In our fast-paced lives, it is always rewarding to find a destination which gives us time to recharge – but also allows you time to enjoy these precious moments with family.
A recent 2 night visit gave time to reflect on some of the offerings available, whilst soothing the mind, body, soul and taste buds.
We were lucky enough to have a hosted stay at Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch. Located half way between the N2 motorway and Stellenbosch town itself, its location allows one the opportunity to get away from the bustling city life and get in touch with one’s inner self. The estate offers so much and naturally comes as a ‘Godsend’ for families travelling. Not only do they have their own kids club (so parents can ‘offload’ their children in the safe hands of child carers), but they offer a multitude of activities and offerings to keep one entertained.
For the entire family, a visit to the informative Eagle Encounters sanctuary is not to be missed. Not only informative, but interactive too. Segway Farm tours are available, a family activity which excites both young and old. Guided farm tours for children are arranged, allowing kids to visit a nearby working farm and interact with the farm animals (some being lucky enough to feed the animals too!).
Delightful picnic hampers are available from the Eight Deli, and the estate does not disappoint with acres of space to find a shady spot to sample their deli’s offerings. The Spier Hotel restaurant offers superb cuisine that tickles those taste buds (highly recommended), and the food portions do not disappoint either. Eight Restaurant – which brings ‘the farm to your table’ – is another dining alternative on the estate. Eight’s eating experience focuses on offering produce that is either produced on the farm itself, or from nearby farms. It is all organic – nothing grown with the use of chemicals, fertilisers or pesticides. Meat comes from grass fed cattle and along with hens are all free roaming. So you can put this down as ‘good conscience’ food.
Art also plays a large role at Spier, and is visible throughout the estate. Local artists’ work has been used to build on the farm’s award winning collection of contemporary artwork. Occasionally you will also find sculptures commissioned from time-to-time. You can also find a craft market located on the estate which showcases contemporary and traditional artworks by local South African crafters.
While you are spoilt for choice with where to eat when visiting the Winelands, one cannot overlook the treasure called Babylonstoren – a farm for all seasons. Wine farm, deli, restaurant, ‘magic’ garden, farm life, nature walks – it has it all. Babel restaurant is a highly sought after eating experience and in season it is not uncommon to have up to a month’s waiting list – so bookings are always essential. Everything is grown on the farm – and the menu runs by the seasonality of the produce. You only get what is in season for the maximum amount of flavour. Babel is well-known for its red, green and yellow menu profile. Utilising these three colour palettes – the meals make use of fruit and vegetables from these three colour variations and what is readily available- based on the time of year (season). Their Yellow salad served with pineapple chilli ice cream is a must during the hot summer months. The estate is wonderful for the family, offering gentle strolls along the stream nearby (under a canopy of trees, which is a Godsend in summer), while the farm animals (chickens, ducks, donkeys and more – sometimes you even bump into some of their resident tortoises!) are there to entertain the youngsters. For guests who stay overnight, bicycles are available to enjoy the 200 hectare estate as well as canoeing on the farm dam.
Butterfly World (near Klapmuts) is one of the more unique attractions in the Winelands. Although the name would suggest only butterflies being available – it houses so much more. From snakes and spiders to iguanas, exotic birds, tortoises, monkeys, meerkats and more. Not only is it informative, but very interactive for children as well. Butterfly World is known as the largest free-flying butterfly park. De La Paix restaurant is located next to Butterfly World and is a fantastic option to grab a bite to eat. Most times during the year they have jumping castles erected on their lawns, so kids have ample entertainment. For smaller children they also have an enclosed jungle gym/slide area.
For strawberry picking, Mooiberg Farm Stall is an iconic landmark in Stellenbosch. Many locals and foreigners travel past its location, and with its hand crafted ‘scarecrows’ painted in vibrant colours it attracts people from all walks of life. They are the most photographed scarecrows on the planet, and have likely been photographed by tourists from just about every country. Strawberry picking is offered and is a great way for the family to bond. Not to mention snacking on a container full of delicious, mouth watering strawberries as you head back to Cape Town! The Farm Stall is also a favourite attraction for those wanting to purchase extremely affordable wines. With a massive selection of estates available, it does not disappoint. Although the strawberries are at their peak during Oct-Dec, this does not detract from visiting its location – even if only to sample local treats and wines.