The Cape Winelands have it all – delicious food and wine, gorgeous scenery and hiking galore. Find the best things to do with this guide.
The Cape Winelands refers to a large area in the Western Cape of South Africa. The term Cape Winelands is often used to refer to a smaller triangular area centred on Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, the area that this post focuses on.
Favourites of the Cape Winelands
Tokara, Boschendal and Babylonstoren are all great wine farms and give you a taste of what there is on offer. Tokara has incredible views and wine, historic Boschendal has many activities and Babylonstoren has beautiful gardens and a top farm shop.
Babel at Baylonstoren uses the freshest local ingredients, Chefs Warehouse at Maison tries daring combinations with many flavours to taste in their tapas, and Miko has classic, delicious food with a view.
Wine Farms of the Cape Winelands
Tokara Wine Farm (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is beautifully situated at the top of Helshoogte Pass between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, with lovely views. You can take a stroll through the beautiful vineyards and olive orchards that link the wine farm’s central buildings.
Tokara has very nice wines, above average even for the great wine farms of the Cape Winelands. A wine tasting (10:00-17:30) here is definitely recommended and should be booked in advance on busy weekends. The TOKARA Director’s Reserve White 2016 is one of my favourite wines.
The fine-dining Tokara Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), open for both lunch (Tue-Sun) and dinner (Tue-Sat), is delicious and you can sit out on the terrace with a glass of wine admiring the view before your meal. For a less formal, child-friendly restaurant, the Tokara Delicatessen (09:00-17:00 Wed-Sun) both serves food and offers quality groceries to buy. You can taste their olive oils as well.
You can hike up Simonsberg Mountain straight from Tokara. It’s best to do it in the morning before the sun becomes too hot as there is no shade. Then you can reward yourself with a delicious lunch.
Food and Drink at Boschendal
We booked a Werf Picnic Basket (collection 12:00-14:00, essential to order in advance, from R310 pp) which we ate on the grass in delightful surroundings. The food was delicious and plentiful but involved rather a lot of plastic wrapping. At the weekends a live band plays in the bandstand.
Apart from picnics, Boschendal also has a farm shop (09:00-16:00), Deli Restaurant (08:00-21:00, book online, especially at weekends) and the classy Werf Restaurant (book online, open for lunch only in 2021).
Wine Tasting (10:00-17:00, from R85 pp) takes place at the Werf Restaurant, and additionally at the Cellar Door on weekends.
Activities at Boschendal
Boschendal has large grounds that you are free to wander around if you don’t stray too far. We saw lots of mushrooms, a very fancy swimming pool and super cute cottages where you can stay. It was autumn and the leaves and vines were changing colour to gorgeous deep reds and oranges, with the ever-present beautiful backdrop of the mountains. Make sure to wander over to the Cape Dutch Farmhouse, at the end of a lovely grassy lawn and surrounded by trees.
We also went horseriding (R450 pp per hour, see website for the schedule and to book in advance) at Boschendal. There are rides for both complete novices and more experienced riders. You walk, trot or canter along their tracks to explore the farm while admiring the splendid views from a raised seat.
There are various trails open for mountain biking (4-30 km, R60 pp), walking/running (5 or 10 km, R60 pp ) or guided hikes (free for overnight guests only) on the large farm. You need to get a permit from the Trail Centre at Boschendal (by the main car park, open Mon-Fri 8:00-17:00, Sat-Sun 7:00-17:00, closed in wet weather). If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one – book in advance ([email protected]). For gentler Farm Tours (R100 pp, free for overnight guests, every day 10:00-11:30) to learn about the history of the farm and conservation, book in advance ([email protected], +27 (021) 870 4211).
If you’re here on a Friday, check out the popular Friday Night Market (17:30 – 20:30, weather dependent) with live music, fresh produce, hot produce and of course alcoholic drinks.
Babylonstoren Wine Farm
Babylonstoren (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is a great wine farm, famous for its large vegetable garden, from where it gets most of the food for its fine-dining restaurant, Babel (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*). The gardens also supply their superb farm shop which has delicious produce and freshly made bread. There are fantastic views of Franschhoek Valley from everywhere and a classic Cape Dutch Farmhouse to admire.
Garden at Babylonstoren
Entrance fees are R20/10 pp and you can wander around the gardens (open 9am – 15pm) by yourself, or go on a guided tour (extra R20 pp). These tours are popular, especially on weekends, so book in advance online. Daily tours of the gardens leave at 10 am from the farm shop, lasting about 1.5 hours. There are also in-depth tours of the special collections in the garden. These focus on, for example, the succulents or the cycads. These start at 11:30 am Mon-Fri only, lasting roughly 1 hour. If you miss out on a spot on the guided tours, there’s an audio tour of the gardens you can do – ask at the ticket office.
Food and Drink at Babylonstoren
Of course, there is also wine tasting (from R80 pp) at Babylonstoren. Additionally, cellar tours (R295 pp including tasting, book online) start at 10am, 1pm and 4pm, lasting 90 minutes. You discover more about Babylonstoren and the history and process of making their wines and visit where it all happens.
Babylonstoren makes delicious olive oil, and suitably have an Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar Tour (R200 pp including tasting, book online) at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, lasting 60 minutes.
We visited La Couronne Wine Farm (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) mainly because they had a chocolate wine pairing on offer. It’s on the other side of Franschhoek town to most of the wine farms. You can see the town as you drive through. La Couronne wasn’t as nice as the other wine farms we visited. Perhaps the deteriorating weather was partly to blame. The wines were nothing special, but the chocolates that came with them were extremely tasty.
Delaire Graff (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is a rather posh wine estate at the top of Helshoogte Pass, opposite Tokara. It also has great views and it’s worth popping by. Wine tasting (no reservations, from R75 pp, 10:00-17:00, later on Fridays for by the glass/bottle) is on a gorgeous terrace in summer or inside by the fire in winter. You can order various sharing plates to accompany your tasting.
There are two fine-dining restaurants at Delaire Graff, the eponymous Delaire Graff Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*, lunch Mon-Sun 12:00-14:00, dinner Thu-Sat 18:00-19:30) and the unique Indochine Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*, lunch Mon-Sun 12:30-14:00, dinner Mon-Sun 18:00-19:00). They both have a la carte or set menu options, reservations essential.
Camberley Wine Farm (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is a small vineyard, also near the top of Helshoogte Pass with lovely views. Because of its boutique size, the wine tasting feels much more personal than elsewhere on the larger estates. Tastings are technically by appointment only, though we just dropped by and it was fine.
Eating in the Cape Winelands
There are so many delicious places to eat in the Cape Winelands. You can’t go wrong. If South Africa had Michelin stars, almost everywhere nearby would have one. You get some of the nicest food in the world at the best value prices.
Lust Bistro & Bakery at Vrede & Lust
In the morning, to enjoy another delicious meal, try Lust Bistro and Bakery (Website, Tripadvisor*). This restaurant/cafe (open 7:30-17:00 Mon-Sat, 8:00-16:00 Sun) is situated on Vrede en Lust wine estate, near the entrance. It’s a great place for breakfast/brunch/lunch and can be busy, so book in advance for the weekends. Their sourdough bread is great, and you can buy some at the bakery in the cafe to take away.
Le Chene Restaurant at Leeu Estates
We went to Le Chene Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) on the Leeu Estates. The food was delicious as expected, and it was nice to wander around the grounds with their interesting sculptures afterwards. Another fantastic restaurant, La Petite Colombe (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), is just next door, also on the Leeu Estates.
Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren
Babel is a delicious restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) at Babylonstoren Wine Farm that uses fresh produce from its beautiful garden. Their menu changes depending on what’s fresh in their garden.
Chefs Warehouse at Maison
Chefs Warehouse (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), on the outskirts of Franschhoek, always has a set menu for two with tapas-like food. They have vegetarian and non-vegetarian options but both people must choose the same. They have a great Chenin Blanc.
Giovanni Restaurant at Laborie
Lunch at Giovanni’s restaurant by Laborie wine estate (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is a good idea if you are in the Paarl area or have just visited Paarl Nature Reserve (see below). You can sit inside or on the lovely terrace just outside.
Towns of the Cape Winelands
There are three main towns in the Cape Winelands: Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl. Of the three, Franschhoek is the smallest by far and has the fewest facilities and most limited choice of accommodation. That said, it is definitely the prettiest with the most scenic surroundings. They all have supermarkets, petrol stations and ATMs.
1. Franschhoek: Museums, Cafe and Scenic Pass
The Huguenot Memorial Monument in Franschhoek is worth seeing. It’s an impressive monument with a mountainous backdrop. It celebrates the influence of the French Huguenots who arrived here in 1600-1800. They helped make this region the important wine region that it is today.
The Huguenot Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*, R100/50, open Mon-Fri 9-16, Sat 10-16, Sun 13:30-16:30 ), next to the Monument, contains exhibits across several historic buildings. It tells the story of the Huguenots who came to this part of South Africa.
If you are tired and need a bit of a rest before dinner, Cafe des Arts (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) in the centre of Franschhoek is a great place to relax and unwind. There’s a peaceful garden to sit in and although we just had hot drinks, we saw that the cafe served many yummy looking things. The entrance is slightly difficult to find – through a small white arch off the main street. There’s a sign above the arch but it’s quite small. Google Maps gets it wrong, the cafe is actually on the west side of the road.
Just beyond Franschhoek, the R45 road winds its way up the end of the valley. It’s worth driving at least a little way up here for the fabulous views back down over the Franschhoek Valley. You can continue this way on a scenic 130 km loop (see below).
2. Stellenbosch: Botanical Garden
Apart from museums, restaurants and bars, Stellenbosch has a lovely little botanical gardens (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*, R15/10, open every day, 21 Jun-31 Aug 9:00-16:00, summer 8:00 -17:00). The botanical gardens are right in the centre of town and there is parking on the nearby streets or in a large car park next door. In the gardens there are cool bonsais, a few hothouses and a very pleasant cafe (Tripadvisor Reviews*) which serves both hot and cold drinks and main meals. We were lucky enough to see two chameleons when we were there – ask the staff if they know where any are!
If you’re feeling peckish, there’s an indoor market nearby, De Warenmarkt (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*). There are several different stalls selling all kinds of food items and also some curio stands.
Drosty Road, also nearby, contains many historic buildings in whitewashed Cape Dutch style. It’s definitely worth taking a stroll down this street, the impressive Moederkerk is also here.
If you’re wanting to visit museums in Stellenbosch, bear in mind that many are closed on Sundays.
3. Paarl: Mountain Nature Reserve
The town of Paarl itself isn’t anything special, but it’s surrounded by nice wine farms and the spectacular Paarl Mountains Nature Reserve to the west.
Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) contains large blobs of granite rock that stick up dramatically from the surroundings. It’s an out-of-this-world landscape with cool short hikes and great views over Paarl. There’s a picnic area that is popular on weekends. To get there involves 5-10 km drive on dirt roads, slightly precariously along a track with a large drop on one side. It’s R30 pp weekends and free during the week. Open Oct-Mar 7am-7pm, Apr-Sep 7am-6pm. No dogs.
Accommodation in the Cape Winelands
Many wine farms have their own deluxe accommodation* which is good value for money but still expensive. This can be convenient if you are eating dinner at the wine farm since you don’t have to worry about a designated driver. There are many other guesthouses in the area, mostly upmarket.
Franschhoek is one of the most expensive places to stay, while Stellenbosch has a larger choice and Paarl has some cheaper, less exclusive places. Airbnb has some unique properties that can be a good deal.
We stayed in a cute white cottage* near Franschhoek through Airbnb. It was very good value compared to similar properties nearby. It was self-catering and had everything we would need to cook (though it’s best to visit the amazing restaurants when here!). There was a lovely stoep where we could sit and relax, overlooking the lily-covered pond. It’s just next door to Leopard’s Leap Wine Farm.
We also stayed at Simonzicht Guesthouse (Website, Booking Reviews*) just below Tokara. There’s a lovely swimming pool with gorgeous views and the breakfast was delicious. It’s walking distance to both Tokara and Delaire Graaf Wine Estates which sit above it at the top of Helshoogte Pass. If you’re feeling very fancy, you can stay at Delaire Graaf itself*.
More Accommodation Options in the Cape Winelands
Camping in the Winelands
There is a great campsite at Orange-Ville Lodge & Guesthouse (Website, Booking Reviews*) in the middle of the Winelands in Pniel, near Helshoogte Pass. There are very nice views from this campsite, and a pool too.
The campsite itself is on a flat field of grass with cute ablutions. A friendly cat was very interested in our car and inspected it thoroughly.
Hikes in the Winelands
Get up into the surrounding mountains for gorgeous views from above and work off a few of those calories.
Road Trips in the Cape Winelands
Below are two lovely circular drives that start in the Cape Winelands. If you don’t have a car, rent one from Cape Town*.
Loop 1: 140 km and 2hr30 driving time
Starting in either Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, this route takes in both of these Wineland towns, the scenic Helshoogte Pass that connects them both, the mountainous Franschhoek Pass, the small Overberg town of Grabauw, Sir Lowry’s Pass with stunning views, Vergelegen Wine Estate and/or Helderberg Nature Reserve, before returning to the start. Possible stop-offs include many wine farms, scenic viewpoints, farm stalls in Grabauw and the Hottentots Holland or Helderberg Nature Reserves for short (or long) hikes.
Loop 2: 120 km and 2hr30 driving time
This loop starts and ends in Paarl. Add an hour if starting from Franschhoek or Stellenbosch. From Paarl head over the scenic Du Toits Kloof Pass (avoiding the Huguenot tunnel on the N1) and into the spectacular Du Toits Kloof Valley. Head to Worcester before turning West on the R43 up the valley where you’re surrounded by vines and rocky mountains. Visit Bosjes for a fantastic lunch, or any of the wine farms in this valley, before returning to Paarl via the lonely, windy Bains Kloof Pass, tucked right into the mountains.
Hire a Car via Rentalcars.com
Make the most of your visit to the Cape Winelands by renting a car* and driving through the beautiful surroundings.
Other Activities in the Cape Winelands
Further afield, if you’re looking for a less-touristy alternative in the Cape Winelands, Tulbagh is a cute nearby town with cheaper accommodation and several nice hiking trails. It’s 1-1.5 hours from Franschhoek Valley.
Guidebooks to explore more of South Africa
FAQS: Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelands refers to a large area of the Western Cape in South Africa that used to be part of the Boland District. While technically encompassing an area of roughly 100 km by 150 km, the term Cape Winelands is often used to refer to a triangular area centred on Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl.
There are hundreds of wine farms in the Cape Winelands. It’s hard to give a precise number because the definition of a wine farm is vague – does wine have to be the farm’s main product to be called a wine farm?
The Cape Winelands start about 50 km, or 45 minutes, from central Cape Town. It takes half an hour longer to reach Franschhoek.
Stellenbosch is much bigger than Franschhoek so it has a larger choice of accommodation and amenities and is much busier, while small, peaceful Franschhoek is much prettier, set in a splendidly scenic valley and full of historic buildings.
Every season is spectacular in the Cape Winelands. Summer brings hot days, glorious sunshine and long, warm evenings. Spring brings wildflowers. In Autumn the leaves and vines turn red, orange with beautiful Autumn foliage. Winter sees snow on some of the surrounding mountains, cosy fires, still warm enough to sit outside and beautifully clear, fresh days.