There is no better way to experience a destination than by immersing yourself completely in its beauty, its experiences and its people.
Our latest series of blogs aim to help you to fully experience Cape Town and the Western Cape by wholly embracing it with all your senses in all six regions of our incredible province.
In this post, we present: The Cape Winelands! An inland treasure divided by the Ceres mountain range and Breede River, with Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Worcester in one corner, and Montagu and Robertson on the opposite side.
How to TASTE the Cape Winelands
Well, we could say that this region epitomizes the phrase ‘wine and dine’; the vineyards truly provide an opportunity to showcase the beauty of food. As the region’s name might suggest, the Cape Winelands produces some of the most incredible wines internationally. To get a taste of this produce, the Wine Tram is an ideal way to travel between spots safely while enjoying the sights and sips of Franschhoek. For those that want to toast to the good life while gliding on water, Viljoensdrift’s Breede River cruise allows you to pack a picnic basket while the scenery moves around you - a laidback adventure. If you prefer to be in control of your own motion, Wellington’s Doolhof Wine Estate has a river walk and picnic option that allows you to explore the picturesque Kromme River and stop at any of the designated picnic sites along the walk.
For our caffeine lovers and digital nomads, Big Dog Café in Franschhoek has sublime, locally-produced Terbodore Coffee, strong wifi and a beautifully designed space and menu. Ideal for a change of scenery, especially if it becomes your Zoom-call background. In Stellenbosch, a typically student town, there are a variety of spots to work. One local favorite is Häzz coffee: modeled on the Italian espresso bar concept, it concentrates on serving great coffee with small eats and treats.
For those with a sweet tooth, Huguenot Fine Chocolates will make you feel like a kid in a candy store (literally). This Franschhoek stall offers a short chocolate tour including the history of the treat, a demo of chocolate-making, tasting and a small gift. For a larger group, visit the De Villiers Chocolate tasting room in Paarl. You and your friends can either book for a single origin chocolate tasting or, for a more informal approach, try the chocolate and confectionary tasting at your own pace.
For another kind of sweet experience, frolic in the fields to find strawberries! Stellenbosch has 3 main strawberry picking spots:
- Mooiberge Strawberry Farm dates back to the 1900s; it has a rich history of producing one of the best strawberry harvests in the country year after year.
- Helderberg Farm is another gem but uses biological pest control and mainly organic fertilizer on its crops, which contribute to beautiful-tasting (and nontoxic) strawberries
- Polkadraai Strawberry Farm is especially family-friendly as you can grab a basket to roam around the fields with entertainment like face-painting, tractor and pony rides for the kids too!
When looking to celebrate life, love or simply the existence of our tastebuds, two personal favorites come to mind: La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek and Gåte at Quoin Rock in Paarl. Both restaurants have managed to showcase both our local produce and people in the form of edible art. With the change in season, new menus have been curated encouraging you to taste the flavors of summer.
Craving something a bit more continental? Visit Man’oushe, Stellenbosch’s Lebanese restaurant. If their food doesn’t transport you to the Middle East, the smells of shishah and sounds of tavli dice should do the trick.
While we have highlighted a few options of restaurants, cafes and spots, please give these links a look as there is so much choice and variety:
How to SEE the Cape Winelands
Gain a different perspective of the Winelands from above: hot-air ballooning in Paarl allows you to float through the sky; as slow as a cloud and as free as a bird. There you can fly between the mountains of one of the most magnificent valleys. If you would rather feel like your swinging mid-air, try paragliding over the region. Withe different options to choose from, you can either take flight from Paarl Rock, Franschhoek Pass or Du Toit’s Kloof Pass.
If you would rather keep your feet on the ground, rent a bike in Montagu. Flying Feet Guided Town Tours has dutch style hand painted bicycles (by different local artists) making your ride simple but unique. You can take a town tour or explore the area on your own. If you want to just sit back and observe, tour the Tulbagh Valley at the back of a Tuk Tuk.
In all honesty, most of the wine farms in the region boast the most magnificent views; a simple tasting or lunch will allow you to see the valleys and all their beauty. A few spots that come to mind are Tokara in Stellenbosch, Dieu Donné in Franschhoek and Jewell’s in Paarl.
How to HEAR the Cape Winelands
One of the best ways to understand the region is to hear about it from those that live there; the ‘Dine With a Local’ experience offers visitors to Stellenbosch the chance to dine with residents from different backgrounds. Good food and company allows you to learn about their daily lives, their stories, and hear of their hopes and aspirations. Dip into traditional African or Cape Malay cuisine while enjoying local wines.
For more of a theatrical story telling experience, visit Amazink: South Africa’s first township theatre-restaurant! On Friday nights, enjoy a truly SA three-course meal with the sounds of vibrant and soulful local rhythms. In the heart of Kayamandi, experience a fun sensory and unforgettable experience.
As a more symbolic appreciation of language and lingo, the Taalmonument commemorates one or Africa’s youngest languages, Afrikaans. The language’s origin is diverse and can be traced back to three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa). The location of the monument also boasts beautiful views.
Until you can visit, you can dream of the Cape Winelands while drifting into a deep sleep. Our One Day podcast series is an ideal way to hear the region; give it a listen.
How to SMELL the Cape Winelands
Throughout lockdown, Babylonstoren’s popularity surged further and quickly became Cape Town’s oasis and excursion of choice. This affinity is not just due to an Instagram trend ~ the space offers a full sensory experience, outdoors. One of the most emblematic aspects is their Garden, every one of the 300+ varieties of plants is edible or has medicinal value. The fruit and vegetables from the garden are harvested all year round for use in two farm-to-fork restaurants on premises.
Similarly, the Spice Route Destination offers a complete sensory journey with their community of hand-picked artisans. As you journey through the area, you will catch the scents of chocolate, biltong, beer, wine and much more. The little islands of shops and stores are connected by a sea of flowers and gardens. It truly epitomizes the phrase: “it’s about the journey, not just the destination”.
This kind of outdoor beauty is a common feature throughout the Winelands; for more information on outdoor walks, garden exploring and botanical beauty, click here.
How to FEEL the Cape Winelands
To really get in touch with the Cape Winelands, we recommend taking a hands-on approach with a crafty Workshop! Babylonstoren holds regular workshops with expert hosts that pass on their skills and techniques for all kinds of fields. For instance, you can make your own Christmas wreath in December, or attend one of their essential oils lessons. For hotel guests, the classes come at no extra cost!
If you would rather admire the creative process from afar, visit Red Hot Glass in Paarl. A Venetian-style glass-blowing studio with exquisite products; from perfume bottles to interior artifacts, lighting and abstract sculptural artworks. From the gallery you can watch the craftsmen going about the business of glass-blowing
To feel the connection with some of Mother Nature’s creations, the Cape Winelands has a variety of animal sanctuaries and centres. While Butterfly World lives up to its name as you walk through a stream fluttering colorful wings, it has actually grown into a sanctuary for unwanted and confiscated exotic animals. This family-owned business continues to employ the locals of Klapmuts, and is a trusted centre of education, hosting thousands of school groups every year.
If you have similar dreams to Phil from Modern Family, the Alpaca Loom in Paarl is your paradise. On the Alpaca Barn Tour, you’ll meet the herd and learn more about the alpaca and its fiber. The Alpaca Walk is a guided walk accompanied by our woolly alpaca friends. Here we explore the farm and surroundings while offering more insight into the fascinating world of alpacas.
For a more local giant, the Giraffe House homes some of Africa's wonderful wildlife and bird species. A tour also includes a visit from Gerry, an important member of the team and a hand-reared giraffe. After visiting the tallest land mammals, you can head to the Drakenstein Lion Park to visit the king of the jungle. This sanctuary priorities the rehabilitation and care of these animals, while educating visitors and volunteers. Hence this is not a petting zoo, but an opportunity to better understand our wildlife (and to see the consequences when we don’t). For a longer stay, Le Bonheur Reptiles and Adventures allows you to get up close and personal with reptiles while enjoying a relaxing holiday on the idyllic farm. From croc pond tours and snake exhibits, to nighttime crocodile cage dives and romantic sunset picnics, there really is an activity for everyone in the family to get in touch with the surrounding nature.
How to get in touch with your 6th SENSE in the Cape Winelands
Looking to recentre and recharge? Camelot Spa at Le Franschhoek Hotel offers a host of pampering and luxurious treatments. The Grecian liquid-sound flotation room, Moulin rouge colour therapy adventure, fragrant herbal sauna and steamy Swiss shower are just some of the cutting edge therapies offered at this spa.
One of Stellenbosch’s healing spaces is known for its picture-perfect relaxation area. The Lanzerac spa has huge windows overlooking the mountains and vineyards while you can laze in the heated pool, jacuzzi or on the sun loungers on the deck. Something worth noting is that this facility has a disabled therapy room equipped with a bathroom and shower, welcoming all guests.
A very reasonable option for a fun and relaxing day is at Mangwanani between Stellenbosch and Kuils River. They have a very unique Moonlight Night Spa experience with cocktails, snacks and the sound of the African drum. This could be an ideal gift to yourself, a friend and family member; be sure to check out their special offers.
For more tips and tricks on traveling the Cape Winelands, be sure to check out our instagram regularly (for both our suggestions and yours)!