Just an hour's drive from Cape Town and you are in Africa’s top wine destination, Stellenbosch.
The climate is perfect to harvest some excellent wines and it’s up to you to try them right there. There are so many places and things to do and to recommend in Stellenbosch, that you could easily stay a week there. For a shorter trip I would recommend the following, which fits in perfectly for a stay of 3-4 days.
Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch
You can taste wine pretty much anywhere in Stellenbosch and it's very tough to recommend only a few, as there are simply so many good ones. Here are two of them:
The Jordan Wine Estate is one of my favorite places in Stellenbosch and there are several reasons for that. It starts with their good wines, delicious food and its location with a stunning view onto the Hottentots-Holland Mountains.
The wine estate has an on site “Bakery” as well, which is a bistro style restaurant. There is a nice sitting area outside beneath the trees, overlooking a water reservoir, the vineyards and a view onto the mountain range. Try their cheese platter and add some pastries and a coffee. They also serve lunch, if you should be more hungry.
Then there is the wine tasting section where you can enjoy their different vintages. If you would like to opt for fine dining, than the “Restaurant” is the place to go. I haven’t eaten there yet, but the terrace looked inviting and I’m sure the food will be very good, too.
If you would like a different kind of wine tasting, then I recommend one of their vineyard tours. They take you up the hill in a safari 4x4 and drive you around their property. You will not just find out more about their different wines, but also taste some of them right up on the hill. On the very top you are able to see Cape Town with the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side the warmer Indian Ocean. This amazing spot has its own special microclimate, which allows the Jordan Wine Estate to grow all kinds of different grapes. Their slopes face all four cardinal directions and are on different altitudes, so that they can grow the different grapes on the most suitable spots.
They have also added several beautiful and cozy decorated suites, so that you could stay right there. The suites also have the view onto the mountains and the vineyards and are really spacious. I stayed in one of them on a previous visit and really liked them.
Have your children done a wine tasting with you, though they are still under 16? Not just attending, but actually tasting themselves? Probably not, but at Middelvlei Stellenbosch Wines it’s possible! No worries, you won’t have drunken troublemakers, as it’s a juice tasting and not actual wine. Middelvlei provides a small basket for kids. It includes some fun games around grapes and tastes and then there is an actual blind tasting, where it’s about identifying and pairing the right flavors of drinks to similar tasting sweets.
Middelvlei is also nicely positioned a bit outside of the city. There is a big lawn with a seating area to do your wine tasting and to enjoy a good and traditional South African lunch. Come with an empty stomach as there is plenty to eat! Why not start with a wine tasting and then have your choice of wine with the meal? You can decide between boerebraai tapas or a proper South African braai (bbq) experience.
You can stay here easily a bit longer, while the kids feed the farm animals or play in the open space with some toys.
Where to Eat in Stellenbosch
We already have recommended the Jordan & Middelvlei wine estates above. Both are good choices to have lunch or dinner.
Then there are many restaurants in Stellenbosch itself, like the Coopmanhuijs, but if you are looking for a relaxed afternoon in the park followed by dinner, then head to Spier 1692. Spier has so much to offer that I recommend checking out their website. It’s one of the oldest South African wine farms, providing good wines and so much more, like picnics in the park, eagle shows, segways tours, a hotel, conference facilities, art festivals and several restaurants.
We had dinner at Restaurant Eight, which is a perfect end for an afternoon on their property. I sadly didn’t feel too well on that day, so I decided to go easy and just had a soup. My wife’s meal looked and tasted yummy though. All meals, on a clearly defined menu, were light cuisine using fresh ingredients of good quality. The chef focuses on products from their own farm or nearby farmers and uses lots of organic and natural ingredients. The service was very friendly as well and helped me feel better again. Just outside is a spacious outdoor area, perfect for the kids. Inside the restaurant decor was elegant and tasteful, using recycled bottles and other recycled materials. On our visit there were woven images, made out of paper on the walls. These additions were special and made the visit worthwhile.
What to Do with Kids in Stellenbosch
A wine region is not inherently child-friendly, though Stellenbosch is definitely a place for the whole family. South Africa is very kid friendly in general. Many restaurants provide playgrounds and locals welcome families. That’s also what we have experienced in Stellenbosch.
Still you might be looking for some extra entertainment and that’s where we recommend to visit the Spier Eagle Encounters.
It is part of the Spier 1692 concept, which I wrote about above. I’ve seen eagle shows before and it was not the actual show itself what makes me recommend visiting this place. Don’t get me wrong, the show with the birds is good, but it’s actually walking around and looking at the birds and chatting to the staff, that makes this place a top visit for the whole family. The staff is always there to answer questions and also to assist with petting different birds. Apart from eagles and owls, there are a few more animals to see. There is a playground, which includes a small petting zoo with goats, pigs, rabbits, tortoises, chickens and an ostrich. It’s even possible to hold a real python, a bambino hedgehog and a lizard.
But the Eagle Encounter is actually not mainly about the show and seeing the animals from a short distance, it’s focused on rehabilitating and releasing injured birds. They get up to 400 birds per year, brought to them by locals and they take care of them and do their best to release them into the wild again.
The actual eagle show was also fun, as it included a direct interaction with the different birds like eagles, falcons and owls. It included good info about the birds, fun jokes and owls that hopped from guest’s arm to arm. Every couple of hours there are different shows worth attending! The entrance fee is 75 ZAR (around €5) per adult and 65 ZAR (around €4.40) for kids.
Then you should visit the duck parade! Yes, this exists! We couldn’t make it timewise, sadly, but a good friend recommended this one to me. At Vergenoegd the ducks help to keep snails and bugs out of the wine field. So each morning and afternoon there are over 1,000 ducks strolling their way into the vineyards and you can watch them. Why not start your day with ducks, followed by a first wine tasting?
Duck parade times:
Monday - Friday: 07:00, 12:30 & 15:30;
Saturday, Sundays and public holidays: 10:00, 12:30 & 15:30
Where to Stay in Stellenbosch
It’s the second time I’ve stayed in the Oude Werf Hotel and I can recommend that you do, too. It’s very centrally positioned in the historic part of Stellenbosch and is a good start to explore the city and the region.
The Oude Werf has a long history and it has kept its period detail, though it’s now combined with an elegant and modern touch through renovations. Before it was South Africa’s first church, which burned down at some point. Years later new owners took over and now it’s South Africa’s oldest continuously operating hotel, which offers 58 rooms. The hotel rooms are all luxurious and have really comfy mattresses. Some are still in the original building and some are in the new part, most of them facing the courtyard with the pool. There is free and quick WiFi, which is always good to have. Then it’s also possible to park your car safely in the garage (valet parking).
The breakfast is really good and has everything you need and far more, starting with fruits, cereals, different breads, local cheeses, patisserie, cooked breakfast, fresh juices, good coffee…and far more. We also had dinner at Oude Werf and the open kitchen cooked us delicious meals.
Room prices start at around 1,500 ZAR (around €95) per night and there are three categories: luxury, deluxe and superior rooms and all the rooms vary a bit with its design and interior, always providing a high standard.
Plan in 4-5 hours to explore Stellenbosch by foot. The receptionists are happy to give you some tips, like visiting the botanical garden close by or Oom Samie se Winkel, a victorian style shop, perfect to buy souvenirs.
Travel tip shared by Melvin for Travel Dudes.