South Africa’s Cape Winelands is located in a stunning corner of the Western Cape province, a short drive away from Cape Town. The historic towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl dominate the tourism scene 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 in this stunning region to truly appreciate its grand natural beauty and its fabulous food and wines.
Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl
Stellenbosch is a historic town that boasts a multitude of grand Cape Dutch mansions, rustic avenues lined by centuries-old oaks and a dizzying array of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and lovely B&Bs. Read about things to do in Stellenbosch.
The drive from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek through the Hellshoogte Pass is stunning. You’ll pass mile after mile of vineyards set against the dramatic backdrop of the towering Groot Drakenstein 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) and Boschendal (totally breathtaking location; fabulous wine-tasting/lunches in the garden; try the intriguing Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend). Read about my recommended wineries to visit in Stellenbosch.
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), La Petit Ferme, Marigold (delicious Indian cuisine), The French Connection and Monneaux. Another great culinary highlight is the Haute Cabriere Cellar at the Haute Cabriere wine estate up in the hills overlooking Franschhoek (and yes, the owner does show off by opening wine bottles with a saber – I preferred to pay more attention to the food! ;-).
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 an excellent restaurant. Read about my visit to La Motte.
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.
If you decide to do the loop outlined below, 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.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on the Western Cape:
- The marine life of the Western Cape
- Ten things to do in Cape Town
- Driving the Klein Karoo loop
- Cederberg: mountain passes, safaris and San rock art
- Driving the Cape Peninsula loop