Just past Hermanus and approx. 1.5hrs from Cape Town is the quaint and relaxed town of Stanford, right in the heart of the Overberg. Although you may mistake Stanford for a sleepy country town, there is an assortment of activities going on for foodies, families, outdoorsy types, birdwatchers, those seeking to relax and of course our wine farm goers.
Fantastic restaurants that cater for every palate, from cozy coffee shops on the main road to Mexican food or breakfast at a beautiful Manor House. Ou Meal Bakery has breakfasts and lunches right in the main road, or you can get your Mexican on at La Cantina. In town, the Egret and Owl book shop offers coffees, while Calories takes care of those fast-food cravings. On Stanford Hills Estate, you will find the Zesty Lemon with a beautiful garden setting, Stanford Hills Restaurant for some traditional favourites and Fork & Farm for some ‘pub type’ foods. The Manor House at Stanford Valley Country Lodge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinners with contemporary country cooking at its best using locally sourced produce.
The Stanford wine route is unique with its close proximity to the cold Atlantic Ocean and their cool climate producing wines. Vineyards are found on sandy dunes and rocky slopes, while others are in limestone soils or fertile riverbank plains, therefore producing an interesting mix of wines to meet different palate preferences. Many of the wine farms have accommodation, restaurants or other activities so you can linger longer.
Stanford Hills Estate offers their selection of wines to taste at the wine shop or at the restaurant overlooking a pretty dam and the gorgeous mountain ranges. Walker Bay Estate has different tasting options and is wonderfully family friendly with a big restaurant and their famous Birkenhead Brewery (more on that later). RAKA Wines – “Born of the sea, Guided by the stars, Blessed by the earth” is a favourite place to visit when in Stanford.
This estate borders the Kleinrivier river with the Kleinriver Mountain slopes (the Southernmost Mountain range in Africa) providing the estate with a variety of soil types and aspects. The tasting room has an inside and outside section with mountain views and friendly staff. Other wine estates in the area include Misty Mountains Estate, Springfontein Wine Estate and the lovely Boschrivier Wines that is located at the foot of the Klein River Mountain Range.
The Birkenhead Brewery at Walker Bay Estate was founded in 1998 and one of the first craft breweries in South Africa. The beers “are inspired by the ferocious power of the South African landscape and charismatic characters that are found here”. They produce 6 different craft beers, including Pot Belly Pilsner, Laughing Croc Pale Ale, Honey Blonde Honey Wheat Ale, Dead Parrot American Pale Ale and Lazy Leopard Premium Lager. Book an in-house tour of the brewery, followed by lunch and beers at the restaurant.
In the heart of the Stanford Wine Route is a little gem called Blue Gum Country Estate. If you are seeking tranquility and relaxation, then this country style accommodation is just for you.
This working wine farm sits along the Klein Rivier under ancient Blue Gum trees with mountain views, Springboks jumping in the field and various cozy accommodation options. Whether travelling in a group, honeymooners or on a family vacation, it offers the chance to relax while being close enough to different activities.
The hosts (Anton and Tarryn) are parents themselves and understand that keeping the kiddies busy is important. They have created a safe space of jungle gyms, lawn games, Boules and craft activities like candle making, eco warrior hikes and biscuit baking. Blue Gum Estate is pet friendly so your fur babies are welcome. If you need to get your heart rate up and burn off some calories, you can tackle one of the trail running routes (2km or 5.5km route), do a few laps in the big swimming pool or play a tennis game or two.
Panthera Africa is a non-profit organisation and sanctuary for any captive-bred big cats to live out the rest of their days in a safe and loving forever home. Founded by Lizaene Cornwall and Catherine Nyquist, and aptly named after their love for the four Pantheras: Panthera Leo – the Lion; Panthera Pardus – the Leopard; Panthera Tigris – the Tiger and Panthera Onca – the Jaguar.
These rescued big cats not only live happily ever after, but form part of an educational opportunity to create awareness and educate the public about animal captivity worldwide. You can book an educational visit where the trained staff will take you past all the enclosures and explain each cat’s history and story, then what you can do to make a difference. Bookings are essential and times vary from Summer to Winter, with no visits on Tuesdays. Take a walk on the wild side and appreciate these magnificent creatures up close.
I absolutely love Orchids so you can image my excitement when visiting the Eikenhoff Orchid Nursery that specialises in exotic orchid plants. Pierre (owner and avid orchid expert) took us through one of the five green houses with a vast range of Orchid species at various stages of their life. He advised on how to care for orchids properly, the different species that are found all over the world and offers the opportunity to purchase some of these stunning plants. They are open to the public by appointment so be sure to call or email to arrange a visit.
The Klein River Cheese farmstead is unfortunately closed to visitors, but you can still browse and purchase their cheeses and cheese products from their shop at Walker Bay Estate. This just makes sense knowing that cheese and wine are age old friends and always a great pairing.
Klein River Cheese has been producing cheeses for over 25 years and can boast the production of 4 different styles (Washed Curd Cheese, Brushed Rind Cheese, Young Cheese and Hard Cheese) and 11 different types of award-winning cheeses. Take a look at the cheese wheel that explains how the cheese is made, how it tastes/presents and what you can do with it. Grab some cheesy goodness and a bottle of wine to enjoy, while taking in the beautiful view outside.
The Klein River that originates in the Klein River Mountains winds its way through the scenic countryside until it meets up with the Hermanus Lagoon. This leisurely cruise along the river offers bird fanatics the opportunity to see over 100 different species including Egrets, Storks, Eagles, Geese, Ibis and many more. The Lady Stanford can accommodate up to 26 passengers and offer different times to cruise including morning, midday and sunset cruises. If travelling in a group, you can book the entire boat for your party. The River Rat is another option for a scenic cruise, social cruise and even tubes with ropes attached to the boat for gentle towing down the river behind the boat. They are even dog friendly too – how cool.
As if the above adventures are not enough, there are a myriad of outdoor activities to keep you busy while visiting Stanford. Plenty of mountain biking trails that offer different distances and terrain to test your skills. Canoeing or paddling down the Klein River can be a strenuous affair or a gentle meander depending on your mood. Hiking and trail running through the fynbos clad mountains to find stunning waterfalls is a refreshing way to start or end your day.
Stanford offers relaxation or activity depending on your mood and lifestyle choices, so be sure to visit this little oasis in the Overberg. Let me know what else you found along the way in this not so sleepy little town.