There’s something special about holidaying in South Africa’s small towns. The charm, the friendly greetings… The joys of leisurely walking tours that don’t require an entire day to be set aside and the fitness level of an elite athlete to complete. One of my favourite small towns to visit in the Western Cape is Stellenbosch. Besides the obvious attraction of a plethora of wine farms, Stellenbosch has much to offer the inquisitive tourist; one who likes to look a little further than the usual talked-about spots.
I’ve been itching to travel again, so when the invite landed in my inbox, I jumped at the chance to explore the Stellenboch winelands with Cape Country Routes. With international travel still being a bit of a sketchy endeavour due to the global pandemic, more and more South Africans are looking to rediscover their favourite local holiday spots. There’s never been a better time to revisit small towns you’ve been to many times before, with the goal of taking a slightly different approach to activities and must-visit spots. Now is the time for out-of-the-box travel and being just a short 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Stellenbosch is the ideal place to start thinking about travel a little differently.
Recognising this thirst for out-of-the-box travel, Stellenbosch’s award-winning Eendracht Hotel & Apartments has carefully curated a few themed, activity-focused Special Packages to help new and returning guests discover a different side to Stellenbosch that goes beyond just wine farms. The packages give guests the opportunity to dip into Stellenbosch’s art world and food scene or explore the rich history of Stellenbosch, while also finding time to savour the local wines.
Special Packages at Eendracht Hotel & Apartments
Eendracht Hotel & Apartments’ four Special Packages include the Artsy Excursion, Foody Frenzy, Step Back in History, and Spectacular Winelands. All the packages come with a late checkout on the last day (until 12:00, what a pleasure!) and are available subject to availability and lockdown restrictions. The packages start at R1,794 per person sharing and include 2-nights accommodation, full breakfast, select meals, as well as specially curated tours and activities. Check out the full list of special travel packages at Endracht here.
I had the privilege of experiencing the Artsy Excursion @ Stellenbosch package with a group of media and had the best time discovering the art world within the town and the greater Stellenbosch area. The package includes two nights’ accommodation, pre-dinner wine and snacks at the pool, full breakfast served daily and a two-course lunch at Senobia’s (with a free glass of wine or a cappuccino). Activities include a 2.5-hour Loud Idea Ltd Art Walking tour of Stellenbosch, a self-drive visit to the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden and a free wine tasting at Brampton Wine Studio. All at just R1,864 per person sharing.
Experiencing Eendracht’s Artsy Excursion Package
We arrived at Eendracht Hotel & Apartments just in time to enjoy the popular home-style lunch at Eendracht’s in-house restaurant, Senobia’s. This 2-course ‘meal of the day’ lunch offering is usually served daily from 12:00 – 16:00 and offers Boerekos-style comfort food at just R95 per plate with dessert and a free glass of wine or coffee.
We enjoyed a spread of chicken and mushroom pie, homemade beef stew served with rice, pumpkin fritters, and coleslaw on the side. The dessert was a delicious malva pudding and ice cream. Being welcomed with this laid-back lunch was a great way to start our weekend and really served to set the tone for our stay at Eendracht. The food (just like every meal we enjoyed at Senobia’s throughout the weekend) was wholesome and delightfully unpretentious. Not unlike the Eendracht hotel itself.
The award-winning Eendracht Hotel & Apartments offers all the luxuries and technology you would come to expect from a modern boutique hotel, but with the warmth and homey feeling of an owner-run guest house. If you love hotels with a personal touch and a sophisticated historical feel, then Eendracht Hotel will be right up your alley.
A hotel with a story
Situated in Dorp Street in the heart of historical Stellenbosch, Eendracht Hotel is itself steeped in history. The original building, a small two-roomed cottage built in 1710, dates back to the beginnings of Stellenbosch when Governor van der Stel first explored the Eerste River Valley. By the 1960s this humble little cottage had been changed, modified and significantly rebuilt. The Eendracht Hotel & Apartments as it is now was built and founded in 1996 and is, to this day, an owner-run establishment.
The hotel comprises 13 en-suite bedrooms, three recently refurbished self-catering apartments, an intimate conference/meeting facility (called the Huddle Room), and a restaurant — Senobia’s.
The rooms are beautifully decorated, and I love the mix of old-world charm and modern conveniences in the room. The beds are dressed with luxury, whisper-soft bedding while air conditioning, flat-screen smart TV, a bar fridge with self-serve mini bar, and a fully-equipped coffee station round off the creature comforts offered in each room. You’ll also find ample plug points, USB charging ports, and plug adopters throughout the room as well as an in-room desk to ensure all your digital devices and laptop are fully charged throughout your stay.
Eendracht prides itself on being a heritage-style hotel with modern technology. All the TVs in the rooms are smart TVs with streaming platforms such as Netflix and Showmax offering hours of streaming entertainment alongside the traditional DStv bouquet. What’s more, the hotel boasts super-fast fibre and fixed-line internet connections with free WiFi for guests. The dual internet lines ensure that guests enjoy uninterrupted, smooth streaming while also allowing for seamless video conferencing for those guests who are working from the hotel. Solar power keeps the lights on at Eendracht when Eskom comes knocking with its load-shedding schedule.
Eat-in or dine out
Eendracht’s beautifully decorated restaurant, Senobia’s is open for breakfast and lunch daily for guests and to the public. The restaurant offers traditional wholesome South African dishes and daily specials. Dinner is offered on request for in-house guests, but Eendracht is also within close walking distance of more than 60 excellent restaurants, so you will be spoilt for choice when you do decide to go on a foodie adventure.
If you’re in search of a spot to enjoy some wine tasting and tasty snacks in the town itself, then you can’t go wrong with Brampton Wine Studio. Located on Church Street, just a quick walk from the Eendracht Hotel, the Brampton Wine Studio offers a unique spot for a wine tasting experience in Stellenbosch. The urban wine brand is owned by producer-wholesaler DGB (Douglas Green Bellingham) and its range of premium wines is made from grapes sourced from a wide variety of wine farms in the greater Stellenbosch area.
We popped into the trendy spot for wine tasting and a bite to eat on our second night and had a blast. The wine studio and eatery has become well known for its ‘Chalk Revolution’ and is immediately identifiable by its chalkboard tables featuring jars of chalk that serve as both table decor and an invitation to get crafty. The spot stays open later than most wine farms and is the perfect stop before dinner or for an early dinner.
The food menu features light snacks of olives or biltong, flatbreads, tapas, and burgers while for drinks you are limited to wine (of course) and a small selection of beers. I tried the Premium Tasting (R60), which offered 3 generous pours of 2 Brampton reds and the oh-so-delicious Brampton Brut Rosé MCC. The MCC really stood out for me and I ordered a second glass to enjoy with my meal at R40 per glass.
Art in Stellenbosch
Eager to get stuck into the activities straight away, we set aside time on our first afternoon in Stellenbosch for the 2.5-hour history and art walking tour of Stellenbosch with Juliana from Stellenbosch on Foot. The tour offered a great opportunity to explore the “village of the oaks” through the lens of art and history lovers.
With its shady oak-bordered avenues, Stellebosch is still home to many original Cape Dutch buildings and has a rich history just waiting to be uncovered. Interwoven into the historical side of the small town is a buzzing art scene that works to accentuate the beauty of the historical buildings while also working to shine a light on modern history in a striking way.
The tour offers the opportunity for guests to visit local art galleries, meet the artists at their studios, and admire the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust (SOST) exhibit along the way. The collection of sculptures dotted around the town is indeed magnificent. These unique works of art take pride of place on the curb outside buzzing eateries, bring a point of interest to busy street corners, and serve as social commentary outside university buildings where the next generation are themselves being moulded into tomorrow’s thought leaders.
One of my highlights of the tour was a visit to the studio and gallery of sculptor, Stephen Rautenbach, where we were lucky enough to meet the artist himself and hear more about the inspiration behind his whimsical works of art. In this intimate space, you will meet Rautenbach’s collection of wise Owls and Shrews and even see the Dodo bird brought to life once more in bronze. The studio is a place bursting with inspiration and is full of sculptures in progress, studies of life, and ‘doodles’ in wax.
The Secret Garden Comes to Life
But the walking tour wasn’t the only art we were exposed to in Stellenbosch. Eendracht’s artsy package also includes entry into the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden. This self-drive excursion was the absolute highlight of the weekend for me. I highly recommend setting aside an entire afternoon (or at least 2 hours) to visit this magical spot. We slotted it into the final day of our package and popped in on the drive back to Cape Town. Situated on the slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountain, looking out over vineyards towards the ocean, the garden offers an inspiring, peaceful space where the mind is free to wander.
Visiting this seven-hectare sculpture garden is like visiting another world. The larger-than-life sculptures depicting South Africa’s beautiful wildlife and meticulously manicured landscape come together to create a space reminiscent of the Secret Garden and it’s nothing short of spectacular. Entrance to the garden is by appointment only, so make sure you book before you visit.
Let’s get physical
In addition to the amazing activities included in the artsy package, we also had the opportunity to enjoy a half-day guided e-bike ride, with Adventure Shop, from Stellenbosch to Boschendal. The tour took us via the newly built Idas Valley and Banhoek Conservancy trails and was an incredible way to spend the day. The tour usually starts at 09:00 (so make sure you have a hearty breakfast before setting off) and ends just in time for lunch around 12:00.
The unique e-bike tour meanders through some of the best wine land scenery in Stellenbosch and offers a unique way to break a sweat while taking in the beauty of the winelands. The sights and sounds on this mountain bike tour are something truly special and even with the help of the e-bike, you’ll feel like you’ve really earned your lunch when you arrive at your destination.
Keep in mind that riders need to have intermediate mountain biking skills to do the tour and a general fitness level is required. You will cycle a distance of about 30km with 760m climb elevation, so you’ll need to be fairly fit. The e-bike does offer some assistance but it’s not a tour for first-time riders or even people who haven’t cycled since they were children. The Stellenbosch to Boschendal e-bike tour can be booked separately through Adventure Shop and is R900 for 2 adults.
Eendracht Hotel and Adventure Shop are both members of Cape Country Routes (CCR) with Adventure Shop’s bicycle tour featuring as part of Eendracht’s Stepback in History package. CCR is a group of owner-operated and managed accommodation and activity establishments encompassing more than 20 privately owned hotels, lodges, and guest houses located on the scenic and historic routes in the Western and Eastern Cape. All carefully selected for their character, charm, and romance, they offer the best accommodation and activity options to suit every taste and budget.
Lunch at Boschendal
Ordinarily, after the ebike tour has come to an end, time is allotted for Adventure Shop guests to enjoy coffee and a snack at Boschendal’s deli before the bus takes you back to Stellenbosch. Our group was invited to enjoy lunch at Boschendal’s Werf Restaurant before heading back so we spent a few hours enjoying the incredible Boschendal hospitality before heading back into town later that afternoon.
While The Deli restaurant at Boschendal is famous for its farm breakfasts and generous bistro-style plates, guests who enjoy the finer things in life will no doubt gravitate towards the more contemporary small-plate dining experience at The Werf. Situated in the beautifully revamped original cellar of the Manor House, The Werf Restaurant offers guests soil-to-fork dining using the best available local, seasonal and ethically sourced ingredients.
The Werf’s sharing plate menu changes regularly and offers a first and second flight, with meat, plant-based, and seafood options served with side salads and vegetables. Guests can opt for two plates at R260 (choose one per flight set) or four plates at R480 (choose two per set). I opted for the two-plate option for lunch and chose the Smoked Potato & Garlic Soup to start and the Braaied Angus Steak for mains. The first flight was served with garden lettuce, herb dressing, and shaved parmesan salad and the second flight with crispy fried potatoes.
The real star of the meal, for me, was the Braaied Angus Steak with charred beets, caramelised baby onions, and foraged garden herbs. The steak was cooked to perfection and the sweetness of the caramelised baby onions paired with the sweet/savoury depth of flavour from the charred beets made this dish a true taste sensation. Coupled with the perfectly crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside fried potatoes, the second flight was a home run of note.
If you’re looking for a stand-out farm lunch experience, you can’t go wrong with The Werf at Boschendal. The food is outstanding and the setting is to die for, with most tables offer sweeping views of the food garden below. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of Boschendal wine for a true moment of bliss.
Want to know more? Read my full review of the lunch experience at The Werf Restaurant here.
After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.