Picture the scene: you've been driving for 3 hours and the road stretches endlessly out in front of you, a depressing highway to nowhere. The kids are arguing and you've listened to your entire playlist - twice. You're desperate for a cup of coffee, a tasty bite and a break from the monotony of the drive.
Up ahead on the side of the highway, you see a brightly coloured roof and a sign announcing Moer Koffee (strong coffee) and freshly baked pies. You pull into the gravel driveway and an oasis of happiness unfolds before you. It is the staple of the South African road trip, the padstal, or farm stall. It's where you stop to recover your good humour and sample local culture and goods.
No two padstals are the same - each one has a unique story. They are independent, spirited shop-come-restaurant-come-farms that never fail to put a grin on the face of even the weariest of travellers. We all have memories of our favourite padstals from our childhood, and even now there's nothing better than discovering a new gem.
Here, in random order, are our favourite padstals in the Western Cape.
1. Peregrine Farm Stall, Grabouw
A fan favourite of Capetonians, who declare this the ultimate winner in the padstal pie wars. Peregrine is perennially busy and you’ll find customers queueing at their recently built outdoor kiosk from early in the morning. All goods are sourced from farmers in the Elgin Valley. They have an indoor sit-down restaurant and a kids’ play area outside next to the kiosk.
Don’t miss: any of their famous pies – our tie for favourite is the pepper steak pie and the chicken and mushroom.
N2 & R321, Grabouw
2. Houw Hoek Farm Stall, Grabouw
Houw Hoek pass follows on shortly after Peregrine Farm Stall, making it strictly necessary to stop twice in 10 minutes and eat pies at both venues. You laugh, but once you’ve tasted these pies you’ll see it’s easier than you think – and the argument for which pie is better will provide you with hours of road trip entertainment. This mountain-top padstal has shady areas for relaxing and they can even make up a picnic basket for you to enjoy…if you have enough room after the pies.
Off N2, 10km from Grabouw
3. Die Pampoenstalletjie, Worcester
A visual feast of pumpkins in a variety of types, colours and sizes greet you as you arrive at this whimsical farm stall, arranged artlessly under a tree in the front yard like worshippers at a Sunday church service. The Pumpkin Stall is the work of local farmer Hetze Viljoen. In addition to the obvious, it stocks a variety of their neighbours’ fresh crops and local farmworkers earn extra income by producing the jam, preserves and confectionary available to buy.
Do your bit: Stop to take a photo with the pumpkins and make a small donation to the fund for local farm children, which ensures they all get rain jackets in winter.
R60 & Vlakplaas turn off, a few km outside of Worcester
4. Ou Meul Bakkery, Riviersonderend
Another contender in the pie stakes, Ou Meul is an unassuming stop at one end of Riviersonderend’s very short Main Rd, conveniently located to next a petrol station. They’ve branched out from the usual fillings to produce cheese & ham and bobotie pies. They’ve so popular, there are now two branches of the bakery in Cape Town – but the real treasure is tucking into one of these delicacies after a long of driving.
27 Main Road, Riviersonderend
5. Blue Crane Farmshop, Heidelberg
Heralded by its unmistakeable blue roof, the Blue Crane outside Heidelberg compliments its namesake with a coffee shop that serves a ‘blue without you’ burger and a farm stall stocking, among other things, plenty of blue cheese. It specialises in preserves, dried fruits and a mouth-watering selection of homebaked cakes, while the restaurant’s light lunches use herbs and veggies from Chef Philippa’s own garden.
N2, 3km from Heidelberg
6. Thyme & Again, Keurbooms
You’ll find Thyme & Again on the banks of the Keurbooms River just past Plettenberg Bay. The calm atmosphere of the coffee shop come bakery perfectly compliments the lazy meandering of the river – you can easily while away an afternoon sampling their homemade quiches and tarts as the sun sparkles off the water. Kids will enjoy the mythical castle playground while you relax.
7. Die Tolhuis, Ceres
Former newspaper editor, Reint, and journalist, Karien, Grobler swapped their pens for pots and pans in 2009 when they opened Die Tolhuis, a coffee shop/restaurant where each imaginatively named dish tells a story. They share their love of storytelling with their guests by swinging past their tables for a ‘bietjie kuier’ (little visit). Expect intriguing dishes like skaap-in-‘n-blik (sheep in a can) and strip shows, but the real star of the show is their roosterkoek (grilled bread).
Interesting fact: Before Mitchell’s Pass was built, farmers hauled their baggage by pack animal through the kloof along the river and up over the mountains.
Mitchells Pass, R46, just outside Ceres
8. Ronnie’s Sex Shop, Route 62
Possibly the most famous of the W. Cape’s farm stalls and it all started as a prank. Legend has it that Ronnie’s friends did some adjusting of his sign ‘Ronnie’s Shop’ behind his back, and while he was initially unimpressed, it quickly drew curious customers and he decided to leave it as is. Originally it was going to be a fresh fruit and veg shop but with a name like that, it was always destined to become the oddest dive bar in the country. Stop by and meet Ronnie, sign his wall or leave your bra hanging from the ceiling and enjoy an ice cold brew with locals, motorcyclists and road trippers to the sounds of Deep Purple and Duran Duran. Roadkill Café provides the grub.
9. Dassiesfontein, Overberg
This cosy stopover is perfectly positioned between Botrivier and Caledon and has grown into a thriving farm stall from two humble wagons selling goods at the side of the road. Try the traditional boerekos, served 7 days a week with their chewy, freshly baked farm bread. You can purchase anything from the usual padstal fare to cast iron wood stoves and Victorian fireplaces.
N2 between Botrivier and Caledon
10. Mooiberge, Stellenbosch
This Winelands staple is known for its legion of comical scarecrows that guard the surrounding strawberry fields. It’s a pit stop that’ll appeal to the whole family with a coffee shop, bar, the farm stall selling local wine, dried fruit & nuts, and strawberry picking in the summer season (October to December).
Insider tip: just down the road you’ll Sweetwell Butchery, a pork butchery known for its excellent quality meat and ethical farming practices.
11. Die Ou Tronk, Riversdale
This charming building was once a jail and now houses a coffee shop and weekly farmer’s market on Saturdays. The former jail cells play host to an assortment of local crafts, plants and antique collectables, but what really draws the crowd is the coffee shop’s famous carrot cake. Sit outside in the shade of the avo and quince trees in summer or by the crackling fireplace if it’s cold. If you have a taste for the macabre, you can ask for the old gallows to be unlocked so you can have a peep.
2 Meurant Street, Riversdale
12. The Heath Café & Deli, Plettenberg Bay
Part farm stall, part arts and crafts store and part fae forest wonderland, Heath is a must-visit on your road trip through the Garden Route. It’s especially great for kids with a large jungle gym and zipline, plus outdoor benches where Mom and Dad can keep a watchful eye over a cup of coffee. You’ll also find a beautifully arranged nursery and it’s home to the delightful Cheeseman, where you can buy the tastiest handcrafted cheeses for miles.
N2, 7km from Plettenberg Bay
13. Hebron Restaurant & Farm Stall
A satisfying pit stop at the top of Piekenierskloof Pass after the long drive from Cape Town to Citrusdal, Hebron will ease your cramped legs with a rejuvenating beverage in their beautiful mountain gardens. They also offer guesthouse accommodation and their pièce de résistance – the West Coast Wine and Rooibos Tea Tasting Room, pairing local wine and tea with chocolate and canapes. Kiddies can clamber around the playground, Noah’s Park, while the adults can indulge in a 5 course tea experience menu.
N7, Piekenierskloof Pass, Citrusdal,
14. Country Pumpkin Restaurant, Barrydale
At the gateway to Little Karoo on a hot summer’s day, you’ll find this cool oasis in the sleepy town of Barrydale. Barrydale’s traffic is made up almost entirely from people passing through, although it’s also known for its hot springs. The Country Pumpkin serves tasty meals at a smart pace – the owners fully understand the need to get back on the road. The adjacent farm stall stocks cheese, wine, olive products and prerequisite dried fruits and jams.
Barrydale, on the border of Overberg and the Karoo
15. Desert Rose Farm Stall
The seemingly endless, flat West Coast Road simply begs for a pit stop and a cup of coffee. Desert Rose is the oasis you’ll be looking for. Motorcyclists and weary travellers sit side by side on the shady stoep (verandah), munching on biltong scones and French toast. In addition to generous meals, the gift shop peddles the usual padstal paraphernalia and there’s a huge lawn with a jungle gym for burning off some of that couped up energy.
Top tip: In December, Desert Rose sells freshly picked watermelons from the adjacent farm – you won’t find them any fresher or juicier in the Western Cape.
N7, Koringberg turnoff, between Moorreesburg and Piketberg