The Cape Winelands are a premier holiday destination for local and international visitors alike. They’ve become synonymous with good food, and of course, great wine! They feature some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, and are known for heart-felt hospitality and relaxed ambiance. Predictably, more and more visitors avail themselves of the many beauties and amenities of the Cape Winelands every year.
The ‘traditional’ Cape Winelands comprise a landlocked area situated between the West Coast and the Overberg coast. The towns of Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Wellington and Tulbagh are iconic in this regard. Today, however, the Cape winelands extend well beyond these traditional areas up the West Coast into the Swartland and the Klein Karoo.
In fact, there is not much of the Western Cape that does not feature viticulture! All of these areas have been demarcated as specific wine routes that can be explored, and that you can plan your holiday around.
Major wine routes of the Western Cape
- The Stellenbosch wine route
This is the big one! It features more than 300 different grape and wine producers.
- The Wellington wine route
This is much more compact and all the cellars are within easy driving distance from each other.
- The Franschhoek wine route
A must-visit, with absolutely stunning scenery and superb dining. Artistic Franschhoek is reputed to be the Gourmet Capital of South Africa!
- The Helderberg wine route
This route incorporates more than 20 wine estates, including Vergelegen that offers sunset tours of its cellars and vineyards.
- The Constantia wine route
This route features the oldest wine estates in South Africa, where the first governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, started the cultivation of vines in 1685.
- The Breedekloof wine route.
This is the ‘youngest’ of the wine routes, and its 27 wineries range from smaller boutique wineries to some of the largest estates in the world.
- The Durbanville wine route
This route consists of twelve wineries and has some wonderful country kitchens.
- The Tulbagh wine route
This route is known for innovative winemaking – Twee Jonge Gezellen was the first estate to introduce night harvesting in the South African wine industry.
- The Elgin Wine Route
This route is a 45 minute drive from central Cape Town and has 18 estates to visit.
- The Klein Karoo wine route
21 wine cellars are featured along this route which covers noticeably different microclimates allowing it to produce a wide variety of wines, some even made from traditional Portguese cultivars.
But there is hugely more to the Cape Winelands than just swigging wonderful wine! The historic university town of Stellenbosch is the heart of the winelands. Stellenbosch University (dating back to 1685) is the only university in South Africa that has a Department of Viticulture and Oenology. The town itself dates back to 1679 when the then Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, was looking for arable land.
Stellenbosch has been declared a national monument, and Dorp Street (reputed to be the second oldest street in South Africa) in particular has beautifully preserved historical buildings. There are excellent guesthouses in Stellenbosch that cater to the most discerning traveller. Its shaded oak-lined streets feature museums and galleries, boutique shops, as well as convivial coffee shops and excellent restaurants.
Other activities to enjoy in the Cape Winelands:
- Take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. Just the most wonderful way to see this spectacular landscape.
- Listen to live jazz and enjoy a glass of wine every Friday night at the Vineyard Brasserie in Franschhoek.
- Get up close and personal with some magnificent raptors with Eagle Encounters. Watch the flying and hunting displays these magnificent birds.
- Many farms allow you to pick your own strawberries during the strawberry season.
- Pay a visit to the amazing Babylonstoren gardens, inspired by on the 17th century food gardens established by the Dutch East Indian Company to replenish ships that sailed around the Cape of Storms.
- Attend the Stellenbosch Slowmarket, a farmer’s market held at Oude Libertas every Saturday, and buy some amazing products, many of them handmade.
- Brave Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm that has over 1 000 crocodiles with guided tours every half-hour.
- Learn about a traditional South African barbecue with a proper boerebraai at Middelvlei complete with resident braai expert to show you the ropes.
- Visit the Drakenstein Lion Park, a lion sanctuary created in 1998 for lions that were born in captivity, where they can live in safety and are treated with compassion and respect.
- Enjoy an exhilarating open Land Rover game drive in the Bontebok Ridge Reserve, Wellington, in the Renosterveld Conservancy
- Experience the incredible indigenous culinary Dik Delta Fynbos Gardens at Solms Delta Wine Estate in Franschoek, and sample some of these edible plants in their Fyndraai restaurant.
- Indulge yourself with a delectable chocolate experience in Franschhoek Huguenot Fine Chocolates.
- Pay a visit to Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West to see these beautiful animals and learn what is being done to help these endangered cats.
And as if all that weren’t enough, the Cape Winelands also have some of the most beautiful golf courses and fantastic hiking and biking trails. It likewise has unsurpassed facilities for special occasions, weddings, and conferences. But you’ll just have to come and see for yourself, won’t you?