Travels With Wine header image 1

Hiking in the South Africa Wine Country

December 30th, 2007-- by Allan Wright

I would say South Africa is the least known of the wine areas featured in our seven 2008 Wine Adventures. It also tends to generate the most interest when I mention it to potential travelers and is on the cutting edge of active wine tourism.

South Africa boasts 13 wine regions, all located in the Western Cape centered on the city of Cape Town. While we visit three of those regions on our South Africa Wine Adventure, we spend most of our time in the Stellenbosch area, by far the most famous wine region in South Africa.

Stellenbosch is a fun town boasting a university and a fun downtown with hotels, shops, and restaurants. It is surrounded by mountains, including the Helderberg, Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Valley, and Simonsberg ranges.

Most visitors who travel to Stellenbosch either have a destination already in mind or drive one of the well-promoted Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes. These five driving routes have maps connecting the participating wineries, scheduled tasting hours, and a website dedicated to the concept.

However, it is not the Wine Routes that attract us to South Africa. Much less well known, the Stellenbosch area also has a fantastic series of marked paths called the Vineyard Hiking Trail.

Without its own website and with little promotion, the Vineyard Hiking Trail is not well known or highly traveled. The trail is centered on the World Wildlife Fund-owned Sugarbird Manor, a fantastic small inn that is our base in the Stellenbosch area. We walk right out the doors to reach any of the three hiking routes: the 3.3 kilometer Vintners’ Route, the 8.8 kilometer Devon Valley Route, and the 14.3 kilometer Mountain Route. The trails are signposted and a basic map is available for a small fee. Vineyards along the routes are pleased to welcome visitors.

One of the aspects of the Vineyard Hiking Trail that makes it so cutting edge in wine tourism is hikers are allowed to walk on private property throughout. Unlike in Europe, where most trails through wine areas are on public roads, or in the United States where property concerns make public vineyard walks a rarity, in South Africa the local grape growers have teamed together to make their lands accessible to tourists.

And make no mistake about it – walking through vineyards is more rewarding than driving from winery to winery. For one thing, it eliminates the drinking and driving problem. For another, it provides a much greater connection to the industry of wine, as you pass row after row of well-tended grapes. Best of all, it allows you to be outside enjoying the beautiful scenery rather than cooped up indoors.

P.S. For another look at our South Africa Wine Adventure, read my blog post on South African Safaris.

Tags: Allan Wright · South Africa

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment