12 lovely places to stay in Stanford

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 20 October 2016

This rural town has nature, a beautiful river and history, plus it’s an easy weekend escape for Capetonians. Our Pippa De Bruyn seeks out its gems. Photographs by Teagan Cunniffe.

How it works:

TripAdvisor lists accommodation rated by guests, but as much as we love peer reviews, can we trust them? Pippa, who has reviewed accommodation for 18 years, inspected 21 properties – some rated on TripAdvisor, plus she rooted out new ones. These 11 made her list.

The case for Stanford

Stock up on farm-fresh produce: You can prepare entire meals from produce is grown and made within a 10-kilometre radius of the village. Browse for ingredients on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the morning market, pick up fresh bread and delicious farm butter daily from Oumeul Bakery, picnic at the award-winning Klein River Cheese Farmstead and procure your libations from a number of excellent wine estates, or the Birkenhead Brewery. It’s hardly surprising that the area attracts the culinary sort, with restaurants such as the Marianas, Graze Slow Food Café, Springfontein Eats and Manor House, all worth booking well in advance.

There’s history: Founded in 1857, Stanford village is considered the third most preserved village in the Cape, its Cape Victorian and Edwardian streetscapes earning it Heritage Site status. The Stanford Conservation Trust has produced an excellent heritage walk; maps are available from the helpful Stanford Tourism Information in Queen Victoria Street; you can stay in a number of them. stanfordinfo.co.za

It’s fynbos heaven: The village is surrounded by fynbos-clad hills and ancient mountains; the nearby Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy is home to an extraordinarily high proportion of endemic plants: about 70 percent of its 9000 plant species occur nowhere else.

The river is gentle: The Klein River that runs through Stanford was used by the Hungarian Olympic paddling team to train for six weeks because of its lack of current and ideal setting. You can also take a sunset cruise on The African Queen.

Sea life A 25-minute equidistant drive from Hermanus and Gansbaai, this is the prettiest base from which to check out the marine life off the Overberg coast. Should you be keen to experience the thrill of a close-up encounter with the ocean’s apex predator, Marine Dynamics is the company
to book.


Best all-around lodge

1. Stanford Valley Guest Farm

TripAdvisor No. 5 of 11, Speciality Lodging


We almost lost Elsabe and Reinder Nauta to a farm in France and, boy, am I glad we didn’t! The couple purchased this 440-hectare farm neighbouring Raka wine estate instead, and set about transforming the lodgings and homestead, winning Sleeping Out’s Best Establishment in Stanford 2015. Comprising three self-catering cottages, 10 en-suite rooms and three family cottages, each with its own stoep and garden and clustered around a large central werf, this is the most fantastic venue to host a big celebration. Elsabe’s decor is a mixture of quirky vintage with contemporary classics, hand-picked art, comforting, natural textures and an overall pared-down simplicity. The self-catering cottages are well-equipped but be sure to book a few meals at the Manor House. Under the auspices of Madre Malan (the selfsame who established Madre’s Kitchen), it’s sophisticated farm fare ‒ fresh and prepared with flair ‒ augmented with big fireplaces and fabulous views of the Akkedisberg through large windows.

Room tip All the rooms are well dressed and comfortable, and most have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, but I liked the old-fashioned thick walls of Stables Cottage, Pincushion and Erika with their lovely views.
Cost From R850 per unit (sleeps two).
Contact stanfordvalley.co.za

Most romantic bolthole

2. Springfontein Sleeps

TripAdvisor No. 4 of 9, B&B/Inn


A few minutes out of town, off the gravel track that skirts the Klein River estuary, are three recently renovated cottages spread across Springfontein wine farm. Of them all, Milkwood is much larger and the most private, with a lounge centred on a big open fireplace and a patio with an outdoor fireplace. The tiny historic Fisherman’s Cottage – comprising just a bedroom with a double wrought-iron bed directly opposite the fireplace, a bathroom and a small patio area outside the front door – is also charming, though its location, right next to the farm entrance, feels far less private. Riverside, the most recent addition, is not entirely successful – the top romantic option is Riverside Suite No. 2 (featuring a jolly big fireplace opposite the bed) which is the only one of the three suites that has direct pool access; if others use the pool (as they apparently do) you will have to draw the curtains for privacy. The farm restaurant, Springfield Eats, is rated No. 1 in Stanford on TripAdvisor.

Cost R1000 for Fisherman’s Cottage, R1600 for Milkwood, R1200 for Riverside suites with a pool (all sleep two each); R3800 for the house (sleeps six).
Contact springfontein.co.za


Best historic cottage

3. Flower Cottage



There are older historic cottages available to rent (notably the charming Bugler’s Cottage, see page 43) but the location and space of Flower Cottage is hard to beat. At the bottom of a quiet cul-de-sac truncated by the lush banks of the Klein River, opposite the pretty Old Pastorie, Flower Cottage is Number 24 on the Stanford Historical Walk (well worth doing), and according to this was the residence of the village undertaker. The unassuming 1920s cottage retains many of its original features, the best parts of which are a broad front stoep with views that invite early-morning coffee and sundowner time, and an airy country-style kitchen, big enough for a central dining table. There is a spacious lounge area, four bedrooms (three furnished with queen beds; one with two single beds), two bathrooms and a back garden that neighbours Marianas, so you’re literally a few steps from one of the best country dining experiences in the Cape.

Cost From R1100 for two and R200 per person thereafter (maximum eight). Minimum two night stay, five in high season.
Contact stanfordcountrycottages.co.za


Best self-catering house

4. Elephant Hills



The Wills family holiday home has it all ‒ a river running at the bottom of the garden; stylish furnishings with original art and hand-picked treasures; uncluttered, well-designed spaces that invite gathering and hiving off in equal measure. But the real clincher is the view: beyond the reed-fringed river lies a bucolic tapestry of farmlands, dwarfed by a backdrop of mountains. Waking up to see this painterly landscape washed in the early morning light, you’ll feel more rested and replenished than an entire week spent relaxing in the city. The house is in walking distance to the village shops and restaurants, and a delightful riverside footpath leads directly from the garden. There is no TV or WiFi ‒ hallelujah ‒ it’s a house made for old-fashioned pleasures of conversation, contemplation, reading, playing board games and cards, and rediscovering the joy of vinyl on the record player.

Room tip There are four bedrooms (three double and one twin) sharing two bathrooms. The two front rooms open onto the front stoep and view. There’s also an upstairs loft room with two single beds reached by a steep ladder.
Cost From R4000, minimum two nights and longer in high season (sleeps eight comfortably; maximum 10).
Contact wheretostay.co.za


Best exclusive farmhouse for a group

5. Reiersvlei



Generosity of space is what characterises Reiersvlei, a sprawling purpose-built thatched farmhouse that sleeps 10 in five bedrooms, each with French doors opening onto a veranda. The central double-volume lounge-cum-dining room is enormous, the kitchen capacious, and there is a 10-metre pool set in the 180-hectare wild garden. The wide stoep has plenty of comfortable seating as well as a 10-seater dining table ‒ if the weather is fine, this is where you’ll spend your days, drinking in the views of the distant Klein River estuary and imposing mountainscape, the combination of colours and light quite spellbinding. When inclement, there is ample seating around the large indoors hearth which comes supplied with firewood.

Room tip A democratic design, ideal for two families. The two front en-suite rooms, furnished with queen beds, are identical in size, view and fittings; of the three twin-bed bedrooms one is en-suite while two share a central bathroom, entered from either side.
Cost From R1800 for up to four adults; R450 per additional adult and R325 for children under 12.
Contact reiersvlei.co.za


Best riverside location

6. River’s Edge



Photo supplied by River's Edge.

Photo supplied by River’s Edge.

This property has a lawned garden that flows right down to the river and a jetty, and what a pretty garden it is, with flowering creepers, herbaceous English-country borders and a vegetable garden that guests are welcome to plunder for seasonal produce. There’s easy access to the river (boats are launched 100 metres upriver at the public slipway) and even a swimming pool. The house is cosy and intimate, with three fairly small bedrooms downstairs (one with bunk beds) and a lovely upstairs master bedroom, all sharing a compact open-plan living area, with a log-burning fireplace, shuttered sash windows and French doors. The boho-rustic decor invites relaxing, and there is plenty of equipment for youngsters (camp cot, high chair, board games and DStv) as well as for keen cooks (sharp knives, gas stove, Le Creuset cookware and that kitchen garden!). Staying here is like borrowing a much-loved country-village bolthole, which is exactly what it is. Pet-friendly too.

Room tip The upstairs main bedroom has a king-size wrought iron four-poster, walk-in shower, Victorian roll-top bath tub
and river views from the balcony.
Cost From R1500 (sleeps eight). There are mattresses for extra children by special arrangement. Minimum two-night stay.
Contact capevillarental.co.za


Most stylish B&B

7. Haesfarm

Tripadvisor No. 3 of 11, Speciality Lodging


Steyn Jacobs and his Dutch architect partner Harry Poortman have fashioned a slick, uber-modern two-bedroom guest pad from the original house on their 40-hectare organic fynbos farm perched atop the rolling hills east of Stanford. The two spacious en-suite bedrooms share a lounge/library/bar, warmed with underfloor heating, a combustion fireplace and a profusion of books and art, plus a covered terrace (with braai) from which to enjoy the sweeping valley views. Steyn and Harry, who live in the adjoining barn-house, are impeccable hosts, providing privacy, wonderful breakfasts (and if you’re lucky, the occasional dinner) and excellent advice on what to see and do in the area. Stanford Valley Farm’s Manor House restaurant is a five-minute drive away. The new steel dam pool and sauna, currently under construction, will be the final decadent touch.

Room tip The two rooms are identical – clean lines and no-expense-spared fittings and features but only one has the valley view.
Cost From R1500 double B&B.
Contact haesfarm.com


Best riverside bargain

8. The Ark


The Ark, Stanford

There are architecturally and historically more interesting choices (for example Bugler’s, Flower and Limoncello cottages, see Also Worth A Look) but The Ark’s location, with only a dirt track separating it from the river, is a winner. There’s also the decadence of space ‒ the covered veranda overlooks an enormous lawned garden with plenty of mature trees, a pit braai and a play area equipped with swings and a climbing area for children. The house is simply and tastefully furnished in country style, and comprises an open-plan downstairs lounge/dining area with a large kitchen, open fireplace, a formal dining area, a small breakfast nook and a shower-bathroom. Upstairs the two light-filled bedrooms (furnished with king and queen beds) share a wood-panelled bathroom (tub only). The third bedroom (furnished with an oak double bed) has a separate outside entrance.

COST From R1100 for two and R200 per person thereafter.
(max six). Minimum two-night stay.
CONTACT stanfordcountrycottages.co.za


Also worth a look

A Little Farmhouse is arguably Stanford’s best bargain, this gem ‒ located a few minutes outside of the village ‒ has thick walls and rough adobe plastering that makes it feel like an authentic century-old farmhouse, but the proportions and bathrooms are modern and comfortable. It’s well-equipped and private ‒ set in a forest glade on a 10-hectare property ‒ and only R1 200 (sleeps six). overberggems.co.za

Bugler’s Cottage is the oldest, most authentic historic cottage you can rent in Stanford. Bugler’s was built in the 1860s for one of the labourers on Sir Robert Stanford’s farm. The one-bedroom cottage has been modernised and the thatch exposed but still has the proportions authentic to the period, and a cutesy charm that is irresistible. From R750 (sleeps two or a family of three). stanford-accommodation.co.za

Casa Limoncello was a shop in the 1920s that has been artfully transformed into a very stylish, modern four-bedroom home by a resident Stanford family. Decor is glossy-magazine standard, with a fantastic cook’s kitchen (and an award-winning kitchen garden). The two front rooms with an entrance off the street can be rented separately (R650 each, sleeps two), or rent the whole house from R2400 (sleeps eight).

Mosaic Lagoon Lodge is a luxurious, exclusive stone-and-glass lodge, with five privately located safari-style suites set within the milkwoods and offering stunning views across the Klein River estuary, is the ticket if you’re looking for a special-occasion splurge. At R5 600 for two it’s not cheap but the rate includes all meals, drinks and a fabulous range of beach and nature activities.

In the Stanford Hotel, the top choice is Luca’s Lodge, a two-bedroom family suite sharing a bathroom overlooking the back garden (from R1 950, sleeps four) but the real find is Bambi Cottage, a two-bedroom self-catering cottage with its own garden located on the hotel grounds (R2 200 for four, minimum two- night stay); Sixpence is the pet-friendly option (from R1250, sleeps two).

White Water Farm is slowly being transformed into a destination location by its energetic young owners. It has 10 recently renovated cottages, suites and rooms, a large pool and a country restaurant that opens at the weekends for lunch. From R850 for two B&B.


This story first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.

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