12 of our favourite stays in Stellenbosch

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 25 September 2018

Its wine route offers about 150 estates to visit – which makes Stellenbosch a youthful, stylish town worth visiting often. Here’s where to check in.

What we found about accommodation in Stellenbosch:
• No surprise. Stellenbosch is blessed with choices across all hospitality categories. Most start at around R750 per person, though I found a few good options for budget seekers.

• I love the vibrancy of Stellies’ historic heart, with its plethora of restaurants and bars, so I focused mostly on investigating options within, or a short strolling distance from, the centre. However, I also included too-good-to-miss options that overlook the vineyards and mountains.

• The town addresses to look out for are Church Street, Dorp Street and Die Laan – the 18th-century track that linked the old Drostdy with the road to Jonkershoek. If you prefer farm stays, look at options located at the end of cul-de-sacs rather than off busy routes. Jonkershoek, Helshoogte and Devon Valley are particularly scenic areas.

• There are plenty of one-bedroom or studio options and a few two- or three-bedroom apartments, but expansive villas catering to a large extended family, or friends wanting to gather for a special occasion, are limited.

 

Best View

1. Banhoek Lodge

TripAdvisor No. 2 of 118 B&BS/Inns

Wow. That’s the gut response when you walk into your room, the floor-to-ceiling slide-and-fold doors swept back to frame the perfect views of this tiny valley dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. Recently renovated by new owners, the seven-room lodge is beautifully furnished, but it’s the location that sets it apart. Surrounded by vineyards, it’s built on a terrace at the base of the Helshoogte Pass, a road with perhaps the most extraordinary views in the Winelands (a region hardly short on competition). It’s a view for which you can expect to pay: just a few hundred metres above is Clouds (from R2,250 a room) and Delaire Graff (lodges from R14,550) so you see what exceptional value Banhoek Lodge offers. It’s within walking distance of five wine-tasting rooms (including Thelema, one of my all-time favourites) and three superb dining options: Delaire Graff, Indochine or Tokara. How wonderful to stroll back after a tasting, or lunch, perhaps to an in-room spa treatment. I can’t wait to return.

Room tip: All seven rooms have the same gorgeous view and amenities (including a fireplace, underfloor heating, stocked minibar), but I particularly liked the mountain-facing suite, a corner unit that has a truly gobsmacking view.
Cost: From R992,50 per person sharing B&B, including some complimentary wine tasting vouchers.
Contact: 0218851791, banhoeklodge.co.za

 

Best self-catering bargain

2. Laanhof Studios

TripAdvisor listed, but not rated.

If you’re on a budget, Laanhof Studios sure hits the sweet spot. Located off Die Laan, it’s surrounded by 19th-century buildings and has a pretty streetscape that includes two rows of 340-year-old oak trees. Laanhof has a historic three-bedroom Victorian house, nicely renovated, that can be rented by the room or as a whole, but I preferred the Laanhof Studios. These are located in a modern double-storey block comprising four apartments, each with its own entrance, and decor that is both funky and comfortable. Three of the open-plan studios sleep a maximum of two (specify if you want twin beds or a double), with a lounge area, dining table, a separate workspace and air con. Laanhof 3 sleeps four in two bedrooms, both en suite. There’s good WiFi, well-equipped kitchens, and each has an outdoor area with table and chairs – a great feature. The only drawback is that there is no pool. The apartments are serviced on weekdays.

Room tip: Laanhof 2 and 3 are on the first floor, so offer slightly elevated views and balconies, but if you’re travelling in winter, bag Laanhof 4 – it has a wood-burning closed-combustion stove next to the bed, and opens onto a small courtyard.
Cost: From R1,050 a night (sleeps two).
Contact: 0662214452, laanhof.co.za

 

Best guesthouse

3. River Manor

TripAdvisor No. 3 of 18 Hotels

Located in two adjacent manor houses on oak-lined Die Laan, River Manor Boutique Hotel has been one of my top choices since I started reviewing in 1998. The new owners have revamped the rooms and decor, and spruced up the grounds, so it’s looking better than ever. The rooms – now more pared down and uncluttered – are comfortable, but it’s the elegant public spaces that are the real visual treat, as is the well-groomed garden they overlook. River Manor has one of the largest pools in town, with plenty of loungers to relax on, and pretty tables on deep shaded verandas. Its location is great too: it feels like you’re embedded in a residential suburb, yet you’re a two-minute stroll from Stellenbosch’s historic heart. River Manor has plenty of hotel services, such as 24-hour reception and a daily turn-down, but there’s no restaurant per se (there’s a bar and light snacks are served), so I rate it as a guest house. There’s one caveat: it’s billed as being ‘on the banks of the Eerste River’ – a bit of a misnomer, as the river runs through a manmade channel on the other side of the road.

Room tip: I like all the upstairs rooms but the studio room is the bargain.
Cost: From R875 per person sharing B&B.
Contact: 0218879944, rivermanor.co.za

 

Best hotel

4. Coopmanhuijs

TripAdvisor No. 1 of 18 Hotels

The TripAdvisor reviewers are spot on – this 16-room five-star is the best hotel in town. First off is the location: overlooking delightful Church Street, diagonally across from pretty Oude Werf (another great hotel, but not as intimate or plush). Then there is the sense of history: built in 1713, this was one of the first residences in Stellenbosch, and it took the current owners three years to carefully craft its current incarnation. They have done a superb job, creating a timeless gem with an atmosphere that is reminiscent of those grand, old European hotels. Its neo-Georgian facade is unchanged, and the interiors have been skilfully done, with several carpeted staircases leading to rooms tucked away in various corners, and a sense of discreet opulence. There’s a serene courtyard at the back, centred on a pool, but the charming front terrace with its wrought-iron tables is the ideal place to watch the passing parade. Service and food are excellent: dining on a superb steak Béarnaise, looked after by an ebullient waitron, one can be forgiven for wishing that time could just stand still. Even if you can’t stay at Coopmanhuijs, do book at least one meal here at Helena’s.

Room tip: It’s popular so you’ll take what you can get! There are five room categories; all equally good. If you’re on a budget, consider booking into its sister property, the three-star Stellenbosch Hotel: it is also accessed from Church Street but without the prime location, with prices from R650 per person sharing B&B (stellenboschhotel.co.za).
Cost: From R828 per person sharing B&B. The winter special, with dinner, costs R1,990 for two.
Contact: 0218873644, coopmanhuijs.co.za

 

Smartest self-catering

5. Collection Luxury Apartments

TripAdvisor listed, but not rated.

I love the vibrant atmosphere of Church Street, with its two-storey balconies above the bars and restaurants that line this leafy, single-lane hub. If you want to rent a self-catering apartment with five-star facilities here, Luxury Apartments is professionally managed by Phillip Woest, who personally handpicks his collection. He offers a choice of three on Church: two studios in the Oudehoek block, on the corner of Andringa Street, and a twobedroom apartment on the corner of Church and Ryneveld. Rozenhof Villa is a three-bedroom apartment on Dorp Street, which is lined with historic buildings. (Phillip has another apartment on De Zalze golf estate, but unless you’re a golfer it’s better to be in town.) All bedrooms are en-suite, and finishes and furniture throughout are top notch. Each apartment has its own dedicated housekeeper, and comes stocked with Nespresso pods, rusks, chocolate, milk and bottled water.

Room tip: Other good apartment options on Church Street include Eikehof 4 and 20 – well furnished with characterful touches, such as Mervyn Gers ceramics and Gregoire Boonzaier paintings (from R1,150, sleeps two, safarinow.com) – and bachelor pad Oudehoek 103 (from R850, sleeps two, lifeandleisure.co.za).
Contact: From R1,500 a night (sleeps two).
Contact: 0764494080, luxuryapartments.co.za

 

Best for romance

6. Rest @ Chabivin Vineyard Studio

Unlisted

This spacious open-plan cottage, set amid the vines, is well decorated and beautifully equipped (I loved the coffee grinder and fresh beans), but it’s the large deck into which the owners have set a wood-fired hot tub that really gets the pulse racing. I’ve encountered a few of these eco-friendly tubs recently (they’re very popular in the Breede River Valley), and they are a real delight. Luxuriating in a large body of steaming water, watching the chimney smoke curl up into a starry heaven, is pure bliss. Also on the deck, within view of the tub, is a raised firepit. For those who prefer series to ‘bush TV’, there is a mobile tablet loaded with Netflix that connects to the flatscreen television. There’s also a Spotify music library (with Bluetooth speaker). There’s an indoor wood-burning combustion stove and open-plan bathroom with shower and bath.

Room tip: Vineyard Studio is visually private but do note that there is an adjacent two-bedroom cottage which, depending on the age of your temporary neighbours, could disturb your peace.
Cost: R1,300 a night (sleeps two).
Contact: 0833242711, restatchabivin.co.za

 

Best design

7. Twice Central Guesthouse

TripAdvisor No. 1 of 118 B&BS/Inns

When Harold and Ané Spies opened a two-room guest house called Twice in their family home in Stellenbosch in 2014, they received such rave reviews that they decided to expand. Joining forces with long-standing friends Liesl Swart and Mandi Smit, they purchased a property in Hamman Street, a quiet residential lane off Dorp Street and, after extensive renovations, opened Twice Central in November 2016. As is evident from TripAdvisor ratings, it’s been a runaway success, and wandering from room to room I could see why. The decor is outstanding and a spirit of luxury and generosity permeates – from the Africology toiletries and 400-thread Egyptian-cotton linen to fresh flowers and complimentary Nespresso coffee pods. All seven rooms offer great value for money. There is a new plunge pool, and bikes for guests to use.

Room tip: Room 6 costs a bit more but is so worth it. It’s upstairs, accessed via its own private external staircase, and has a balcony with a great view.
Cost: From R805 per person sharing B&B. Special for Getaway readers: R1,300 for two, plus a Lanzerac wine-tasting voucher and bottle of wine (valid July to October). Quote ‘Getaway Twice’ when booking.
Contact: 0218877889, twicecentral.co.za

 

Worth a look

8. 107 Dorpstraat

This dinky, contemporary hotel and wine bar offers eight luxury rooms; each is individually decorated and features a queen-size bed, ‘workstation’ and triple-glazed windows. There is also a new self-catering family room in the block behind.
Cost: From R950 per person sharing B&B.
Contact: 107dorp.co.za

 

9. Rozendal

If you prefer a farm-stay atmosphere, replete with pot-bellied pigs, alpacas, horses and chickens, and don’t mind other guests in close proximity, this cluster of 16 units on an elevated slope is recommended (and great to take over as a group). Order a cheese platter and bubbly for sundown – the stoep is a delightful place from which to watch the town lights flicker on. Rozendal produces exceptional vinegars, and a tasting is included in the price.
Cost: From R955 per person sharing B&B.
Contact: rozendal.co.za

 

10. Majeka House

This gorgeous boutique property was recognised in 2017 for its design excellence by Condé Nast Johansens, and is owner-managed with great commitment and flair. It’s a class act in the heart of the suburbs, with superb dining in its award-winning restaurant.
Cost: From R1,290 per person sharing B&B; ask about the winter specials.
Contact: majekahouse.co.za

 

11. Sugarbird Manor

I’ve mentioned the superlative views from the Helshoogte Pass, but the Devon Valley offers some pretty awesome vistas too. Sugarbird Manor, a four-star guest house on Protea Heights farm, makes the most of them – particularly rooms 4, 5, 8 and 9, and the infinity pool.
Cost: From R884 per person sharing B&B.
Contact: sugarbirdmanor.co.za

 

12. The Homestead at Oldenburg Vineyards

At the end of a dirt road in a valley off Helshoogte Pass, this luxuriously appointed manor house with a mountain range in its backyard must be seen to be believed. It sleeps up to 12 in six bedrooms, and the rate includes canapés and bubbly on arrival, sundowner snacks and drinks (including the estate’s wine) and breakfast.
Cost: From R22,300 for eight (two-night minimum stay).
Contact: oldenburgvineyards.com

 

Don’t miss this:

• Pop into SMAC Gallery in Church Street to check out the latest exhibition.

• Try the gourmet wa es and handmade ice cream, with flavours such as rooibos, banana bread and butter pecan, at Creme de Levain in Dorp Street.

• Browse for books at Verbatim, the charming secondhand bookstore on the corner of Dorp and Andringa streets.

• Get some fresh air at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which has five hiking routes and various biking trails (avoid The Plumber if you’re a novice).

• Visit the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, on the slopes of Stellenbosch Mountain.

• Watch Indian runner ducks patrol the vineyards for pests at Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate.