South Africa’s Cape Winelands is located in a stunning corner of the Western Cape province, less than an hour away from Cape Town, making it perfect for a short road trip from Cape Town. The historic towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are popular places to visit but to me, the splendid wine estates and restaurants located in and around these towns really steal the show. If you love fine food and wines, then this is the place to be. The Cape Winelands region offers outstanding quality and refinement (for prices considerably lower than the established areas in Western Europe and California). It’s possible to go on a one-day Cape Winelands road trip from Cape Town but I recommend spending a few days exploring this wine route to truly appreciate its grand natural beauty and its fabulous food and wines.
Cape Winelands road trip from Cape Town
Cape Winelands route description
Starting from Cape Town, take the A2 highway towards Somerset West. Take the exit to Stellenbosch and continue to Stellenbosch. From Stellenbosch, take the R310 road to Helshoogte and Franschhoek. From here, at the R45 intersection, you can choose to go to Paarl or continue further to Franschhoek. From Franschhoek, follow the R45 towards Villiersdorp. At the Theewaterskloofdam, turn off on the R321 road to Grabouw. At Grabouw, you can get back onto the A2 highway towards Cape Town or take the scenic road passing Betty’s Bay. To do this, take the A2 highway in the direction of Hermanus/Swellendam and turn off to the R43 (direction of Hermanus). Follow the R43 and exit at the R44 road towards Betty’s Bay. Continue along this road along the coast till Somerset West. From here, return to Cape Town.
You can do this road trip in a day but I recommend spending a few days in the Winelands to enjoy the myriad of experiences this region offers, from wine-tastings and food pairings to top-notch cuisine, wine-blending, wine safaris, hiking and spas. Note that reservations are advisable for most of the restaurants and activities mentioned below.
As you exit the A2 highway towards Stellenbosch, you’ll get your first glimpse of the vineyards of the Cape Winelands. The R310 road (or Baden Powell Drive) to Stellenbosch passes mile after mile of beautiful vineyards. Near the highway exit is one of my favourite wine estates: Vergenoegd. Drop by to see its fun duck parades or enjoy a meal in the garden.
Further down the road, you’ll pass some of my other favourite Cape Winelands wineries such as Spier and Middelvlei. Go for a stroll around the beautiful grounds of Spier, admire the artwork or go on a Segway tour through the vineyards. At Middelvlei, you can enjoy a fantastic braai (South African BBQ) paired with their delicious wines, and create your own wine blend.
Stellenbosch is a historic town that boasts a multitude of grand Cape Dutch mansions, rustic avenues lined by centuries-old oaks and a wide array of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and lovely B&Bs. Read about things to do in Stellenbosch.
Around Stellenbosch, other wine estates I can recommend include Lanzerac (combine a cellar tour with a lunch platter), Waterford (try a wine-tasting paired with chocolates), Warwick (they offer picnics and wine safaris) and Dornier.
Across the Helshoogte Pass
The drive from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek through the Helshoogte Pass is breathtaking. You’ll pass mile after mile of vineyards set against the dramatic backdrop of the towering Jonkershoek and Simonsberg mountains. On the way to Franschhoek, you’ll pass some of my favourite wine estates: Zorgvliet (gorgeous Cape Dutch houses with wonderful mountain views; excellent wines & cuisine; there’s also a beautiful lodge and a spa which I can recommend), Delaire Graaf (a stunning vineyard with excellent restaurants and luxury lodges), Tokara (a fantastic restaurant with views of the vineyards) and Boschendal (a breathtaking location; fabulous wine-tasting/lunches in the garden (try the intriguing Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend); and luxurious farm cottages.
Search for hotels in Stellenbosch (Booking.com).
Franschhoek is a small village bursting at its seams with restaurants and B&Bs. It is arguably the gourmet capital of South Africa and lies in a luscious green valley surrounded by imposing mountain ranges. Restaurants I can recommend include le Quartier Francais and its Tasting Room (also a great place to stay), Le Bon Vivant, La Petit Ferme, The French Connection and Monneaux. Another culinary highlight is the Haute Cabriere Cellar at the Haute Cabriere wine estate up in the hills overlooking Franschhoek.
A stunning vineyard to visit in Franschhoek is La Motte, just outside the town centre. The beautiful grounds include historic Cape Dutch houses, an art gallery, a wine-tasting hall and Pierneef, an excellent restaurant. Read about my visit to La Motte.
Search for hotels in Franschhoek (Booking.com).
Another beautiful drive is the Jan Phillips Mountain Drive above Paarl. It offers breathtaking vistas of Paarl and the surrounding winelands and a close-up of the giant granite domes from which Paarl derives its name.
Read about the spectacular Cape Peninsula road trip from Cape Town.
Extend your Cape Winelands road trip with a stunning coastal drive along the R44 road past Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay to Somerset West. The scenery, with imposing red cliffs on one side and the pounding ocean on the other, is absolutely spectacular! And drop by Betty’s Bay to visit the penguin colony.
Whether you decide to do the coastal loop or not, you’ll pass other gorgeous wine estates like Vergelegen and Lourensford, near the town of Somerset West. Vergelegen is situated in the middle of expansive parklands and offers wine-tasting and meals in its beautiful Cape Dutch buildings. One spectacular wine estate, which is also a stunning place for a meal, is Waterkloof. Perched on a mountainside, this futuristic-looking wine estate offers wine-tasting and serves fantastic food with panoramic views of False Bay.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on the Western Cape:
- The marine life of the Western Cape
- Things to do in Cape Town
- Driving the Klein Karoo loop
- Cederberg: mountain passes, safaris and San rock art
- Driving the Cape Peninsula loop