Framed by sun-splashed vineyards and rugged mountain peaks, the picture-perfect valleys of the Cape Winelands are famous for their grand old estates, pretty towns and award-winning restaurants. Here are a dozen reasons to explore this beautiful South African wine region.

Cape Winelands are easy to explore

It’s an easy one hour drive from Cape Town to the Cape Winelands, making this region ideal for a day trip or longer stay, especially if you are already planning on visiting in Cape Town. You could easily spend a week here, exploring the many things which make this region great.

Discover this stunning natural beauty 45 mins from Cape Town

Discover stunning natural beauty like this just 45 mins from Cape Town

Cape Winelands has over 500 wine estates

With so many wine estates to choose from, there are seldom any cellar door crowds in this beautiful wine region. If one winery looks busy, simply drive onto the next one – it won’t take long! If you want to enjoy a glass or two with dinner, you are in for a treat as you can see by the size of this wine list at Grande Roche Estate.

Wine tasting at Fairfield Wine Estate

Wine tasting at Fairfield Wine Estate

Now THAT'S what I call a wine list

Now THAT’S what I call a wine list

You don’t need to limit your tastings to wine

If you want a break from all that wine – or if you are driving – there are some fantastic alternatives to wine tasting offered at Cape Winelands’ cellar doors. KWV Wines offer fudge tasting or a tea and chocolate tasting experience (you can also do these tastings with alcohol) or you might like to sample cheeses and delicious deli items at Fairview Wine Estate.

Tea and chocolate tasting

Tea and chocolate tasting

Fudge tasting (don't drive after this one!)

Fudge tasting with brandies and other spirits (don’t drive after this one!)

Dining is a highlight

The Cape Winelands are home to restaurants with a strong local customer base, which means quality stays high and prices remain low as a way to retain value-conscious local diners. Don’t miss the Goatshed at Fairview Wine Estate, a rustic restaurant serving produce from the estate’s farm, from beer and wine to free-range eggs, chicken, beef, and lamb. Servings are as big as the smiles at this local favourite.

The Goatshed's rustic charm

The Goatshed’s rustic charm

Curry at The Goatshed

Curry at The Goatshed

Rich history and ancient vines

Some Cape Winelands’ estates have been producing wine since the 1600s and many of them are surrounded by historic buildings and filled with original wine making paraphernalia. Do a tour if there is one available as it is fascinating to learn about the local wine making heritage.

Tour at KWV Wines

Tour at KWV Wines

Historic sequoia barrels

Historic sequoia barrels

See where Nelson Mandela walked to freedom

Groot Drakenstein Prison is the last place in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and it was through these gates, and not those of Pollsmoor in Cape Town or from Robben Island, that Mandela walked to freedom in 1990. The prison is still in operation but there is a memorial outside the gates which remains a popular photo stop for tourists from around the world.

Memorial at Groot Drakenstein Prison

Memorial at Groot Drakenstein Prison

Stay somewhere luxe

There is no need to rough it at the Cape Winelands, with hotels like Grande Roche Hotel – a Small Luxury Hotel of the World – offering breathtaking views, divine accommodation and superb service. Look out for winter specials between May and October as there are some real bargains to be had. Cape Winelands’ hotels are popular for weddings and weekend getaways to try to time your stay for mid-week and save.

Grande Roche Hotel

Grande Roche Hotel

Fine dining at Grande Roche Hotel

Fine dining at Grande Roche Hotel

Get set for adventure

In between all that eating and drinking you can also go mountain biking, horse riding , quad biking or ziplining. With 1.4km of ziplining fun, there are eight slides ranging from 100-290m in length at Ceres Zip Slide Tours. This eco-tour is safe, fast and long and surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Schurweberg Mountains. Even better, you can calm your nerves with a glass of wine at a nearby cellar door once you’ve finished sliding.

Zip lining in Ceres

Zip lining in Ceres

Beauty is everywhere

From the rustic beauty of these apricot pits in the carpark at a fruit orchard to the stunning scenery surrounding it, your camera is sure to get a workout here.  It’s worth staying out until just after dusk so you can capture the stunning sunset over the area’s many vineyards.

Unexpected moments of beauty are everywhere

Unexpected moments of beauty are everywhere

Stunning scenery

Discover the stunning scenery

Breakfast view at Rijks Country House

Breakfast view at Rijks Country House

Award winning wines

Koelfontein has been home to seven generations of the Conradie family, with the estate originally purchased by Daniël Jacobus Conradie in 1832. The farm still produces fruits and wines which, like many of the excellent drops from this region, continue to take out multiple awards. It’s extremely affordable to buy a bottle or three at Cape Winelands’ cellar doors. I picked up a multi-award winning chardonnay for around A$12 (and ended up kicking myself for not buying more!).

Taste award winning wines

Taste award winning wines

Explore the area’s pretty towns

Tulbagh, a historic village nestled amongst the Winterhoek, Witzenberg and Obiqua Mountains, is just one of the many picturesque towns waiting to be explored.  Exploring the local museums and shops at one of these quaint hamlets is an ideal way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

Stroll through pretty towns

Stroll through pretty towns

You can impress your friends

While the Cape Winelands are well known to South Africans, many overseas visitors don’t even know they exist. Even well-travelled friends will be impressed when you share your gorgeous pics on Instagram and tell them about your adventures when you get home. If they’re really lucky, you might even share a bottle of Cape Winelands’ wine with them.

Disclosure: The writer visited Cape Winelands as a guest of South African Tourism, WESGRO and Cape Town Tourism.