Planning the Perfect South African Holiday: From Cape Town to Stellenbosch
With its year-round sunshine, fantastic food scene and world-class wine, a trip to South Africa is always a good idea.
There’s a reason why South Africa is written in bold, underlined and highlighted on many travellers’ destination wish lists – it truly is a place that has it all. While Johannesburg has an incredible culture and is certainly worth visiting, if you’re after sublime cuisine, jaw-dropping scenery and vineyards galore, Cape Town and the Western Cape is where you need to head.
Curate your itinerary with our round-up of all the best activities to experience on your next trip to South Africa…
The Magic of Cape Town
1. Experience Cape Town's Eclectic Food Scene
Do you love to eat? Then you’ve come to the right place. As South Africa’s culinary capital, Cape Town is well known for everything from its fine dining restaurants and original food trucks, to serious coffee culture and craft beer communities.
Cape Town Eats City Walking Tour is a great introduction to the city, with cookery classes and street food experiences while, perhaps the biggest name in town, The Test Kitchen is another true foodie experience. Delivering a theatrical evening of multiple courses that even involves moving between a light and dark room, be sure to book in advance.
If you’re after something a little more casual, head to Kloof Street, voted the ‘coolest street on the planet’ in 2022. Its latest addition is Club Kloof, a vibrant Italian eatery that transcends time with bold scarlet hues, upholstered seating, and crisp white tablecloths, focusing on simple but superior ingredients including sourdough pizzas with a twist.
2. Hit The Beach
Did you know that South Africa has a coastline of nearly 2,000 miles fronting two oceans? In other words, there’s no shortage of beaches. Be sure to stop by Boulders Beach to visit the endangered colony of African penguins (you can even take a dip with them in more clement weather) – the best place to see them is at the adjacent Foxy Beach. Muizenberg Beach is another great shout, and you can stop by to admire the colourful beach houses and grab lunch at a beachfront café.
For the more adventurous, why not try shark diving? The region is a hotbed of underwater activity, with Cape Town best known for its great white shark cage diving experiences. There are a number of different excursions on offer, including this Gansbaai Eco-Friendly Shark Cage Diving Cruise which will let you get up close and personal with this incredible species from the safety of your very own cage.
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3. Take A Hike
A trip up Table Mountain should be top of anyone’s Cape Town bucket list, so be sure to schedule this for the morning when the wind is least likely to blow. The most direct route is a relatively easy two-hour walk up along Platteklip Gorge which follows a well-constructed trail up the front face of the mountain, while the five-hour Skeleton Gorge route is much more scenic, yet much more challenging. Pushed for time, or don’t fancy the long walk? You can also ascend by cable car.
Be sure to tackle the Lion’s Head hike just before sunset too for the most spectacular 360-degree views of the city.
4. Where To Stay in Cape Town
From urban dwellings to beachside beauties, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation in Cape Town. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is in the centre of all the action and the perfect base for first time visitors, complete with a whole host of charming hotels and Airbnbs including The Silo. All industrial concrete architecture and plush décor, it boasts prime position just a few steps away from the Robben Island ferry and is right above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA).
A gorgeous little hotel located at the top of Signal Hill complete with picture-perfect views of Table Mountain and Devils Peak, Dorp also comes highly recommended.
Wading Through Wine Country
From Stellenbosch to Franschhoek, no holiday to South Africa is complete without a trip to the Winelands. Just an hour from Cape Town, you can easily tick them off in an afternoon, but given the epic scenery, fabulous hotels and cutting-edge scenery – and not forgetting the main event, the wine – that would be a disservice to this dazzling region.
The Best Wineries in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek
Kicking things off in Stellenbosch, you can’t miss the Delaire Graff Estate and Tokara. Try the Cabernet Franc rosé at the former and the Sauvignon Blanc at the latter. Both are set against the Hottentots Holland Mountains, it’s just a short three-minute walk or 12-minute drive between the two.
Perhaps the most famous vineyard in the region, be sure to pay a visit to Babylonstoren too, just ten minutes from Franschhoek. One of the oldest working Cape Dutch farms in the Winelands, last year, as part of a huge refurb, it opened The Story of Wine, an immersive museum packed with exhibits from aroma tests to a brilliant virtual reality film of how wine gets bottled. If you’re feeling flush, you can bag yourself a room here for around £400 per night.
The hop on/hop off Franschhoek Wine Tram is the best way to experience the town’s best vineyards in one fell swoop. Take your pick between 10 different lines, each visiting a selection of wine estates showcasing a separate part of the valley.
Where To Eat in South Africa’s Wine Country
While the wine may well be the star of the show, it’s wise to line your stomach throughout the day. Most vineyards have an on-site restaurant so why not book in for lunch? If you’d rather look further afield, other highlights include Franschhoek’s Tuk Tuk Microbrewery and Taqueria, Orangerie at Le Lude for Gallic-inspired dishes and food hall De Warenmarkt, which is a lovely spot to grab some local cheese and charcuterie.
Foliage should also be on your must-eat list, with forager extraordinaire Chris Erasmus basing his eclectic menus on whatever he finds that day in the surrounding hills as well as the harvest of small farms in the valley.
Where To Stay in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek
Aside from the aforementioned Babylonstoren, the five-star Leeu House is less than 15 miles away from all the best restaurants and wineries and gets rave reviews for its friendly vibe and old-world interiors, while the three-century-old Stellenbosch estate Lanzerac Wine Estate is home to a premium country hotel, acclaimed bars, restaurants and chic day spa.
When To Visit South Africa
When it comes to weather in South Africa, Cape Town and the Western Cape are unique, having their rainy season from June to August. We suggest visiting during the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to November for fewer crowds, lower prices and fantastic weather.