The Stellenbosch region of South Africa’s southern cape is a unique place that is best savored slowly. The stunning valley is surrounded by towering mountain peaks with views to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second oldest settlement on the cape, after Cape Town itself, with the original town of Stellenbosch founded in 1679. Here you can find many examples of the original Cape Dutch architecture and will have ample opportunity to sample some of South Africa’s finest cuisine. And while the history, architecture, culture and cuisine all make this beautiful area a must-visit during any trip to the southern cape, the reality is there is one major reason to visit: WINE
Not long after the town was originally settled, the first grape vineyards were planted and wine was quickly produced. Today, the Stellenbosch region is not only the center of the wine industry in the southern cape, but it is also one of the most prolific wine-producing areas in the world. Hundreds of wine farms dot the landscape along the Cape Wine Route. And along with vineyards and wineries, you can find world-class restaurants, opportunities to taste everything from wine to chocolate to olive oil, and some unique and quirky wildlife experiences.
We’ve put together three separate itineraries based on our exploration of the region. Each schedule mixes beautiful scenery, good food, local accommodations, along with some uniquely South African experiences thrown in.
Wine Tour Itinerary 1 – Olives, Cheese and Chocolate
Start out by checking into the Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa. The Estate’s 57 en suite rooms, set amidst tranquil gardens and cobbled walkways, are thoughtfully furnished and fully equipped with all the necessary commodities expected of a four-star hotel. Relax and enjoy the pleasant surroundings, checking out the thatched roof buildings or lingering on one of the room’s ample terraces. It’s a great place to become acquainted with one of South Africa’s iconic birds, the iibis (also called hadadas), who are often spotted searching for food on the hotel’s manicured lawns.
It’s not a long walk to dinner at Seventeen07 restaurant, located on the hotel’s grounds. Chef Reinette Hansmann and her team provide a unique tribute to the culinary heritage of the Cape Dutch farms in the area. The restaurant offers the finest hospitality, fresh farm produce and uncomplicated local cuisine, all complimented with award-winning wines from the Cape Winelands.
The next morning, start with a wine and olive oil tasting at Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate. This winery is at the gateway to the Western Cape wine-growing region. The olive and wine farm, dating back to 1711, produces internationally acclaimed Bordeaux-style wines and extra virgin olive oil. While most people have experienced a wine tasting, tasting olive oil may be a new experience, and one that we highly recommend. One of the olive oil specialists will guide you through a tasting of 4-5 different oils, comparing the varied aromas and flavors.
In the afternoon, check out Avontuur Estate, a boutique winery and, interestingly, a thoroughbred stud farm. Avountuur offers maps to do your own self guided estate walk. You can wander among the rows of vines of different varietals, reading about the history of the wine farm and the generations that have built it into what it is today. Following your walk, order a cheese and meat platter or another delight from their mediterranean-inspired a-la-carte menu, which has daily and seasonal specials. End off the afternoon with a specialty wine tasting at while sitting on the spacious patio and looking out over the horse paddocks. If it’s chilly, enjoy your wine by fireplace inside.
If you still have room in your stomach, try dinner at 96 Winery Road in Stellenbosch. The restaurant is a warm and relaxing atmosphere set in the heart of the Helderberg countryside. They use only fresh, often organic ingredients and strive to source local products from which to prepare their dishes. Try the signature “Hollandse” Pepper Fillet, which is rolled in black peppercorns, pan-fried in a cream and brandy sauce and then flambéed table side. We both agreed it was undoubtedly one of the best steaks we had ever had.
Start out the final day of this tour with chocolate! Head to Lourensford Wine Estate for their Wine & Chocolate pairing. They’ll provide selected wines and artisan made chocolate selected to bring out subtle characteristics of each other when tasted together. The idea is to allow the chocolate to melt in your mouth followed by a small sip of wine, combining the flavor of each and changing it into something totally different. If weather permits, we recommend enjoying the tasting while sitting outside in the midst of one of the wold most beautiful wine estates. The experience makes the notion of having wine and chocolate for breakfast seem like a perfect and obvious choice.
If you happen to visit on a Saturday, don’t miss the Lourensford Saturday market. This market is housed on the estate and consists of 70 permanent stalls and a number of pop-ups. You will discover a wide assortment of food, handmade wares and art, and organic, artisan produce. Plenty of locals make a day of it visiting the market, often picnicking on the sprawling grounds, accompanied by a bottle of wine. There is also a “twilight” markets on Friday afternoons.
For the final lunch and tasting visit Peter Falke Wines Groenvlei Farm on Annandale Road in Stellenbosch. This exclusive winery is set in the backdrop of the Helderberg mountains in the heart of the Stellenbosch winelands. The beautiful outdoor setting, with its vineyards accented with bougainvillea, roses and wild lavender is the perfect place for an afternoon wine tasting luncheon.
Itinerary 2: Downtown Stellenbosch and Environs
This tour starts with checking into the L’Avenir Country Lodge on Klapmuts Road, located in the valley below the Simonsberg Mountains. The Lodge is an intimate, 4-star lodge located on a working wine estate just minutes from the historical town of Stellenbosch. After checking into the Lodge in the afternoon, head down to the lake on the grounds where family and friends of the winery seem to gather daily to sip wine and chat.
Here you can request a uniquely South African taste pairing: wine and biltong. Biltong is the South African national snack – a dried and spiced meat similar to jerky. Most commonly made from beef, you can also find chicken, game and fish biltong in most shops throughout South Africa. At L’avenir, they pair different types of cured and seasoned biltong with varieties of local red and white wines. It’s a uniquely South African experience that deserves a spot on any Stellenbosch itinerary.
Start with a tasting at Simonsig Wine Estate. At this wine farm, the Malan family values drive the their commitment to producing wines of internationally regarded excellence. In addition to their award-winning reds, make sure to sample from their selection of bubbly sparkling wines.
Next head to the Hartenberg Estate for a light lunch (and some more wine tasting, of course). Enjoy the beautiful hilly vista by ordering one of their picnic menus and sampling their delicacies on the grounds.
End the day at the Oude Werf Hotel for dinner. Oude Werf is situated in the heart of Stellenbosch’s town center and is the oldest continuously operating hotel in South Africa. The intimate 58-room hotel blends contemporary comfort while preserving some elements of the properties grand beginnings. It’s a perfect place from which to explore and enjoy the old town. Keep your eye out for a few remaining buildings made in the classic Cape Dutch style, with their scrolled arch design and thick thatched roofs.
Start with a tasting at the Beyerskloof Winery. There you will find a diverse wine portfolio, ranging from easy drinking to more premium wines. Beyerskloof focuses specifically on producing quality Pinotage and Cape Blends, but there are variety of different wines to taste and enjoy. This is a great place to learn about the diversity of the Pinotage grape, which is difficult to cultivate and whose development has become a badge of honor for South African vintners.
After spending so much time sitting and sipping, it’s time to take a stroll and in-depth tour of downtown Stellenbosch with Bites and Sites. On this guided tour of the old town centre, you’ll hear stories about the historic places of this 335 year old town, and also visit to the oldest restored townhouse in the South Africa. As a University town, Stellenbosch also has a modern and vibrant feel. Young innovative chefs will share their inspiration along with their creations as you stop into their shops along your walk. Don’t miss out on some of the best coffee you may ever have – cold-brewed by a mad scientist coffee connoisseur.
Wine Tour Itinerary 3 – Wine and Wildlife
Check in at Wedgeview Country House. The WedgeView Country House & Spa is located on a one hectare plot just outside the historic town of Stellenbosch. Here the luxury of a five-star hotel mingles with the exclusivity of a private country residence. The rooms have stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and Stellenbosch Mountains along with all of the amenities you’d expect from a five-star hotel experience.
Next, earn your chops as a master winemaker with a wine blending at Vergenoegd Vineyard. During the experience, each person is given the opportunity to taste several varieties of red wine, and then add them together to formulate a blend that is uniquely their own. At the end you are invited to name your wine, which you will receive at the end of your visit complete your own personal label. It will be a perfect souvenir to take home and remind you of your time in Stellenbosch.
Beyond their wine, Vergenoegd is also known for their ducks. Yes, you heard that right. The vineyard has a flock of indian runner ducks that are used as a natural way to rid the vineyards of pests without pesticides. Every day the ducks are herded into the vineyard where they happily snack on the bugs and snails. Twice a day visitors get to see the “parade” of ducks as the duck handlers move the flock through the grounds of the winery.
Finish of your day with a Taste of Vergenoegd, a delicious tasting menu prepared on site.
After breakfast at the hotel, spend the day on a uniquely South African adventure: a mini-safari at Villiera Game Drive. This wildlife sanctuary is situated in Koelenhof and access is gained through Villiera’s vineyards. A game drive through the 220 hectares lasts approximately two hours. The property includes twelve dams plus marsh areas which attract a huge variety of bird-life.
A number of mammals have been introduced in the Wildlife Sanctuary: Springbuck, Kudu, Giraffe, Bontebok, Eland, Gemsbok, Black Wildebeest, Bush Pig, Burchell’s Zebra, common Duiker, Steenbuck and Grysbok. A trained guide will load you onto a Land Rover and you’ll learn about conservation efforts and the behavior of the animals while snapping away with your cameras. We recommend to bring some bottled water, sunscreen and a jacket as the mornings can be a bit cool, but quickly warm up. And of course, you’ll be rewarded at the end of your drive with some samples of Villera’s wines. (Note: You can order a picnic lunch to take along with you from the Wedgeview Country House. If you decide to take this option for lunch, let them know when checking in).
For dinner, The Asara Wine Estate has upscale and casual options. There is a trendy restaurant with limited seating, the mis-en-place, opened from late October to the end of May, with an elegant seasonal menu (reservations recommended). They also have bistro style dining at Sansibar, where you can find wood-fired pizza, burgers and ribs.
Start with wine tasting at Stellenbosch Vineyards. Enjoy the picturesque views of the Helderberg mountains while sampling their award-winning wines accompanied by a charcuterie platter in their tasting room. Sit back and relax, glass in hand, by the fire, or outside soaking up the sun.
For lunch, check out their unique restaurant: The Bus Stop. Big, bold and yellow, this is a whimsical dining experience at Stellenbosch Vineyards allowing you the opportunity to snack on delicious unpretentious food while enjoying their award-winning wines. The casual eatery is situated in the center of the pond on the Welmoed farm, featuring a converted bright yellow 1980 Bedford bus as its centerpiece.
Finally, experience some lovely wine and food at the restaurant at Neethlingshof. Neethlingshof’s courtyard is the perfect setting (and excuse) for a midweek “wined” down. Order a glass (or bottle) of vino, and a platter of tasty tidbits, while you watch the sun set over Stellenbosch. Enjoy being serenaded by local artists who regularly perform here.
Getting from Cape Town to Stellenbosch
The drive from Cape Town center takes about 45 minutes. Renting a car is quite easy and inexpensive in South Africa, and having a car gives you freedom to explore a little more. Having your own car is also a great way to experience the World’s Most Beautiful Road. Don’t forget that you drive on the left side of the road here!
There are daily Greyhound and Citiliner buses from Cape Town to downtown Stellenbosch. They won’t give you a lot of flexibility in the times to travel, but they are inexpensive and take only about 55 minutes.
Trains leave from the Cape Town Main station and the cost is R19 one way, R34 return. Travel time is from 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Uber is cheap and easy in Cape Town, and a trip to the Stellenbosch region will take about 45 minutes (depending on traffic), and cost 400-500 ZAR. Taxis are also an easy option, but they will cost somewhat more.
Getting around the Stellenbosch Wine Region
Renting a car in Cape Town is simple and easy. We used Around About Cars rental and the cars were great. Having a car means a certain amount of freedom to explore on your own, and is a must for doing a road trip along the scenic route. The downside? You’ll need to have a designated driver if you’re tasting wine (and why wouldn’t you?).
Uber is a great alternative. We used Uber and they were even able to find us to pick us up at the end of a dirt road at a winery. Taxis are also plentiful and a great option when you plan to sample a few glasses of cape wine.
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