All of this wonderful weather reminds me of the best moments of summers past. Some of my favourite sunshine-filled memories have to be of the road trips I used to take when I was living in South Africa.
After all, when the sun’s out, what could be better than grabbing a road map, jumping in the car and spending a day exploring?
On my last visit to Cape Town, when my sister got married, I took the time to make the drive out to Franschhoek, one of my favourite destinations for a day trip out of the city.
Just an hour’s drive from central Cape Town, I always urge my travelling friends to pay a visit to this unique – and historic – part of the Western Cape.
|Just one of the many picturesque landscapes you’ll come across in Franschhoek.|
And now I get to convince you too, readers.
From some of the best gardens in South Africa to a stunning monument to a goat tower (no typo involved), Franschhoek has much to offer road trippers.
Without further ado, here are your essentials for an excellent Franschhoek road trip.
All of the exploring, and the inevitable result of getting lost frequently, wouldn’t be as much fun without a travel companion.
|Me and my partner in road tripping shenanigans, Lance.|
For my most recent road trip to Franschhoek, I managed to convince my good friend, Lance, to join me. And it took some convincing, as Lance happens to be terrified of my driving skills (without [good] reason).
An early morning pickup later and some appropriate music playing through the car’s speakers, we set off to discover the best of Franschhoek.
I love all types of travel, but having your own car, for me, offers the most freedom. Unlike train, plane or bus journeys, driving allows you to stop off at any place that piques your curiosity.
I had heard about a spot that was en route to Franschhoek, so when we spotted a sign for Babylonstoren, we turned off our planned path immediately.
I’ve written an entire post dedicated to what you can find at Babylonstoren, but, essentially, this property’s centrepiece has to be its gardens. These are designed to look like Cape Town’s very first formal gardens, which were located on the site of the modern-day Company’s Garden.
|Would you stop too? The rather grand drive up to Babylonstoren.|
|The gardens at Babylonstoren.|
Babylonstoren is just one of the many stops you can make on the way to Franschhoek. While we drove, we were tempted to stop at several places, including farm stalls and a crocodile farm, but we had other items on the itinerary…
|One last glimpse before we set off again.|
One of the oldest towns in all of South Africa, Franschhoek literally translates to ‘French Corner’ in Dutch.
This is due to the fact that Franschhoek was first settled in the 1600s by French Huguenots. The influence of these settlers has continued until today, with many of the town’s restaurants taking on French names and, every July, Franschhoek is overrun by the fun and popular Bastille Festival (colourful beret compulsory).
One of the biggest nods to this past has to be the Huguenot Monument. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many places in my life, but this still has to be my favourite monument so far.
Built in 1945, the Huguenot Monument symbolises both the virtue of Christianity as well as freedom. To me, the contrast between the perfectly symmetrical light stone of the monument and the irregular mountains acting as a backdrop is absolutely flawless.
|The beautiful Huguenot Monument.|
To see the monument up close, you have to pay a small admission fee.
If you’re looking for other things to do in Franschhoek, pay a visit to the Huguenot Memorial Museum to learn more about the French Huguenots in the Cape or take a stroll along Huguenot Road. You’ll find cafes, some of South Africa’s best restaurants, art galleries and boutique shops – all located on this single thoroughfare.
|A closer look.|
You could easily spend an entire day exploring the historic centre of Franschhoek alone, but there are some additional stunning sights just a short drive away.
You can’t talk about Franschhoek without mentioning wine. The town is located in the Stellenbosch municipality; in my humble opinion, this, along with the Robertson Valley, forms the best wine region in the world. Bold statement, I know, but I’m a biased South African.
Some of the vineyards around Franschhoek date back hundreds of years. If you pick up a map from the tourist office on Huguenot Road, you’ll be able to see just how many are located in the vicinity of the town.
We visited a couple of these on our road trip, including one that we were told has an unsurpassed view over the mountains.
Dieu Donne can be found up a steep drive, but it’s worth the car engine struggle. Here’s the visual proof:
|The views from Dieu Donne vineyard.|
Most vineyards offer wine tasting (some are free, some aren’t).
On the other side of town, we stopped by another vineyard, called Boekenhoutskloof. This vineyard is behind some of South Africa’s most familiar wine brands, such as Porcupine Ridge, The Wolftrap and The Chocolate Block.
There are more pretty views to be found here, and we even made some new friends while exploring Boekenhoutskloof.
|The vineyards of Boekenhoutskloof.|
|And my lovely new friends.|
If you’re keen to see Franschhoek’s vineyards, pay a visit to the town’s main tourist office, grab a map and ask for the staff’s advice. If you’re after the best view, most decadent wine tasting offer or a sit-down lunch at a vineyard’s on-site restaurant, they’ll point you in the right direction.
|A porcupine! Found at Boekenhoutskloof.|
Yes, the goat tower is a real thing.
We had to end off our Franschhoek road trip in style, so we made our way over to Fairview, an estate famous for its wine and cheese. It has also become famous for its on-site goat tower, which has been included in several Buzzfeed-like lists of quirky things you can find around the world.
|Fairview’s goat tower.|
|And a goat!|
Fairview’s goat tower was built in 1981 and, if you’re lucky and if the goats can be bothered to do so, you may see some of them clambering up the tower during your visit.
After waiting for the exact event to happen and instead only seeing one of the goats chase the other around the pen, we decided to get onto the business of wine tasting.
|Wearing our wine tasting badges with pride.|
While all of the other vineyards I mentioned offer wine tasting, Fairview allows the opportunity to sample over 35 types of wine (do not do all of these in one session!). The endless cheese samples don’t hurt either!
If you’re feeling a bit tipsy after the wine samples, stop off at Fairview’s restaurant for a lengthy lunch.
These are just some of the places you might encounter on a road trip to Franschhoek, but you’re bound to come across your own memorable finds while driving in the area.
The most important thing? I may have started out this post saying that there are essential stops for every Franschhoek road trip, but there is truly only one essential.
Here it is: Get out to Franschhoek and discover this special part of South Africa for yourself. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Inspired by our road trip finds? Here’s a little map of where you can locate all of the places listed above.