Babylonstoren cottages in South Africa's Winelands

How to Experience the Best of South Africa’s Winelands

written by
Sue van Winsen
Sue van Winsen

Endless vineyards stretching out as far as the eye can see under bright blue skies, framed by towering mountains descending into lush valleys – South Africa’s Cape Winelands are incredibly picturesque and within easy reach of the main city of Cape Town, perfect for a day visit or a longer stay.

Covering well over 21,000 sqkm with several distinct areas, having a clear idea of what you are seeking is a good starting point to whittle down which part of the South African Winelands you should visit to get the best out of your trip.

Winelands Frankoensk

Where to go in the Winelands

If you love history and want to not only go wine tasting but also enjoy some shopping, or perhaps browse through art galleries, then Stellenbosch would be a great choice. The beautiful town centre is filled with heritage Cape Dutch-style buildings. It is also known as the ‘City of Oaks’ due to the 300-year-old oak trees planted by the founder, Simon van der Stel, who named the town after himself.

Paarl is the third-oldest settlement in South Africa and is renowned for excellent red wine and cheese. A trip to this part of the Winelands is not complete without a stop at Dalewood Fromage, and Fairview farm where you can taste a variety of wines while sampling some of their famous cheese made with cow’s milk, but also more famously, goat’s milk.

AF South Africa The Winelands Delaire Graff Lodges Vineyard

Francophiles should head to Franschhoek, which translates to ‘French Corner’ in Afrikaans on account of the hundreds of French Huguenots that moved here in the 17th century, bringing with them their culture and experience in agriculture. It is undeniably one of the most spectacular parts of the Cape Winelands, a must-visit for those seeking beautiful landscapes and nature.

If you are limited in time, then Constantia’s proximity to Cape Town makes it a convenient, yet wonderful addition to a stay in the Western Cape. It is home to the oldest wine-producing estate in South Africa, Groot Constantia, along with excellent restaurants and hiking trails.

While these four towns make up the most well-known wine destinations in the Cape, some lesser-known gems are well worth a visit. The Hemel-en-Aarde wine route along the Whale Coast is one of the few places where you can taste wine while gazing out towards the Atlantic Ocean – and it is famous for its excellent pinot noir. Nearby, you will find the Botriver wine route, far away from the crowds with family-owned estates that will welcome you like a long-lost friend, while the charming Route 62 is packed with quirky, character-filled establishments.

Waterford estate wine stellen

When to go to the Winelands

Fortunately, there is no such thing as a bad time to visit the Cape Winelands. The summer months tend to be drier and warmer and from November through to February, there are usually lots of special events taking place to celebrate the clear skies and sunshine ­– concerts, picnics and festivals aplenty!

Harvest season begins in March, making it an exciting time to visit to get a behind-the-scenes look at the wine industry. If you are visiting in autumn or winter, you will be able to enjoy fewer crowds, wonderful walks through the vineyards, sipping on cosy reds alongside crackling fireplaces – as well as many special events like Bastille Day in Franschhoek.

Matthieu joannon winelands2 unsplash

Things to do in the Winelands

Aside from numerous opportunities to enjoy wine tasting, there is plenty to do on a visit to the Winelands.

The spectacular landscape lends itself to adventures with abundant hiking, horse-riding and mountain bike trails to choose from. For art-lovers, there are plenty of excellent galleries in each of the towns, while many of the wine estates boast impressive collections. There is also a vibrant outdoor art scene, with the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden just outside of Stellenbosch being one of the highlights.

AF South Africa The Winelands Delaire Graff Lodges Breakfast View

It is only natural that wine and food pair well together, and many would consider the Winelands to be the gastronomic epicentre of South Africa. With excellent fresh produce grown in abundance and beautiful locations, you are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing where to eat, from casual bistros to high-end haute cuisine and everything in between. If you are looking for some inspiration, we have compiled a list of what we consider to be the best restaurants in the Winelands.

For younger travellers, there’s also plenty of fun to be had. Meet the world’s only painting pig, named Pigcasso at the Farm Sanctuary, or spend an afternoon at Vergenoegd Löw to see their working flock of over 1,000 runner ducks that keep the vineyards pest-free.

The Best Hotels in the Winelands

Incredible views, effortlessly perfect hospitality, delicious food and close proximity to a range of experiences are just a few factors that set the best hotels apart from the rest in the South African Winelands.

While you are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to great places to stay, we have a few hotels that the Niarra team and our guests are particularly fond of.

La Cotte Farm

A historic farm that blends Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley. We love that the village is within walking distance, yet as soon as you are within the property’s gorgeous gardens, you feel like you are a million miles away. Stylish interiors with splashes of colour and huge windows with views everywhere you look complete the experience.

La cotte cottage

Babylonstoren

This is one of the oldest Cape Dutch Farms in South Africa, dating back to the 17th century, surrounded by a 3.5-hectare garden and endless fruit farms and vineyards beyond. Stay in the beautifully restored farmhouse, manor house or one of the cottages spread around the grounds. Every meal here is a celebration of the farm’s abundant organic produce – a truly unforgettable farm-to-fork experience.

Babylonstoren Fynbos Cottages

Le Quartier Francais

A charming boutique hotel in Franschhoek set amid green gardens with views across the valley. Many of the individually styled elegant rooms open out into hidden gardens or courtyards, creating a true sense of privacy and exclusivity. Two of Franschhoek’s best restaurants are also on site – the award-winning Protégé and Épice.

Le Quartier Francais 9

At Niarra Travel, we believe that travel can make a positive impact on the world and to this end, we work with carefully selected partners with an excellent track record when it comes to uplifting people and protecting the planet. If you are interested in booking a tailor-made, once-in-a-lifetime trip to the South African Winelands, please get in touch with her team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US) or at explore@niarratravel.com and we will begin crafting your dream holiday.

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