They say the best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and yours certainly won’t be left wanting when you devour your way around this stunning region. Nina Biddle shares an insider’s guide to South Africa’s Cape Winelands and West Coast…
Red sky at night, foodies delight
Ditch the safari binoculars for a glass of the Winelands’ finest red Pinotage. Voluptuous vineyards are the core of this region’s fertile beauty: swathes of vines carpet the landscape, backed by sky-scraping mountains. The valleys create the ideal microclimate for wine-growing, and the picture-perfect frame for alfresco dining. You’ll find dreamy Cape Dutch architecture in small historic towns, as well as stylish hideaways such as the gorgeous Mont Rochelle Hotel and the luxurious yet homely Hawksmoor House. Forget the Cape of Good Hope – this is the ’Cape of Good Grapes’!
The Winelands are perfect as a standalone destination, or you can combine them with some time in Cape Town. The Paarl – Stellenbosch – Franschhoek gastronomic triangle is within striking distance of South Africa’s second largest city (a 1-hour drive), and the roads are easy to navigate. If you’re interested in hiring a car to explore the region then see our car hire recommendations.
The historic town of Franschhoek is the Cape’s gourmet hotspot. French Huguenots fled to this achingly beautiful valley over 300 years ago, bringing with them their vines and an appreciation of all things epicurean. Foodies will love the gourmet restaurants: don’t miss dinner at Foliage, where foraging is the name of the game. For a lazy lunch, our favourite spot is on the shaded terrace at Bread & Wine on the Môreson wine estate. Stay at the super-stylish Explorers Club and you’ll have easy access to the best eateries, wineries, boutiques and art galleries.
Once suitably satiated, hike along nature trails in the spellbinding Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. If you’re sick of assigning a designated driver, head out on horseback from Paradise Stables for a local wine tour; a cycling tour is another fantastic option. You can also take a hop-on hop-off tram tour and visit the Huguenot Memorial Museum, or continue the feast at the Huguenot Chocolate Factory, where you’ll find demonstrations and tastings.
The elegant university town of Stellenbosch lays claim to the most wine estates in the Winelands. You don’t need to be an aficionado to appreciate some of the most exciting new-world wines. Wine snobs: be prepared to squash your old-world bias as you spend a day at the beautiful Zevenwacht, Vergelegen and Boschendal wine estates. Also home to a clutch of interesting museums and a colourful selection of bars, clubs and restaurants, the oak-lined cobbled streets of the town are constantly abuzz.
Nestled mongst rows of vines, a 10-minute drive from the riverside town of Paarl, are the remarkable 1692 Cape Dutch farmhouse and elegant whitewashed workers’ cottages of Babylonstoren. Now converted into accommodation and a renowned restaurant, with a spectacular 8-hectare garden, this hip hideaway has plenty to offer singletons, couples and families alike.
For something more rural, head up north to Hermon. Spend a few days here to make the most of all the activities on offer in the 6,000 acres of rolling wheat fields and pristine nature reserve. You can try golf, fly-fishing, hiking, biking, ballooning and plenty more.
If it’s sun, sea and sand that you’re after, head up the West Coast to the idyllic fishing village of Paternoster – a lesser-known foodie haven. Here, you can head out to feast on gourmet dishes safe in the knowledge that a fabulous meal is half the price of what it costs back home – it’s well worth the 2.5-hour’ drive north of Cape Town. We love Abalone House & Spa, a luxurious and quirky hotel with sea views.
If the safari stole the heart of the traveller in South Africa, then the Cape Winelands & West Coast certainly stole the stomach!
Nina is working as our very valuable editorial intern during her post-graduation summer of freedom. Having completed a degree in English Literature and French, she will be returning to the French speaking island of La Réunion; the hidden gem of the Indian Ocean and hikers’ paradise. Recent travels have taken her to Japan, California, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles, and she hopes to embark on further African adventures soon.