Cape Winelands travel guide
For Cape Town locals, a summer picnic under giant old trees on a wine farm is a Sunday favourite. The Cape Winelands is a wine-producing region within a half hour’s drive from Cape Town. Wines from these vineyards are making a name for themselves around the world. Neat rows of vines cover hills and valleys framed by Cape fold mountains, making it a lovely area to drive in, as you stop off for tastings in atmospheric cellars. In one day you could visit a few farms, covering the areas of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
If you have a few days, you can’t go wrong with basing yourself in one of the towns and taking leisurely drives to see the others. Crucial tip for foodies: many of these elegant wine farms also have award winning restaurants so choose your lunch spot carefully. Franschhoek is especially known for its artisan food producers and restaurants, such as La Petite Ferme, Pierneef and The Tasting Room. Even if you’re not a wine drinker you’ll find plenty to do in the Winelands, including hiking and golf, outstanding concerts in Stellenbosch and plenty of unique shops on peaceful country streets.
The major triangle of the Winelands:
- Stellenbosch – historic university town with a lively atmosphere thanks to the many students in residence. Quite a few world famous wine farms are here, such as Zevenwacht, Delheim and Spier, with its Cheetah and Eagle conservation centres. The town itself has some lovely art galleries and restaurants.
- Paarl – busy Winelands town in the ‘Pearl Valley’ with plenty of wine estates to visit. Drive up to the fascinating Taal Monument (built to honour the Afrikaans language) and enjoy incredible views in all directions. Klapmuts is a less well known outpost of Paarl, but a great choice for families as it has a rural charm, as well as Butterfly World. Laborie is a good choice for lunch and has some classic wines.
- Franschhoek – named ‘The ‘French Corner’ after the French Huguenot refugees who settled here in 1688, this is the prettiest Winelands village. Quite a few revered chefs have set up camp in town or on nearby estates. Franschhoek’s picturesque main road is crammed with markets, antiques and sidewalk cafés. The fabulous Franschhoek Motor Museum transports you to a world of vintage cars at L’Ormarins Wine Estate.
Great winelands outside of the triangle:
- Durbanville: Before you get onto the traditional Winelands route, take a detour to the lesser known wine spot of the Cape northern suburbs. Wines from estates such as Nitida, Diemersdal and Durbanville Hills are beloved by Capetonians and well worth a taste – you may fill your suitcase with these.
- Constantia: In the southern suburbs of Cape Town, Constantia feels quiet and rural, with greenery clinging to the mountainside. Lovely wine farms to visit are Buitenverwachting, Groot Contstantia and Contstantia Uitsig.
- Somerset West – A relaxed but fast growing Cape Dutch town not far from Stellenbosch towards False Bay. A couple of very stately wine farms and a busy, built-up town centre make it an attractive base. Look out for festivals and events at Lourensford Wine Estate, which also has an excellent restaurant.
- Hermanus: Around this town known for whale watching is a collection of small but passionate wine growers. The pretty Hemel-en-Aarde area is the spot to head for. Good choices to try are Hermanuspietersfontein, Southern Right and Hamilton Russell.
- Wellington – Wellington also offers great antique hunting and cosy coffee shops. A dramatic drive across Bain’s Kloof Pass with its spectacular scenery makes the trip worthwhile.
- Tulbagh – With a long history and beautiful veld flowers between April and October, Tulbagh is a popular wedding venue. You’ll find well-respected wine estates such as Drostdyhof and Twee Jonge Gezellen, and the village streets are lined with restaurants. If you’re there in winter, why not join in the 'Christmas in Winter' festival?
- Robertson - situated on the famed Route 62, the Robertson wine valley is packed full of wine farms who work together to make wine tasting the centrepiece of your visit. The town hosts one of the Western Cape's most beloved wine festivals, the annual Wacky Wine Weekend, in June.