Things To Do in StellenboschSelf Drive Cape Town to Stellenbosch
When? Best during daylight hours.
How much? Free
Route: Cape Town, Muizenberg, Sir Lowry's Pass, Grabouw, Franschhoek, Pniel, Stellenbosch
Description: explore the passes of the Boland Mountains through valleys awash with vineyards, fruit orchards and fields, the craggy peaks a constant backdrop to the region
Length: roughly 250 km
Time: a day, at least
Overnight: Grabouw and Franschhoek, Stellenbosch.
Cape Town to Grabouw, 84 km
Start your drive from Rhodes Memorial, for it is from up there that you see right across the Cape Flats to the very mountains that dominate the route of this drive.
Head down the M3 in the direction of Muizenberg, heading left where the M3 makes a t-junction with the M42, at the end of the M3. At the intersection with the M4 (Main Road), turn left and continue past the Sandvlei Nature Reserve (on your left), the village of Lakeside (on your right), and enter the surfing, seaside community of Muizenberg.
Take a left at Surfers' Corner, down Atlantic Road. There are a good many little eateries, particularly along Palmer Road, just off Atlantic Road to your left. Or take a right off Atlantic Road, onto Beach Road to the beach front, littered with surf shops. Muizenberg is a lovely spot at which to swim, provided the wind is not buffeting and the shark spotter's flag is neither red nor white (if it is white, you will notice most people are out of the water, sitting safely on the periphery of the beach. It is best to follow suit).
Get back on to Atlantic, which becomes Beach Road as it passes the pavilion and turn right across the bridge over the Sandvlei river mouth. Head over the traffic circle onto Baden-Powell Drive (the R310) and head on to Strandfontein and Mitchell's Plain. This is a beautifully scenic drive along the sandy coast of False Bay.
At the intersection with the N2, turn right towards Somerset West. The N2 continues up Sir Lowry's Pass. Stop at the viewpoint at the summit of the pass, a popular paragliding launch point and the former start of the Boland Hiking Trail.
The Khoi people used to cross the Boland Mountains close by on what was known as the Gantouw, Gandou or Eland's Pass, which the British settlers then followed, calling it the Hottentots Holland Kloof Pass. You can apparently still see the rut marks left by wagons as they inched over the mountains.
Sir Lowry's Pass to Franschhoek
The N2 then descends the pass and roughly 8 km later, turn left on to the R321 through the little village of Grabouw. The annual Elgin Open Gardens weekend, usually at the end of October, attracts thousands of visitors.
Cross over the Palmiet River, than take another left for Villiersdorp and Franschhoek (R321). Roughly 5 km later is the start of Viljoen's Pass, which links Grabouw with Villiersdorp. About 6 km later is a distinct hairpin bend in the road that offers lovely views out over the Riviersonderend valley.
Pass through the little hamlet of Vyeboom before the Theeswaterskloof Dam comes into view, the Franschhoek Mountains on the other side of it. Cross the bridge of the dam and then take a left onto the R45 for Franschhoek. After about 10 km the road begins to climb the Franschhoek Pass, crossing the bridge over the Du Toit's River.
A little later you will cross the beautiful handmade Jan Joubertsgat bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the country and a national monument. There are little steps leading down to where the stream passes under the bridge on the mountain side of the bridge.
Franschhoek to Boschendal
The rest of the pass offers at least two excellent viewpoints over the Franschhoek Valley, before it winds down into the town of Franschhoek, past the Huguenot Monument on your left, well worth a visit.
Stop for lunch or tea in the town renowned for its food and wine then continue on along the R45, alongside the Franschhoek River. There are a number of wineries off the R45, including Moreson, and Eikehof. Continue across the Berg River, ignoring the right to the R301. Shortly after passing Solms Delta and Allée Bleue and take a left on to Helshoogte Road (R310) towards Pniel.
Cross a railway line and just 1.5 km later is the estate of Boschendal one of the oldest wine estates in the country, its vineyards climbing the slopes of the Groot Drakenstein Mountain.
Boschendal to Stellenbosch
Leave Boschendal to wind through the little mission village of Pniel with its tree-lined main road. A little after leaving the village look out for the sign to Hillcrest Berries, where you can buy frozen and fresh berries (depending on the time of year) at wholesale prices (well worth a stop).
This section of Helshoogte Road, as it passes through the Banhoek and Ida valleys, offers a number of wine estates if you have the time for wine tasting – Molen Vliet, Zorgvliet, Camberley Wines, Tokara.
Continue on the R310 until you reach the outskirts of Stellenbosch.