9 Experiences in the Cape Winelands District
What are the secret ingredients for a memorable visit to the Cape Winelands District? It’s easy—Start with fabulous wine and famous vineyards, mix in award-winning restaurants along with a large measure of jaw-dropping scenery, add a dash of historic architecture, then stir all together with a host of outdoor activities. It’s the perfect recipe for a dynamic wine destination. The Cape Winelands District has it all including these nine not-to-be missed wine regions brimming with distinctive art, cultural, culinary, and thrilling adventure experiences.
Less than a thirty minute drive from Cape Town, Stellenbosch dates back to 1679, and is the second oldest preserved town in South Africa featuring many historic buildings in Victorian, neo-Dutch and Georgian architectural style. Here you will find a walkable city center surrounded by nature and a welcoming atmosphere. More than 80 restaurants from five-star dining experiences, to laid-back bistros have earned Stellenbosch the reputation as the Wine and Food Capital of South Africa. Art and Culture figure prominently too, visit the Rupert Art Museum featuring works by renowned South African artists, the Wijnland Auto Museum, and the fascinating Toy & Miniature Museum that hosts a collection of 1:12 scale miniatures, including a miniature of South Africa’s prestigious Blue Train.
Spectacular natural beauty is a hallmark of Tulbagh’s Wine Route from the stands of old oaks to breathtaking mountain vistas. The award-winning wine estates of Tulbagh: Waverley Hills Organic Wine & Olive Estate, Manley Private Cellar, Rijk’s Private Cellar, Drostdy Hof Wines, Tulbagh Winery, Theuniskraal, Montpellier, Saronsberg, & Twee Jonge Gezellen – House of Krone, Blue Crane and Lemberg offer a diverse range of experiences from art exhibitions to antique furniture displays, as well as wine tasting by candlelight in an old jail. Tulbagh’s valley of abundance features high quality olive oil, cheeses and handcrafted Belgian chocolates. Gourmet restaurants ranging from Cape Country Cuisine, Continental cuisine and Mediterranean Cuisine will delight the culinary senses.
Looking for adventure in the heart of the Cape Winelands? Ceres is just the ticket for active visitors. Known for its fresh fruit, fruit juices, and mineral water, Ceres is also home to game and nature reserves, and some of the best 4x4 routes, mountain bike trails, hiking routes, and a scenic zip-line for thrill seekers. During the season, follow the local fruit route in Valley of Fruitfulness to find the finest cherries, peaches, apples, plums, and grapes. Afterwards relax at one of the many restaurants, or bar and grills, and don’t miss Baba’s Jem for a variety of tasty jams, chutneys, and local homemade treats.
Charming and peaceful, McGregor is an historic, 19th century village of thatched, whitewashed cottages and home to artists, craftsmen and colorful characters. Outdoor enthusiasts flock here for bird watching, mountain biking and to hike the famous McGregor to Greyton trail via the Bushmanskloof Pass. Explore the town and relax with a bottle of wine from one of the local wineries. For a more immersive wine experience, time your visit to coincide with the McGregor Wine and Food Festival featuring local artists or the Wacky Wine Weekend a regional wine festival filled with an array of gourmet foods and fun non-traditional wine events like river cruises, tractor trips, a simulated rodeo bull, and mountain bike challenge.
History, culture, food, and of course fine wine are waiting for you in the magnificent Franschhoek Wine Valley. Spectacular vineyards cover the mountain slopes settled more than 300 years ago by the Huguenots, who brought with them their age-old French wine and food culture. Follow the Franschhoek Food and Wine Route to discover the food and wine heartland of the country, where splendid wines are grown and some of the country’s top chefs create international cuisine. The picturesque valley is home to some of South Africa’s noble cultivars and classic styles from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, to the full-bodied reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The area also produces some of the country’s extraordinary Méthode Cap Classiques.
6. Worcester Wine & Olive Route
The experienced wine tourist knows, where wine grows, olives are usually close by. The Worcester Wine & Olive Route, located in the most central point of the Cape Winelands District, offers an outstanding trail with twelve wine cellars and the Willow Creek Olive Estate. The route crisscrosses the Breede Valley surrounded by the Brandwacht and Langeberge mountains and offers three tour itineraries featuring some of the best olive products and award-winning wines in South Africa. Spend a day, or several, and enjoy the multitude of outdoor activities including mountain biking, fishing, boating, canoeing, golf and hiking. Or take a leisurely stroll through town and discover the local arts and crafts scene.
7. Wellington Wine Route
Despite being one of the youngest wine districts, the Wellington Wine Route in the heart of the Cape Winelands is home to some of the best wine-producers in South Africa. A scenic 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Wellington is one of the leading suppliers of vine cuttings to the other wine regions of the country. The Wellington Wine Route, comprised of 15 members, is dotted with historic family estates, boutique wineries, and distilleries producing craft beer, brandy, whisky and gin. Off the main route you’ll find additional wineries offering tasting rooms and cellar tours. Whether you prefer wine, beer, or spirits you’ll find something special to slake your thirst in Wellington.
8. Paarl Wine Route
The Paarl Wine Route covers all the bases—from large production international wineries to tiny 'garagiste' winemakers. Choose a wine tour keyed to your particular interests such as food & wine pairings, boutique wineries, or a nature & outdoor adventure for wine lovers. Or simply visit at your own pace, relax and soak in the natural beauty of Paarl with a glass of wine with and plate of local cheese and olives. The area played an important role in the birth of the wine industry, with the establishment of KWV, the first commercial wine cellar, dating back to 1918. Known for Shiraz as the signature grape, a wide range of other styles also perform extremely well in Paarl including lesser-known varietals such as Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Time to get-way from it all and de-stress? Then head to Montagu on Route 62 approximately 2 hours drive from Cape Town. Famous for its hot springs, this oasis of peace and tranquility is the ideal spot for those seeking an eco and wellness retreat alongside the pleasures of wine and food. Enjoy the Klein Karoo Wine Route and explore the nearby Robertson Wine Valley at an unhurried pace. Experience the natural wonders of the “hole in the wall” at Cogmanskloof gorge with its amazing geological folds of sandstone, and a British fort dating from 1899. You’ll find the range of lodging choices to be as diverse as Montagu itself with something to accommodate every style and budget.