The danger with naming things is that it often sets a limit on our expectations. Take the Cape Winelands for instance. Two little words to cover a vast area, comprising at least four different regions and a huge variety of landscapes, experiences and stories.
Sometimes it feels like the words limit the area to only a handful of expected experiences. Great experiences, but expected nonetheless. You know, the well-known wine farms, the must-visit restaurants and the familiar historical sites.
Since we’re pretty sure you’ve experienced all of those, we thought we’d take a look at a few of the overlooked spots and activities.
If you have any to add, tell us in the comment section below.
Stellenbosch - Franschhoek
Where it all started, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and surrounds have a lot more on offer than you could even begin to imagine. Here are four things you may not have on your bucket list… yet.
Stellenbosch Botanical Garden
It’s very easy to miss the famous university town’s Botanical Gardens. Firstly, they’re pretty small and secondly, they’re located just beyond the border of the bustling CBD, which means visitors wouldn’t easily just stumble across them. However, the gardens are well worth a visit, especially during the summer months when they become a welcome green oasis in the humid heat. Be sure to check out the cool little bonsai display while you’re there and enjoy refreshments at the Katjiepiering restaurant. And best of all? Admission is free!
More info: Stellenosch University website
De Akker Pub, Stellenbosch
If it’s pubs and bars you’re after, Stellenbosch will not disappoint, being a student town and all! However, if you want a serving of historical gravitas with that ice cold draft, De Akker is your spot. It’s the oldest licensed pub in town and a legend in its own right. Among students it is generally accepted to belong to the realm of the ‘older crowd,’ which means it’s not packed to the rafters with raging hormones as some of the other hotspots in town are. Above De Akker, you will find the Hidden Cellar, a great little spot to check out live music – from unknown bands just starting out, to Boland legends, such as Valiant Swart and Koos Kombuis.
More info: De Akker website
Mountain Whisper Retreat, Kylemore
Next time you hit the Helshoogte Pass connecting Stellenbosch to Franschhoek and Paarl, take a shot left into the little village of Kylemore. You won’t find THAT much to do, but if you head toward the banks of the Dwars River, you will find a delightful place of tranquillity called Mountain Whisper Retreat. Here you can spend the night in a tepee, go for a holistic Prana treatment or just soak up nature in all its glory by having a good old braai by the river.
More info: Mountain Whisper Retreat website
Exotic Plants at Moreson Wine Estate
Bubbly and exotic plants. How does that sound for an enticing combination? Well, you will find both at Moreson Wine Estate in Franschhoek. The Exotic Plant Company opened an Orchid Nursery and Fresh Cut Flower business at the farm a couple of years ago, adding a further element of beauty to the already magnificent surrounds. So, to make the most of your experience on the farm, enjoy a languid tasting at the Farm Grocer bar, indulge in a delicious lunch at Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant and on your way out, take a stroll through the nursery and pick up a bunch of freshly cut flowers before you go.
More information: Moreson Estate websiteWinemakers Table at Plasir de Merle
Not your average winelands food event. Why not make a special occasion of good food and wine, set among the beautiful gardens and manicured lawns at Plaisire de Merle beautiful gardens, Over the next few months, the estate located in Simondium on the R45 between Paarl and Franschhoek, will be hosting a culinary feast, prepared by Abigail Donnelly, food editor for Woolworths Taste Magazine, editor for Eat Out magazine and chief judge of the Eat Out Awards, paired with wines selected by Cellar Master, Niel Bester. Upcoming dates include 14 February, 16 May 2015, 15 August 2015 and 17 October 2015.
More info: www.plaisirdemerle.co.za
, (021) 874 1071, email@example.com Route62
Route62 technically stretches all the way from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, wending its way through a variety of delightful little towns. However, the wine-y section of the route can be found between Wellington and Oudtshoorn.
Here are some things not to miss out on:
The Blue Cow, Barrydale
Did you know the sweet little farm town of Barrydale has a waterfront? Thought not! Well, it does and there’s a great restaurant that serves delicious milkshakes (made with fresh farm milk), delectable home-made eats and the most melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake ever called the Blue Cow. All of the shops at the waterfront take the form of little wooden cabins and sell a variety of products, including a great selection of second-hand books.
More info: The Blue Cow Facebook page
Boplaas winery, Calitzdorp
Want to stock up on some of South Africa’s finest Ports and dessert wines? Head on over to Calitzdorp and pop in at the Boplaas Cellar. Run by Carel Nel, Boplaas is a family concern and homeliness is part of the brand’s charm. While they also produce quality table wines, Port and dessert wines are their real speciality. They have 7 different Ports (from the light and lovely Cape Pink Port to the rich Cape Tawny Port) on offer, 4 different Muscadels and a Hanepoot.
More info: Boplaas website
Also see: 7 family-friendly hangouts to try in the winelands
Meerkat Adventures, Oudtshoorn
If you thought the only way you’d get to experience these adorable little critters was to head to the Namib or Kalahari deserts, think again! De Zeekoe Guest Farm in Oudtshoorn offers a special Meerkat experiences where guests get taken out into the veld early in the morning to witness the comings and goings of the resident suricates. No personal contact is made with the animals, meaning that they are still truly wild. Meerkat adventures go for R450 per person for De Zeekoe Guests & R550 per person for guests staying elsewhere.
More info: De Zeekoe website
Crystal Cave, Tulbagh
It may not look like much from the outside, but Tulbagh’s Crystal Cave is a treasure trove of natural delights. As the name suggests, you can find a wide array of crystals, rocks and semi-precious stones – some loose, some set into jewellery inside the little shop. Outside, a gorgeous shaded succulent nursery invited any garden lovers to empty their wallets.
More info: Crystal Cave Facebook page
Overberg & Elgin Valley
The Overberg has become well known for producing some of the most sought-after cool climate wines in South Africa. Stretching from the coastline to inland cornfields and farmlands, this is a truly special area with much to explore. This is just a small selection of experiences to be had:
Black Oystercatcher, close to Elim
Located just a few kilometres away from the southern tip of Africa at Agulhas, spending an afternoon at the Black Oystercatcher winery and restaurant is a special experience indeed! Start off by treating yourself to a tasting session. They currently produce 5 wines – two red, two white and one rose. When you’re done, pick your favourites and settle down to a meal that will blow your taste buds right away! With the slogan ‘Live by the Season’ all salad ingredients are produced on the property and you can taste the crunchy freshness!
More info: Black Oystercatcher website
Bounty Books, Napier
If you’re a bibliophile, Bounty Books in Napier is everything you have ever dreamed about. A house filled… FILLED… with old books, from floor to ceiling. But neatly organised, making it super easy to navigate, unlike many other used book stores. It’s located on Sarel Cilliers Road, which is pretty much the main road of Napier. Just be sure to set enough time aside for proper browsing.
Everson’s Ciders Tasting, Elgin
The Elgin Valley is full of country-flavoured delights – from wines to pies. But one thing the valley has more of than anything else, is apples! Apples galore! So, what better to do with all those many apples than make cider? And that’s exactly what the Everson family decided to do. From the heart of this picturesque valley, the produce a range of mouth-wateringly delicious genuine ciders. There’s an apple one, a pear one, a cloudy one and even a mulled one you can drink icy cold or warmed up. They offer cellar tours, but only on appointment, so if you’re curious about South Africa’s premier cider producers, be sure to set one up!
More information: Everson's Cider website
Hermanuspietersfontein market, Hemel and Aarde Valley
Every Saturday morning from 09:00 to 13:00, come rain or shine, Hermanuspietersfontein just outside Hermanus hosts an amazing farmer’s market. Whether you want to stock up on fresh vegetables or just feel like indulging in good food and wine, the market will cater to all your needs. More often than not they also have a live musician performing pleasing background songs. It’s truly a delight, especially if the crowds of the city markets freak you out.
More info: Hermanuspietersfontein website
Salt of the earth, warm welcomes and loads of beautiful vistas – that’s what the Swartland is all about. The region also happens to produce some pretty spectacular wines. Next time you feel like hitting the platteland, check out these spots:
Bartholomeus Klip, Ribeek Valley
Located on a working farm and game reserve in the Riebeek Valley, Bartholomeus Klip is an exclusive destination just an hour’s drive out of Cape Town. The 5-bedroom farmhouse offers a luxurious, old-school stay with its gloriously large wrap-around stoep, gourmet dining experiences and lush garden. The farm is also home to a herd of disease-free buffalo, some of the rarer kinds of fynbos and endangered leopard tortoises.
More info: Bartholomeus Klip website
22 Waterfalls hiking trail & campsite, Porterville
If you're looking for a challenging, yet beautiful hiking trail to try out in the Western Cape, 22 Waterfalls just outside Porterville is calling your name. As the name suggests the circular trail will take you past no less than 22 waterfalls and takes about 7 hours to complete. It's located on a private nature reserve and forms part of the Waterfall Holiday Farm, where you can spend the night in a well-run and maintained campsite. Even if you don't opt for the hiking trail, it's a delightful spot for a day outing, especially if you have little kids - there's loads of space to explore and farm animals to pet, a-plenty.
More info: 22 Waterfalls website
Evita se Perron, Darling
If you enjoy meeting interesting characters during your travels, visiting Evita se Perron in Darling is an absolute must! Home of renowned performer, Pieter Dirk Uys and, of course, his powerful female alter-ego, Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout, the former Darling train station has been transformed into an absolute wonderland of South African kitsch, warm welcomes and colourful comedy. If, however, you prefer to shy away from the awkward side of South African politics, it's probably best to avoid the Perron, but be sure to explore the rest of Darling!
More info: Evita's website
Allesverloren Wine Estate, Riebeeck West
There are huge variety of wine estates to visit in the Swartland region, but Allesverloren is a great spot to start. A visit to Allesverloren Wine Estate typically involves tasting their portfolio of award-winning wines, sampling an array of homemade deli goodies from the Swartland or enjoying a meal at the Pleasant Pheasant restaurant. More info: Allesverloren website
Come share your winelands favourites with us. Post a comment below, email firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.