Beyond Cape Town: discover the Winelands, West Coast and Garden Route

Vergelegen Wine Estate. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

It’s hard to leave the sights and beaches of our beautiful city. Nevertheless a trip to the spectacular Winelands for a day or two is not to be missed, with at least six wine routes besides the historical towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl to explore.

You could also follow locals up the lesser-known West Coast to relax and eat crayfish, enjoy the birdlife or even kayak on the Langebaan lagoon. Alternatively, take a few days to drive the world-renowned Garden Route, with its pristine beaches, lakes and mountain scenery around Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay as highlights. Everything from golf and polo to hiking trails through fynbos and in marine reserves, or zip-lining in the canopy above the indigenous Tsitsikamma Forest, is on offer.

Exploring the Winelands

One of the delights of visiting Cape Town is that it’s close enough to the Winelands for a day trip, with the first wine estates just 30 to 40 minutes from the city. It’s also a gourmand’s paradise, where some of the country’s top 10 restaurants serve memorable meals in an exquisite setting.

The choice of wine routes is diverse but the lesser-known Durbanville and Helderberg routes offer a different experience  to the popular routes of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. For those who like to explore new regions, the Paarl and Wellington wine routes are not much further inland. And there’s more: brandy connoisseurs will enjoy tasting in Stellenbosch and Wellington, while French Champagne lovers can discover the fruits of our internationally renowned Méthode Cap Classique.

Beyond these routes are the West Coast, Swartland, Robertson and Overberg wine regions, all with wineries along the way. But visiting the Winelands is also about experiencing our Cape Dutch heritage, wandering the quaint oak-lined streets of the university town of Stellenbosch, or taking children strawberry picking. Artisanal markets, organic foods, art galleries and antique stores dot the countryside and towns, with a vintage car museum, horse and carriage rides, and hot-air ballooning or mountain biking trails and walks to enjoy.

Take a tip from insiders and locals: book a table at a restaurant with a view or enjoy a gourmet lunch at the table of one of the Winelands’ top chefs, and spend time wine tasting on route to the restaurant. This will give you the opportunity to savour the scenery and explore each farm or get to know the winemaker and do a cellar tour.  The trick is not to try and do too much and to select two or three estates before you drive out of the city. Try a mix of historical and modern wineries to give you a sense of the development and success of Cape wines. Detailed maps and the Cape Town Tourism Visitor’s Guide are packed with information and route suggestions but each wine route also has a local tourism office.

The Wild West Coast

Literally half an hour from Cape Town, wide open spaces signal the start of the West Coast, but a stop along the way at the traditional San village and restaurant at !Khawa ttu is a great way to understand its fascinating history. Birdwatchers can be found quietly sitting in the bird hides at Langebaan, where flamingoes abound in winter and 70 000 winged migrants arrive from northern Russia in summer. Adventure seekers are seen kayaking, kitesurfing and windsurfing on the lagoon while others are happy to book a beach house and simply flop into a hammock to idly plan their next seafood feast.

Travelling the Garden Route

The delights of the scenic Garden Route are within easy reach of Cape Town, with regular hour-long flights to George or a five- to six-hour journey as options. Excellent roads make driving through the countryside a pleasure - there is the direct N2, or a combination of Route 62 and the N2 that is circular and offers diverse scenery. Most travellers head for the lake district between Wilderness and Sedgefield, or the spectacular town of Knysna on the lagoon. A little further, Plettenberg Bay offers the marine reserve of Robberg and a sweep of beautiful beaches stretching to Nature’s Valley.  Beyond that, along the rugged coastline of Storm’s River, is the famous Otter Trail. If a safari experience is on your wish list, Addo Elephant Park and the game reserves of the Eastern Cape are a stone’s throw from Port Elizabeth.