Cape Winelands Highlights

cape winelands tokara

The Cape Winelands have it all – delicious food and wine, gorgeous scenery and hiking galore. Find the best things to do with this guide.

grapes in the cape winelands, south africa

Location

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

Wine Farms

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.

Restaurants

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.

Activites

Hiking up Simonsberg for fabulous views, horseriding at Boschendal and visiting the cool botanical garden at Stellenbosch are all unique activities in the Winelands.

Wine Farms of the Cape Winelands

Tokara

Tokara Vines and Olive Trees
Tokara Vines and Olive Trees
Views from Tokara, cape winelands
Views from Tokara

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.

tokara wine farm, south afirca
two wine glasses at tokara, western cape, south afica
tokara wine farm, south africa
wine tasting at tokara, western cape, south africa
tokara restaurant starter, cape winelands, south africa
tokara restaurant
tokara restaurant desert

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.

Boschendal

boschendal wine farm, cute white cottages, western cape, south africa

Boschendal (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is one of the oldest, largest and most famous wine farms in the Franschhoek Valley.

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.

 boschendal grapes, cape winelands
gorgeous autumn colors at boschendal, cape winelands, south africa
gorgeous autumn colors at boschendal
gorgeous autumn coloured grapes at boschendal
Autumn colours at Boschendal

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.

historic boschendal in the famous cape winelands
horse riding at boschendal
picnic at boschendal wine farm
boschendal manor, cape winelands

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 (trailcentre@boschendal.co.za). 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 (reservations1@boschendal.co.za, +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.

Babylonstoren Farm Shop
Babylonstoren Farm Shop
Cape Dutch Manor at Babylonstoren wine farm
Cape Dutch Manor at Babylonstoren

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.

At the far end of the garden is the Greenhouse Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) which serves picnic-style food 10h00 – 16h00 with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Babylonstoren Gardens in the cape winelands
In the lovely Babylonstoren Gardens
Meeting the Donkeys at Babylonstoren
Meeting the Donkeys at Babylonstoren

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.

La Couronne

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

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.

mountainous views from Delaire Graff in the cape winelands
mountainous views from Delaire Graff

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 Wines

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.

Bosman Family Vineyard

Bosman is a lovely family wine farm (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) in the countryside near Wellington. They have a nice wine tasting and are big on ethical and sustainable practices. We visited when participating in a trail half-marathon that started here.


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.

vrede en lust wine farm, western cape
lust bistro and bakery bread
vrede en lust wine farm, western cape
lust bistro, cape winelands, south africa

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.

Le Chene Restaurant at Leeu Estates
Leeu Estates, cape winelands
Le Chene Restaurant, south africa

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.

Chefs Warehouse at Maison  in the cape winelands
food at Chefs Warehouse at Maison
Miko Restaurant at mont rochelle in the cape winelands
Views from Miko Restaurant

Miko Restaurant

Miko Restaurant (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), at Mont Rochelle Winery, is a highly rated restaurant with great views. Get there before it’s dark to enjoy the sunset!

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.

Laborie Wine Estate by giovanni restaurant
Laborie Wine Estate

Towns of the Cape Winelands

Of the three main towns, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, 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.

Franschhoek Museums, Cafe and 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. 

Huguenot Memorial Monument in franschhoek, cape winelands
Huguenot Memorial Monument
Huguenot Memorial Museum in franschhoek
Huguenot Memorial Museum
Huguenot Memorial Museum
In the museum

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.

cafe des arts in franschhoek, western cape

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. 

Franschhoek Pass

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).

franschhoek pass with views of the cape winelands

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!

bonsai, stellenbosch botanical gardens, in the cape winelands
chameleon, stellenbosch botanical gardens, south africa
chameleon, stellenbosch botanical gardens, south africa
De Warenmarkt in stellenbosch

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.

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 Domes, western cape, south africa

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.

A cute white cottage near Franschhoek

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, Tripadvisor 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.

Simonzicht Guesthouse in the cape winelands, south africa

Camping in the Winelands

There is a great campsite at Orange-Ville Lodge & Guesthouse (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) in the middle of the Winelands in Pniel, near Helshoogte Pass. There are very nice views from this campsite, and a pool too.

pool at the orange ville camping in the cape winelands, western cape
amazing views from camping in the cape winelands at Orange-Ville Lodge & Guesthouse

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.

bathroom at Orange-Ville Lodge & Guesthouse campsite in the cape winelands, western cape
shower at Orange-Ville Lodge & Guesthouse campsite
camping with a cat
Orange-Ville Lodge & Guesthouse campsite, south africa

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

There are two lovely circular drives that start in the Cape Winelands:

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.

reservoir

Loop 2: 120 km and 2hr30 driving time

du toits kloof pass

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.


Other Activities in the Cape Winelands

golf course at val de vie, franschhoek valley, cape winelands

Golf at Val de Vie Estate (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) in the centre of Franschhoek Valley is R1495 pp for non-affiliated visitors.

tulbagh historic houe

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.

FAQS – Cape Winelands

Where are the Cape Winelands?

The Cape Winelands refers to a large area of Western Cape in South Africa that used to be part of 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.

How many wine farms are in the Cape Winelands?

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?

How far are the Cape Winelands from Cape Town?

The Cape Winelands start about 50 km, or 45 minutes, from central Cape Town. It takes half an hour longer to reach Franschhoek.

Which is better, Stellenbosch or 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.

What’s the best time of year to visit the Cape Winelands?

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.


Why not find out more about things to do in South Africa? If you want to extend your holiday, and want to get some ideas, check out the book I wrote* on our two-month road trip through South Africa.

Tokara wine glass and lions head
At the Tokara tastings, you get to keep your wine glass!

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