It’s easy to associate the beauty and lusciousness of the Cape Winelands with wines and wines only. But the beauty of the region is not only enjoyed in a glass of wine, it is the kind of beauty one can still revel in up close on a hike, segway tour or horse trial. The region offers a unique biosphere that makes it ideal for growing grapes that has given South Africa its rightful place among the top wine regions of the world. The Cape has some of the most picturesque mountains, valleys and flora globally. To say the Cape Winelands is breath-taking is hardly an exaggeration, and although the region is popularly and rightfully celebrated for its wine, there are plenty of other ways one can explore the winelands other than just by drinking wine.
There are plenty of options for exploring the winelands up close on a hike through the various vineyards. A lot of wine farms have marked hiking trails on their property so visitors can be immersed in the richness of this part of South Africa. Some of the most popular trails include the Simonsberg Hiking Trail, the Delvera Vineyard Trail and the Schapenberg Sir Lowry’s Conservative Hiking trails, offering scenic views of vineyards to be indulged in on foot. The Elgin region, known for producing ciders and some wines, also offers the Green Mountain Trail, a unique, multi-day hiking trail that involves hiking through vineyards and concluding each day with a wine tasting conducted by a winemaker from that region.
For those who desire the experience of being immersed in the vineyards up close but are too lazy to walk, trotting on a horse through vineyards might just be the solution. Ride a horse through the Cape Vineyards as though you were in some epic fantasy film and stop along the vineyards, restaurants and wine farms to try out some wine or to feed the horses grapes plucked along the way. Cape Winelands Riding offers a variety of packages, from day packages that allow first-time riders to meander around vineyards to eight-day experiences that cover over 30 vineyards on horseback.
Also known as the whale capital of the world, the Cape Winelands’ Hermanus is the perfect place for those looking to spot Southern Right whales, especially during their popular return to Walker Bay. The Hermanus Whale Festival is a popular show, with a 12-kilometre cliff path that offers wonderful viewpoints from which you can spot whales. The cliffs form part of the whales’ migration route.
Those who enjoy cycling will not be disappointed by the cycling routes on offer in the winelands. From Stellenbosch By Bike to the Robertson Cycle Challenge, there is something for everyone. Stellenbosch By Bike is a means of exploring one of South Africa’s oldest towns, which is very cycle-friendly. Stellenbosch boasts over 500km of cycle trails that run through vineyards. The routes vary from 5km (Eerste Rivier Route) to the 750km Cape Cross Cycle route that cuts through the Cape all the way to Plettenberg Bay. There are trails that can also be explored with electric bikes, which requires less effort.
Spier is one the Winelands’ most popular wine farm with plenty of activities (hikes, picnics, etc.) and facilities such as restaurants, hotels and a spa. They offer tours of their vineyards or farms explored on a segway, the self-balancing two-wheeled electric vehicle. Visitors are given sufficient training on the segway before venturing out into the farm and vineyard. Tours offer scenic views of the surrounding mountains, they cut across the vineyards and give visitors the opportunity to learn about Spier’s winemaking processes. You can opt for a tour of the farm, the vineyard or a sunset tour in the vineyard.
Franschhoek’s open air Wine Tram is a nonchalant way of learning about the Franschhoek Valley. The bus features a loop of stops where visitors can hop on and get off on various wine farms, where they have a chance to explore the wine in that estate and then get back on to the bus and head to another farm. The tram offers visitors a unique way to indulge in the scenery of one of the most beautiful valleys in the country. winetram.co.za
Take in the views of the Winelands through the wind with goggles, a helmet and a scarf blowing in the wind, on a sidecar, driven around by a chauffeur from the Cape Sidecar Adventures (there’s a self-drive option too). The routes covered by the Vintage Sidecar include the Spice Route, Boschendal Wine Estate and Seidelberg Wine Estate in Paarl.
If you want to live it up, hop on a helicopter at the V&A and choose one of the available wine destinations such as Simonsberg, Paarl or Jonkershoek Valley. You have the options of a one-way transfer to another to another wine farm, a delicious lunch in the winelands or a wine tasting experience. With any one of these options, you’ll get to explore the best of the winelands from a birds-eye view. You could do worse things in life. nachelicopterscapetown.com
Hot Air Balloon
Speaking of birds-eye views, the Cape Winelands Ballooning offers a unique way of taking in the dramatic mountain ranges of the Paarl and the Berg River Valley in a sunrise ascent on a hot air balloon. This one-of-a-kind experience in a unique area is a wonderful way to start the day floating above the vines. It’s one of those activities reserved for special and romantic occasions, where you are determined to pull out on all the stops.
Open air cinema
From October to April, the Galileo Open Air Cinema hosts movie nights under the stars in some of the wine estates around Somerset West, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Check out their schedule to check which wine farms they’ll be visiting, and when and what movie will be played, at thegalileo.co.za. If you arrive early enough, you can find some artisanal food and beverages and get to take in the views of the wine farms under the stars before the movie starts. Ticket options include blankets, backrests and a mattress with two blankets and two pillows for a cosy outdoor movie-watching experience.
Explore South African cuisine
Traveling Spoon offers cooking classes in Somerset West, Stellenbosch and Cape Town by locals. Dishes from South African cuisine include malva pudding, frikkadel, bobotie and bunny chow, and you are also welcome to make suggestions of the dishes you’d like to try out. All the dishes are accompanied by locally-produced wines. These experiences are hosted by locals in their homes, which offers a wonderful way to get to connect with locals while learning a new skill. You’ll get to learn more about South African dishes and cooking tips while helping the hosts prepare a meal that you’ll also enjoy.