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10th June, 2021

The Great Cape

The Great Cape

Surrounded by spectacular scenery and packed with fine-dining experiences, it would be tempting not to leave laid back Cape Town. But that would mean missing the many joys of the world’s longest wine route, says Pippa de Bruyn.

Cape Town is beautiful, its craggy peaks belted by vegetation more diverse than the richest tropical rainforest, and coastline lapped on both sides by bracing, billowing blue. Set aside a fortnight and you’ll wish it was a month – more perhaps, as you eye estate-agent windows.

If you enjoy eating you’ll do so like a king – from grazing at the unmissable Oranjezicht Farmers Market to fine-dine feasting with a view. ‘Life’s too short to drink bad wine’ is a Cape refrain and, with 120 wine farms awarded five stars by South African wine guide Platter’s, cheers to that!

Iconic Cape Town

Head East, Through Karoo

Set aside at least a week for a looping road trip over the mountains encircling the city and into the valleys. Route 62, the world’s longest wine route, traverses the semi-arid plains of the Klein Karoo, a mesmerising trip through big-sky landscapes, dotted with towns and farmsteads, and watered by mountains to the north and south.

Break your journey in either Montagu or Caledon, giving yourself plenty of time the next day to ascend the vertiginous Swartberg Pass, up and into the Groot Karoo. Spend a few nights in the charming village of Prince Albert, which has one of the loveliest cooking schools, African Relish, offering classes from Karoo to vegan cooking, then return south, this time traversing the Swartberg mountains through Meiringspoort Pass, then the equally scenic Outeniqua Pass and finally, Kaaimans Pass, before descending into the coastal village of Wilderness.

Along The Garden Route

Riven by the Touw river and surrounded by the Garden Route National Park, from Wilderness you can explore the lakes, estuaries and forests that the region is famous for, though it’s further east, through the tangled green of the Tsitsikamma National Park, that you fully understand the ‘garden’ moniker. Discover the Keurbooms river, one of the Garden Route’s prettiest estuaries, on a jaunt with the Keurbooms River Ferry, surrounded by pristine forest.

Return via the N2, stopping for a few nights in De Hoop, where enormous white dunes provide fabulous vantages of one of the world’s most important southern right whale nurseries. Travelling between August and November? Add a stop in Hermanus, said to offer the best land-based whale-watching in the world. If you do overnight there, stay on the cliff path overlooking the ocean, so you can whale-watch from your bed. For a more rural ambience, base yourself in riverside Stanford and potter about the village’s boutiques and galleries.

Whale watching in Hermanus

Winelands Sojourn

To return to Cape Town, take Clarens Drive, the coastal road that winds along mountains dropping into the sea. Or head through the Hemel en Aarde valley and up to Elgin, one of the world’s finest pinot noir terroirs. Make Franschhoek your final stop: not only is it close enough to the airport for the flight home, but it’s also arguably the prettiest of all the Winelands valleys. Book a cottage surrounded by vineyards, but within walking distance of restaurants. And as you meander home after dinner, deciding whether this really is the culinary capital of the Cape (as the locals like to claim), you might want to give those estate-agent windows a wide berth.

Vineyards near Franschhoek, South Africa

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.