Category Archives: Travel Attractions

There is so many things of beauty on this planet, both natural and man-made. Even though I know it would be impossible to see everything in my lifetime, seeing even a handful of these travel attractions and wonders would be enough!

Pulled Pork and Brisket from the Hickory Shack outside Grabouw (2018-04-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 14 JUN 2018

I might have mentioned in passing that we had roped in Chantelle’s folks to head out to the Hickory Shack for lunch with us one April Sunday afternoon (Monty was super keen on giving this place a go), but up until now I haven’t actually spoken about the lunch itself. The summary is this then: as per usual it was awesome. Exactly what you would want if you love eating meat.

I think that this was the third time that Chantelle and I were visiting the Hickory Shack, and other than the neat little beer tasting deck they seem to be tacking on, not all that much has changed at this excellent Southern styled pit-master smokehouse eatery.

Texas style beef brisket, pulled pork, belly and colossal ribs (and chicken for those non red meat lovers who get dragged with for the outing) are all the stars of the menu, though that said, I did notice that these days the shack also offers a couple of lighter brunch options for those who pop in whilst on a breakfast run.

Oupa and Ouma were on hand to entertain the girls, craft brews and drinks in jam jars served to slake our thirst (it was a pretty warm April afternoon after all), and the carefully prepared meat, corn and chunky chips were just as mouthwateringly delicious as what I had remembered it to be.

(Plus, the complementary array of dipping sauces were excellent as always. Just a note though, the spicy one really is pretty damn spicy!)

Given all of that, it isn’t all that surprising then to hear that this place gets pretty packed on the weekends, so much so that for a change Chantelle actually phoned ahead in order to book a table. We don’t normally do this.

As things turned out it was just as well that she had – as far as I could see there definitely weren’t any open tables for any casual diners come lunch time proper!

Basically, a thoroughly brilliant lunch get together was enjoyed by all (well not really the girls – this place isn’t really intended for the little ones), and the Hickory Shack remains hard not to recommend given the relatively scarcity of this style of cooking on our local restaurant scene.

(And yes, as always I took a photograph of that skull decorated shed. Literally every visit I make, I walk away with the EXACT same photograph! I can see Chantelle shaking her head from here.)

Related Link: Hickory Shack | Grabouw

Books and Soft Serve Ice Cream at Peregrine Farm Stall in Grabouw (2018-04-15) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 11 JUN 2018

In April we invited Chantelle’s folks to come out and lunch with us at the Hickory Shack outside Grabouw. Lunch was as always brilliant, but for dessert I suggested that we take the kids down the road to Peregrine Farm Stall – their soft serve ice cream (from the super convenient Padkos Express outside) and tractor strewn play area is always a guaranteed hit with my girls.

Chantelle agreed, but only because I agreed to look after the girls at the outdoor play area while she and her folks grabbed some coffee and actual proper from the actual Peregrine restaurant inside.

Now I’m quite fond of the outdoor area that Peregrine Farm Stall has crafted over the last year or two. The thing is, as a farm stall/bakery/restaurant they are incredibly popular and thus incredibly busy – literally all the time – meaning that the ability to skip the crushing bustle of inside and rather relax with your kids outside is something I almost always immediately gravitate to. (So much so that I can truthfully say that I’m not sure when last I’ve actually popped my head into the farm stall proper!)

Pleasingly, given the warm weather, the soft serve ice cream that we picked up from Padkos Express was amazing, though that said, neither girl was able to make much of a dent in the huge dollop of ice cream that they each received – meaning that moi had to do some serious mop up work.

Ice cream done, the girls headed off to play, I grabbed a delicious cider from the Everson’s Cider pop-up tasting room, and went browsing, with by far the most interesting find of the day being awarded to Burning Books and its beautiful shiny red truck.

An offshoot of Liberty Books (which I don’t actually know anything about either), Burning Books (perhaps not the best of names for someone selling books) is a clever mobile bookstore – hopping about from event to event in their converted, stunningly pretty, bright red 1955 Bedford Green Goddess fire truck.

(To be fair, given that bit of information, you might now understand just where the bookstore’s name comes from. That said, I’m still not a fan of the name.)

Anyway, it is a clever thing to see, the books are all beautifully presented, and given their closeness to the play area, plenty of moms and dads seemed to be finding themselves dragged by the arm to check things out.

Clever. So, book browsing, ice cream, swings, tractors, shopping and a cider for me. Can’t say that I didn’t rather enjoy this unplanned little visit to what must surely be the most popular farm stall along the N2 highway.

(For completeness sake, Chantelle and her folks seemed to rather enjoy their little visit as well.)

Related Link: Peregrine Farm Stall | Burning Books | Grabouw

Kids at Play at BASH in Paarl (2017-10-08) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 08 JUN 2018

Kids’ birthday party venues are always an exciting find when you are a parent who a) doesn’t have access to a big house, b) don’t want to spend an entire day cleaning up the mess created by hosting such a party in their own space, or c) don’t feel like the effort of setting one up in the first place!

Based in Rosendal (a suburb of Bellville), and operating since November 2016, BASH had been an exciting addition to the Northern Suburbs’ childrens party scene for a while now, so much so that business boomed and the need for a second venue quickly became a reality – and so in October of last year their new baby BASH Paarl was born.

Situated on the Dvine Events’ grounds and primarily a birthday party venue, BASH hosts all manner of kids birthday parties, with the focus being mainly on activity based parties. Thanks to their signature Master Mini Chef Cooking Kitchen there are the super popular Baking and Cooking party options available, and thanks to the Private Craft Room, Wooden Craft parties, Canvas Painting parties, Flower Arrangement parties, and even Beading Parties are also all on the cards. Oh, and then there are the actual Pamper party sessions – seriously, which little girl is not going to love any one of these ideas!

Plus, BASH has filled their 200m2 hall, with a host of wooden play structures and toys, from a giant jungle gym right through to a pretend party bus. This, combined with the massive lawn and outside play area means that they are just perfectly suited for more action packed activity play parties as well. (Thank goodness, something for the boys!)

In addition to all the birthday party stuff, BASH is also open to the general public (you pay to play), and thanks to their small deli and restaurant option, the adults stay fed and able to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Paarl mountains while the little ones run themselves ragged.

Basically, what’s not to love about that?

Now Chantelle had been following BASH via Facebook for quite some time, eagerly following their setup progress – meaning that by the time they finally launched in October last year, I simply had no other choice but to bundle everyone in the car and make the long drive through to Paarl. Not that I minded though – the girls had an absolute blast and I thought the location was stunning.

In other words, hard not to admit defeat and pat my wife on the back for discovering such a fun venue.

NOTE: Of course, visiting a venue on their day of opening is almost also never a great idea because the chance to first get processes, procedures and numbers in place (and running smoothly) is obviously not yet there, so naturally our visit did come with a few of those very challenges attached (for example, the restaurant was to busy in order to serve us). That said, it has been a good few months since our visit and quite frankly, both Chantelle and the girls are rather itching for a return trip.

I guess we’re heading back to Paarl sooner than later then! ;)

Related Link: BASH | Paarl

Girls at Play on the Mouille Point Adventure Playground in Cape Town (2017-11-18) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 05 JUN 2018

The whole Sea Point, Mouille Point, Green Point stretch of Cape Town is always fantastic for family outings, with walks along the promenade, wave dodging through the railings, play on the various jungle gyms along the way, putt putt, a mini maze, the Blue Train Park, the Mouille Point Adventure Playground, and the Green Point Urban Park all on the cards for the little ones.

Talking about the Mouille Point Adventure Playground, I only just discovered how beautifully this kids playground has been upgraded during an outing with my girls to the Blue Train Park back in November last year. Open to all, it is the perfect mixing spot for all the kids of Cape Town to run around and play with one another.

So, while the Blue Train Park and its little blue train was definitely a hit, the fun ship themed jungle gym, inviting green sea monster and giant wooden jungle gym of the next door Mouille Point playground turned out to easily be the biggest highlight for my two munchkins on the day!

Seeing as we were in the area on a Saturday morning, we next dropped in by the bustling Oranjezicht City Farm Market, but given how busy they were (locals tell me the trick is to arrive super early), the girls and I instead shuffled off to a place of their choosing for lunch – and given that they are 7 and 4, naturally we ended up at Santa Ana Spur in the V&A Waterfront.

Sigh, at least the beer is nice and cold.

Not that I minded all that much I suppose – people watching at the Waterfront almost never gets old…  (Also, we did end up visiting Lagoon Beach in Milnerton for ice cream afterwards. So I can’t really complain.)

In summary, a lovely little playground that is perfect for rewarding the kids with some play time after first forcing them to walk along the promenade with you.

Related Link: Mouille Point | Cape Town

Camels and Browsing at Imhoff Farm in Kommetjie (2017-02-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 02 JUN 2018

Situated on the very popular Cape Point tourist route, Kommetjie’s thoroughly enjoyable Imhoff Farm is a must to visit if you ever find yourself in the area – especially if you are one of those people who take immense pleasure in discovering and supporting local artisans and their businesses.

The original Imhoff’s Gift (literally land gifted by Cape Commisioner Baron Gustav Wilhelm van Imhoff to farmer Christina Rousseau in the mid 1700’s as a thank you for her efforts to supply ships with fresh produce) covers an area that now includes Kommetjie, Ocean View and a section of the Table Mountain National park, with the remaining bit of unclaimed land making up what is now the historic Imhoff Farm complex.

With the dairy and livestock farming of yesteryear no longer viable on this remaining stretch of land, the farmstead has instead involved into commercial hub with and old-world charm and a focus very much on maintaining a “country farm” atmosphere.

The property’s historic homestead now houses the stunning restaurant with a view, Blue Water Cafe, while the stables, silo, smithy, slave quarters and milking sheds are all occupied by a diverse mixture of local artists, craftsmen, shopkeepers and foodies.

Talking about things to eat, in addition to the already mentioned, super popular Blue Water Cafe, Imhoff’s Farm is also home to other food related gems, like Coco & Lace (chocolates, truffles and pralines), Free Range Coffee Shop (coffee, bakes, and light meals), Chez Pepe and his artisan goat’s milk cheeses, Off the Hook Seafood Deli (fish), and another local favourite – Umami Sushi (which is headed up by Bo Zhang, the acclaimed sushi chef from the Food Lover’s Market group).

In terms of art, there are some many interesting studios and work spaces to wander through – including the likes of Bianca L Art Studio, Francoise V Gallery and Interiors, Heartwing Studio, La Belle Armoire, Lindsay Quirk Art Studio, Purely Porcelain, Rodney Band, The Studio Art Gallery, and Zoe Mafham Art.

Then of course there is the straight up shopping experiences to be had, encompassing all types of small quirky ventures, including hairstylists, a florist, a wine stockist, booksellers and of course quirky clothing providers!

Oh, and a well stocked farm stall to boot.

It is not just shopping and eating at Imhoff Farm mind you – given that this is a very family friendly attraction, there are quite a few options for play as well: like the snake park, the Higgeldy Piggeldy animal farmyard, horse riding, a 4×4 offroading track, the milkwood maze, and even a paintball & laser-tag arena!

So, as you might assume then, this really is a good spot for a family outing.

As you can imagine then, despite the few drops of rain that arrived out of nowhere during our visit back in February last year, we had a right ball – basically making this a pretty hard place not to recommend if you ever find yourself with your kids in the fascinating/quirky little village of Kommetjie.

Worth noting: One of the current trends in responsible tourism is of course a reduction in animal interactions – which has very much affected the Imhoff Farm experience since we last visited. These days the Higgeldy Piggeldy farmyard doesn’t allow for any petting of the smaller animals like their rabbits and guinea pigs, and sadly the popular camel rides are also no more (the camels were relocated to the Overberg). Not massive deal breakers of course (there is still enough to entertain the kids with after all), but a pity for those of us with little kids nonetheless.

Related Link: Imhoff Farm | Kommetjie

Exploring the Estate of Vergelegen in Somerset West (2017-07-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 MAY 2018

A visit to Somerset West’s historic Vergelegen estate is always a treat, thanks to its selection of stunning restaurants, the elegant wine tasting venue, the beautiful (and functional) gardens, its rolling lawns and tree rich grounds, the fascinating history on show in the preserved manor house and library, and of course, the 300 year old Camphor and other ‘Champion’ trees dotted about the estate.

I have of course written about Vergelegen and its long history before, but it is worth keeping in mind that this wine producing estate (now owned and maintained through the deep pockets of Anglo American) was founded all the way back in 1700 – and indeed a large part of the farm’s original grounds served as the base for the eventual 1822 founding of Somerset West itself.

In other words, Vergelegen is very much integral to the story of the Helderberg region.

Surprisingly, the estate is quite child friendly these days, with a great play area and of course the large open lawns all making for a very welcome kid distraction for those times when you just want to sit back with a glass of wine (or warm cup of coffee) in hand, take in a deep breathe of crisp outdoor air, and enjoy the spectacular landscape views on offer.

One such opportunity arose just before the holidays last year, when we met up with Miguel, Retha, and her folks for a cup of coffee and a stroll around the estate – something my two little girls very much enjoyed once I told them about the bridge that needed crossing and the magical tree cave that needed finding on the other side.

They were rather pleased then when this turned out to be entirely true for a change.

Vergelegen’s well maintained grounds are always such a pleasure to explore, and indeed, whether you are interested in wine, art, fine landscapes, or even historic buildings, there is pretty much always something for everyone at this very enchanting estate.

Related Link: Vergelegen Wine Estate | Wikipedia | Somerset West

The Big Cats and Crocodiles of Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn (2017-07-04) Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 27 MAY 2018

Celebrating over 30 years of conserving and caring for endangered animal species, the Cango Wildlife Ranch (which originally started life out as a crocodile show farm), is one of the now very iconic Oudtshoorn attractions for visiting families – after all, which small kid is ever going to forget entering the premises through those toothy, gaping crocodile jaws!

A fully accredited, privately owned institution, Cango Wildlife Ranch has worked for years towards the conservation of cheetah and other endangered species – so much so that they are in fact one of the five biggest cheetah centres in the world and has for many years had the highest survival rate of cubs produced globally.

Currently housing over 90 species of animals, all in good condition, and looked after by a large experienced team of both professionals and volunteers, the Cango Wildlife Ranch serves to maintain both excellent breeding programmes as well as robust public awareness campaigns.

Then of course there is that whole entertaining visitors through edu-tourism thing.

The Cango Wildlife Ranch setup is fantastic. The grounds, pathways, and enclosures are interestingly presented, well maintained, and in fact just well done, while the guided tours which lead you through everything are slick and very informative – and for those in search of something even more adventurous, experiences like crocodile cage diving and big cat interaction are also available.

There was of course no way that Chantelle, the girls and I could pass up the opportunity to pay the ranch a visit as part of our June Holidays road trip last year, and I’m quite glad that we did make the time to do so in the end.

The girls were enthralled, I was happy to relive pleasant childhood memories, and most pleasing of all, Cango Wildlife Ranch remains still well worth the visit.

Seriously. If you find yourself in Oudtshoorn and have kids in tow, then missing a visit to the Cango Wildlife Ranch (which is open 365 days of the year just by the way) is pretty much unthinkable!

Related Link: Cango Wildlife Ranch | Oudtshoorn | #JuneHolidays2017

The Stalactites and Stalagmites of Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn (2017-07-05) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 MAY 2018

Caves and ostriches, that is pretty much what immediately comes to mind if you think of Oudtshoorn, and rightfully so – no tourist visit or holiday with kids to the largest town in the Little Karoo is complete without having visited at least one ostrich show ranch and of course the world famous Cango Caves!

Situated in the foothills of the Swartberg mountain range, the Cango Caves can be found in the Precambrian limestone of the area, stretching for about 4 km (in length) underground. Based on cave paintings and other recoved artifacts, the cave system appears to have been in use throughout prehistory over a long period during the Middle and Later Stone Ages, however, it was only after its rediscovery in 1780 (by local farmer Jacobus van Zyl), that the caves took on its role as one of the more popular local places to visit.

Due to accessibility constraints and in efforts to preserve the caves themselves (the limestone is particularly susceptible to heat, light, touch, and of course the carbon dioxide that we breathe out), only about a quarter of the actual cave system is open to visitors – who may only only enter the cave as part of a guided group.

Tours are conducted at regular intervals throughout the day, with the two main tour types being the “Standard Tour” which takes around an hour to complete, and the “Adventure Tour” which takes around an hour and a half and has you crawling through a number of very narrow spaces and up some very vertical faces!

(Not really recommended if you are on the larger than normal side though – people can and do get stuck, sometimes horribly so.)

The tourist parts of the caves have been made wonderfully accessible, with knowledgeable tour guides and clever lighting bringing to life the beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations, in a space that really is one of those places that you need to experience in person in order to get a feel for its majesty.

It is also worth mentioning that the visitors centre that you need to move through in order to reach the caves is also rather well laid out, featuring an excellent and informative “Interpretive Centre” that is well worth spending a little time in.

Now the last time that Chantelle and I visited the caves was back in 2007, so I was rather pleased to be able to return to this otherworldly place a full ten years later – the perfect showpiece for our two little munchkins in tow on what was now turning out to be a very attraction filled holiday roadtrip.

Pleasingly, the Cango Caves were exactly as brilliant as how I remembered them to be.

Fun Fact: You don’t really want to still be walking along the pathway when the lights are turned off (which they do in order to further preserve the caves). Unfortunately for Jessica and myself though, this was exactly what happened as we were making our way out (my knee was giving a bit of hassle, so I was moving slowly by this point of the tour).

Seriously, I’m amazed that I didn’t need to dig out a clean pair of pants for Jessica – that was one massive pitch dark fright for one so young to have experienced! :D

Related Link: Cango Caves | Wikipedia | Oudtshoorn | #JuneHolidays2017

Craft Beer and Play at Grass Roof in Port Elizabeth (2017-07-08) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 21 MAY 2018

If you are ever out in the Port Elizabeth area and find yourself in need of a good kid friendly restaurant option, be extra sure to pay the exceedingly cool Grass Roof farm stall and coffee shop a visit.

Situated on the Olive Tree Farm, just a few kilometers from Sardinia Bay, the Grass Roof is a coffee shop, kids playground, trendy cafe, and farm stall all rolled into one. Open Monday to Sunday, the eatery strives to promote a healthy, organic lifestyle, with a lot of its food menu and farm stall offering sourced directly from the gardens and fields of its host farm.

In addition to all the fresh produce and baked items (it is a proper smorgasbord of tasty stuff), the farm shop is stocked with all manner of deli surprises, authentic crafts and handmade items.

The rolling lawn in front of the restaurant provides the perfect play area, which is complete with a number of fun kids activities like old tractors, climbing frames, etc. (There is even a giant adult swing if you are keen on also joining in on the fun!)

Then we get to the restaurant/cafe itself. First off, the menu is amazing. Well presented, evocative descriptions, and a final product to back it all up, makes for an exceptional light meal experience. From pizzas to gourmet burgers, from craft beer to freshly brewed Mastersons Coffee – Grass Roof’s kitchen team has  you covered.

Also, the view from the deck is pretty damn decent too!

And yes, just as the name implies, all of this happens under a bright green, grass covered roof!

It is no wonder then that this is easily one of Chantelle’s favourite spots on the list of places visited over the course of our 2017 roadtrip holiday. Definitely worthy of a family get together or two!

(Also, eagle-eyed readers might have spotted that the last two photos in the gallery aren’t exactly of the Grass Roof visit. As it so happened, we actually stayed with our good friends – and tour guides – the Grangers during the P.E. stint, and of course, Evan being Evan, time simply HAD to be made for a braai or two!) 

Related Link: Grass Roof Farm Stall | Port Elizabeth | #JuneHolidays2017