If there’s one thing that the Western Cape is famous and beloved for, it’s the wonderful Winelands it possesses. These world-famous Cape regions – stretching from Somerset West to Franschhoek and Paarl to Montagu – are seemingly endless and afford rich, memorable experiences right across the board.
For, with every wine-producing region come new experiences, beautiful wine farms and unforgettable moments for visitors to enjoy… whether it’s an unusual wine tasting, fun wine farm adventure or scenic settings, the Cape Winelands are a must-visit when you visit Cape Town and its surrounding areas.
1) Hop on the oh-so-fun Franschhoek Wine Tram
Earlier this year, during the height of summer, my friend and I enjoyed a glorious trip on the now-famous Wine Tram in fairest Franschhoek. We got there early, ensuring we could make a real day of it. Because of this, we managed to cover several farms and have a full, fun and fabulous day in the Franschhoek wine valley.
Although the Blue Line offered us a choice of the following estates: Mont Rochelle, La Lude, La Bri, La Bourgogne, Holden Manz, La Couronne, Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence – in the end, we had to choose our top picks. Because, even if you depart on the earliest slot, you can probably only squeeze in six decent-length visits before the day’s end.
So, we opted for: Mont Rochelle, La Bri, Holden Manz, Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence. We enjoyed a picnic at both La Bri and Holden Manz and this was such a wonderful experience that I am so glad we decided to arrange the picnics!
We took some take-home wine from Holden Manz so we gave the wine tasting a miss, but you have ample time to both explore the estate and, if you’re keen, enjoy a delicious wine tasting.
It’s advisable to book ahead, not only for the popular Wine Tram but also for the picnics, restaurants and, of course, wine tastings at each estate you plan to hop off at because the wine farms tend to swarm with visitors over weekends and on public holidays especially.
The Wine Tram runs daily (barring 24, 25 and 31 December and 1 January), provided the weather conditions are fair.
You can choose between the Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, Red and Yellow Line. I really enjoyed the Blue Line and would definitely do it again!
Irrespective of which line you choose, the Wine Tram experience will set you back R220 (adults) and R90 (children 3 – 17).
For more information on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, please visit: winetram.co.za.
2) Visit the Constantia Winelands with City Sightseeing’s Purple Wine Tour
If you’re keen to visit South Africa’s oldest wine-producing estate and discover some true city gems, then the Purple Wine Tour should provide the perfect winelands experience for you.
On this tour, among other delights, you can explore the historic Groot Constantia, secluded Eagles’ Nest and the stunning Beau Constantia wine estates.
On the day we did the trip, it was early summer so temperatures were delightfully high, ensuring my friend and I were again blessed with ideal wine farm-hopping weather.
We departed from the V&A Waterfront, making our way through the city, as we listened to insightful, complimentary audio guides. (These audio guides can be enjoyed on all City Sightseeing South Africa tours.)
We stayed on the bus until we reached the lush, gorgeous valley of Constantia. Our first stop was the delightful Groot Constantia.
Here, we enjoyed sharing a yummy cheese platter at Simon’s Restaurant, before heading for a quick, affordable wine tasting at Jonkershuis Restaurant.
After we had spent some time exploring this beautiful estate – which is not only Cape Town’s most historic, but which also offers amazing views of Southern Suburbs, including of distant Muizenberg and Kalk Bay – we were onto Eagles’ Nest.
Tucked away in the midst of tall trees, this estate is reminiscent of a proud eagle’s eerie, particularly with its impressive, forested location. Its well-loved for its platters and relaxed setting. If I ever visit Eagles’ Nest again, I will definitely tuck into one of these delicious platters!
From there, after a brief visit, we were onto Stop 21: the historic Constantia Nek. Now home to the popular Harbour House (where, after our wine tours, we enjoyed dessert) and La Parada Constantia Nek restaurants, it’s a cool spot to visit and is blessed with absolutely amazing surrounding views of the Constantia Wine Valley.
Together, we took a slow, short stroll down to Beau Constantia – our last wine farm of the day. Beau Constantia is one of the most stunning settings I’ve ever visited, certainly as far as wine farms go.
It’s also where you can now find – although you’ll need to book well in advance for this one –arguably one of Cape Town’s finest restaurants: Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia. This gourmet extravaganza is brought to you by top chefs and foodie personalities, Liam Tomlin and Ivor Jones. (Sadly, at the time of our visit, we were told the restaurant was two weeks away from opening.)
Once we’d soaked up the beauty of this small, picturesque estate (even the loo affords crisp views…), we hopped back onto the cherry-red, double-decker bus and finished our tour by curling our way along the Cape Peninsula coastline.
We passed through Hout Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point until we reached the lively V&A Waterfront once more.
For more information on the City Sightseeing’s Purple Wine Tour, visit: www.citysightseeing.co.za.
3) Lose yourself in the wonder of Babylonstoren
Babylonstoren is becoming the ‘It’ wine farm to visit (just ask food screen queen, Nigella, who recently visited the estate…) and, with luxury accommodation, gorgeous spa treatments, a cosy farm shop, two top restaurants in Babel and Greenhouse Restaurant and a labyrinth of amazing garden spaces (with fruits, vegetables and flowers galore) – it’s no wonder!
Babylonstoren is, by my own admission, a really special place. Whether you go there for a cool wine tasting, to explore the vast gardens – or simply to share a special meal and stroll with your friends or family, it’s sure to make a deep impression on you.
Although it has always been glorious (even since its 1692 establishment by local burgher, Pieter van der Byl), Babylonstoren has been turned into an ultra-stylish wine estate by media mogul Koos Bekker and his talented, creative wife, Karen Roos.
And yet, in almost the same breath, it’s one of the truest examples of a down-to-earth, honest Cape working farm. This is shown not only in the old farm implements, clucking, crowing fowls and rich outdoor spaces but through its rustic décor and majestic, well looked after Cape Dutch buildings too.
My parents and I visited Babylonstoren earlier in the year, over the Easter weekend and it was one of my most precious wine farm experiences. Not only because it allowed me a whole day to treat my parents (all expenses paid), but also because it honestly did me a lot of good. Babylonstoren is a place that will heal you and revitalise your soul… and that, if anything, is one very good reason to experience this country-style estate…
For more information on Babylonstoren, contact: (021) 863 3852.
These are just three of my favourite Cape Winelands’ experiences – but they are certainly some of Cape Town and its surrounds most wonderful, and I can strongly recommend any of them!
By: Tamlyn Ryan
Junior content writer by day, passionate travel blogger and freelance writer by night… I am a farm girl-turned-city dweller, who grew up in the Klein Karoo farm town, Montagu.
Through my travel blog, Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, and part-time freelance writing ventures, I cover my favourite travel experiences – be they visiting cosy farm stalls, navigating amazing road trips or visiting some of South Africa’s prettiest natural locations or best restaurants.
I love exploring the great outdoors, and being able to share the wonders of SA through my writing and photos afterwards, is an absolute privilege for me!
Travel Blog: http://tamlynamberwanderlust.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/tamlynamberwanderlust