A Road Trip To Remember: What To Do When Exploring The Cape Winelands

PineChats

June 25, 2024
by
Team Pineapple

The Western Cape is arguably one of the most beautiful provinces in South Africa. For decades, it has enthralled both South African citizens and foreign guests. 

The province has long called out to people from all over as the ultimate holiday destination. 

The burning desire to visit the beautiful area at least once is akin to the hypnotic way sirens would enchant sailors with their melodious music, causing them to abandon all rational thought.

But instead of luring you to your doom, a road trip along the Western Cape promises scenic sights, tantalising tastes and whimsical wineries.

Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or simply consumed by wanderlust, a road trip to the Cape Winelands will tick all the right boxes and satisfy even the pickiest of people. 

Read on to learn more about planning your road trip, the route itinerary, life-changing culinary experiences, activities and attractions, and how to budget for your trip.

You’ll also learn about sustainability in the Cape Winelands, and we’ll give you some tips for safe driving.

And for those of you planning to trek from Johannesburg, read our fun and insightful guide on how to make it the best trip ever here (From Johannesburg To Cape Town: A Classic South African Road Trip).

And if you’re already in the Western Cape, why not explore more of what the province has to offer using Pineapple’s Garden Route guide?

Planning Your Road Trip

Best time of year to travel

The Cape Winelands are spectacular to explore all year round. 

Still, the region really shines from September through to February.

These are South Africa’s spring-summer months, meaning temperatures are warm and the climate is dry, perfect for outdoor activities.

The pleasant weather allows you to truly soak up the South African sun while immersing yourself in the tourist experience.

September and October offer perfectly warm daytime temperatures, while the evenings are slightly cooler.

Visiting during this time also means you have the added benefit of avoiding crowds before the busy summer months.

November through to February, a.k.a summertime, is considered the best time to visit the Cape Winelands.

The Western Cape typically experiences winter rainfall, so travelling in summer means you’re guaranteed clear, blue skies for days.

Recommended length of the trip

The Cape Winelands stretch for more than 21 000 km², but fret not – only a select few places are a must-see.

The best that the Winelands offer can all be experienced in a day.

However, the recommended length of a fully immersive trip is anywhere between 24 hours and five days. 

Those looking to savour the adventure can even opt for an eight-day journey. 

Choosing a rental car and tips for driving in South Africa

Your starting point will undoubtedly be Cape Town, but before your journey can begin, you’ll probably require a rental car.

One can be found at the Cape Town International Airport.

Choosing a rental car involves picking the size and type of car, fuel efficiency, and transmission type (manual or automatic).

Consider the amount of space you’ll need, your comfort level, your budget for petrol and whether you’ll be doing any off-road driving.

Driving on South Africa’s roads isn’t rocket science but requires some planning.

International travellers should be wary of driving on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.

Most major roads are generally in good condition; however, some secondary or rural roads might be poorer. 

So, watch out for any potholes.

Safety might also be a concern, but the Winelands route is quite popular, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

Still, practice vigilance by having a well-serviced car with spare tyres and emergency contact numbers for breakdowns, and ensure you don’t travel at night. 

Should you have no other choice but to travel after dark, practice further caution by central locking your doors, keeping your windows closed or slightly ajar and not stopping for anyone.

Also, be sure to have sufficient data for your phone.

Accommodation options along the route

After a long day of driving, you’ll need a place to rest your head. 

Thankfully, with 1186 hotels and other places to choose from, the Winelands have plenty.

Popular cities to stay on the route include Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Somerset West and Paarl.

Among the most highly rated places to stay include lush hotels like Babylonstoren, La Residence, Light House Boutique Suites and the Southern Sun de Wagen, to name a few.

A simple online booking is all it takes to make any one of the above places your home away from home during your time on the Cape Winelands route.

Route Itinerary

Regardless of the length of your stay, your itinerary will undoubtedly take you to the best corners of the Western Cape.

The Cape Winelands offer more than just sampling an array of wine options.

You’re also in for a treat with unique gastronomic goûts, wildlife safaris and other outdoor, action-packed activities ready and awaiting your pleasure and enjoyment.

Your tour isn’t complete without pitstops in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl – all a mere stone’s throw away from each other.

Overview of the route itinerary through the Cape Winelands

PLEASE NOTE: It should go without saying that drinking and driving is not only a bad idea, but it’s extremely dangerous and very illegal. The following route should be undertaken at full sobriety. If you plan to incorporate alcoholic beverages into your trip, be responsible and enlist e-hailing services or other (SOBER) drivers to assist with shuttling you about. Safety first, safety always! – Xoxo, Pineapple.

Day 1 – Stellenbosch.

Begin your day exploring the beautiful town, visiting historic sites like Dorp Street and the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden.

Start your wine tour with a visit to the jewel of the Cape Winelands, the Delaire Graff Estate and the Waterford Estate.

Here, you can enjoy lunch with beautiful views of the vineyards.

Day 2 – Franschhoek. 

A 30-minute drive from Stellenbosch will lead you to the town of Franschhoek. 

Explore the town’s wineries, like La Motte, for its art and wine and Chamonix for an exceptional wine-tasting experience.

If you can successfully make a booking, visit the Franschhoek Motor Museum for a look at over 100 years of motoring history.

Day 3 – Paarl.

Another drive, only 20 minutes long, will take you from Franschhoek to Paarl.

Your visit should include Fairview Wine and Cheese or another vineyard like Vondeling Wines or Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons.

Unfortunately, Paarl has fewer accommodation options.

So you might want to consider returning to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek for the night or even heading back to Cape Town, which is about an hour's drive away.

Top wineries and vineyards to visit

South Africa is hailed far and wide for its world-class wineries. 

So it’s only fitting that your trip includes some stops at the best vineyards in the southern hemisphere.

Taste is subjective, and ratings are too. 

Still, according to us a couple of hundred positive reviews, these wine-tasting spots aren’t to be missed:

  1. Beau Constantia.

  1. Mitre's Edge Wine Estate.

  1. Boschendal Wine Estate.
  1. Babylonstoren Wine Farm.
  1. Nederburg Wine Farm.

You can’t go wrong with stops in nearby towns, such as Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek – from luxury hotels to charming B&Bs, your overnight stay will be well accommodated.

Places like The Stellenbosch Hotel, Majeka House or Oude Werf Hotel deliver historic charm, beautifully designed rooms and comfort.

Franschhoek also has exquisite establishments for weary travellers hoping to rest their heads for the night.

Hotels like Le Quartier Français, Mont Rochelle and Franschhoek Country House & Villas make for a memorable stay.

Culinary Experiences

The Cape Winelands aren’t just renowned for their impeccable wine options but for their delectable culinary scene.

A wide array of food experiences await you to sink your teeth into, from traditional South African cuisine to innovative fusion dishes and world-class fine dining.

Traditional South African cuisine includes tasty treats like biltong, boerewors and bobotie.

Fusion cuisine refers to elements of different culinary traditions combined to form a new and exciting plate of food.

Establishments like Gate Restaurant at Quoin Rock and Glen Carlou Restaurant excel in delivering the finest fusion cuisine.

And if it’s fine dining you’re searching for, look no further than La Petite Colombe, Tokara Restaurant or Rust en Vrede are some great options.

Must-try restaurants and cafes

Where does one go for good food, fantastic drinks and even better views? 

Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer to this question; we’ve compiled a list just for you.

  1. Jordan Restaurant.
  2. Postcard Café at Stark-Condé Wines.
  3. Babel at Babylonstoren.
  4. The Goatshed at Fairview.
  5. Noop.

Activities and Attractions

Outdoor activities

We’ve discussed, dissected and suggested almost every food and wine spot in the Cape Winelands.

So we wouldn’t blame you for thinking this is all the area offers. 

But you'd be sorely mistaken if you were under that impression.

Numerous outdoor activities, art and culture attractions, and enjoyable shopping opportunities exist.

From biking to hiking and horseback riding, the Cape Wineland’s great outdoors are an open and welcoming invitation.

You can also enjoy abseiling, carriage drives, hand gliding, ziplining, hot air balloon rides, and cliff jumps.

Art and cultural attractions

For a culturally rich experience, head over to the Huguenot Monument and Museum in Franschhoek to learn about the history and influence of the French Huguenots who settled there.

Similarly, other cultural hubs like the Stellenbosch Village Museum can provide an equally enriching experience.

There are also activities where wine tasting meets music with Drumstruck’s wine, lively performances and ancient stories.

Shopping

But what’s a holiday without silly trinkets and souvenirs to take back to remember your trip?

Luckily, you’ll never know, thanks to the many stores where you can shop until you (figuratively) drop.

  • The Trading Company is a décor store filled with old, new, trendy, colourful, fresh, and artistic.

  • The Waterford Estate allows you to buy a range of premium chocolates that are often paired with their signature wines.

Budgeting for Your Trip

Your budget largely depends on your trip's duration, activities you participate in, meals and wine-tasting, and where and what souvenirs you pick up.

Not to mention the level of luxury you choose, the time of year, and your personal preferences.

Accommodation: The cheapest accommodation in Cape Town starts at R269. The pricer options can set you back as much as R7000 or more.

Food and Drink: An average meal should cost around R140 per person, including the server’s tip. 

Transportation: E-hailing services can cost anywhere between R220 and upwards, depending on the distance. Driving your own vehicle means you’ll instead need a fuel budget, and it typically costs R1500 to fill up a tank.

Activities: The pricey activities tend to be planned group options, like safaris or guided wine tastings, ranging from R895.50 for a private group tour to R3 399 for a tour with a wine expert.  One of the more expensive options is a full-day safari in the Aquila Game Reserve, totalling R5 800 per adult.

Miscellaneous: You’ll also want to budget for spending on trinkets and souvenirs that might catch your eye along the way. And since you’re on a wine-tasting spree, you might enjoy a glass of wine so much that you want to take a bottle home. Depending on the vineyard, that’ll set you back about R120 to R440.

Tips for saving money

There are numerous ways to enjoy the Cape Winelands while keeping your budget intact.

Firstly, consider visiting in the shoulder or off-peak seasons when accommodation and flights can be cheaper, and wineries and restaurants may be less crowded.

Next, consider staying in less touristy areas within easy driving distance, and make your accommodation bookings in advance to secure a better deal.

Additionally, consider cooking some of your meals if your accommodation has kitchen facilities. You can find local delicacies at a much lower price than those in restaurants.

You also don’t have to spend on every little thing.

Some wineries offer free tastings or waive the tasting fee if you purchase a bottle of their wine.

Other places ​offer group discounts for activities and wine tastings, so if you’re travelling with your whole squad, why not take advantage of this money-saving opportunity?

Sustainability in the Cape Winelands

In the Cape Winelands, numerous wineries are certified organic. 

This type of farming shuns synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, or herbicides. 

Instead, it uses natural processes and materials to control pests and enrich the soil.

Other techniques like cover cropping, green manuring, and composting to maintain soil health are used to achieve the best results.

Wine farms such as Groot Constantia are acknowledged as environmental leaders for their commitment to conservation, responsible production practices, and integrated environmental management systems.

To take it a step further, wine farms have even introduced biodynamic farming methods.

While organic farming permits some organic fertilisers and imported pesticides, biodynamic farming systems encourage their own fertility.

Biodynamic farming is a self-sustaining ecosystem that creates and maintains health and vitality without external inputs. 

Given that the Western Cape has faced severe water shortages, many wineries have adopted practices that conserve water, including drought-resistant cover crops, drip irrigation, and wastewater recycling.

Eco-friendly wineries and vineyards to visit.

Here’s a list of wine farms and vineyards to visit that produce organic wine:

Tips for Safe Driving

Driving in South Africa can be a great way to experience the country.

However, there are a few challenges, like traffic and road conditions, which you should consider when taking to the streets.

Safety tips for driving on South African roads

Safe driving starts with obeying the rules of the road by keeping to the speed limit. 

The speed limit is generally between 80 to 120km/h on freeways, 100km/h on secondary roads and 60km/h in urban areas.

When you get anywhere near the rural areas, please keep your eyes peeled as animals can make their way onto the road, especially at night.

In addition to looking out for animals, be sure to look out for motorists who act like wild animals behind the wheel.

South African drivers can sometimes be aggressive or unpredictable.

Ensure you always maintain a safe following distance and avoid confrontations with other road users.

Lastly, road conditions may not be the best, such as potholes, lack of signage, and dirt roads; always keep a safe speed and be ready to slow down if needed.

And, of course, there’s the matter of driving at all while you’re on a wine-tasting tour. Keep in mind that drunk driving is not only dangerous but illegal in South Africa and almost everywhere else in the world.

When embarking on a wine-tasting experience, it’s better to organise a tour where you won’t be the one getting behind the wheel at any point during your excursion. 

Tips for staying safe while travelling

  1. For your safety and security, keep your doors locked, and all the windows closed, especially in cities, traffic lights, and slow-moving traffic. This will prevent opportunistic crimes or at least make them more difficult.

  1. Watching your surroundings in exceptionally crowded places can help you avoid falling victim to pickpockets.

  1. Avoid leaving valuables in plain sight when you park your car, as this can attract break-ins. Another way to stay safe is to park in well-lit, busy areas or use secure parking facilities. 

  1. If all else fails, ask the locals for recommendations about areas you should avoid. Follow their advice, and if a place feels unsafe, leave immediately.

  1. Lastly, we advise selecting a designated driver to ensure no one in your party drives while under the influence. 

A Final Word

The Cape Winelands are ready and waiting for you to visit.

This once-in-a-lifetime road trip encourages you to explore your adventurous side by inviting you to experience the Western Cape's scenic sights, enticing tastes, and charming wineries.

The itinerary stretches from the historic town of Stellenbosch to the culinary haven of Franschhoek and the vineyards of Paarl, with activities encompassing everything from wine tastings to wildlife safaris. 

Along the way, you'll have the chance to try traditional South African cuisine, stay at unique accommodations, and visit sustainable vineyards committed to organic and biodynamic farming practices.

As you plan your trip, remember to prioritise safe driving practices.

So, start planning your own Cape Winelands adventure, and prepare for an unforgettable journey through the heart of South Africa's wine country.

And don’t forget to get an obligation-free quote for Pineapple’s comprehensive cover. 

Click here to enjoy maximum protection no matter where your travels take you. Also, what says ‘holiday mode’ better than a tropical fruit? So, get a quote today and stress less tomorrow.

Pineapple (FSP 48650) is underwritten by Old Mutual Insure, a licensed FSP and non-life insurer. T&Cs apply. Premium is risk profile dependent.

Team Pineapple

Team Pineapple comprises our company’s top talents, who are dedicated to creating clear, high-quality content on essential vehicle insurance topics. This diverse group, including actuaries, accountants, data scientists, and insurance professionals across South Africa, collaborates to produce enlightening and empowering articles.

Each piece is thoroughly researched, factually accurate, and rigorously reviewed to ensure quality.

*We say they’re the finest because we want them to keep writing for us!

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Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

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