CAPE TOWN & THE WINELANDS
A brief history of Cape Town
Early settlers and maverick explorers landed in the Cape in 1652 and exclaimed that this southernmost region of South Africa must be the “fairest cape of them all”. They were not exaggerating. The imposing Table Mountain must have been a sight to behold as their ships landed at the foot of the mountain. Originally intended as a refreshment port for the Dutch East India Company, settlers couldn’t help but expand their reach in this pristine and natural resource-rich region of South Africa.
The old Cape was home to a variety of native cultures; the Khoisan and the San bushmen. Tragically, European settlers pushed these ethnic groups further out of the Cape as they began expanding. Later, there was conflict between the British and Dutch settlers, who later formed their own group called the Afrikaaners, with a unique language (an offshoot of Dutch) and a culture all their own. Eventually, most of the Afrikaaners were forced out of the Cape by the British. Much later, Indian, Indonesian and Madagascan people were brought from their country to the Cape as slaves.
Despite this rather turbulent fight for power and control in the Cape, as well as the marginalisation of indigenous people, today Cape Town is as varied in language and culture, as it is open to everyone.
Cape Town remains one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One only needs to fly over the area to marvel at the variety of landscapes. Very few places in the world can brag of a coastline as stunning as the Cape’s.
What to do in Cape Town
Hike the iconic Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, or take the cable car to the top of the mountain. The best time to do this is during the warm summer, where sunsets are simply majestic from the vantage point of the mountain. Abseiling down the steep slopes of the mountain is also available for experienced climbers.
Paraglide off Signal Hill. A fun and scenic experience.
Take a short boat trip to Robben Island from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. This remote and desolate island was once used as a fortified and isolated prison for those who fought for freedom during Apartheid. In fact, it was where the late Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years before the abolishment of Apartheid.
Explore Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a flowery piece of paradise just outside the city bowl. During the summer months, Kirstenbosch hosts a variety of local and international musicians. Pack a picnic and enjoy live music on rolling green lawns.
Take a trip along the Cape Peninsula. The astonishing amount of unique flora found nowhere else on the planet will delight, as well as the crystal clear bays that are a joy to discover and are relatively untouched. The small seaside town of Kalk Bay offers quirky shops, and your pick of restaurants lining the street. A wonderful way to spend a Sunday. For the adventurous and active traveller, you can hire a kayak from Simon’s Town, and explore the Atlantic waters of the surrounds.
Snorkel or scuba dive with Cape fur seals off Duiker Island.
Visit Boulders Beach where you can swim with African penguins.
Relax on the beaches of Clifton. Here, powder-white sand meets azure water. Surfing, sunbathing and sundowners are the norm here.
Hop on a yacht at the V&A Waterfront during summer for a sundowner cruise that will take you along the coast and moors off the famous Clifton Beach.
Join a cooking tour in the suburb of Bo-Kaap on the slopes of the city bowl. Here you can participate in cooking classes that will educate you on food that represents the Cape Malay population’s unique cuisine.
Further north along the West Coast, Langebaan lagoon is a popular vacation spot for locals. The shallow, aquamarine waters of the lagoon are great for swimming, picnicing on the beach and watersports. In the springtime, the coast bursts into a showery display of purple, orange, yellow and white daisies. A truly magical experience.
The Cape Winelands
The fertile lands of Cape Town’s surrounds took the early settler Simon Van De Stel only a few years before he began planting vineyards in what is now known as Constantia. Further inland, the stunning areas of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek were seen as the ideal topographical region for further wine plantations. Today, South Africa is one of the finest producers of wine in the world.
Aside from its rich history and natural beauty, the Cape Winelands draw local and international foodies to historic wine estates to sample world-class wines and food under shady oak trees, and rolling lawns.
What to do in the Cape Winelands
Take a full day tour of the world-class wine estates that dot the area in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Enjoy wine tasting, local produce and fine dining and picturesque surrounds.
Hop on an open-air wine tram that will take you to boutique wine estates. A guide will enchant you with the rich history of the area.
Stroll the tree-lined streets of Stellenbosch where cosy cafes serve fresh, homemade bread and expertly brewed coffee. In the evenings, the town comes alive with students from the University of Stellenbosch making their way out for a fun-filled night on the town.
History buffs will enjoy the Stellenbosch Village Museum which showcases how the early Dutch settlers lived and worked during the 1700s. Built in 1709, this is the oldest Cape Dutch building in the area. You’ll be met with guides in age-old dress, ready to tell the story of the fascinating way of life in Stellenbosch.
The Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature Museum is a great place for kids. Antique toys, dolls, teddies and miniature car collections are on display.
The annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival is held in late February each year and offers a multitude of wines from large estates and smaller more boutique producers. Music and people come together for this popular social gathering.
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Credit: Boschendal Wine Estate
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