2018 was a challenging year for many, including me. But, despite this, it was one of the most rewarding and successful years for my blog and a year in which I experienced some stunning places and experiences.
In light of this, here are my 18 best experiences for 2018 (listed in chronological order):
1. Winelands Tea at La Motte
To kick-start 2018, we had the pleasure of enjoying an elegant Winelands Tea at La Motte, back when talented chef Michelle Theron was still at the helm. (She has since been replaced by chef Eric Bulpitt, who, from my past visit to Faber, I know will be providing an equally stellar job.)
And while teatime at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant used to be a thrilling affair on all fronts – please note that the Winelands Tea is no longer offered at Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.
But, never fear, for the restaurant has still-new and altogether exciting offerings in the À la Carte and Garden Menus respectively. These promise locally-sourced, seasonally changing meal options, sure to have your taste buds singing.
Overall, Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant is excellent and its picture-perfect setting – with seating inside the gorgeous restaurant interior, out on the stoep, in the garden or even on the deck – is second to none.
After experiencing the restaurant for yourself, be sure to explore the rest of the estate, which offers wine tasting, a farm shop and the fascinating La Motte Museum (yet another highlight for me).
Contact: + 27 (021) 876 8000
2. MCC and Macaroons at Canto Wines
Canto Wines may be one of the newer additions to the Durbanville Wine Valley – but, in under a year, this boutique winery has already cemented itself as a firm local favourite.
When we visited, it was to enjoy an excellent MCC and macaroon wine pairing (one of the best and most fun I have enjoyed to date!)… The MCC wines go perfectly with each accompanying macaroon – although my pick of the bunch was the Shiraz Rose Brut 2013 and Red Velvet macaroon pairing.
If you wish to treat someone (or even just yourself), please head to Canto; they certainly hit all the right notes!
And, best of all, Canto Wines also offer yoga and wine (in partnership with GreenLeafVitality) and some great picnics too!
Contact: +27 (021) 492 2821
3. Carriage Ride at Boschendal
This is arguably one of the most fun things I did in 2018 – and also, one of the most romantic!
I love Boschendal and always have. It is an estate that offers incredible restaurants, picnic experiences, MTB bike trails, accommodation and farm spa, stunning garden spaces, award-winning wines – and of course, rich Cape history and architecture…
But their carriage ride is one of the estate’s best-kept secrets… and possibly one of its finest attractions to boot!
Not only is this 30-minute-long carriage ride a wonderful blast from the past but it provides a unique way to see and enjoy this fine estate.
It is ridiculously fun (and they even cater to weddings… I’ve definitely bookmarked that idea for my future! 🙂 ) and it will stay with you long after your ride through the estate vineyards has ended.
If you are looking for a family-friendly, all-encompassing wine estate, look no further than this world-famous Franschhoek gem.
Contact: +27 (021) 870 4211
4. The Franschhoek Beer Co: Beer tour and tasting
Yet another excellent addition to the Franschhoek Valley, this brewery-meets-eatery is the place to go for truly world-class, handcrafted beers and good food.
Here, visitors can enjoy a fun beer tour (as we did), a beer tasting or even a delicious meal at Tap|Eat, a child-friendly restaurant, which oozes elegance and laid-back calm.
Hugely talented, yet down-to-earth brew master, Olaf Morgenroth, provides the passion, creative flair and brewing brilliance here… And the result of his and the team’s efforts are high quality beers. These include the likes of Belgian-style La Saison, Liberty American Pale Ale and The Stout.
But, if beer’s not your strong point, fear not – because Franschhoek Beer Co even has its own beer cocktails (‘beertails’) on offer. Talk about inventive… Talk about great!
Overall, from start to finish, Franschhoek Beer Co and Tap | Eat are a pleasure to visit and provide great service, quality food and drink and a really relaxed setting in fairest Franschhoek.
Contact: +27 (021) 876 2092
5. Visiting the Stony Point Penguins of Betty’s Bay
Everyone knows about the Boulders penguins – but how many of you know about the tuxedo-donning, little dudes found in Betty’s Bay?
The Overberg Region is one of the Cape’s (and the world’s) richest, most beautiful natural areas. It is a place full of wonderful surprises – perhaps none more unexpected and thrilling than the Stony Point penguin colony.
Sure, some might argue that the protected Stony Point Nature Reserve is not as big and grand as Boulders – but it is a great place to go to see some penguins. In fact, it is home to one of the largest successful breeding African penguin colonies in the world!
This fun attraction is super affordable, offers wheel-chair friendly boardwalks and allows one to get up-close-and-personal with these adorable feathered friends!
Contact: +27 (028) 272 9829
6. Hiking in Kogelberg Nature Reserve
I love hiking in the Cape countryside – it is one of the most rewarding and nature-rich experiences anyone can enjoy when exploring the Western Cape.
The best thing about hiking in the Cape is the fact that the landscapes, flora and fauna and settings vary so greatly from one region to a next… even travelling 100 km can present an entirely different outdoor adventure or enthralling hiking encounter!
And while I have hiked in some of the most incredible parts of the Cape – including Cape Town, the Cederberg, Wellington and Montagu – Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a particularly special hiking experience, which has stayed with me long since our long-weekend hike there back in April.
The Kogelberg Nature Reserve is, in every sense, a fynbos paradise. As a recognised World Heritage Site, it is suitably blessed with rich wildlife and immense natural beauty.
Our hike, the child-friendly and decidedly easy Palmiet River Trail (10 km) was a wonderful experience. It offered gorgeous river views, stunning proteas, tempting crystal-clear pools and even a secret beach of sorts!
It made for an enjoyable outing – and, although this decidedly scenic trail did not challenge us athletically, it certainly impressed on every other front.
Travel tip: Pack in cash and a camera; this is a cash-only facility… and you will want to take photos no matter which hiking trail you decide to tackle!
Contact: +27 (021) 483 0190
7. Driving along Clarence Drive
As the bridge between the Overbridge Region (found along the R44 and lying between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi-Els), Clarence Drive is an incredibly vital drive. But it also happens to be one of the most stunning road trip experiences in South Africa.
And best of all, unlike Chapman’s Peak Drive, Clarence Drive is entirely free to enjoy. As you curl around corners or drive silent stretches, with the ocean to one side and impressive cliff faces to the other, you can soak up incredible views, interesting sights, delightful stopover points and so much more.
This world-famous drive is undoubtedly one of the most scenic experiences you can enjoy in the Western Cape – don’t miss it!
Travel tip: A highlight of this route for me is certainly the beautiful Harold Port Botanical Garden; I loved every minute spent in it and rate it just as highly as Kirstenbosch!
8. Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate: A Thrilling Estate Experience
Unquestionably one of the finest all-round wine estate experiences we enjoyed in 2018 was the altogether memorable and oh-so-classy Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate.
Situated just outside the whale capital of the Cape, Hermanus, and encircled by glorious mountains, nature reserves and a beautiful, soothing lagoon, this incredible estate commands one of the most impressive settings that you will find anywhere in the Western Cape.
More than that though, it is one of the most experience-rich wine farms I have ever visited… Think pirate putt-putt (suitable for kiddies and adults alike; it’s seriously fun!), the elegant Moody Lagoon Restaurant, safari vineyard tours, epic wine tasting experiences and even a pontoon boat ride! If you can dream it, chances are you can find it here at Benguela Cove.
They are only on the up, with more exciting plans waiting in the wings (including some future additions and expansions) – and honestly, if there was one estate I would love to visit again soon, it has to be Benguela Cove.
And if you haven’t been yet, take my word for it – and get there fast! It is sublime in every sense.
Travel tip: Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate now offers an incredible splash park for kiddies – and a sophisticated high tea experience for adults! 🙂
Contact: +27 (021) 944 1041
9. Driving Franschhoek Pass
Anyone who really knows me, knows that I am definitely a road trip kinda girl… Give me some good company, flowing conservation, companionable silence (or fun tunes) and some stunning, ever-changing scenery and I am content to drive for miles.
So, given my penchant for road trips, I am always pleased to discover a thrilling or breath-taking drive. And earlier this year, I found all this and more in Franschhoek Pass.
The road winds up and up, offering incredible views of the Franschhoek Wine Valley sprawled out below you. With heart-in-mouth bends, stunning mountain and flora views and some excellent nearby hiking to be enjoyed, this scenic route is well worth a trip (or two…).
I was fortunate to drive it several times this year, first on a trip to Franschhoek and then there and back again to Gordon’s Bay for a weekend away.
So, pack a picnic and enjoy this historic and thrilling drive – you won’t regret it!
10. Staying at the Delightful Molo Lolo Lodge
Twice this year – first at the snug, Durbanville-based Le Petit Chateau and then again at Molo Lolo Lodge – I encountered the excellent service, pleasing accommodation and memorable home-away-from-home offerings that the Molo Lolo Group provides in South Africa.
And while I loved both my accommodation experiences with the group, the standout was certainly Molo Lolo Lodge, which is nestled near to the cosy De Waterkant, just off from the Cape Town CBD proper.
At this lodge, one finds blissful accommodation, extreme inner city luxury and arguably some of the best service and food anywhere in Cape Town.
When you stay at Molo Lolo Lodge, whether for a personal or business trip, you really do feel at home – and more importantly, like a warmly welcomed tourist, even in your own city!
The lodge – which, from the street, looks like an unassuming David-Livingstone-in-Africa type place – provides a well-run, luxurious and all-round delightful accommodation offering right in the tranquil heart of the Mother City.
Everything about my stay at Molo Lolo Lodge was fun, memorable and entirely relaxing.
Contact: +27 (021) 422 0414
11. Exploring the Quirky Zeitz MOCAA
Since its opening in September 2017, the quirky Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) has been intriguing and thrilling both art appreciators and normal folk (like me), from far and wide.
My visit – almost a year on from its opening – was filled with the unexpected from start to finish and while there were many art exhibits that left me feel slightly disturbed or uncertain, some of them were absolutely stunning and I could definitely recognise the talent and artistry in each piece.
But the best part of Zeitz MOCAA for me is the fact that it is, in every sense, an architectural marvel, conceptualised and designed by the vastly talented, Thomas Heatherwick. And, coming in as a close second, is that it is a not-for-profit endeavour between the V&A Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz.
I grant you this: Zeitz MOCAA is an altogether fascinating experience, which I recommend locals especially enjoy at least once – if only because it is unlike any other museum you will find in South Africa (and indeed, even in many parts of the world).
It’s different, yes and quirky (double yes) – but also extremely slick, enthralling and interesting to explore.
Travel tip: Aim to visit on a Wednesday, as this when the museum is free to all African citizens on presentation of an ID.
Contact: +27 (087) 350 4777
12. Hiking Tygerberg Nature Reserve in Springtime
I love hiking Tygerberg Nature Reserve (located in Welgemoed, Northern Suburbs) any time of year but it is particularly special and exciting during springtime, when the reserve abounds with wildlife, wild flowers and good weather to boot.
There are several fun, easy hiking trails to be enjoyed in Tygerberg Nature Reserve – including Caracal, Duiker, Grey Rhebok, Peregrine and more – and parts of the reserve are also wonderfully wheel-chair friendly.
But perhaps the best part about Tygerberg Nature Reserve are the positively stunning views of Table Mountain in the distance and the Northern Suburbs stretching out below you.
In addition to the hiking trails, the reserve offers some delightful picnic tables, educational programmes and birdwatching.
If you need some fresh air and impressive city scenery, pay a visit to the beautiful Tygerberg Nature Reserve.
Contact: +27 (021) 444 8971
13. Avondale Open Garden: An Entrancing Outdoor Experience
In late October, I had the pleasure of discovering Durbanville’s very own secret garden in the glorious and perfectly manicured Avondale Open Garden.
Here, one finds vast rolling lawns, secret garden spaces and some truly impressive natural, green settings in the heart of city suburbia.
The handiwork of pioneering and dedicated Ronelle Shuttleworth, Avondale Open Garden is a treat for one and all – whether you enjoying pottering around in your garden, being outdoors or simply just want to pass a pleasant day out in the city with those you love.
The garden is only open once a year so it is definitely worth bookmarking the calendar date that it is available for public visiting.
If given the chance, I would return to Avondale in a heartbeat, so wonderful and cheering was my time exploring this wonderful green space.
Contact: +27 (021) 976 5475
14. Durbanville Hills: An Epic Cheese and Wine Tasting
Situated some twenty minutes’ drive outside of Cape Town and nestled in the heart of the famed Durbanville Wine Valley, one finds the impressive Durbanville Hills.
I have long wanted to visit this award-winning estate – and so, a post-work wine tasting turned out to be exactly the way to see and experience the best part(s) of it, particularly as the sun edged closer to setting the longer we were there…
Durbanville Hills offers a smartly decked out wine tasting centre and restaurant both – and honestly, some of the most awe-inspiring views I have seen anywhere in the Mother City and surrounds!
Sit down and enjoy one of their fun, varied wine tasting options – which allow you to sample everything from a range of delicious cheeses to olives, biltong and even dried fruit! Furthermore, the wines are divine across the board and service is good too.
Overall, our Durbanville Hills experience was delightful – but it was the cheese and wine tasting offering and those stellar views that really made the biggest impact on me.
Contact: +27 (021) 558 1300
15. Table Bay Hotel’s Stunning High Tea
In the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy several excellent high teas, at some of the most respected and highly rated spots around the Mother City – but even now when I compare them individually in my mind, my stunning high tea experience at Table Bay Hotel ranks in at number one.
With gorgeous views of Table Mountain and the harbour, an opulent, incredible lounge and a truly impressive high tea spread of delectable sweet and savoury essentials, Table Bay Hotel’s high tea offering would already be in the top three… But it is the impeccable service shown by all its staff that really, how can I put it, steals the cake for me.
The whole experience was professional, dreamy and delightfully blissful from start to finish – and even though we ended up staying longer than our seating, we were still sorely sorry to bid The Lounge farewell.
Whether you wish to celebrate a special occasion, treat a loved or simply enjoy a coffee in a stunning setting, the Table Bay Hotel has you sorted – though I do hope you will join them for tea!
Contact: +27 (021) 406 5988
16. Exploring the fascinating Elgin Railway Market
I always love a good market – but throw in beautiful surroundings (read: Elgin Valley), a host of unique experiences (everything from gin and wine tasting to a climbing wall to Segway tours, which lead through the farmlands and woodlands), a book bus and an impressive steam train – and I am there like a shot!
Dreamed up by creative businessman, Roger Orpen, this apple warehouse-turned-steampunk-station market is a real treat in and of itself – but, add to it, the Ceres Rail Company’s visiting steam train – and you have a truly enchanting place.
Particularly over the weekend, the market heaves with busy children, excited groups of local friends and families and tourists alike. Our visit in November was a thrilling experience and made me long to return again someday soon!
Listen out for the steam train’s arrival, as you wait at the station platform to greet it… Or even live out the ultimate (childhood) travel dream by journeying from Cape Town to Elgin by steam train – while simultaneously enjoying delightful market fun for everyone!
Contact: +27 (021) 204 1158
17. Incredible Ziplining with Cape Canopy Tour
As someone who is afraid of (man-made) heights, it never really occurred to me that I would someday attempt and love ziplining.
But, after my epic experience ziplining in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, near Elgin, it is safe to say I am a firm ziplining convert – and am already plotting my next open-air adventure.
With superb local guides, prioritised safety, amazing mountain and valley views and some jaw-dropping zipline slides (the longest of which spans some 330-metres), this is honestly one of the most impressive and endlessly fun experiences I have ever had.
And with some 4×4 rides, a bit of hiking, stunning local flora and fauna and a delicious Peregrine pie included in your ziplining tour, it is hard to beat in terms of outdoor fun, country charm and natural beauty.
Contact: +27 (021) 3000 501
18. Fine Dining at the Impeccable Gåte Restaurant
Few restaurant experiences have ever impressed upon me as greatly as my 16-course, wine-paired culinary adventure at Gåte Restaurant.
Situated on the beautiful, newly reborn Quoin Rock Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, this stunning restaurant is the last word in quality service, fine dining opulence, fun food experimentation and indeed, culinary mastery.
Here, Michelin award-winning master chef Rikku Ò’Donnuchü has created a truly memorable experience, enhanced by some of the best service I have ever encountered, a stunning setting (complete with architectural and artistic marvels) and, of course, some wonderful Quoin Rock wines.
Every aspect of our fine dining experience at Gåte Restaurant was mind-blowing… and definitely one for life’s memory book!
Contact: +27 (021) 888 4750
These are just 18 of the most incredible and richly rewarding experiences I was fortunate enough to enjoy in 2018.
I wish to thank everyone who made these experiences possible or shared in them with me… and as we prepare to ring in 2019, I look forward to a host of new and exciting adventures and experiences just waiting to be unearthed! 🙂 Happy travels in the New Year, everyone!
Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.