When it comes to picking out the granddaddy of visitor friendly wine estates in Stellenbosch, then surely the venerable Spier comes out right at the top of the list. It has been on the tourist welcoming bandwagon for many years now, and as a family we’ve also enjoyed the beautiful estate more than just a few times in the past.
Although the list of things to do at Spier has ebbed and flowed over the years, these days the wine estate still offers a smorgasbord of activities to both the day and overnight visitor – from wine tasting, picnics on their luscious lawns, self-guided walks and Segway tours, to dining at either Spier Farm Kitchen, the Hotel Restaurant, Eight Restaurant, or the excellent Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery.
You can ride a horse, browse the Craft Market, shop at the Spier Gift Shop, watch birds of prey at Eagle Encounters, get a treatment at The Spa, visit the Spier Artisan Studio, or simply admire the countless examples of public art on display.
And then of course there is the plethora of art and music festivals that seem to take place all the time!
On of the oldest farms in South Africa, and one of the most environmentally conscious, Spier also puts a lot of effort in its community upliftment projects as well as supporting local art through its art academy and various art projects.
On that note, one of the newer displays on the grounds is the Mosaic Kraal, containing various mosaic art pieces created by local artisans.
Given that I had just entertained Jessica and Emily with a rewarding visit to the owls and eagles of Eagle Encounters, I thought it only fair that I take some time for myself and get a chance to leisurely browse through some of Spier’s art pieces – much to the frustration of two easily bored little girls.
So I sauntered a little slower to make sure it took just that little bit longer…
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It is really is hard not to enjoy strolling around Spier’s expansive grounds!
On a day that would go on to include falcon and owl watching at Eagle Encounters, admiring art installations at Spier, browsing through antiques at the Stellenbosch Toy Museum, building pizzas at Weltevreden’s The Carnival and lastly a visit with my folks in Bellville, the morning started off in a much more sedate fashion with a session of doughnuts and chocolate croissants while waiting for some rather special ducks to arrive.
The estate actually has quite a nice little Saturday routine set up now, starting off with their early Family Breakfast Run (or Walk) event which then leads into the small but pleasant Saturday Market that seems to always features some great, chilled music and a very relaxed vibe.
(Oh, and being a wine farm there is naturally opportunity for some impromptu wine tasting as well.)
There are a couple of activities for the smaller kids to partake in (my girls in particular were very, very keen for a ride around the vlei on the blue quadbike “train”), and as far as I can tell, it looks like the market is pretty pet friendly.
The highlight for a lot of people is of course the running of the ducks, when Vergenoegd’s 1000+ strong “duck squad” makes its appearance for their morning duties, with the trained Indian Runner ducks marching along past the manor house before heading out into the vineyards to hunt down all those pesky/delicious snails!
For interest sake, the manor house pictured above houses Vergenoegd’s onsite restaurant – but funnily enough we have yet to actually give it a go. All in good time I guess…
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Hard not to recommend the Duck Parade as a morning outing if you have little kids. (Or just love quirky looking ducks I suppose).
Related Link: Vergenoegd Wine Estate
One particular Sunday back in March this year, Chantelle and I must REALLY have been in the mood for a proper Sunday afternoon drive, because basically our day ended up looking like this: first food at Eaglevlei and then play at Weltevreden (both in Stellebosch), before moving on to scones at Hillcrest Berry Orchards (just outside Pniel), which in turn was then followed up with a drive through the idyllic Franschhoek and of course a jaunt over the Franschhoek Pass. Next was one quick photo stop at the nearly empty Theewaterskloof Dam, before we rounded off our impromptu trip with a drive through the picturesque Viljoen’s Pass to reach Grabouw – and then straight on to Sir Lowry’s Pass to get back home to our beloved little hometown of Gordon’s Bay!
I started off by mentioning that we first had an early lunch at Eaglevlei Wine Farm, a Stellenbosch situated, wine producing farm that just so happens to also be particularly geared towards tourism – aimed almost specifically, believe it or not, at us locals!
So in addition to their wine tasting facility, Eaglevlei is also home to a large, welcoming restaurant, a pizzeria & beer garden in the form of The Nest, and perhaps most surprising of all, a giant indoor kids play park!
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, they even have their own indoor movie screen, perfect for date nights, or as they call it, Movies in the Vines!
Also, and this is a pro tip mind you – be sure to keep an eye out for a very vicious little step leading down to the kids play park. Nearly did a very impromptu tuck & roll manoeuvre myself in case you’re wondering…
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Lunch at Eaglevlei was pretty good, but because we didn’t particularly feel like sitting inside watching the kids play, we decided to head back towards Stellenbosch for a cup of coffee at Weltevreden Estate, another great option for couples with kids thanks to their awesome Kids Carnival (and little more upmarket Lekke Neh) space.
So that is exactly what we did (though, only after first stopping to buy some of Eaglevlei’s rather enjoyable wine).
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Naturally, and as always I guess, the kids had a ball.
So, just in case you want to check them out for yourself, first a map of Eaglevlei:
Followed by a map of Weltevreden:
And there you have it – Two rather enjoyable family-friendly outing options in Stellenbosch then!
Chantelle spotted something very cool on Facebook a little while ago – a wine and lavender farm in Stellenbosch had put out the invite that if anyone wanted to, they were more than welcome to come through and take some photos in the farm’s lavender fields before they were to be harvested.
So, at the end of September, we rounded up the kids and convinced Damen and Michelle, and Evan and Natasha joined us on our little photographic adventure (with the promise of a braai to follow).
Canettevallei is a wine and lavender farm that lies tucked away in Stellenboschkloof, a quiet valley situated about 10 kilometers outside Stellenbosch.
In 2005 the owners decided to plant lavender in front of their house on the farm, which then led to a lavender business, which in turn influenced the decision to plant a further three hectares of lavender.
Today Canettevallei grows lavender using organic practices to develop unique, farm fresh lavender products for body, gifts and weddings, with their main product lines being lavender essential oil and lavender ‘rice’, the sweet-smelling dried flowers of the lavender plant.
Despite the weather predictions for bad weather on the day, the morning weather was actually very great, and so we enjoyed an idyllic drive out to this very scenic area, meeting up with the Oosthuizens and Grangers there.
The kids enjoyed a stroll around some of the fields, and we even had two of the local farm dogs join us for the walk (though technically, I’m not entirely sure we were meant to be there – it was after all a Sunday, the lavender shop was closed, and the place seemed pretty deserted… other than the people sitting on their porch in the distance, enjoying a Sunday brunch and warily watching these strangers traipse all over their land!).
Oh, and I spotted a lone cow, chilling by itself under a tree by the small stream.
But that’s not important.
The lavender field was as most things are in real life, smaller than what it appears in photos, but it was more than sufficient for us to take a multitude of cute pictures of all the kids in this beautiful swathe of purple.
(Also, amazingly, no bee stings were recorded, despite all the naturally attracted bees!)
After lots and lots (and lots) of photos were taken, and everyone was a bit grumpy of having to pose for far too many shots, we exited the field, made our way back to the cars and headed home towards Gordon’s Bay – just in time as it turned out – because as we finished up, the clouds raced in and the rain started pouring.
Talk about perfect timing!
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The braai was good, the kids played together well, and lots of FIFA was played. Oh, and a decent amount of Southern Comfort (with Lime) and Jack Daniels disappeared in the process!
Related Link: Canettevallei Lavender
A new market recently opened up on the R44 on your way into Stellenbosch, named Root 44 (well, it is on the wine farm Audacia after all). Being a direct challenger to Blaauwklippen as well as Oude Libertas markets, Chantelle and I thought it would be cool to head on down and check out what this new kid on the block offers – and boy were we impressed. A lot of things still need to be tweaked, particularly for the traders, but other than that, this new market definitely has the potential to become big.
Loads of space, plenty of activities for families to do, so definitely a thumbs up from us then!
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I’m getting worse and worse at putting out these weekend in review posts you know. I’ve still got to talk a bit about the karate camp I attended at the beginning of the month as well as our weekend away at Warmwaterberg Spa, but I guess I’ll get to those when I get to those. Now apart from clocking Batman: Arkham Asylum the past weekend, the other highlights now doubt have to include the multitude of hours visiting with almost all our friends over the course of just about the entire weekend!
So let’s get started then. Despite being invited to attend the bubbly karateka Finja’s farewell party on Friday night (she’s finally returned to her home in Germany), Chantelle and I were forced to unfortunately cancel thanks to the utter exhaustion that had claimed us following a hard week that had just gone by. Most of Saturday too was spent in recovery mode and thanks to the discovery that Avatar is just too damn popular to be able to watch willy nilly, we ended up only making our way through to Bellville far, far later than originally planned. A quick stop to pick up our meat and drink, Ryan’s birthday present and have a quick look about for our four-slice toaster at both Willowbridge and Tygervalley, was followed by our triumphant appearance at Ryan’s first ever house-warming/birthday braai at his Oakdale pad – attended by the Stapelbergs, Mr. Brown, Dr. Storbeck, the Carpenters, Michelle and kid, Adam and his wife as well as some other former colleagues of Ryan.
With Riley tending to the Weber (where he managed to dip my boerewors in the coals), the rest of us got to drink, eat snacks and gently poke fun at Ryan who seems to be suffering with a bout of bladder infection (read kidney stones), and in the end, all enjoy a great social night out. It was good to see Riley and Claire in particular again, having not seen them in absolute ages: Apparently Riley’s kung fu is still going strong, making him the perfect candidate to join us when the Shaolin Monks show eventually rolls into town… (hint hint, nudge nudge).
Crashing at Mom and Dad’s place, Chantelle and I woke up to Mom and Pops returning from church, and after a freezing wake up dip in the pool (well, only I was brave enough apparently), we all headed out to Willowbridge where we enjoyed a great breakfast (sans croissants) at the Primi Corse cafe under a beautiful summer’s day sky. Just a note, those big cups that Primi boast about on their menu really are that ginormous in real life – and virtually indestructible it would seem following our waiter dropping one during the course of the morning!
From Mom and Dad it was then time to meet up with the next group of friends and so Chantelle and I found ourselves travelling through to the Nitida wine farm on the Durbanville Wine Route where we met up with Andri, Malcolm and little Corban for a delicious lunch in a very open, tented, family-friendly environment. Another note though: Keith’s famous curry chicken is pretty damn hot! (And by hot I mean lots of drinking water hot!).
Oh, and the Nitida Sauvignon Blanc is actually pretty damn flavoursome to boot!
Bidding our farewells after a fantastic visit with the Jacks, it was then off to the Montgomery Clan Stronghold for yet another visitation and the dropping off of Monty’s freshly populated newly purchased photo frame – the last one didn’t last too long in the end thanks to blown internal memory! Coffee and gossip were as always the focus of the visit, and once again we enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining stop-over with the Montgomeries. However, we still weren’t done and with the last legs of the day now in full swing, Chantelle and I headed down to Mugg & Bean at Tygervalley in order to visit with… the Smiths of all people!
Triumphant in snagging an audience with these usually elusive friends of ours, we ended up spending a good hour or two catching up and drinking copious amounts of coffee with Wayne and Candice – and tucking into Mugg & Bean’s famous giant muffins of course! ;)
Anyway, Sunday finally closed off with the long drive back home, but as per usual Chantelle and I were more than a little pleased with our work rate for the weekend – 5 audiences in a day and a half isn’t bad at all, wouldn’t you say? (And like I mentioned, I STILL managed to squeeze in clocking Batman as well! Salute! :P)