Stellenbosch is home to the oldest and most acclaimed wineland regions in South Africa. Conveniently located 40km east of Cape Town it is the perfect destination for a day trip, a weekend break or a holiday getaway.
A Brief History
In the Seventeenth Century Simon van der Stel, the second governor of the Cape of Good Hope set out to explore the uncharted land in the peninsula. On 6 November 1679 he happened across a river running through a magnificent valley. He named the river Eerste Rivier and the area surrounding it Van der Stel Bosch. Families began to settle there not long after the area was discovered due to the rich and fertile nature of the soil. This small settlement later became known as Stellenbosch, and is the second oldest city in South Africa. Many years later in 1971 Stellenbosch became home to the first official South African Wine Route.
Stellenbosch, affectionately known as “Eikestad”, Town of Oaks, is the second oldest town in South Africa and boasts a reputation as a melting pot of culture, history and of course… wine. Apart from being a rich agricultural area Stellenbosch is also home to South Africa’s second oldest university. The University of Stelenbosch was founded in 1866 and is now educating approximately 22,000 students a year.
What to See and Do
Whether you are planning a short or long stay in Stellenbosch there is plenty to keep you occupied. The main tourist attractions in the area are the wine farms but you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy yourself in this novel town.
The mountainous escarpment lends itself to magnificent nature walks, hikes and downhill mountain biking. There is an abundance of scenic venues for picnicking, hot air ballooning, horse riding and watching the sun set, preferably with an award winning Pinotage in hand.
The town itself is a bustling hive of activity with it’s many museums, restaurants, pubs and rustic gift shops (such as the renowned “Oom Samie se winkel” (directly translated “Uncle Sam’s Shop”), a traditional trading store with unique gifts from past era’s).
One of Stellenboschs’ most charming offerings is strawberry picking where for a set fee you can spend the day picking the freshest, most succulent strawberries the Western Cape has to offer. The Stellenbosch Health Hydro is also one of the town’s main attractions and comes highly recommended by its guests.
Stellenbosch has earned international acclaim as being one of the best wine producing districts in the world. Wines produced in this area are exported all over the world and can be bought online by international wine connoisseurs. The Stellenbosch Winelands is home to a multitude of estates and spending some time exploring the wine routes will afford you the opportunity to sample a bit of each one.
The Wine Route comprises 23 private cellars and 5 co-operative wineries, which produce between them a large variety of red and white wines. Set in the spectacular scenery that the mountains, rivers and vineyards paint, spending time on any of these wine farms is a pleasure.
The farms are so exquisite that many couples hold their weddings on the wine estates themselves and as most are equipped with full restaurant and conference facilities this is the perfect location for such a special day. There are many prearranged day tours that take visitors to a limited number of estates for wine tasting, exploring and lunch. If you prefer to drive the route yourself you have the opportunity to stop at any estate that tickles your fancy.
The wine estates are impressive expanses of vineyards, Cape Dutch style farm houses and overwhelming beauty. Some estates are larger and offer more activities than others but they are all unique and worth visiting. Spier wine estate is a great example of one of the bigger estates housing its own open air theatre, accommodation, picnicking venues and many popular restaurants. Spier is also home to the Cheetah Outreach Programme which set out to introduce the cheetah to the South African community as well as to increase awareness of the diminishing numbers of cheetahs and to raise funds in order to enhance their efforts.
A visit to the cheetahs is a must especially for the little ones. This wine estate is also home to the Spier golf club, an internationally acclaimed championship golf course; this estate is a must for all golfing enthusiasts. Another one of the bigger estates definitely worth the visit is Fairview, not only can you sample South Africa’s fine wines in a glorious setting but you can sample their award winning cheeses!
Other estates definitely worth a visit are Delheim, Morganhof, Rus & Vrede, Boschendal and Lanzarac to name a few. Most of the wine estates offer their own accommodation and there are many guest houses, lodges and hotels in the town itself.
Experience it for Yourself
Whether you are a wine enthusiast, a keen explorer or in need of a well earned break Stellenbosch’s quaint charm will have you feeling at home in no time.
The Stellenbosch winelands, the vibrant town life and the picturesque scenery are what have earned the regions its local and international praise. Why not experience it for yourself?