South Africa already has so much to offer honeymooners by way of world-class comforts tinged with just the right amount of adventure. The typical lovebird itinerary begins on safari, usually in Kruger National Park or elsewhere in KwaZulu-Natal, then winds down with a few days of dining and sightseeing in the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. But one of the country’s greatest treasures is its wine, and the winemaking regions you’ll find here have all the elements of the perfect honeymoon: exceptional dining, out-of-this-world scenery, and plenty of romantic hotels. When it comes to adding a few days of drinking the good stuff (and seeing how it’s made!) to your South Africa itinerary, here’s what you need to know.
What to Do
South Africa’s wine lands are surprisingly accessible, located just under an hour from Cape Town International Airport (from which an Uber will set you back only about $30). So when you fly into Cape Town, this easily gives you the option of spending a few days in the city, or heading out directly to the wineries, or wine farms, as locals call them. But if you have to compare the traffic-filled streets of Cape Town to the rolling hills of lush valleys of wine country, is there really any question?
The main town to focus on is Franschhoek, which was settled in the 17th century by French Huguenots, who luckily brought their vines and winemaking techniques with them. There are dozens and dozens of wine farms in the region that welcome guests, many of which have “cellar doors” for tastings and light meals. Here are some highlights: Rupert & Rothschild for the super-premium wines; Solms Delta for its unique wines (sparkling red, anyone?) and even more unique community development programs; Holden Manz; Eikehof; Grande Provence; and Bartinney, just to name a few.
Piecing together a wine farm hit list sounds overwhelming, so consider having someone else do it for you. Ask your hotel to recommend a driver you can hire for the day, or better yet, hire one of the pedicabs which are parked on main street in downtown Franschhoek—they’re cheaper and much more fun. Alternatively, you can buy a pass for the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on, hop-off tram that connects to many of the area’s best wineries.
If one of you is not really a wine fan or you need a break from drinking wine, don’t fret—there’s an exciting craft beer scene in the area. Consider checking out Tuk Tuk Microbrewery or Franschhoek Beer Co. if an ample beer list is what you’re after.
But best of all, the area’s drop-dead gorgeous scenery isn’t just good to look at. The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve offers fantastic day hikes to walk off all that wine—so the two of you can continue to indulge guilt-free.
Where to Eat
Babylonstoren is South Africa’s reigning haute-bohemian farm-to-table concept, and their fine dining outpost is so much more than just a restaurant. If you come for dinner, make sure to arrive on the earlier side so you can take a stroll through the immaculate vegetable gardens, then enjoy your meal during sunset as you eat produce from said gardens. Not only is there an emphasis on extraordinary quality and freshness, but each dish is also prepared aesthetically, with special attention paid to the colors and textures of everything on the plate. In other words, it might be the most Instagrammable meal you’ll ever have.
Local celebrity chef Darren Badehorst offers up an elegant take on rustic South African cuisine, like an 18-hour confit lamb neck and porcini-cured springbok tartare.
There is no restaurant more buzz-worthy than Cape Town’s Chefs Warehouse at the moment, so when chef Liam Tomlin set his sights on wine country, the area’s foodies started to lick their chops. The tasting menu of global-inspired tapas is filled with foods both familiar and surprising—the perfect kind of unforgettable dining experience for honeymooners to share.
South Africa’s chenin blancs, chardonnays, and rosés make for excellent pairings with the authentic Indian cuisine offered up here. Start with the crispy spinach leaves topped with tamarind and chili, then move on to the chickpea masala accented with dry mango powder and pomegranate seeds. If both of you have curry breath, it cancels out, right?
Where to Stay
The best part of staying at the recently-renovated LQF—located directly on Main Street in Franschhoek—is that you can walk to dinner, then stumble home to your room, tucked behind a secret garden just steps from the best dining in town.
Let’s just say that La Résidence is so beautiful, so exquisite, and so exclusive, that Sir Elton John has a favorite room when he comes to stay. The hotel is part of the Royal Portfolio, which includes the Silo in Cape Town and Royal Malewane safari camp in the Kruger—so if you choose, you can splurge on a few nights at each property in order to really round out your South African experience.
The ultimate auberge, this hotel is unique in that it feels less like an actual hotel and more like your most posh friend’s country house. Brought to life by preeminent Cape Town designer Jacques Erasmus, La Clé has two GM’s (Scott and Mel) who not only live on-site to ensure that all guests are catered to at all times, but are also trained chefs. So if you grow tired of eating 10-course tasting menus with wine pairings, you always have the option to stay in for a low-key night on the couch with a bowl of Mel’s famous bolognese.
There is hardly a more spectacular vantage point in the region than the terrace at Leeu Estates—manicured vineyards, rolling hills, town in the distance, and mountains beyond. For a hotel that has a gym, spa, and heated pool, and that's surrounded by a functioning vineyard, it manages to keep its peacefulness. The staff here are willing to go the extra mile for every guest—like setting up a sunset dinner in the vines or organizing a horseback tour with the stables next door.