Stellenbosch, affectionately known as the City of Oaks, is South Africa’s second-oldest town and a treasure trove of activities for all tastes. Renowned for its rich wine culture, the town offers a variety of wineries worth exploring. Yet, Stellenbosch’s appeal extends far beyond its vineyards. It’s a town rich in history and culture, nestled amidst stunning mountains and nature reserves, providing a diverse range of experiences for visitors of any age or interest. Journey with us as we take you through some of the best places to visit in Stellenbsoch.
The town is a haven for food enthusiasts, offering a diverse array of dining options that promise a culinary adventure. Outdoor lovers will be thrilled with the extensive trails through mountains and vineyards, offering scenic explorations. Families visiting Stellenbosch will find plenty of fun for children, with numerous parks and activities tailored for younger visitors. The town’s streets, lined with historic Cape Dutch architecture and shaded by oak trees, add to its unique charm, making Stellenbosch a must-visit destination in South Africa’s Western Cape province.
1. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
The nature reserve is a biodiverse area, home to over 1,100 plant species and a variety of fauna, including small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Hikers in the area should be cautious, as it is also home to several snake species such as berg adders, puff adders, boomslang, and Cape cobras. The trails in Jonkershoek offer a mix of runnable and technical routes, catering to both runners and hikers of varying skill levels. These trails are ranked by difficulty, providing beautiful views and diverse experiences, though they may occasionally be closed due to weather conditions.
One popular hiking route is the Jonkershoek mountain trail to the Waterfalls. This hike, taking around 5 hours for a round trip, is rewarding even in less-than-perfect weather. However, hikers should be prepared for a somewhat lengthy initial walk before reaching the more scenic waterfall trail, and the path can be particularly windy. The real beauty of the trail reveals itself past this initial section, leading to a remarkable experience in nature. Visitors are advised to exercise caution, especially when crossing rivers, as they can be slippery after rain. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, with its stunning landscapes and variety of trails, offers a rich, adventurous experience for both groups and solo explorers.
2. Dwarsrivier Valley
Dwarsrivier, nestled in the heart of the Cape Winelands, welcomes visitors to a realm where outdoor adventure, cultural richness, and viticultural excellence converge. The valley, defined by its soul-stirring mountainous landscape, offers a 360-degree panorama that enhances a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities suitable for all ages and interests. This remarkable settlement, with roots tracing back to the 19th century when it was established by freed slaves, is a place where the local community proudly shares its poignant and unique heritage.
Visitors to Dwarsrivier find themselves immersed in an environment brimming with inspiration, connection, and authenticity. The strength and hospitality of the local community shine through in every encounter, whether it be during wine tastings, leisurely hikes, guided walks, or mountain biking adventures. The valley’s culture and heritage, complemented by breathtaking views, encourage guests to linger, captivated by the locals’ warmth and friendliness.
3. Root44 Market and Wine Emporium
Root 44 in Stellenbosch stands out as a vibrant and dynamic marketplace, attracting visitors of all ages and interests. Housed in a modern, state-of-the-art building, it provides an ideal platform for traders to showcase their products more permanently. The market embodies a blend of vibrancy, style, and quality, appealing to avid market-goers. With its structure seamlessly blending into the surroundings, Root 44 offers breathtaking views of the quintessential Stellenbosch landscapes – rolling mountains and lush vineyards. A wide array of international cuisines is available, making it a popular destination for food lovers.
The first-floor Wine Emporium at Root 44 is a cultured person’s delight, surrounded by a well-designed structure with a stylish interior. It features an array of attractions including an art gallery, a sports bar, an oyster bar, a coffee shop, and a restaurant. Central to the Emporium is the wine shop and tasting room, showcasing a fine selection of local Stellenbosch wines. Visitors can indulge in unique wine tastings and pairings, enhancing their culinary experience. Additionally, the Emporium includes Boho Coffee, offering a range of homemade cakes and pastries, and an art gallery that displays a variety of fine art, making Root 44 a diverse and enriching experience in the heart of the Cape Winelands.
4. Rupert Museum
The Rupert Museum, nestled along the riverside, is a celebrated art haven showcasing a myriad of paintings, sculptures, and tapestries by renowned 20th-century South African artists. This museum is the custodian of the unique private art collection initiated in the 1940s by the late Anton and Huberte Rupert. Visitors are welcomed to this exquisite cultural experience free of charge, making it accessible to all who appreciate fine art.
The museum offers an enriching journey through its galleries, featuring remarkable exhibits that leave a lasting impression. Notable are the Pierneef Station Panels, a significant collection preserved despite the station’s decline. The works of Irma Stern are also prominently displayed, adding to the museum’s allure. This remarkable experience, offered without an entrance fee, is a testament to the Rupert family’s dedication to art and tourism in South Africa.
Guests are encouraged to take their time exploring the galleries, enjoy a snack at the quaint on-site restaurant, and marvel at the mural by Vladimir Tretchicoff, a piece once gracing the artist’s living room and now adding charm to the museum’s dining space. The Rupert Museum stands not just as a gallery of art from past to present but as an oasis of culture, complete with a landscaped garden and a serene coffee shop for visitors to relax and reflect.
5. Eagle Encounters at Spier Wine Farm
Since its inception in 2001, Eagle Encounters at Spier Wine Farm has been a beacon of hope and conservation, dedicated to rehabilitating and releasing birds of prey. Situated on land generously donated by Spier, this facility plays a crucial role in maintaining the farm’s ecological balance by using these majestic birds to naturally control pests, eliminating the need for pesticides. The commitment to conservation and education is evident in the loving care and respect the handlers exhibit towards the raptors, making it not just a sanctuary for birds but also a place of learning and appreciation for visitors.
The experience at Eagle Encounters is both educational and exhilarating, especially for bird enthusiasts. With its affordable entry, the center offers an enriching day out in the sun, surrounded by the beauty of the Winelands. The knowledgeable guides provide fascinating insights into the lives and habits of eagles, vultures, owls, and hawks. Guests can witness impressive flying shows and even enjoy personal interactions with some of the birds, adding an interactive dimension to the visit. The center’s mission of rescue and rehabilitation is supported by the fees, making every visit a contribution to a noble cause.
Also read: The 25 Best Restaurants in Stellenbosch
6. House of J.C. Le Roux
The House of J.C. Le Roux, a sprawling estate winery, offers an upscale experience with creative food and wine pairings, set in a beautifully designed venue. Recent additions have enhanced its former design, making it not only a stunning location but also a delightful spot for delectable dining. The estate thoughtfully includes outdoor tables accompanied by a children’s play area, making it family-friendly. Its versatility makes it suitable for various events, including conferences, though accessibility may need adjustments based on individual requirements.
Guests at J.C. Le Roux are treated to a great selection of food and champagne tastings, with the staff being notably accommodating and humorous. The outdoor seating, ideal for summer visits, could benefit from heating lamps for cooler days. Visitors, including those with children, enjoy the tastings, with non-alcoholic options also available. The venue is also perfect for special occasions, as seen when a visitor surprised their mother with a bubbly tasting for her birthday, receiving exceptional service from the well-trained staff.
7. Tokara Wine Estate
Tokara Wine Estate, perched on a hilltop in Stellenbosch, is a modern winery renowned for its picturesque vineyard views, art gallery, chic restaurant, and exceptional wines. Known for their sought-after and award-winning Reserve Collection, Tokara specializes in terroir-specific, single-vineyard offerings. Their limited-quantity wines include expressive and layered Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, each showcasing the unique characteristics of their vineyards. The estate is celebrated not only for its wines but also for its breathtaking scenery that rivals paintings.
The estate’s excellent service, friendly staff, and immaculate maintenance make it a must-visit location. For those looking to explore the estate and its surroundings, Wineland Bikes offers electric bikes, making the exploration of this picturesque area both fun and effortless. The combination of remarkable wines, stunning scenery, and the option to explore on bike makes Tokara Wine Estate a highly recommended destination in the Stellenbosch region, promising a memorable adventure filled with great wine and breathtaking views.
Also read: 5 superb Stellenbosch coffee shops to try
8. Rust en Vrede Wine Estate
Rust en Vrede, situated within a historic Cape Dutch cellar on a wine estate in the foothills of the Helderberg, offers a quintessential winelands dining experience. The restaurant, surrounded by oak trees and vineyards, has been serving guests since 2007 under the leadership of head chef Fabio Daniel. Chef Fabio’s contemporary French cuisine, influenced by his Brazilian and Italian heritage, is crafted from fresh seasonal products with a focus on the age and quality of the beef and venison.
Rust en Vrede is not only known for its exceptional food and wine but also for its rich history in winemaking, dating back over 300 years at its Stellenbosch estate. The estate is particularly noted for its robust red wines. Visitors consistently praise the outstanding quality of both food and service, with wine tastings being a highlight of the experience. The estate’s location adds to its charm, making it a recommended destination. While dining options are focused on salmon or steak, the dishes, especially the fillet, receive high acclaim for their quality. The wine pairings are considered good value, contributing to a fine dining experience that makes Rust en Vrede a top choice for those seeking a delightful afternoon in the winelands with family and friends. Additionally, guests are encouraged to try the estate’s brandy, rounding off what is invariably described as an amazing visit.
9. Warwick Wine Estate
Nestled in the foothills of the iconic Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch, Warwick Wine Estate is renowned for its exceptional terroir, producing grapes of consistently outstanding quality. In the cellar, careful vinification processes bring out the true varietal character of each wine, reflecting an honest expression of their origin. With a deep respect for nature, Warwick is committed to nurturing and protecting the land, ensuring its vitality for future generations. Each wine in their collection narrates a part of Warwick’s rich story, embodying the estate’s dedication to excellence in winemaking.
The history of Warwick Estate dates back to 1771, with the estate coming into prominence in the South African wine scene under Stan and Norma Ratcliffe’s ownership since 1964. They focused on classic Bordeaux varieties, particularly Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Norma Ratcliffe, one of the Cape’s pioneering female winemakers, left an indelible mark on the industry, her legacy celebrated in the “First Lady” wine range.
Warwick offers more than just wine tasting; it provides a serene setting for gourmet picnics and platters. Visitors can relax on the lawns or in the shaded forest courtyard, enjoying food made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. With over 40 years of winemaking history, Warwick Wines have garnered acclaim, including appearances in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 and being featured at Four Seasons Hotels. The estate has a storied past, dating back to when it was named in 1901 after a retired British Army Colonel, a nod to his Warwickshire regiment. Today, Warwick Wine Estate’s picnics are a highlight, offering a perfect way to while away summer days in their picturesque setting.
10. Delaire Graff Estate
Delaire Graff Estate, majestically positioned atop the Helshoogte Pass in Stellenbosch, offers guests an unforgettable experience in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Renowned for its breathtaking views and luxurious facilities, the estate is a pinnacle of hospitality. With its historic Cape Dutch cellar, the estate is not just a winery but a destination for those seeking the finest in wine, dining, and relaxation. The terroir of Delaire Graff is ideal for producing grapes of exceptional quality, and the cellar’s careful vinification process results in fine wines that truly reflect their origin.
The estate is also a culinary delight, boasting the Indochine restaurant with a set dinner menu and the Hōseki, offering an evocative Japanese menu against the backdrop of Table Mountain. For a more casual yet equally exquisite dining experience, the Delaire Graff Restaurant on the terrace serves seasonal bistro-chic dishes with a South African twist, complemented by stunning views of the Banghoek Valley.
Unwinding is an art at Delaire Graff Spa, a sanctuary of wellness inspired by the natural beauty of the surroundings. The estate’s boutiques celebrate craftsmanship and elegance, offering everything from art and design to luxury clothing and homewares. Delaire Graff Estate is not only a testament to the beauty of the Cape Winelands but also a gallery for an impressive art collection, carefully curated by Laurence Graff, making it a destination that truly encompasses the essence of beauty in all its forms.
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