cottage: Located on a privately owned game farm on the Brakkefontein road close to Kirkwood. It is surrounded by wildlife and dates back to 1890.
- Intaba Lodge: Located just outside Kirkwood on a game farm bordering the national park, offering panoramic views and quality accommodation in a rugged setting.
Best in food:
- Chameleon Coffee Shop and Restaurant: A steakhouse and coffee shop offering warm hospitality and quality food in a picturesque setting.
- Lookout Restaurant & Lodge: A family-friendly restaurant with outdoor seating and inexpensive meals.
- Margo’s Bistro: A popular and quaint eatery in the main street of Kirkwood.
- Glentana JP School
- Mistkraal Rc P School
- Kirkwood High School
- Rietberg P School
- Malmaison P School
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.