After you’ve touched down in Cape Town, marvelled at Table Mountain, basked on the beaches and made a visit to Robben Island, it’s time to sip your way around the Cape Winelands. The jagged mountains around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek make ideal Mediterranean-like microclimates for vines, but there’s more to this area than just sampling the pinotage. The best way to take it all in? Fly direct with British Airways, pick up a hire car from Avis and hit the open road, pitstopping at the region’s boutique hotels so you can take time to savour the local history and scenery. And the wine. Let’s not forget the wine.
The buzzing university town of Stellenbosch is full of oak-lined streets (it’s not called the “city of oaks” for nothing) and pretty whitewashed Cape Dutch houses. Work up an appetite (your stomach will thank you later) by going for a hike through the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which has routes for everyone from seasoned hikers to only-brought-trainers types. Then head to Jordan, the restaurant on the Jordan Wine Estate, for lunch. Here, acclaimed South African chef George Jardine serves up smokey yellowtail, steamed Saldanha mussels, and a springbok pot roast. Don’t leave without picking out your farm-made Karoo blue from the walk-in cheese room.
Take a post-prandial stroll down memory lane, AKA the historic Dorp Street, popping into the museums, art galleries and coffee shops. Make sure you visit Oom Samie se Winkel general trading store – a Stellenbosch institution. Then check out what’s on at the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre – an open-air concert venue with views of the mountains and vineyards. Finally, bed down in Oude Werf, a boutique hotel in the heart of Stellenbosch. With its mix of period features – fireplaces, roll-top baths – and modern touches such as an outdoor pool, this makes the perfect base to explore the Winelands.
After a hearty breakfast of smoked Franschhoek salmon trout and peppered eggs at the hotel, it’s time to hit the wine route. There are more than 100 wineries waiting just outside Stellenbosch, but the best have something more to offer than just a glass (or two). Elevate the experience by going to a chocolate and wine tasting at the Waterford Estate. Here, chief winemaker Kevin Arnold has teamed up with chocolatier Richard von Geusau, creating the perfect cocoa treats for guests. Then drive to Middelvlei Wine Estate for a plate of boere tapas (farmers’ tapas) including snoek (a type of mackerel), paté and boerewors (farmers’ sausage). Here, you can also enjoy a wine-blending experience, where you can make your own wine and get a personalised label to bring the bottle home. That’s all your holiday presents sorted. And don’t forget to thank your designated driver – they selflessly made it possible for you to enjoy all the wine on offer, after all.
Don’t linger too long, as you’ll want to be sober for your Segway tour of Spier Wine Farm, where you can enjoy the views of the mountains turning red at sunset. Park up at Oude Werf hotel then walk back to town for pre-dinner drinks at Craft Wheat & Hops (if you need a break from the vino) and then dinner at Eike on Dorp Street. Even if South African TV chef Bertus Basson isn’t around, his 12-course tasting menu of nostalgic dishes such as bobotie (a South African moussaka) is a local celebrity in its own right.
Grab a croissant at the bakery/cafe Schoon Manufactory and then hit the road for one of the best drives of your life. The winding route from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek through the Helshoogte Pass is photo-opp central. You’ll pass mile after mile of vineyards set against the towering Groot Drakenstein mountains. Once you’ve had your picture fix, make your way into town for lunch at Foliage, where ingredients such as wild mushrooms and edible flowers are foraged from the valley, then check in to Leeu Estates. This hip hotel is nestled on the slopes of the Dassenberg with 17 rooms and an impressive art collection. Although you’re surrounded by mountains and rolling vineyards, you’re still just a three-minute drive from Franschhoek’s pretty high street.
Park the car and hop on the Franschhoek Wine Tram to La Motte – the beautiful grounds include an art gallery, a wine-tasting hall and an excellent restaurant. Don’t miss Boschendal, one of the oldest wine estates in the country where you can sip their signature pinot noir and chardonnay blend under giant fruit trees. Complete your days of indulgence with dinner at the Haute Cabrière at the Haute Cabrière wine estate in the hills overlooking Franschhoek. It would be rude not to order the six-course taster menu with wine pairing – just be prepared for the owner to open the wine with a sabre. Don’t try that at home.
How to book
With direct flights from London to Cape Town, British Airways Holidays can help make your South Africa fly-drive unforgettable. Book with British Airways Holidays and Avis to benefit from a 24-hour holiday helpline, full Atol protection and deposits starting from just £75 per person.