Explorers Club

Franschhoek, Cape Winelands & West Coast, South Africa Book from

Outstanding collection of rental properties in picturesque Franschhoek with adventurous décor perfect for foodies, explorers and families
While the name might suggest a place to rough it and plan routes on dusty maps by candlelight, Explorer's Club is something else: somewhere to plot your next trip, sure, but in the comfort of a homestead with views of the mountains and vineyards and easy access to world class restaurants, wineries, boutiques and art galleries. And more than that, the 4 properties have style by the tin bucket load.

What we particularly love about them is co-owner Jo's eye for detail. An inveterate explorer himself, he's decorated the houses with large scale world maps, posters of Clint Eastwood, lampshades made from recycled coffee sacks, throws made from Kenyan wraps and milk urns used as bedside tables. It's quirky, unusual, fresh and like nothing we've seen before - a bit like its owner.

With regular farmers markets and supermarket nearby, it’s a doddle to stock up for eating in. But with such brilliant restaurants on your doorstep you’ll also want to venture out. So here you get to have your cake and eat it.


  • Franschhoek has dozens of frilly French-style places to stay; these imaginatively-designed pads make a refreshing alternative
  • The location: in the heart of Franschhoek, walking distance from its restaurants, with lovely mountain and vineyard views and no traffic noise
  • Jo is great fun: charismatic, enthusiastic and inspirational
  • The properties are an affordable option with sensible all year pricing and discounts for smaller groups
  • Less than an hour's drive from Cape Town


  • The Map Room doesn't have a pool
  • Tap water can be slightly brown and discoloured (but it's perfectly fine)
  • Not all rooms have air-conditioning, although there are large colonial-style ceiling fans
  • The layout of some of the houses is a little odd and disjointed (living areas upstairs, bedrooms downstairs or in annexes) but their quirkiness is part of the fun
  • Kids policies vary between houses - some welcome all ages, others are suitable for ages 12+

Best time to go

As is the case with the Garden Route, the winelands get most visitors during the South African spring and summer months - from October through to February. For the rest of the year the town is much quieter and the relatively mild winters mean that you should have a really great stay any time between April and September.

Our top tips

Try to plan your lunches and dinners in advance of your trip - many restaurants get booked up weeks ahead.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique villas
  • 3 houses for 2-10
  • Self-Catering
  • All ages welcome in some rooms; over 12s only in others
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Laundry Service
  • Alarm/security
  • Daily maid service on request at additional cost
Room: Explorers Club living area


You would expect an explorer to furnish his house with items from his travels, but Jo Sinfield’s adventurous take on design goes a step further. We really liked the décor of the 4 cottages: the safari khakis mix with creams and bright reds, the bright kikoys zing, and coffee sacks are recycled as unusual lampshades. It’s quirky and unusual and really works.

All have comfortable sleeping quarters and huge living-kitchen-dining rooms that maximise the views of the mountains and vineyards. Set in the heart of Franschhoek Village, all are an easy 5-minute walk to the main street where you'll find some of South Africa's best restaurants.

Explorer's Club (sleeps up to 10). All ages welcome
The largest property, Explorer’s Club has an understated bush camp style. It has a vast open-plan kitchen-living space with large sink-in sofas and a wall of folding doors on to the sun deck, garden and a solar-heated lap pool. It feels more like staying at a friend’s house than a hotel, and this is reflected in the price.

Three of the four bedrooms are on the ground-floor. The master bedroom has a terrace, walk-through dressing room and ensuite with slipper bathtub and shower. The second double bedroom has a shower room. The third bedroom comes with bunk beds for 3 children and an ensuite. Up some narrow stairs, in the attic, the fourth room has a freestanding bathtub with glorious views.

The Map Room (sleeps up to 4). Over 12s only
This 2-storey house is best suited to a couple or an older family. Climb up the spiral staircase to the fabulous kitchen-living space. It doesn't have a pool but there is a lovely wraparound balcony upstairs, ideal for sundowners or a barbecue.

Of the 2 ground-floor bedrooms, the master has a huge stone ‘Sultan’s bath’ plus a wet room. The ensuite twin bedroom is good for teens by may lack wow-factor for adults.

The Library (sleeps up to 6). Over 12s only
Next to Explorer’s Club, The Library has a polished, boutique style.
The wonderful first-floor open-plan living space has a double-height ceiling and is accessed via a spiral staircase. The 3 double bedrooms are spread between the ground floor and a separate pavilion beside the private pool.

Tockies Cottage (sleeps 2-4). All ages welcome
We’re yet to visit this chic 2-bedroom cottage, but the classic styling and airy living spaces look very welcoming indeed. There’s a double, a twin, a large open-plan kitchen and living space, plus a walled garden with pool - a true home-from-home.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Dvd player
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Iron
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Satellite tv
  • Swimming pool
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Tumble dryer
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Food in South Africa's historic gourmet capital isn't just world class, it's fantastic value too, but if you want to eat in, all of the properties have fully equipped kitchens for self-catering and entertaining.

The dining tables in all of the houses seat 10, so you can invite friends over. All the basics are provided (olive oil, vinegar, coffee, tea and milk), there are a couple of supermarkets in town and groceries and braai packs can be ordered in advance. Catering can also be arranged. We'd heartily recommend Franschhoek's small Saturday morning farmer's market where Jo runs an excellent coffee stall, but serious foodies should make a beeline for the Stellenbosch Fresh Foods Market (Saturdays 9am - 2pm) with its freshly-made salads, bread, cakes, artisan cheeses and organic meat, fruit and vegetables.

When it comes to eating out, you're spoilt for choice. Just some of our many lunch recommendations are picnics at Holdenmanz Wine Estate (expect a hamper full of tempting kilner jars, charcuterie, cheeses, salad, paté, smoked salmon, freshly baked bread, and a chilled bottle of rosé); La Petite Ferme where you can lunch with stunning views of the valley; Môreson's Bread and Wine vineyard restaurant, where the chef specialises in antipasti and charcuterie; Babylonstoren's chic organic restaurant; Ruste En Vrede for fine winetasting followed by the best steak lunch alfresco; Tokara's DeliCATessen where the simple fresh menu, great views and kids play area make it a good choice for families.

For dinner, The Common Room serves imaginative tapas and sharing plates and Le Quartier Francais' Tasting Room offers serious fine dining at one of the world's best restaurants.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • Meal delivery service
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
Eating: Map Room
Activity: Vineyard


  • Browse the boutiques and galleries along Franschhoek's charming main street
  • Taste some of South Africa's finest wines. You're a hop away from dozens of top wineries and Stellenbosch is within half an hour. Don’t miss Stony Brook, Graham Beck and Boekenhoutskloof; we also like the Boschendal and Plaisir de Merle estates and the wineries mentioned in eating
  • Head out for lunch or dinner safe in the knowledge that you'll eat fabulous food for half of what it would cost back home (see eating for our recommendations)
  • Hire a bike (there's a shop in the village) and head for the hills: the cycling round Franschhoek can be as strenuous as you choose to make it. There are many cycle routes nearby and hybrid, mountain and kids' bikes (as well as baby carriers) can be hired locally. It’s also a great way to see the vineyards
  • Listen to your inner chocaholic and visit Huguenot Chocolate factory for half hour-long tasting, demonstration and history sessions
  • Saddle up a horse at Paradise Stables and ride through the local vineyards
  • Go trout fishing in the dams and rivers in the Franschhoek Valley or swim or fish in the Berg river that flows through the valley
  • Play tennis just up the road on the municipal courts
  • Shoot a round of golf at the Paarl Valley, Boschenmeer or Stellenbosch courses. There are 7 golf courses within an hour’s drive of Franschhoek
  • See the Franschhoek Valley from the air with a thrilling paragliding flight or in a hot-air balloon
  • Head into Cape Town for the day: it takes less than an hour to reach it from Franschhoek
  • Sightseeing in historic Stellenbosch, with its Cape Dutch architecture, wonderful museum and vineyards
  • Explore nearby Paarl, with its panoramic hilltop monument and its riverside arboretum
  • The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve on top of the Franschhoek pass is very popular for hikers and has a staggering third of the world’s species of plants.

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting


Although restrictions apply to some houses, overall Explorers Club is a great place for kids. Jo can provide plenty of information on request for family-friendly activities around Franschhoek; we found that the winery trips worked fine with our 4-year-old daughter in tow.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Explorers Club and Tockies Cottage are best for families, as they welcome kids of all ages. The former has a bunk bedded room for 3 kids and space for a baby cot in the dressing room (connected to the master bedroom). The latter has 2 ensuite bedrooms (1 double and 1 twin).

The Map Room and The Library are suitable for ages 12+. The Map Room has a twin room at the back suitable for kids. The Library's accommodation is split between the main house and a pool house/annex, which could work well for teens.


Babysitting or a nanny are available on request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot
  • High chair

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

All houses are self-catering with large, airy kitchens, barbecues and large eating areas. It's a very easy walk to Franschhoek's famous restaurants. Kalfi's, in the centre of the village, is particularly family friendly.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Unfenced pool at Explorer's Club, Tockie's Cottage and The Library
  • Flatscreen TVs and children's DVDs
  • Fantastic info packs on what to see, eat and do

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Bikes to hire for vineyard exploration
  • Tennis courts
  • Riding Stables
  • River swimming
  • Chocolate factory nearby

Families Should Know:

  • The pools aren't fenced
  • There's a chemist and supermarket around the corner for nappies and baby food


  • Airport: 45 minutes
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
  • Doctor: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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