This predominantly farming town has a lot to offer visitors, while still retaining its small town charm. Here are 23 reasons you should visit Villiersdorp.
This wonderful little farming town that lives in the shadow of Franschhoek has so much to offer. Life really slows down here and it’s just wonderful – along with being ridiculously affordable.
Founded in 1843, Villiersdorp is predominately a farming town and if you pass through it, it will appear that there’s not much there. However, if you stop and stay for a while, you’ll find that this dorp at the one end of the Franschhoek Pass has plenty to offer its visitors, while still retaining its small town charm. Here are over 20 reasons to stay awhile.
1. The scenery of The Franschhoek Pass
There are plenty of routes into Villiersdorp, but the most spectacular way to get there has to be over The Franschhoek Pass. Completed in 1825, this historical pass was orignally known as Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner) after the herds of elephant that are rumoured to have roamed the area. While you’re unlikely to find an elephant on the pass today, you could come across troops of baboons, so go slow around those bends! You will definitely be rewarded with beautiful vistas, a fantastic view over Franschhoek, plenty of pretty fynbos and dramatic gorges.
Look out for the Jan Joubertsgat bridge, one of South Africa’s oldest bridges and if you travel back to Cape Town using the pass, there’s a spring from which you can collect water – if you are brave enough, it’s near the hairpin bend by the lookout point over Franschhoek.
2. History and art at the Dagbreek Museum and Info Centre
Situated in a national monument is the town’s Tourism Centre, along with a small museum with various artefacts highlighting interesting stories about the history of the town. The building is also a community hub that hosts markets and showcases work by local artists with opening nights where guests can enjoy snacks and wine. It should be your first port of call as they are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the town and surrounding area, along with any local events that may be happening. You may even leave with a piece of art.
Contact: Tel 0288400082, http://villiersdorptourism.co.za
3. Breakfast at Kelkiewyn Café
Situated on the main road near the end of town (or the beginning, depending on which which way you come into Villiersdorp) this family and dog-friendly restaurant is set in pretty grounds alongside a riverbank overlooking vineyards. The tables have chequered tablecloths, there’s a fireplace for cold days, antique dressers, bunting and quirky teacup chandeliers, making it a a cheerful and cosy spot to grab a bite to eat. You can also buy local jams, rusks and preserves.
Their menu is fairly extensive with breakfast options, grills, burgers, fish dishes, tramezzino, toasted sandwiches and various nibbles. I can recommend their ‘budget breakfast’ – it was the perfect stomach-liner before wine-tasting next door afterwards.
Contact: Tel 0288400900, www.kelkiewyncafe.co.za
4. Wine tasting at Villiersdorp Wine Cellar
Originally started for the sole purpose of making Moskonfyt (grape must jam) and grape juice in 1922, this is one of the oldest wine cellars in South Africa. Today they also produce a variety of well-priced wines, which you can sample at their tasting room next door to the Kelkiewyn Café. I was rather enchanted with their Hanepoot Jerepigo Treintjiewyn, not only because I have a penchant for desert wines, but also for the endearing name and label, named after the treintjie which can be seen outside the tasting room (see the photo above).
Their Slowine has a tortoise on it for a reason – a portion of every bottle sold in Japan goes to Cape Nature towards conserving the Geometric Tortoise. The cellar is also a member of the Green Mountain Eco Route and are committed to alien plant clearing along with ensuring that no vineyards are planted in areas where Cape fynbos is protected.
Contact: Tel 0288400083, www.villiersdorpcellar.co.za
5. Take a stroll with Riversong Nature Rides and Rambles
After spending many years at a desk job, Donella Young decided to head for the hills (literally) and became a registered FGASA Nature Guide. She now offers personalised tours in and around Villiersdorp, including nature walks, cyles and drives through the local farms and surrounding nature reserves. Donella took me on an amble through fynbos and renosterveld while imparting all sorts of interesting facts – did you know that Wagon Tree (Protea Nitida) was used by the voortrekkers make the wheels for their wagons?
She also pointed out the various passes into Villiersdorp (there are in five in total), historical farms, rivers, dams and other points of interest while I simply gaped at the magnificent view. We stopped for tea and homemade biscuits (she bakes too) before I was taken back to my accommodation. Knowing that I was interested in local farming activities, Donella also took the time to take me through some farms and orchards en-route and she’ll do the same for you as each tour is personalised.
Contact: Tel 0288400841, http://riversongretreats.co.za
6. Go back in time at the Tractor Museum
Housed in a large shed (you get the keys from the Kelkiewyn Café), the Tractor Museum is a fascinating journey through various stages of farming machinery which have been lovingly restored by members of the club. If you want to see the tractors in action (yes, they still work!) then keep an eye out for the Veteran Tractor Show that takes place annually in Villiersdorp where they put these vintage beasts of burden through their paces.
Contact: Tel 0288400900
7. Fill your tummy at Alwyn Vincent Padstal
This padstal on the edge of the town has a rather interesting story behind its name. It’s named after an Italian-built, 100-ton steam tug, one of the last hand-fired, coal steamships ever built, that now rests in Villiersdorp just behind the padstal. Pop into the Viljoen family’s yard and you may be lucky enough to find Eniel Viljoen, a member of the Vintage Tractor and Engine Club who were behind getting this vessel to Villiersdorp, and he will gladly regale you with tales of the tug’s history and how they got it there. There are also plans to turn the tug into a self-catering accommodation option so watch this space…
The padstal is also home to some of the best homemade pies I have ever tasted (I highly recommend the bobotie pie), along with the usual padstal fare on offer, incuding various bakes, fresh fruit, jams and preserves. There are also a few vintage items and bric a brac for sale, including old LPs. The charming dining area also serves light meals, including toasted sandwiches, prego rolls and pizza (the fig and blue cheese pizza is a firm favourite with the locals).
They are also open for dinner from 18:00 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, usually with a themed evening, or a special offer. I tucked into a burger served on a roosterkoek that could’ve fed a small family. As owner, Lee Messinger, says ‘The farmers around here have big appetites’, so you definitely won’t leave feeling hungry. They are applying for their liquor licence, so expect wine tasting and craft beers in the near future.
Contact: Tel 0620939317, or visit their Facebook page
8. Hug an alpaca at Helderstroom Alpacas
When I arrived at Helderstroom Alpacas, 10km outside of Villiersdorp, I delighted in being greeted by alpaca yarn drying on the washing line alongside freshly washed linen.
Helderstroom Alpacas is one of the few farms in South Africa that breeds these fascinating, spitting, curly-haired creatures with bad 80s hairdo’s that hail originally from South America. There are approximately 40 alpacas in residence and owners, Christopher and Alison Notley, know them all by name (no mean feat!)
They were also the first farm in the country to have produced twin alpacas, a very rare thing indeed. The alpacas are shorn in October and November (before it gets too hot) and that fleece is then hand-spun before being knitted into beautiful, earth-friendly garments (both the alpacas and the fibre production process have low environmental impact and a very light carbon footprint).
Their range includes hats, scarves, gloves, socks, shawls, ponchos, bags, cushions and babywear. It’s not cheap, but it feels amazing on the skin and Alpaca is non-allergenic with no prickle or ‘itch’ factor. Apart from cuddling an alpaca and seeing the yarn-making process or indulging in a scarf, the 300 year old farm has incredible views over wheat fields, orchards, vineyards and mountains. Christopher and Alison welcome visitors, but make an appointment as this is a working farm.
Contact: Tel 0288400158, www.helderstroomalpacas.co.za
9. Wine tasting and platters at Stettyn Wine Cellar
Further along from the alpacas, on the R43, you’ll find Stettyn Wine Cellar. The farm dates back to 1714 and the Cape Dutch homestead, built in 1777, is a National Monument. The Botha family acquired the farm in 1818 and it’s been in the family for eight generations, with the cellar itself being established in 1963.
Stop in at this historical farm, relax under umbrellas and enjoy a free wine tasting. There are 11 wines on offer and should be enjoyed alongside their delicious platter of homemade butternut soup, biscuits, local cheeses and charcuterie, along with olives and preserves (R170). They are also family and dog-friendly – both kids and hounds will love frolicking on the green lawn outside the tasting room. Cellar tours are available by appointment.
Contact: Tel 0233404220, www.stettyncellar.co.za
10. Tee off at Theewaterskloof Golf Club
Enjoy a round of golf in a lakeside setting with fynbos and views of mountains and vineyards at this nine-hole golf course on a private housing estate. Although there may only be nine greens, the course plays like 18 holes as there are different tee boxes on all holes, varying the distances and angles to the fairways and greens. Visitors are very welcome, but it’s preferable to make a booking beforehand. If you’re a member of a golf club in South Africa, fees are R200 while non-members pay R300. They also have a bar with light meals available, including breakfast options, toasted sandwiches and burgers for very reasonable prices.
Contact: Tel 0288402213, www.theewaterskloof.co.za
11. Watersports at Theewaterskloof Sports Club
Over the last 40 years, this club on the banks of the Theewaterskloof Dam has been hosting campers, caravaners, boat owners, fishermen, water-sports lovers and even the odd biker or two. While the dam may be at its lowest level to date, it’s still business as usual (they are open 24 hours) and they have recently upgraded the restaurant where you can tuck into a breakfast, toasted sandwiches, burgers, baskets, grills and chicken and fish dishes. The bar and restaurant are open over weekends and daily during the school holidays.
Almost anything you can think of related to the water happens here, including angling competitions, kiteboarding, skiing, parasailing, tubing sailing competitions and you’ll find plenty of canoes, keelboats, powerboats, catamarans and hobicats. You generally have to own your own vessel, but they do offer sunset cruises during season, along with sailing lessons. There is an entrance fee payable, but this will be refunded at the restaurant if you eat there. It’s also dog-friendly (not inside the restaurant) so you can take your best friend along too.
Contact: 0288401334/8, www.theewater.co.za
12. Have a picnic at The Aphrodisiac Shack
The name alone makes one wonder what I’ll find here, but it’s not what you’re thinking! The Aphrodisiac Shack’s main feature is their charcuterie, smoked meat products, a variety of cheeses and other gourmet goodies, with the deli featuring all the smokehouse’s premium products. Owner, Sean Hormann, uses both hot and cold smoking methods to produce a wide variety of products from smoked butter to Kalahari Rock Salt.
Take the popular interactive tour of the smokehouse, learning about the history, curing processes and methods, followed by a cheese and wine pairing or beer and meat pairing. Or you can simply enjoy a picnic with scenic views of the Theewaterskloof Dam while listening to local jazz. Picnic baskets must be ordered in advance and include smoked trout, apple-smoked free-range chicken breasts, hand-crafted cheeses, cold meats, freshly-baked bread, a seasonal salad and your choice of complimentary Apple- or Grapetizer, water or a bottle of local wine.
Note: This is a seasonal venue, open between September to May.
Contact: Tel 0836825030, http://ashack.co.za
13. Shop for local art at Dam Fine Art Gallery
Along the R43, close to to Aphrodisiac Shack, you’ll see a sign saying ‘Dam Fine Artists’ and you should follow it. What you’ll find at the end of the dirt road is a wonderful art gallery housed in a charming little cottage. Artists include Serena Berry, Sue Button, Mervin Ward, Liza Kerrod, Sharron Strickland, Joanne Giddey, Mike Bond and Betty McGregor. It’s unpretentious, welcoming and the artworks very reasonably priced. They also have a lovely chez lounge in the midst of it all and apparently napping is allowed…
Contact: Tel 0725386956, or visit their Facebook page
14. Take a drive on the Kroonland 4×4 trail
The Kroonland 4X4 trail on Kaaimansgat farm, 10km from Villiersdorp, is worth the drive alone – the views over the valley are spectacular including fruit trees, fynbos and proteas. Once you are there you can opt to do the circular 4X4 route in your own vehicle, but it must have low range capabilities. It takes about three hours and heads over mountains overlooking Villiersdorp and Theewaterskloof Dam. If you don’t have a 4X4, you can easily drive there in a sedan and go on a mountain and flower tour in one of their 4X4 bakkies. They also have hiking and mountain bike trails, along with a campsite and wooden cabins if you really want to get away from it all for a few days.
Contact: Tel 0288401979 or 0825674570, www.hellovilliersdorp.co.za
15. Art classes with Gustav Bester
Local artist, Gustav Bester, has his studio behind The Dagbreek and it’s worth a visit to see his interesting work, from paintings to etchings and ceramics. Apart from creating masterpieces, Gustav makes honey and olive oil, along with teaching at the secondary school in the township where some students have started getting orders for their pieces. He also teaches classes in figure drawing (Wednesday evenings), etching and ceramics (Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons), along with print-making workshops. If you’re in town during the week you are welcome to join the art classes (R100 per person). If there over a weekend and part of a group who would like to have a class or workshop with Gustav, he’ll be happy to oblige – just give him a call to arrange.
Contact: Tel 0820919823.
16. Tea at Country Classics
Serving coffee, cakes and light meals, Country Classics is a must if you prefer places with the quirky edge. As you walk through the entrance gate you step into a another world filled with a mix of plants (including the biggest Stag Horn Ferns that I have ever seen), waterlily-crowded ponds in wine barrels, tinkling wind chimes, seashell mobiles and cement statues, along with a pair of friendly daschunds. And that’s just outside!
The country-cottage style restaurant with its charming checked tablecloths also holds many items to buy, from jams to free-range eggs to tins of Annie Sloane Chalk Paint and other décor items. Owner, Cherylynn Castelein, is a paint effects expert and furniture restorer and will happily show you her workshop if you are interested – she also hosts paint effects classes using the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint range. When Cheryl is not painting, she’s cooking up homemade dishes that are tasty and well-priced. The menu changes according to the season, but I can thoroughly recommend the spicy Chakalaka Cottage Pie with a mix of three mashes – sweet potato, normal potato and cauliflower mash. Your dog is welcome to join you too, but must be daschund-friendly.
Contact: Tel 0829794992, or visit their Facebook page
17. See seashells at the Dale Elliott Art Gallery
The Elliotts have been in the business of creating and selling art for 35 years and during that time over 4000 people have shared in the magic of the brush, palette and canvas with them. The gallery is the main road and houses works by Dale and Mel Elliott (father and son), along with local artists. There’s also an incredible shell collection, originally collected by local, Mary Kuttel, and put together by her daughter Frances Keegan into a statement of the art of nature. The shell collection is worth a visit alone! Dale and Mel also teach painting courses in Villiersdorp, from one-day courses to three-day courses. Beginners are welcome!
Contact: Tel 0288402927, www.daleelliott.co.za
18. Go to a village market
On Saturdays during the summer months, you’ll find the Dorpsmark every Saturday on the the front lawn of the Dagbreek Museum, where local entrepreneurs sell their products. Also held in summer is the Dagbreek by Moonlight on the Friday closest to the full moon. It’s similar to the Dorpsmark, but there’s the addition of local wineries and craft beer makers, along with a local band, making it quite a festive affair.
19. Learn to make fire at Back to Basics Survival Courses
If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make a fire without a box of matches or how to trap a rabbit for dinner, then Hunt Cheney, born and raised in Kruger National Park, is the man. Previously a medic for Netcare 911, Hunt’s survival courses range from introductory to advanced, where over two to three days or longer, you can learn how to make a shelter, build a fire, make a flint head for an arrow and set traps for food, along with foraging and medicinal plants. If you really want to get serious, he also runs an advanced eight-week Primitive Course where you go into the bush with nothing and survive for two to three weeks. If you just want to learn the basics, or perhaps want to do something different with a group of friends, there’s also a one-day bush class.
Contact: Hunt 0823238516 / Lizanne 0824542208, or visit the Facebook page.
20. Have fun at a festival
The annual Stookfees in April sees the residents of Villiersdorp stook mampoer, make moskonfyt and celebrate the town’s history. The kaiings and afval are apparently a great hit with locals. Meanwhile in October there’s the Agricultural Show with food and wine, fresh produce and local musicians alongside agricultural equipment, vintage tractors and an equestrian event. There’s also a braai festival and a spring festival – keep an eye on the Villiersdorp Tourism Facebook page to be kept in the loop about upcoming festivals and other events in the town.
21. Get crafty at Pop & Lap Wool and Craft Shop
Lovers of crafts and knitting will find everything they need here for all kinds of arts and craft. Sewing, decoupage, fabric painting, beading and card making, while the wool shop has floor-to-ceiling yarn (literally) in all varieties of colours and textures. There’s also fun craft and handwork packs as well as educational toys and games for kids, along with a selection of handcrafted gifts and décor items.
Contact: Tel 0288400218
22. Have a Friday feast with the locals
Friday nights see Linquenda Private Kitchen and Country Classics hosting 3-course dinners for an absolute steal (from R150 per person). They alternate their Fridays and all you have to do is book and pitch up with a bottle. Linquenda offer a choice of starters mains and desserts, with previous options having included Oyster Mushroom Baskets, Gluwein Chicken Cassorole and Liquorice Ice Cream with Mint Liqueur and Sesame Seeds.
Country Classics favour themed evenings – think Mexican, Portuguese and Malay. While I was in town it was Country Classics turn to host and I spent the evening in delightful company (including a local who was once a guard to the Royal Family) while licking Portuguese peri-peri chicken off my fingers and quaffing Villiersdorp Cellar wine. If you want to hear some interesting stories about the area from the people who live there while enjoying a delicious meal, then make sure you get a spot at the table on a Friday night.
23. Stoep-sit at Linquenda Chambre d’Hote B&B
The first thing that struck me about Linquenda Chambre d’Hote B&B was the magnificent stoep that wraps around the house. Needless to say, much time was spent stoep-sitting (either with tea or a gin and tonic) while enjoying the wonderful view over the mountains. Built in 1925, the house is one of the oldest in town and apart from the fabulous stoep, boasts beautifully restored wooden floors and ceilings, along with a rambling garden. Owner, Emily Moya, loves collecting and restoring antique furniture, with one of the pieces being the four-poster bed in the room they rent out through AirBnB.
Entrance to the room is off the stoep and has its own bathroom with a Victorian bath, along with a small fridge and coffee-making facilities. If you want to cook a meal you’re welcome to use the kitchen in the main house, but as Emily and her French husband, Andre, are both chefs, I recommend you ask them to cook for you! A small breakfast is included in the tariff, the eggs courtesy of the chickens that you’ll find scratching on the lawn outside. Well-behaved dogs are welcome too, provided they get along with the resident dogs, cats, chickens and tortoises.
Contact: Tel 0288400120 or make a booking through AirBnb