Starter guide to Wellington

Posted on 3 February 2015

It may appear to be the quieter sibling of Paarl and Stellenbosch in this wine valley, but once you visit, you’ll realise that there are plenty of things to do, lots of delicious restaurant options, and tons of lovely places to stay in Wellington.

Church Street, Wellington
I had three days to try and fit as much as I could into finding out more about this town. What I didn’t realise is that once you start talking to the locals, there is a whole lot more to do and see that doesn’t necessarily come up when you do a Google search! It seems I will have to go back and investigate the Wellington Wine Walk, the Winelands Vitamins and go visit the Buffalo Ridge mozzarella farm, to name a few. But here are some things to get you started when you visit Wellington.

Think I’ve missed anything? Let us know in the comments and we’ll have a look next time we’re in the area!

Things to do in Wellington

1. Take a tour of Jorgensen’s Distillery

Jorgensen’s is no ordinary distillery. It’s a place where gin, vodka, brandy and absinthe are lovingly crafted using age-old methods and herbs from the garden. While you learn about about the 13 different ingredients that go into Jorgensen’s Gin, Roger Jorgensen will keep you entertained with stories about bottles of vodka sent from Russia and why certain plants need to be kept away from the family dog. After the distillery tour and botany lesson, relax on the giant stoep of their beautiful 1812 home for a taste of pre-Russian Revolution vodka and a sip of absinthe out of an absinthe glass dating back to 1895. You’ll find out why ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.’ Tours are free, but by appointment only. If you give enough notice, you may even get a food pairing, including absinthe ice cream.
Contact: Tel 021 864 1777,


2. Visit the alpacas at Quenti Alpaca Farm

If you think that garments made from alpaca fleece are expensive, here at Quenti Alpaca Farm is where you’ll find out why. During a tour of this alpaca farm you’ll see just how much work goes into making that scarf or pair of socks; machinery that can take your fingers off in seconds; and hear how this whole operation was started thanks to an alpaca called Pedro. Stephen and Linda are very busy hardworking people – they do everything themselves, from shearing the alpacas to spinning the yarn – so visits are welcome, but by appointment only.
Contact: Tel 021 873 6242,


3. Art at the Breytenbach Centre

It’s quite fitting that displays of artworks by South African (and international) artists can be found in what was originally the home of South African poet, Breyten Breytenbach. Walk on wooden floors through a maze of rooms, each holding something different. There’s an airy gallery, a ceramics room, a second-hand bookstore and a coffee shop. Take some time to meander through the small lush garden with mosaics, a fountain, poetry and angels. At the back there’s a small dinner-theatre that hosts shows by local musicians, caberet artists and actors. The Wellington Tourism Office is also in the building.
Contact: Tel 021 873 2786,


4. Mountain biking trails at Welvanpas Family Vineyards

I am no mountain-biker, so I haven’t experienced this first-hand, but I was told that these mountain biking trails are some of the top trails in the world. The trails start on Welvanpas Family Vineyards, where you can get your permit (and a cup of coffee) from ‘Die Ou Meul’ coffee shop. There are four different routes, ranging from 15km to 29km. You can also go wine-tasting afterwards (even on Sunday). While you are there, have a peak at the gardens on the opposite side of the road. To be honest, I’m not sure if we were supposed to be in there, but they are rather magical and worth a look if you like the secret garden idea!
Contact: Tel 021 864 1239,


5. Wine-tasting with a personal touch at Bosman Family Vineyards

The impressive gates of Lelienfontein are open to the public on Saturdays from 10:00 to 15:00 for tastings, but if you want personal attention, which includes a warm refresher towel on arrival and cucumber sandwiches, then call or email ahead to make a booking for any day of the week, except Sundays. The tasting includes a tour of the 250-year old cellar, where you’ll see original tools and barrels used eight generations ago (nothing here is from an antique store, it all comes from the farm), learn about how the Bosman family has been grafting vines since 1888 (their vine nursery is the biggest in Africa) and hear about their incredible social upliftment programme. R50 per person, including the tour and tasting of five wines.
Contact: Tel 021 873 3170,


6. Shop for leather goods at Redemption Leather

If you are looking for bargain handmade leather goods, then step into the shop at Redemption Leather where you’ll find an overwhelming array of shoes, hats, bags, wallets, belts, whips and fly swatters in a wide variety of colours. The smell alone is worth a visit! Redemption is owned by Arnold Slabber who learnt the art of leather-making from his grandfather and is in turn passing the skills of the trade onto his own son.
Contact: Tel 021 873 3197,


Where to eat in Wellington

1. Biggest breakfast at Festa

If you order the french toast (R60) at this converted barn restaurant on Kleinevalleij Estate, you won’t really need to eat for the rest of the day! The servings here are huge and my plate was literally filled to the edges with brioche covered with whipped cream and decorated with twirls of bacon and pieces of banana. To be honest, I couldn’t finish it. The restaurant itself is airy and eclectic with chandeliers and suspended pianos. There’s a huge fireplace for cold days and kids will love the jungle gym and wide green lawns. The view is not to be scoffed at either. They are also open on Thursday and Friday evenings with affordable specials, like a pizza with a glass of wine for R80. The estate is also a perfect spot for a wedding!
Contact: Tel 021 864 2778,


2. Dine with owls at Twist Some More

Another funky restaurant in a barn where families are welcome (there’s a jungle gym and sandpit for kids). Apparently if the resident Eagle Owl poops on you or your dinner, your dessert is free! I didn’t see the pooping owl the evening I was there (I did hear him), but I really enjoyed my crispy pork belly served on equally crispy stir-fried vegetables with Chinese noodles and a caramelised chilli-ginger sauce (R125), followed by a hazelnut crème brulee (R45). Owner and chef, Johan van Schalkwyk, says that is one of his signature dishes that the locals won’t allow him to remove from the menu and I am not surprised. All Johan’s dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients, including his other signature dish, the Wild Boar Burger (R85), which is also available as a Banting version with a cauliflower & cheese bun. The outside area is perfect for summer evenings, while there is a fireplace with couches for cosy winter nights. Twist is a casual, friendly spot to enjoy dinner (or breakfast), play board games and enjoy a drink at the bar – the wine list alone has 55 local wines to choose from!
Contact: Tel 021 864 1467,


3. Afternoon tea at Langkloof Roses Tea Room

A little further out of town (although nothing is that far away) along a well-maintained dirt road, is Langkloof Roses where you can buy roses and enjoy a cup of tea with a slice of cake or a light meal in their delightful tea room. Flop onto one of their comfy couches and take some time out from the world while watching horses in the fields below, or sit on the balcony overlooking the large rose plantation. There are magazines to read and there is a play area with a jungle gym for the kids, along with a toybox filled with things for them to play with. The menu includes scones (R35), muffins (R35) and sandwiches (from R25). There’s also a free range chicken salad (R60) and a Namibian lamb pie (R70) on offer. Ask for their rose and geranium codial (R10) – it’s not on the menu, but a Wellington local recommended it and I wasn’t sorry. If you plan on going on a Saturday, give them a call first as it is a popular spot for weddings and private functions.
Contact: Tel 021 864 1014,


4. Light meals and antiques at The Perfect Place

Don’t let the outside of this house along Church Street fool you. This place is huge! There are a myriad rooms, some with antiques, some with homemade goodies and others that form part of the restaurant. You can find a cosy corner for two inside, have breakfast under the trees, or watch the world go by from the stoep while enjoying a cuppa. Finches chatter cheerfully from an antique birdcage while humans chatter over a coffee. Breakfast from R24 and light meals and gourmet sandwiches from R42. I can recommend the French toast with bacon and maple syrup (R48) or the scrambled egg on toast with cheddar cheese, avocado and bean sprouts (R34).
Contact: Tel 021 873 6620,


5. Sushi with the locals at the Gecko Lounge

When visiting a small town there’s always that one spot that is clearly popular with the locals and in this case, it was Gecko Lounge on a Sunday evening. I arrived at about 18:00 and within an hour all the tables were full. Sunday is sushi special day (from 16:00 to 22:00) with half-price sushi. Nearly every single plate or platter that came out of the kitchen that evening was bearing sushi. It was really good sushi too! Gecko Lounge doesn’t look like a place that would do top-notch sushi. It looks more like a burger and beer joint, which they also do with different specials on different days. There’s also a kiddies menu and a jungle gym for them to enjoy while the adults enjoy a cold one (there’s an impressively well-stocked bar inside).
Contact: Tel 021 872 6010


6. Pub grub at The Bell Inn

If you are looking to have a couple of bevvies and a simple, but ample meal that won’t see you breaking the bank, then stop by this local watering hole in Church Street. There’s seating outside and inside and the waitrons are a cheerful and helpful bunch. The small pub-grub menu includes toasted sandwiches (from R20), burgers (from R32), fish & chips (R55), crumbed schnitzel with chips (R49) and salads (from R36). There are also big screens for those who want to catch the cricket or rugby.
Contact: Tel 021 873 1749


Where to stay in Wellington

Also read:


1. Bed and breakfast at Oude-Wellington Estate

The smell of thatch pervades every nook and cranny of this historic wine farm at the foot of the Bainskloof Pass. Apart from thatched roofs, the rooms all have beautiful wooden floors and huge wooden poles watch over you as you sleep. It just smells of history and I couldn’t help but wonder who had trodden those wooden floors before me. Well, the room I stayed in was actually a hen house when it was built in 1795, so it probably more like chickens scratching about. All the buildings on this farm have been lovingly restored over the years by Rolf Schumacher, who is one of the most affable people you can hope to meet. He loves people, so expect to have a chat or two while you are there.

There are two accommodation options – bed & breakfast from R550 per person a night and self-catering in the Hen House or Vineyard Cottage from R480 per person a night. Vineyard Cottage has a small braai area attached to it and all rooms come with linen and towels, including towels for the swimming pool. It is a family-friendly spot, but the pool is unfenced so little ones would need to be watched. There are walks to the dam and a fantastic picnic spot in the woods. Breakfast is served in the Manor House (dating back to 1835), either on the stoep in summer or by the gigantic fireplace in winter. The restaurant on the estate serves lunch and dinner every day (apparently the fillet steak is heavenly) and you can also do brandy and wine tastings. If you enjoy staying in places that ooze history, like dogs and cats (Rosie the sheepdog will happily accompany you on walks) and chats over a glass of wine, then Oude Wellington is just the spot! (By the way: the website doesn’t do it any justice.)
Contact: Tel 021 873 2262,


2. Pet-friendly Bastiaanskloof

A previous visit to Wellington saw a group of us staying at Bastiaanskloof, where eight of us took over two of their cottages, Wild Olive and Restio (they are next door to each other so it was perfect). While we did spend a day wine-tasting in Wellington, it was more of an ‘escape weekend’ and what a perfect place to do just that. We chatted on the stoep, cooked up a storm, took afternoon naps, went on walks, splashed about in the waterfall and quaffed wine while watching the stars. While it doesn’t seem to mention it on their website, we were allowed to take our well-behaved dogs (by arrangement) and they had a blast as well with much to explore and sniff out. The place is quite secure as well, so you won’t have to worry about your hounds getting onto the road. Bastiaanskloof may be a little further out, but the drive along Bainskloof Pass is truly beautiful and you will feel a world away from anything. Cottages from R1 095 per night (sleeps four).
Contact: Tel 076 198 0234,


Wine-tasting in Wellington on a Sunday

Most of the wine farms in Wellington are closed on Sundays. Here are three that I found with open tasting rooms.

1. Chocolate Pinotage at Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate

Diemersfontein is a household name and probably best known for their Chocolate & Coffee Pinotage (there are barrels of it at their annual Pinotage on Tap Festival, which is well worth going to). This wine and country estate is one of the more ‘commercial’ ones, but it is set in beautiful gardens and you’ll have wine-tasting with a view. Take a stroll on the plush green lawns, past lily ponds and say hello to the life-size stone hippo. Country cuisine is also available from their Seasons Restaurant, or you can tuck into a generous cheese platter in the tasting room. Wine tasting is from 10:00 to 17:00 and costs R20 per person for six wines. Make sure you try the famous Pinotage if you haven’t already. I can bet you’ll walk out with a few bottles!
Contact: Tel 021 864 5050,


2. Family-friendly Dunstone Wine Farm

A popular family spot on a Sunday, where you can do wine-tasting at your table while tucking into lunch. I had the Vineyard Platter (R85) which had cheeses, cold meats, olives, pickles and homemade bread. It went very well with the wine-tasting! Other dishes on the chalkboard menu included burgers (from R70), quiche of the day (R65), beef fillet ciabata (R80) and smoked salmon salad (R75). There’s a kiddies menu and a rather unique jungle jim and sandpit for them to play in. After lunch you can lie on blankets and continental pillows laid out on the lawn. They also do breakfast if you fancy an earlier start to your day. Wine tasting costs R20 per person for four of their handcrafted wines.
Contact: Tel 021 873 6770,


3. Labyrinths and legends at Doolhof Wine Estate

The drive into Doolhof is a pretty one through horse paddocks and a friendly Jack Russel is likely to greet you when you step out of your car. Doolhof means ‘labyrinth’ in Afrikaans and was so named because of the many interwoven hills and vales. There is a real labyrinth on the farm, similar to the one found at in the cathedral at Chartres, and you are welcome to walk it and perhaps clear your mind after a wine-tasting! There are always wine specials and a bargain bin (R20 a bottle) and cheese platters (R90) are available from 11:00 to 15:00. They also do picnic baskets for two (R200). However, bookings are required if there are four or more in your party. Sip on wines with mythical names like The Minotaur and Theseus, or try their Lady in Red or the Dark Lady Pinotage. Wine tasting is from 10:00 to 16:00 and costs R20 for five wines (tasting cost is waived if you buy wine).
Contact: Tel 021 873 6911,

If you’ve been to Wellington and can recommend other things to do, restaurants, or places to stay, please let us know in the comments below. Please note that all prices listed above were correct when this post was published, but are subject to change at the establishments’ discretion. Please check with them before visiting.

All photos by Rachel Robinson.

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