The beautiful vineyards and the mountainous nature reserves surrounding Stellenbosch offer a range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. With its agreeable climate and endless sunsets, Stellenbosch is a year-round destination for hikers, bikers, adventurers, garden enthusiasts, or those who simply live to bathe in nature.
Here are our suggestions for great outdoor things to see, do and explore, plus where to stay in Stellenbosch.
Hiking and trail running
Stellenbosch has an abundance of awe-inspiring trails thanks to the strong conservation ethic shared by Stellenbosch residents and the surrounding wine farmers. The area is blessed with craggy peaks, fynbos ridges, verdant river valleys and, of course, extensive vineyards.
The Duiwelskloof hike is a gem worth exploding – hidden deep within the remote and rugged ridges of the Banhoek Conservancy. Check out our list of five of the best hikes in and around Stellenbosch and some of the best wilderness walks South Africa has to offer.
Adventure Shop offers guided or self-guided adventures through the region’s most iconic scenery and towering mountains with wine tastings and meals at award-winning estates. Try the three-day Stellenbosch Meander Slackpacking Tour.
Nature reserves and conservancies
Bottelary Hills Renosterveld Conservancy (BHRC) is located along hills to the north west of town. Mountain bikers are allowed controlled access to a network of trails stretching across 20 private farms. Read more.
Greater Simonsberg Conservancy, situated next to Banhoek along the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, boasts 60 bird species, more than 120 indigenous plants and a range of reptiles and mammals, like duikers, dassies and porcupines. Click here for more information.
Assegaaibosch is a small nature reserve just outside town in the Jonkershoek valley. It lies next to the Eerste River and is a World Heritage Site. In addition to its dramatic setting, the reserve has historical buildings and two easy-to-walk circular trails. Click here for more information.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a dramatic amphitheatre of mountains just outside of town. With the surrounding summits rising to more than 1 500m, the valley offers some of the most beautiful mountain vistas the Cape has to offer.
Jan Marais Nature Reserve, although not strictly a formal garden, surely qualifies as one of our town’s botanical jewels. This is the only remaining example of the vegetation that the very first settlers encountered when Stellenbosch was established.
Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve comprises 70,000-hectares of pristine nature stretching from Elgin in the south to beyond Villiersdorp in the north, and from the Stellenbosch Mountains in the west eastwards to the Groenland Mountains. The reserve is a World Heritage Site.
Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude. That said, gardening is not a rational act, which is probably why it is easier to appreciate the work of others. We share a selection of must-see gardens that will reward the senses and bring much-needed serenity to your soul.
Old Nectar Gardens, created by Una van der Spuy over a period of 70 years, is something to see. The gardens extend over 4 hectares with 16 individual garden areas to explore. The gardens are open to the public all year round.
Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is situated on Mulberry Farm on Paradyskloof Road. Dylan is a sculptor of international acclaim and the garden is undoubtedly his largest sculpture to date, speaking of his meticulous attention to detail.
Babylonstoren is a unique piece of Cape heritage consisting of rare cultivated fruit and vegetables, with the big garden measuring over 3,5 hectares (8 acres).
Mountain bike trails
Stellenbosch has more than 500km of the most spectacular mountain bike trails in the world. From well-known Bottelary Hills Conservancy trails to the magical singletracks of G-Spot and the sheer excitement of Skyfall, Stellenbosch is every mountain biker’s dream. What’s more, local wine estates have invested in amazing MBT trails, which combined with their hospitality offering make for a memorable day out.
Here is our list of some of the unmissable trails in and around Stellenbosch.
- Bottelary Hills Conservancy MTB Trails consists of 108 trails over 152km traversing 20 private farms in the hills outside Stellenbosch.
- Jonkershoek MTO Trails consists of 64 trails over 102km in the majestic Jonkershoek Mountains just outside of Stellenbosch.
- Helderberg Trails consists of 48 trails over 33km through foothills of the Helderberg Mountains between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.
- Banhoek Conservancy Trails stretches over 75km and 40 trails ranging in difficulty.
- Dirtopia Trail Network consists of 40km of trails across the Muratie and Uitkyk Wine Estates along the scenic Simonsberg mountain.
Tip: The Wine Lands Regional Permit allows you to explore 1,300km of first-rate mountain bike trails around Stellenbosch. There are discounts for riders under 19 and over 65. Click here for more on the annual permits.
Make the most of your visit to Stellenbosch by staying over. With a range of fine hospitality establishments, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of the hidden gems that justify a visit all by themselves.