Garden Route & Winelands, South Africa


If variety is the spice of life, this swathe of South Africa has to be one of the spiciest spots on earth.

It’s a feast of beauty, with rolling vineyards for starters and milky lagoons for dessert. The Garden Route offers a breathtaking journey from Cape Town past Stellenbosch and the Winelands down to the coast, where it passes through Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay to Stormsriver. As you meander east, the landscape changes from positively Mediterranean to wild, wet and mountainous, with dense forests, bushland and dramatic cliffs. Beyond the N2 motorway and the sleepy seaside towns, you’ll find the land (and sea) that time forgot, patrolled by elephants, rhinos and whales. Whether your holiday preference is beach barbecues or bravura bungee-jumping, one thing's for sure: you won't be short of things to do.

Gorah Elephant Camp Garden Route & Winelands, South Africa with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)





Around Gorah Elephant Camp, warthog families ferret for food, while dazzles of zebra trot past tortoises to reach the waterhole. Embraced by the wilderness of Addo National Park, this luxury safari lodge merges Victorian colonial style with modern creature comforts. Like what you see? Stay here while on one of your South African adventures…
Lions and leopards and elephants and buffalo and rhinos, oh my! You can spend your days in safari-mode, searching for the big five on game drives at Gorah Elephant Camp. Bring binoculars and a zoom-equipped camera: if you’re lucky, elephants may even lumber up to camp as you enjoy a little downtime. Adventurous types who would rather keep going can explore the camp’s walking trails, ride horses or go mountain biking. For an adrenaline rush of a non-safari nature, head south of Addo Elephant National Park and try sandboarding by Sundays River. If that’s a bit too dry for you, wakeboarding on the river is available too. Port Elizabeth, one of South Africa’s largest cities, is 70km southwest of Addo Elephant National Park. There you’ll find Jeffreys Bay, a blue-flag beach and (according to CNN and the Travel Channel) the number two surf spot in the world. Get more use out of your trusty binoculars and head to the coast for whale watching. You can often spot Southern Right Whales from shore, or take a tour from Port Elizabeth with Raggy Charters, which works with the Baywatch Marine Conservation Project, to get closer to the action. You might also see dolphins, penguins and Great White sharks. And there are a number of other South Africa National Parks within driving distance, if you’d like to branch out from Addo.


Tsala Treetop Lodge Garden Route & Winelands, South Africa with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)





Unique Garden Route boutique resort Tsala Treetop Lodge gives you a bird's eye view of South Africa's indigenous forest canopy from a luxurious stilted hut. Think Tarzan, but with wraparound decking, private infinity pools and flatscreen TVs. Better still, all this back-to-nature wilderness is just 10km from the beaches, bars and boutiques of Plettenberg Bay. Jungle living simply doesn't get more glamorous. Like what you see?
If lounging amid the foliage by your pool listening to the multitude of birds singing isn’t exciting enough, Tsala can arrange all manner of activities near and far. Choose anything from gentle forest picnics to quad-biking, horse riding, catamaran cruises, golf, canopy tours, elephant safaris and dolphin- or whale-watching expeditions. The beaches of Plett are also only a dozen kilometres away if you can’t do a holiday without a dose of sun, sea and sand. Robberg Beach is an attractive stretch. Feel the need for a little pampering after a day at the beach? There’s a variety of holistic in-suite treatments to pick from – we like the hot-stone massages, aromatherapy and reflexology therapies.


Leeu Estates Franschhoek, South Africa with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)





Behind the 19th-century Cape Dutch-style exterior, the Leeu Estates manor house at the heart of the sprawling grounds is awash with modern art and tastefully luxurious. But though the interiors are undeniably elegant, it’s the outdoors that takes the starring role, from the manicured gardens and fruitful vineyards to the verdant Franschhoek valley views and the mountain backdrop beyond. Look closer and you’ll spot a secluded spa nestled amid the vines, and an infinity pool reflecting the South African sunshine. And it’s not all for show: you’ll find plenty of first-class wine to refill your glass during your stay. Cheers.
You can easily while away your days on-site: dine, wine, spa, repeat. (Wine-tasting sessions are free for all guests in the hotel’s wine studio.) Between the indulgence, explore the estate’s 168 acres of landscaped gardens, manicured vineyards and fynbos (shrublands, but it sounds better in Afrikaans). If wandering through wonderland independently isn’t your thing, a guided tour of the gardens is available (book a week in advance). There’s also the estate’s extravagant art collection, including some notably intriguing pieces (look out for Justine in the lounge) – it’s worth taking the self-guided art tour to get to know the works.
When you do manage to drag yourself away, on Saturdays, stop by Franschhoek Village Market (10am–3pm); on Sundays, local craftspeople display their wares on Franschhoek Main Street, where you can also browse the boutiques and curio shops. If Leeu’s extravagant art collection has inspired you, perhaps the Holden Manz Gallery on Huguenot Road should be your next stop (www.holdenmanz.com  ).
If you’re not getting enough wine at your winery hotel, taste your way around the valley’s vineyards on the Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on hop-off tour, which operates seven days a week (www.winetram.co.za ). A particular favourite of Leeu staff is Haute Cabrière, where wine tastings are served with spectacular views (www.cabriere.co.za). Prefer something hoppier? Tuk-Tuk Microbrewery is open everyday from 11am till late (www.tuktukbrew.com). For dining in Franschhoek, La Petite Colombe (www.lapetitecolombe.com) at Le Quartier Français Hotel on Wilhelmina Street and Le Coin Français (www.lecoinfrancais.co.za ) on Huguenot Road are both top options.


Mont Rochelle Garden Route & Winelands, South Africa with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)





Wine sets the scene at boutique hotel Mont Rochelle in South Africa’s scenic Winelands. Occupying 39 hectares of vineyards and hills, the hotel produces wine on-site, and guests can tour the cellars or wander the paths between vineyard plots. Even the signature spa facial uses grapes. Rooms are named for the estate’s four varietals, and house wines can be enjoyed anywhere in this laid-back property – whether sipping merlot on a private terrace or dining with perfectly paired wines at hip, house restaurant Miko, which serves locally sourced ingredients in global preparations. It’s the best of South Africa’s Winelands in one exceptional space. Like what you see?
South Africa’s wine country lures oenophiles from around the world for sips of its famous tipples. Mont Rochelle grows sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon; and if you’d like to explore more wineries and varietals, including the region’s renowned pinotage and chenin blanc, hop aboard the Wine Tram, an old-fashioned rail car that travels Franschhoek's valley and stops at eight wineries. The region’s beauty spots include Stellenbosch and Paarl. Explore wine country on foot with a hike through the hills and vineyards around Franschhoek; the hotel can map out routes, depending on your desired length and intensity, ranging from three to eight hours. Guests can hop on horseback and ride through the region, and – if you haven’t drunk your fill – you can add on a wine tasting at the end.


Grande Provence Franschhoek, South Africa with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)





Set among the Saint Rochelle mountains, luxury hotel, Grande Provence is a rare vintage well-worth discovering. Not only does the hotel offer luxury accommodation in chic modern villas with private pools, but it also has its own winery, art gallery and restaurant: so its activities are as well cultivated as its vineyards. By day, linger over local artwork nearby nature reserves, or gaze out over the mountains; in the evening, sip on the fruits of Grande Provence’s labours, while enjoying romantic dinners among the grapevines or in chef Darren Badenhorst’s award-winning restaurant.
Get to know the local area on a themed-guided tour with one of Grande Provence’s professional guides, or do it yourself, hopping on and off the Franschhoek wine tram. Drink in the stunning scenery while learning the history of 300-year-old Franschhoek, before jumping off at one of the many prestigious vineyards en route for lunch or a tasting. Of course, there are more active ways to explore the local area; hire mountain or quad bikes and follow paths through valleys, up mountains and alongside lakes. Alternatively you can view the nearby nature reserves from above, either abseiling down Table Mountain – the world’s highest natural, commercial abseil – on a helicopter tour, or sky-diving from 9,000ft. The local sea life is also worth a visit; paddle with penguins while sea-kayaking; scuba dive amongst shipwrecks, kelp forests, coral reefs and playful seals; or get up close and personal with Great Whites.

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