It’s summer – make hay while the sun shines! Explore the Stellenbosch environs on foot, take a dip in an eco-pool and get strapped in for a zip lining adventure. Whatever you pick, make your summer unforgettable with our line-up of ten things to do this summer.
1. Slackpack around Stellenbosch
Adventure Shop recently launched a brand-new hiking experience for those seeking a multi-day hike at a more leisurely pace. The three-day Stellenbosch Meander Slackpacking Tour, available as a guided or self-guided adventure, takes hikers on a scenic discovery of Stellenbosch’s iconic winelands and towering mountains while enjoying wine tastings and meals at award-winning estates. Leaving from Adventure Shop in Stellenbosch on day one, hikers make their way to Mont Marie via Coetzenburg, covering some 12km, with a 319m increase in elevation. Day two sees them hiking from Stellenbosch to the stunning Banhoek Valley (16km and 350m elevation) and on the third day they cover the 19km from the Banhoek Valley all the way to Boschendal (415m elevation). At R3,850 per person sharing (self-guided) or R4,850 per person sharing (guided), the rates include two nights’ accommodation, breakfast, luggage transport, transfers as specified in the itinerary, back-up in case of emergency, assistance in arranging the itinerary and an experienced guide when opting for the guided tour. For more information or enquiries, send an email to email@example.com or contact +27 21 882 8112.
2. An eco-pool is so cool!
Summer’s made for swimming – in an eco-pool surrounded by wilderness. And Mbali Collection, the latest eco-conscious accommodation offering at CapeNature’s Kogelberg Nature Reserve, has the perfect one. The reserve, in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, is also a World Heritage Site. “Sustainability is at the core of all CapeNature’s developments,” says CapeNature’s marketing and promotions manager, Loren Pavitt. “Similarly, the architect firm working on this project considered the effects of climate change and built with green principles in mind, treading as lightly as possible on the Earth. The cabins at Mbali Collection and the eco-pool are therefore strategically placed to allow animals to move across the landscape with negligible interference. A central focus of the design was to minimise the buildings’ environmental impact. To achieve this, locally sourced materials, waterless eco-toilets, solar geysers and planted roofs, among other things, were incorporated.” But what makes a pool an eco-pool? “The eco-pool is a chemical-free swimming pond fringed by aquatic plants that do most of the work to keep the water clean and clear,” explains Loren. “The water is pumped up from the reserve’s river and filtered through river plants and no salt or chlorine is used.” Note that Mbali’s eco-pool is only for overnight guests.
3. Water, and more, at Wiesenhof
Situated on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Klapmuts, Wiesenhof Adventure Park promises an ideal Cape Winelands escape for those in search of fresh air and adventure, be it wet or dry. The park’s owners have a long family history of building water parks throughout South Africa and abroad and when they decided the Western Cape was in need of more entertainment of the watery kind, the Wiesenhof Adventure Park – named for the farm where it is located – came into existence. At 7ha in extent, it features eight water slides that range from tame to exciting and are ideal for water babies of all ages. With six swimming pools, 48 trampolines, a composite pump track, wall climbing, as well as a take-away restaurant, a coffee shop and 80 braai spots, there’s no fear anyone will get bored. Wiesenhof Adventure Park’s water activities are open until May 2022 on Fridays from 13:00 to 18:00 and on Saturdays and Sundays from 09:00 to 18:00. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
4. All aboard!
Surprised to hear that the Western Cape is home to a miniature train park? This holiday season, why not spoil the youngsters with a unique outdoor experience at Winelands Light Railway in Koelenhof and board an itsy-bitsy steam train. Don’t be fooled by size, these tiny locomotives are fired with real coal. To stay a bit longer, pack a picnic basket and make a day of it (alcohol and braais are not permitted). At the kiosk, visitors can also purchase a variety of snacks and refreshments including coffee, milkshakes and slushies. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, an on-site food vendor provides a selection of bites. Winelands Light Railway is open every weekend (Saturday and Sunday), over long weekends and on public holidays from 09:00 to 17:00. During school holidays, trains operate daily from 09:00 to 17:00. Tickets are sold at the entrance and cost R60 per person (access to the park and one complimentary train ride) or R120 per person (access to the park and unlimited train rides). Grandparents, pensioners enjoy a 20% discount when presenting a valid ID card upon entry. Young or old, see you at the station!
5. A Franschhoek gem
One of seven original farms granted to the French Huguenots in the late 1600s, La Cotte Farm is steeped in history and can claim to be one of those captivating settings where heritage meets natural beauty. The lovingly restored Cape Dutch manor house, shaded by ancient oak trees, lies at the heart of this Franschhoek gem, where guests are promised the ultimate Franschhoek wine valley experience and they aren’t disappointed. Set in acres of spectacular garden, the luxury and contemporary accommodation options include a hotel, orchard and forest cottages, and a private villa with its own lake cottage. Bedrooms are well proportioned with high ceilings and French doors, and from the private terraces, panoramic views stretch across the Franschhoek valley to the beautiful mountains. At La Cotte Restaurant, guests can enjoy a luxurious breakfast or dinner while admiring the nature all around. “The original manor house has undergone a number of renovations over the past three and a half centuries and you can see remnants of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture,” says Theo Pedro, head of marketing and sales at La Cotte Farm. “Inside, our rich fabrics are bold in colour, with splashes of coral that match the warm pink of a bougainvillea against the stark contrast of the courtyard’s whitewashed walls.”
6. Penguin power
It comes as no surprise that Simon’s Town’s Boulders Beach was named one of the best beaches in the world by Big 7 Travel earlier this year. Big 7 Travel, a media company specialising in travel, food and hotels across the globe, announced in July that Boulders Beach, with its pearly white sand and adjacent African penguin colony, ranked 12th on its list of Top 50 Best Beaches in the World. As one of only a few accessible penguin colonies on the planet, the colony at Boulders Beach in SANParks’ Table Mountain National Park is hugely popular with locals as well as international visitors. Hundreds of endangered African penguins have found a home at Boulders Beach. For humans, crystal-clear turquoise waters, playful penguins and gigantic boulders provide a photogenic backdrop and make for a picture-perfect day in the great outdoors.
7. Country escape
While Alison Walker’s big dream was to acquire an old guesthouse and fill it with artists, poets and writers, husband Richard wanted to build a game farm. After a holiday in Arniston, the couple returned to their home in Cape Town via Swellendam, the third-oldest town (1743) in South Africa, where their lives would change forever. “We saw this neglected old Victorian mansion and decided that we want to raise our children in Swellendam,” says Alison. Today, 18 years later and four children richer, she and Richard are the proud owners of Schoone Oordt Country House, a five-star boutique hotel boasting 11 luxury bedrooms, a postcard-pretty manor house dating back to 1853, lush gardens, tinkling fountains, an intimate conservatory restaurant, a sparkling saltwater pool and, most notably, their own tangible passion for people. Complement your Swellendam stay with dinner at Italian fine dining restaurant La Sosta, owned and run by an Italian and South African chef couple. The beetroot risotto and the tiramisu will leave you stunned. Also try the deli, eatery and bakery Grace + Merci and enjoy a freshly baked roosterkoek, before heading to another gem, Tredici, for mouth-watering pizzas.
8. Say it with flowers
What better way to cherish the spirit of summer than with flowers? Adene Nieuwoudt, the woman behind Adene’s Farm Flowers just outside the Western Cape town of Wolseley, is an expert at cultivating blooms. Nestled in the Breede River Valley, Adene’s Farm Flowers is dedicated to the production of a broad range of long-lasting, freshly cut flowers and foliage. Adene’s path from fashion buyer in Cape Town to grower of flowers became clear when she met her husband, Andrew. Not only did he hold a degree in agriculture with 20 years of fruit farming experience, but his grandfather was the owner of Platvlei Fruit Farm, purchased in 1937, where Adene’s Farm Flowers resides today. “The busy and productive 5ha farm offers more than 200 flower varieties. We have also developed a seed and bulb range of the best cut-flower varieties. Our open days welcome thousands of flower enthusiasts each year to see 50,000 dahlias, 4,000 hydrangeas, thousands of lisianthus and more.” Between mid-December and the first week of April, Adene’s Farm Flowers is open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays from 08:00 to 12:30. Alternatively, visit the Adene’s Farm Flowers shop at Local in Heritage Square on 100 Shortmarket Street in Cape Town, or the Adene’s Farm Flowers stall at the Oranjezicht Market in Cape Town.
9. Make memories at the Mill
Unquestionably one of Cape Town’s most popular attractions for locals and international visitors alike, the Old Biscuit Mill in the heart of Woodstock is a vibrant emporium known for culinary delights and fine local designs. It was once an actual biscuit mill, opened in the early 1900s by Pyott’s biscuit company. Today, the red-brick factory is home to some of the city’s best creative enterprises: designer stores, craft shops and restaurants. Think one-of-a-kind fashion, quirky travel mementoes, local artisanal products and gifts, and a trove of other unique treasures. Did we mention that one of the highest-rated restaurants in South Africa, The Pot Luck Club by Luke Dale Roberts, also resides at the Mill? Every Saturday from 09:00 to 14:00 the Mill buzzes when the popular Neighbourgoods Market takes centre stage, come rain or shine. They’ve also recently launched a conference and events space.
10. Want to fly?
After months of lockdown blues, outdoor adventure is calling. Or as Canopy Tours, Africa’s first zip lining operator, suggests: “Get outside. It’s the safest place to be.” Since building the continent’s first canopy tour in the indigenous forest of Tsitsikamma in 2001, Canopy Tours has added six zip lining locations to its portfolio, including one in Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. The Cape Canopy Tour near Grabouw is only an hour’s drive from Stellenbosch and promises adrenaline junkies slides up to 320m long, with 13 elevated platforms and a suspension bridge towering over a double waterfall. For Canopy Tours, it’s all about an unforgettable experience: “Our office is an aerial playground of giant trees, mountains and waterfalls. It’s where we find peace and excitement in equal measure and every day we get to share and experience it with new people from all corners of the world.” Considering that all Canopy Tours’ zip lining options are physically not demanding, age is only a number; currently, the operator’s youngest and oldest client records stand at five and 85 years respectively. And it’s good to know that each of Canopy Tours’ sites is located in a rural area where the company has helped to uplift communities by training locals to become guides.