The Cape Winelands begin just half an hour’s drive from Cape Town and stretch up past Robertson into the Overberg. Not only are they very beautiful, with fertile green valleys surrounded by proud mountain ranges, but they have become famous for their white and red wines, sherries, port and brandies. Many of the vineyards have very attractive old homesteads built in the Cape Dutch style, and are well worth a visit.
Our favourite part of the Winelands is the area closest to Cape Town, around the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa. It has some of the best surviving examples of architecture from the Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian period to be found in the Cape. We recommend wandering around the older area. Dorp Street is particularly lovely – it has been made a national monument. There is a very good museum and lots of cafés and restaurants.
Franschhoek is even more special. It is smaller than Paarl and Stellenbosch, and lies at the end of a lush green valley surrounded by mountains. It is home to no less than 30 cellars and 28 restaurants, and is known as the culinary capital of South Africa – eight of the top hundred restaurants in the country are to be found here. There is a fascinating museum that brings to life the town’s French Huguenot past, several art galleries, various cafés, and some interesting little shops. There are also some fabulous places to stay, both in Franschhoek itself and along the valley.
The Winelands really are a wonderful place to visit. It is possible to spend many happy hours exploring the area, admiring the beautiful scenery, pottering around various vineyards, sampling different wines, before returning to your hotel or guesthouse to relax in the garden or lounge by a swimming pool.
There is plenty to do if you wish to be more active – a gentle walk in the mountains, an energetic hike in one of the nature reserves, horse riding, cycling or golfing.