Thembi Koli in Kayamandi, on tour with Stellenbosch 360

A Non-Drinker’s Guide to Stellenbosch

Let me clarify that I am not a non-drinker. I’m no party animal, but I do enjoy a glass of wine. So I was ecstatic to be invited to participate in #Stellenblog, a blogging campaign in Stellenbosch.

There were some non-drinkers in our group, and at the start of the trip I wondered how much fun they would have hanging out for a week in the wine-drinking capital of South Africa.

At the end of the week, when I looked through all my Stellenbosch photos, I found they told an unexpected story. There was lots of wine-drinking, to be sure. But the most memorable activities of the week had nothing to do with wine, or any alcohol for that matter.

Alcohol-free Stellenbosch

So I decided to put together a little guide for non-drinkers. If you don’t like wine, or don’t drink at all, here’s a list of activities to keep you busy on a multi-day visit to Stellenbosch.

1) Take a Segway Tour

Back when I lived in Washington D.C., I used to watch group Segway tours glide past and silently make fun of them. I should have known that someday my own Segway time would come.

Heather on a Segway at SpierLaugh silently if you must. (Photo: Trudy Van Rooy)

Our group spent two nights at the Spier Wine Estate, and on the second day we did a Segway tour of the farm. Riding a Segway was so crazy fun (like, I really didn’t want to give it back) and it was a great way to see Stellenbosch’s beautiful farmland and visit some of Spier’s unique projects.

Planters at Tree-preneurs, SpierOld clothes find new life as planters at Tree-preneurs, a sustainability project at Spier. Tree-preneurs was our first stop on the Segway tour.

I don’t have many photos from the Segway tour because we were warned repeatedly by our hosts not to shoot and Segway simultaneously. (And unlike several of my fellow bloggers — ahem — I don’t have a Segway death wish.) Trust me though, this was a blast and also relatively affordable in my opinion: Segway tours at Spier start at R300 (about $22).

2) Pat the Thoroughbreds

The Avontuur Estate, in addition to making great wine, breeds famous thoroughbred horses. I could have spent hours strolling the Avontuur farm, taking pictures of the horses and stroking their velvety noses.

Avontuur thoroughbredsOne of a thousand photos I took of the Avontuur thoroughbreds. 

3) Hang at a Weekend Market

South Africa is crazy for weekend markets, and Stellenbosch is no exception. Our group visited the Blaauwklippen Family Market on a Sunday and had a fun, relaxing afternoon.

Hannah and Leah at Blaauwklippen marketHannah (left) and Leah, the two cutest children in Stellenbosch, with a man who I assume is Mel from Mel’s Fresh Cut Flowers. Hannah and Leah are the daughters of Mariette from Destinate, who organizes Stellenblog.

Puzzle at BlaauwklippenMichael Zhanje, a vendor at Blaauwklippen, makes the most beautiful wooden map puzzles — available in Europe, America, and Africa designs.

4) Have a Coffee

Blue Crane Coffee, a brand-new coffee shop downtown Stellenbosch, is a must-visit for all coffee enthusiasts.

Blue Crane Coffee BarBeautiful light inside Blue Crane Coffee.

Liz Ogumbo at Blue CraneThe fabulous Liz Ogumbo relaxes with a coffee outside Blue Crane.

5) Taste Vinegar

No, seriously. Vinegar tasting is a thing, and we did it at Rozendal Guest Farm and Vinegar Cellar.

Vinegars at RozendalVinegars for tasting at Rozendal.

These botanical vinegars are extremely tasty (and non-alcoholic) and you really can drink them — in small sips, of course. They also make a great base for salad dressing.

Best of all, the vinegar tasting room at Rozendal has some of the best feng shui I’ve ever experienced.

I See a Different You at RozendalThe guys from I See a Different You relax on the retro couch at Rozendal.

Jasper the dog at RozendalJasper, the canine king of Rozendal.

6) Take a Hike

Stellenbosch has fantastic hiking, which I mentioned briefly in my previous post. We only managed a quick walk through the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve with Adventureshop Stellenbosch, but I’m excited to do more hiking the next time I go back.

Heather in Jonkershoek
This is me trying to look casually outdoorsy as Lauren shoots my photo in a pine forest in Jonkershoek.

Jonkershoek viewMore beauty in Jonkershoek.

7) Ride in a Sidecar

Riding in a motorcycle sidecar around Stellenbosch was the most unexpected adventure of the week. This is one of those activities I never would have thought of for myself, but my goodness it was fun. I would do it again in a second.

The view of Stellenbosch from a sidecarMy view of Stellenbosch from a motorcycle sidecar.

Sidecar selfieSidecar selfie.

Our motorcycle ride was with Cape Sidecar Adventures, which does tours all over the Cape region. These tours aren’t cheap — a half-day ride costs R3500 (about $260) — but if you’re looking to splash out on a unique way to see Stellenbosch then this is the way to do it.

Brody the dog in a Cape SidecarIf you’re really lucky, you might get to ride in a sidecar with Brody the dog.

8) Visit Kayamandi

And now, a moment of seriousness.

There is a lot of wealth in Stellenbosch, and that wealth is what most tourists see. It appears so casual and so effortless.

It’s easy to forget, while sipping wine in a 19th century manor house or eating a gourmet meal in a high-end restaurant, that this wealth was amassed on the backs of people of color who have been marginalized and exploited throughout South Africa’s history. Kayamandi, Stellenbosch’s Xhosa township, is a legacy of that history.

Thembi Koli in Kayamandi, on tour with Stellenbosch 360The fabulous Thembi Koli, our guide in Kayamandi Township.

Thembi, on behalf of Stellenbosch Route 360, took us on a rambling walk through Kayamandi, where about 30,000 people live. I loved the colors, the people, and the cats of Kayamandi.

Houses in Kayamandi StellenboschColors of Kayamandi. The brightly colored houses remind me of the traditional thatched rondavels in the Eastern Cape, where many Xhosa people originally come from.

Mbuyi in KayamnadiMbuyi caught me gazing longingly into her home, where everything was turquoise. She graciously invited me in to take photos.

Portia Mpangwa of KayamandiPortia Mpangwa, who sells dazzling handmade jewelry from her home in Kayamandi.

Lucy the cat and FundileLucy the cat and her friend Fundile.

We also ate an incredible meal in Kayamandi (see #9 below).

“Township tours” are controversial and often misunderstood, for a variety of reasons that I don’t have time to discuss in this post. (I might write a dedicated post on township tourism soon though.) But let me just say that our tour of Kayamandi was fun, historical, and culturally rich, and I think every Stellenbosch visitor — and every Stellenbosch local, for that matter — should take it.

9) EAT

Let us not forget that great food doesn’t have to be accompanied by great wine to taste good. We had so many amazing meals in Stellenbosch and the non-drinkers enjoyed them as much as the drinkers did.

Food plated at Delaire Graff RestaurantTrout on a bed of squid ink is plated and garnished in the kitchen at Delaire Graff Restaurant. Soon after shooting the picture, I was eating the food off one of these plates. It tasted as good as it looked.

Barbecue from the HoghousePiles of meat at the Hoghouse BBQ and Bakery at Spier

 Braai starters at MiddelvleiStarters from our legendary boerebraai dinner at Middlevlei, where I was introduced to a Western Cape specialty called the braaibroodjie. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of my braaibroodjie because it was too dark and frankly, I was too hungry. Take my word for it though: No visit to Stellenbosch is complete without a braaibroodjie.

Dinner in KayamandiDinner in Kayamandi, as mentioned before. Thank you to the brilliant Nocawe Piedt, whose arm appears above, for cooking this meal and hosting us in her family home.

These are the non-drinking-related things I did during seven days in Stellebosch. There are many more activities I didn’t get to.

In my next Stellenbosch post, I’ll finally get to all of the delicious things I did drink during my visit to the winelands. There were many.

I wrote this post in partnership with #Stellenblog. Opinions expressed are mine.

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7 Comments

  • Reply thirdeyemom May 23, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Lovely post! Years ago when I went there of course it was for the wine! But it looks like you could spend days there exploring and doing all sorts of great things. Such a beautiful country you live in !

    • Reply 2summers May 23, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Yes, I think that’s exactly what this campaign is looking to show people — that Stellenbosch is a worthy destination of its own, above and beyond a day trip from Cape Town. And it’s certainly true! I would love to spend a month there.

      And yes, I am very lucky to live here 🙂

  • Reply Gail Scott Wilson May 23, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun and glad there seems so much to do for the non drinkers.

    • Reply 2summers May 23, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      There really is a lot. They part of SA is so freaking beautiful.

  • Reply autumnashbough May 23, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I want to ride with Brody. Also, thanks for the non-drinkers post — we don’t see enough of those!

    • Reply 2summers May 23, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      I wanted to ride with him too but someone beat me to it. I was insanely jealous.

      As someone who knows quite a few non-drinkers, I thought this was important to write 🙂

  • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme June 21, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Well that’s definitely an attention grabbing headline! What a great blog post. That’s South Africa – always so many unexpected fun things to do in places you only know for one thing…

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