The Essential Guide to the Cape Winelands

The winelands of the Western Cape offer an assembly of reds, whites, and bubblies unlike anywhere else in the country. In fact, thanks to the region and its ideal growing conditions, South Africa is now the ninth-largest wine producer in the world. Here, vines grow deep in ancient soil, moisture from the Atlantic Ocean sweeps through the valleys, and historic farms with whitewashed, Cape Dutch–style buildings dot the mountainous landscape. Time your visit to annual festivities like harvest season (late January through mid-March) and Bastille Day (July).

Klapmuts - Simondium Rd, Simondium, Paarl, 7670, South Africa
About an hour outside of Cape Town, Babylonstoren is one of South Africa’s oldest werfs, or farmyards. In 2010, Karen Roos, a former editor at South Africa’s Elle Decoration, reimagined the property as a fantasy farm stay with an eight-acre garden that grows 300 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Guests are welcome to help the head gardener prune and plant, and to join the chef in his daily harvest. Some of the 13 laborers’ cottages that have been rebuilt as guestrooms feature kitchens for those who want to pick and prep their own meals.
Tokara Wine Estate, off R310 Helshoogte Road, Banhoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa
A winery with an enviable view, Tokara is considered one of the best in the region for its cabernets, sauvignon blancs, and premium olive oils. As compelling as the wines are, though, people flock to Tokara for its restaurant, led by chef Carolize Coetzee. Here, in a stunning building made of glass, steel, and stone, diners enjoy contemporary cuisine, award-winning wines, and dramatic views over Stellenbosch and False Bay. Before sitting down for your meal, enjoy a drink at the bar, which offers views of the kitchen as well as the sun setting through a picture window. Then dig into creative dishes like roasted beef with lemon-glazed shimeji mushrooms, and pork belly with carrot-ginger sauce. The menu changes seasonally, but guests can always expect a life-changing meal.
Boschendal Estate, Pniel St, Groot, Franschhoek, 7680, South Africa
At Boschendal, guests can slow down and savor “Le Pique Nique,” a pre-packed picnic basket that you can order in advance of your visit to the vineyard. When you arrive, collect your wicker basket filled with sweet and savory treats, pick up a bottle of wine to pair with your snacks, and find a spot under the pine trees to sit for the afternoon, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine.

Boschendal is right on the edge of Stellenbosch, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town through the beautiful hills and valleys of the winelands. The owners transformed several farm laborers’ cottages into luxury accommodations, should you wish to spend the night after a day of vineyard tours, winetastings, and dining at the estate’s several restaurants.
Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa
Along with South Africa’s winelands, the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom—a small but incredibly diverse area that’s home to 5,000 plant species that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. In the reserve, walking and hiking trails wind past the myriad flora and fauna, leading up to some of the best vantage points for admiring the beauty of the Franschhoek Valley and beyond. The Breakfast Trail is a relatively flat, 1.2-mile walk that can be completed in under an hour or used as a jumping off point for other, more strenuous hikes, like the Vista Trail and Dutoitskop. If you make it to the top of the Vista Trail on a clear day, you might catch a glimpse of Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.

Permits for entering the reserve must be purchased online in advance. If you’re planning a full-day excursion, swing by De Warenmarkt Deli in Stellenbosch or the Franschhoek Market (Saturdays only) and pick up some snacks to keep you energized while you hike.
7 Church Street, Cnr Bird Street & Church Street, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa
As you walk through Stellenbosch’s town center, you’ll probably smell the bread baking at Boschendal at Oude Bank before you even arrive at the café’s main entrance. Owned by Boschendal Farm Estate since early 2017, the local favorite is a bakery, bistro, and farm shop in one, serving seasonal dishes made from locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients. The warm interior features cozy dining nooks, but you should really sit outside, where you can sip your matcha latte while people-watching on Bird Street. Go for breakfast and order the brioche French toast, or stop by for lunch and pair the trout salad with a glass of chenin blanc from the farm.
1 Faure Village Rd, Stellenbosch Farms, Cape Town, 7131, South Africa
The daily duck parade at Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate is quite the sight to behold. Every morning at 10 a.m., a single caller uses different whistles and motions to corral some one thousand Indian Runner ducks away from their pond and onto the grounds of the wine estate. While entertaining to watch, the parade is performed for more than just amusement—the ducks have been helping with pest control in the vineyards since 1984, devouring hundreds of snails, slugs, and other unwanted insects each day.

Recently, the vineyard also started working with WWF South Africa and other conservation agencies in the region on a project related to indigenous waterfowl habitat rehabilitation. Learn all about it on a visit, and be sure to ask about touring the duck pen and breeding area with one of the herders.
10 Drostdy Rd, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa
While strolling along Stellenbosch’s oak-lined avenues, you’ll come across several boutiques selling everything from jams and baked goods to artisanal crafts. For the best souvenirs, stop into Local Works on Drostdy Street, where you’ll find handsome wooden giraffes. Though cumbersome to carry home, they make for great gifts. You’ll no doubt see someone on your return flight with one wrapped in newspaper.
Art lovers and garden enthusiasts visiting the Cape Winelands should set aside an hour or two to tour the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Stellenbosch. Here, more than 60 of Lewis’s renowned works—from his human forms and shamanic figures to his monumental abstracted fragments and iconic great cats—dot 2.5 miles of walking paths, blending seamlessly with the landscape. If you can, tour the gardens in July and August, when the fynbos trees are in full bloom. Then stop by Lewis’s old studio, which now functions as an art gallery, before having coffee or tea in the small café. Visits to the sculpture garden are by appointment only and can be arranged via email. Guided tours are also available.
KLEIN JOOSTENBERG FARM, c/o R304 & R101, MULDERSVLEI, Stellenbosch, 7606, South Africa
If you tire of chenin blanc and pinotage, know that there are several other great beverages to imbibe on your journey through South Africa’s winelands, including craft beer. At the Stellenbosch Brewing Company & Taproom (affectionally referred to as “The Stellies Taproom” by locals), for example, you can try the microbrewery’s award-winning Hoenderhok Bock and other New World–style brews. In the winter, the indoor taproom is laid-back and cozy. The best time to visit, however, is in the summer, when you can bring your drinks outside and order small bites—perfect for the picnic tables that dot the wide-open lawn of Klein Joostenberg farm.
Elandskloof Road, Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa
When planning your visit to the Cape Winelands, it’s easy to forget activities not focused around the region’s namesake beverage. For a break from wine, consider spending a day luxuriating at La Residence, an exclusive 30-acre estate in Franschhoek. First, book a spa treatment like a deep-tissue massage or pinotage body polish. Then head to the hotel’s afternoon high tea, during which pastries, mini quiches, fresh fruit, and other nibbles are delivered to your table on multi-tiered platters. When you’re done snacking, stroll the farm grounds and try to catch a glimpse of the 10 resident peacocks. If interested, you can also arrange for a chef’s tour of the herb garden and plum orchard.
Located in the heart of the Cape Winelands, Terbodore Coffee Roasters imports beans from 13 countries, but also sources coffee from South Africa’s countryside. Stop in to try the roastery’s famous flavored coffees, or go for breakfast and pair a perfectly made flat white with sweet corn fritters and homemade granola.
Franschhoek Square, 32 Huguenot Rd, Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa
Instead of worrying about who will be the designated driver, purchase tickets for the hop-on, hop-off Franschhoek Wine Tram—the easiest way to explore the vineyards of the Franschhoek Valley. Choose from one of six color-coded tram routes, each of which stops at eight different wine estates. The earlier you arrive to the tram depot in the morning, the more vineyards you’ll be able to visit throughout the day. The trams arrive and depart each farm hourly, so if you decide you’d like to linger longer at one stop, you can simply wait for the next ride. Just don’t forget to catch the last tram back to the depot.
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