Tour Highlights, Suggested Stops & Further Info
- The Blue Train
- Cape Town
- Hermanus & Walker Bay
- Sommerset West
Stay at either the 5* Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and next to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or stay at the ever popular 4* Vineyard Hotel, located in the lush leafy suburb of Newlands. Both offer great bases to explore the city, with the Vineyard Hotel offering an easier location to explore the very near Constantia wine area and the popular coastal suburbs of Fish Hoek & Kalk Bay in the False Bay area.
Dine in Cape Town’s best restaurants, including one voted in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants. Enjoy seafood whilst gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean or share plates at the innovative and uber cool Pot Luck Club, (see Victoria & Alfred Waterfront & The Old Biscuit Mill below).
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Whether you’re looking to go shopping, dine at top restaurants, party at local nightspots, visit tourist attractions and museums or investigate the city’s historic harbour, you’ll find it all here. You might like to visit the family-friendly Two Oceans Aquarium, where you can get close to sharks, penguins and hundreds of species of sea life. There are lots of outdoor activities available too, ranging from helicopter flips to boat charters and relaxed harbour cruises (walk along the water’s edge and pick one – there are several options). Or browse through hundreds of shopping outlets, ranging from larger department stores selling designer labels to the boutique jewellery and curio shops found at the Craft Market in the Water Shed.
The diverse range of restaurants on the V&A Waterfront range from premium steakhouse to seafood restaurant and to home cooked Italian. Our best picks include;
Belthazar Restaurant & Wine Bar – an award winning steakhouse & grill restaurant which has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 2008 for having one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world. It is the realization of a lifelong passion for wine, their vision was to create the largest “wine by the glass” wine bar in the world. Experienced sommeliers expertly serve up to 250 of the Cape’s finest wines by the glass and advise customers on a wine-list of up to 600 fine wines and sought-after rare vintages.
Harbour House – an elegant seafood restaurant on the harbour overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Meloncino – an Italian restaurant with home made pasta & authentic sauces, steaks & seafood from the charcoal grill and traditional wood fired pizza.
The V&A Waterfront’s Amphitheatre is a good spot for live entertainment (usually provided to the public for free) – from concerts to creative workshops.
There are a number of museums and galleries that form part of the precinct – including the Maritime Centre in the Union Castle Building, which features a collection of ship models and objects associated with shipping in Cape Town, in particular the era of mail ships. You can also visit the Chavonnes Battery Museum – a heritage site and the first coastal fortification to protect Table Bay besides The Castle.
The V&A Waterfront is also where you’ll find the Nelson Mandela Gateway for trips to Robben Island.
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a tour to Robben Island to see the place of the incarceration of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners during apartheid. Many of South Africa’s most prominent freedom fighters spent time here and Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned on the island.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they write in their description of the site: “The buildings of Robben Island bear eloquent testimony to its sombre history, and at the same time symbolise the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, and of democracy over oppression.”
Our advice is to book this tour in advance of your travel as you don’t want to be disappointed by seeing it sold out for your visit.
With magnificent views over the city, this is another not to be missed site. You can either book a guided tour to hike up the mountain or take the leisurely route via the cable car, but be sure to book your cable ticket in advance to avoid the queues at the Lower Cable Station.
Once at the top there are a number of short walks, as well as longer ones that can take you down to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, or even further along, to the Silvermine Nature Reserve.
Table Mountain is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to over 1 500 species of plants (more than the number found throughout the entire British Isles.
At its highest point, Table Mountain reaches 1 085m (3 560ft) and affords views all the way to Robben Island and beyond.
Cape Town has a variety of beaches. The chic Riviera style of beach, complete with turquoise sea and white sand, can be found very close to the city on the Atlantic seaboard. Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno are all great, but be warned the Atlantic Ocean can be a little chilly! Warmer swimming can be found in the more sheltered False Bay often 5oC warmer than the Atlantic. Muizenberg is known as Cape Town’s nicest swimming beach, flat and wide it is very child friendly, with a gentle rolling surf. Muizenberg is a laid-back seaside town with plenty of coffee shops and restaurants close to the beach.
The Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock
The Old Biscuit Mill is a vibrant, warm-hearted little village in the heart of Woodstock where talented people come together to share, collaborate and show off the heart-felt passion. The Mill is home to day and night markets, dynamic office space, a range of workshops and designer stores, delicious farm stalls, decadent restaurants as well as an inspiring line-up of festivals and productions. Explore the Mill and meet some of South Africa’s most talented, innovative designers, artists, photographers, and connoisseurs of fine taste and decor.
Our recommended restaurants to visit include; The Test Kitchen, voted one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the innovative & uber cool Pot Luck Club where the “sharing plates” are divided into our 5 basic tastes; salty, sour, sweet, umami and bitter to allow guests to try each sensation on it’s own as well as all the flavours as a whole experience.
Specialising in boutique wine estates, the wine warehouse Wine@theMill is also worthy of a visit.
Best known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc production, sometimes on an industrial scale, there are also plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Shiraz on the warmer lower slopes.
A visit to the modern angular winery Durbanville Hill with its beautiful views of Table Mountain & Robben Island is recommended. The restaurant offers simple, unpretentious, yet sophisticated food, and the wooden deck with the beautiful views is the perfect setting for sipping on a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Warm home of KWV the South African Co-operative Wine Growers’ Association, but also now home to a new generation of smaller growers and boutique wine makers.
Whilst the KWV wine emporium & cellars in Paarl is well worth a visit, we suggest visits to some of the pioneer growers who broke away from the co-operative movement such as; Fairview & Backsberg (Simonsberg-Paarl).
Fairview – Having previously been a valued supplier of good wine to the KWV, then the Cape’s largest wine co-operative, Cyril Back went solo in 1974 bottling his own wine for the first time – 500 cases each of Cabernet, Shiraz and Pinotage. As a vehicle to market and sell the fledgling Fairview wines he initiated the Cape’s first public wine auction, selling the wines at a top price of 3 Rand a bottle!
Backsberg (Simonsberg-Paarl) – Sydney Back became one of the Cape’s first wine farmers to sell wine to the public in 1970 under his own Backsberg “Estate” label (amidst strong opposition from the large producer wholesalers!).
Grande Roche Hotel
Nestled at the foot of the magnificent Paarl Rock Mountain lies the spectacular Grande Roche Hotel.
A boutique hotel where history interacts with modern day comforts and the gentle rhythms of a working fruit and wine farm create a peaceful escape for rest and relaxation. A proud member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Grande Roche Hotel features 28 elegant suites where you will experience comfort and tranquillity, personal service and meticulous attention to detail.
With Stunning views of the Drakenstein Mountains and nestled among the vineyards of their working fruit farm you feel a sense of belonging as you explore the centuries-old buildings and the rich biodiversity of the Paarl nature reserve.
The award winning Bosman’s Restaurant offers crystal chandeliers and fireplaces for winter or an outside terrace for hot summer nights. Michelin-trained Executive Chef, Roland Gorgosilich, infuses classic international cuisine with imagination and innovation. Bistro Allegro serves a simple but excellent menu in a more relaxed setting.
Lies to the west of Stellenbosch in a fertile valley surrounded by the Darkenstein Mountains. The town of Frankschoek was founded by fleeing French Huguenots in 1688 who also brought along their winemaking traditions and vines. Today it remains very much a boutique wine region with smallholding producers. Boekenhoutskloof is the star-performer among wine estates here. Franschhoek is best for sparkling wines, Chardonnay & Steen (Chenin Blanc).
Boekenhoutskloof – Based in Franschhoek, but will bring in the best grapes from the surrounding region to produce a wide range of wines. Best known for it’s high quality Shiraz, including the cult wine Chocolate Block Shiraz. They also produce a good quality Semillon, which will age well, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and the Porcupine Ridge range of every day wines.
Chamonix – Boasting some of the highest planted vines in the Cape Winelands, Chamonix has around 50 hectares under vineyard. The farm is blessed with cool breezes during the hot summer months and stony, clay-rich soil, giving their wines a unique personality and style. A philosophy of minimal intervention and environmentally conscious farming methods are just some of their secret ingredients. Best for their good quality Chardonnay, austere and tight in its youth, but has ripeness and an exotic tropical fruit character, ginger spice and toasted oatmeal & almond notes. Very capable of ageing well.
L’Ermitage Franschhoek Chateau & Villas 5*
This hotel is situated in the heart of Franschhoek winelands on The Fransche Hoek Wine and Olive Estate. The exclusive hotel offers a sanctuary for the soul with its breath taking view of the surrounding mountains, quaint cobbled streets, vibrant piazza and indigenous Fynbos landscape. Guests will experience a unique and unforgettable taste of the Franschhoek country lifestyle. The town centre of Franschhoek is around 1 km away, and restaurants, bars and tourist facilities can be found around 15 minutes’ walk away.
The beautiful and scenic town of Stellenbosch has a rich history dating back to 1679 when it was founded by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel. It is a dream-like picturesque area dotted with ancient oak trees and some of the most distinguished surviving examples of Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture. Today, Stellenbosch is home to a leading university, the heart of the Cape winelands and traditionally home of the country’s finest reds.
Thelema Mountain Vineyards
Thelema is known for its good quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, all of which age well. It is situated at the top of the Helshoogte Pass with elevations that range between 370 to 640 meters above sea level and mainly south-facing slopes, it is also one of the highest and coolest estates in the area. The high altitude and the deep red soils are ideal for premium quality wine grape production. The estate does not buy in any grapes and all wines are bottled on the estate to maintain absolute control over every aspect of the wine production. The terroir in combination with the winemaker’s style result in flavourful, flamboyant, complex and long-lasting wines with a distinctive South African character.
Meerlust – Fine wines have been made on the Meerlust Estate by the Myburgh family for eight generations, dating back to 1756. It is home to the Meerlust Rubicon, one of the first Bordeaux-style blends to be developed by a South African wine producer. The soil at this estate is very much like that in Bordeaux, consisting of decomposed granite mixed with clay and the climate is characterised by a cooling sea breeze, which gave Nico Myburgh the inspiration to create a blend back in 1980. Today the Rubicon has won many worldwide wine awards and the single varietal wines are also highly regarded.
Rust en Vrede Wine Estate – During the recent years the family have specialized in producing only red wine with the focus on Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot. Rust en Vrede was nominated as the first South African red wine in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World in 2000 and repeated this accolade for four consecutive years. Today Rust en Vrede continues to be a fine example of what Stellenbosch is all about and strives to be a driving force in promoting their wines, their region and ultimately South African wine. The estate also boasts a fantastic multi-awarded restaurant serving the freshest ingredients to create the finest dining experience at a world-class venue.
Relatively cool maritime vineyards produce some of South Africa’s most promising wines made from the Burgundy grapes; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Among the best estates to visit here are, Hamilton Russell Vineyards and Bouchard Finlayson.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards – one of the most southerly wine estates in Africa and one of the closest to the sea. Hamilton Russell Vineyards is located in the beautiful, cool, maritime, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. The Estate specialises in producing highly individual, terroir driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are widely regarded as the best in South Africa.
A boutique winery dedicated to the making of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines of outstanding quality. Bouchard Finlayson’s flagship wine is the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, which has won many an award and accolade. Growing on the slopes of Galpin Peak, repeated vintages of this path-blazing wine continue to reflect a true celebration of Pinot winemaking, consistently endorsing the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley as a jewel in the hunt for crafting wines from this illusive grape.
Bouchard Finlayson are a BWI (Biodiversity and Wine Initiative) Champion, their 125-hectare property currently has only 22 hectares under vines; the rest is mountain land, covered by the spectacular indigenous ‘fynbos’ flora of the Western Cape. With only a small portion of the farm under vine Bouchard Finlayson is able to ensure the conservancy of the mountain land. The estate encourages visitors to indulge their senses in the indigenous flora and fauna, and offer guided and self-guided nature walks.
The Marine is one of the southern hemisphere’s most spectacular seaside Relais & Châteaux properties. Perched on the cliffs, overlooking Hermanus’ Walker Bay, The Marine boasts 40 individually decorated bedrooms and suites. This unforgettable property overlooks South Africa’s most pristine whale sanctuary, and it is just a stone’s throw from one of the greatest densities of the endangered Great White Shark, and selection of fynbos species in the Cape.
Up-and-coming, cool-climate wine sub-region (ward) south east of Stellenbosch. Pinot Noir is emerging as the most promising grape variety grown in the area, also good for Sauvignon Blanc & Riesling.
Paul Cluver – pioneers of wine in the area. Estate purchased in 1896 to provide summer grazing for their livestock. In the mid 1900′s it became a strong apple producing region and was subsequently identified as a cool climate wine-growing region. This led to the establishment in 1986 of the first winery in Elgin. They are a founding signatory of Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, One of the first farms in South Africa to enter into a stewardship contract agreement with CapeNature to conserve the pristine habitat in perpetuity. This 2000+ hectare estate forms part of the UNESCO world heritage site, the Kogelberg Biosphere. Half of the estate has been set aside for conservation into perpetuity. Fresh Restaurant (open for simple home cooked lunches, 60x covers outside tables).
Iona Estate – excellent Sauvignon Blanc, which can age well.
Iona is only a couple of kilometres from the ocean, and the prevailing winds blow right into the Iona vineyards, cooling them down. Also the vineyards are on top of a mountain plateau, 420 meters above sea level, keeping temperatures down. The vineyard sites are so cool, that ripening often happens two months later than the rest of the wine lands. These slow ripening periods give great flavour intensity and particularly low alcohols – something that is hard to come by in South Africa.
Catherine Marshall Wines – as one of the first true boutique/micro-wineries in the Western Cape, establishing a then ground-breaking, alternative approach, characterised by the use of a low-tech, but meticulous hands-on methodology which set the trend for the burgeoning Garagiste movement. Catherine Marshall Wines moved into new (permanent) premises at Valley Green Farm in Elgin just in time for the 2011 vintage. Cathy has long term relationships with growers, sourcing the best grapes from regions that most suit the variety, for example her Sauvignon Blanc comes from Durbanville, Pinot Noir from Elgin, Mourvedre from Malmsbury and Shiraz from Agter-Paarl.
Sutherland – Thelema’s (of Stellenbosch) new range of wines from their cool climate vineyard in Elgin.
Nestled against the imposing Helderberg Mountains south of Stellenbosch and home to 2 great estates:
A beautiful modern estate, with immaculate award winning gardens. Biodiversity programme to protect their natural flora & fauna. Garden tours, cellar tours & tastings all available. Not to be missed is the fantastic Vergelegen picnic on the lawns (pre booking via the restaurant is essential, approx 195 rand pp) or choice of 2 restaurants; Stables Bistro or Camphors signature restaurant. Simple winemaking philosophy; there must be harmony between the old and the new. Currently producing a quality Chardonnay which ages well.
A wine & olive estate, with red Bordeaux blends being the forte here. The Estate’s wine consultant is Pierre Lurton, Managing Director of Château Cheval Blanc, a name synonymous with Bordeaux blends. The Estate’s philosophy is of letting the vintage determine the blend, and of making wines which are a true reflection of the Schaapenberg terroir.
Historically famous for the legendary desert wines produced in the late 18th Century, which were recognised at the time as one of the greatest wines in the world.
There are only 7 wineries in this region, which is effectively a southern suburb of Cape Town. There are great pressures of encroaching urban development and rising land prices, which constrain the growth of this region and forces the vines to move further uphill to steeper slopes on the Eastern side of Table Mountain.
Our favourite estates here include Klein Constantia, whose excellent dessert wine Vin de Constance is made from small berried Muscat grapes grown on the site first planted by Simon de Stel in 1685.
We also suggest a stop at La Colombe, the French restaurant at the Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate, rated the No. 1 restaurant in Cape Town.
Our hotel choice is the fabulous 5* Steenberg Hotel which is a complete luxury destination, with two fine restaurants, a “Gorgeous” Champagne Bar inspired by Graham Beck, an award-winning winery, a championship 18-hole golf course, illustrious private homes and a world-class spa set amongst the estate’s astounding natural landscape.