Last Updated on December 28, 2023 by thecapetownblog
A trip to the beautiful Cape Winelands is a must when you visit Cape Town. South Africa is well known for producing excellent wine, and most of it comes from the Western Cape. So if you’re a wine lover like me, you can’t miss the chance to explore this beautiful region while you’re in Cape Town.
I do recommend staying overnight in the winelands if you can, but there’s not always time. So if you want to see the best of the Cape Winelands in a day, then I recommend this tour! It takes you to three of the area’s most famous wine towns to check out some well-known winemakers, and you don’t need to worry about a designated driver.
I did this tour with my friend, Liam, when he came to stay with me, and we had a really great day out. So if you’re weighing up whether or not to do the Cape Explorer wine tour, then keep on reading to find out if it’s the right tour for you.
Where are the Cape Winelands?
The Cape Winelands are situated east of Cape Town. The region consists of several different towns, and it typically takes an hour or so to get here. The most famous places to go within the region are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, both of which you’ll visit on the Cape Winelands tour!
What is the Cape Explorer Wine Tour?
The Cape Explorer Wine tour is a large group tour that takes you on a double-decker bus to three different towns in the winelands: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl. You get a little bit of time to explore Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, and you’ll visit a winery in each area.
To be honest, I don’t usually love big group bus tours, but for a wine tour, I think it works! We got to know some really nice people in our group and had a lot of fun together.
Which wineries do you visit?
The Cape Explorer wine tour takes you to three different wine farms, in three different towns.
You start by visiting Simonsig in Stellenbosch, where you get a cellar tour, a cheese platter, and of course a guided tasting.
Simonsig is perhaps best known for their bubbly, or cap classique, which is made using the champagne method. But of course, they can’t actually call it champagne!
You’ll then visit the Franschhoek Cellar, where you can buy lunch to go with your tasting.
And finally, you visit Rhebokskloof Wine Estate in Paarl for a chocolate and dessert wine pairing.
What else do you see and do on the tour?
As well as enjoying tastings at the different wineries, you’ll also get a guided walk through Stellenbosch. This is pretty cool as Stellenbosch is a university town with lots of quaint, white Cape Dutch buildings, as well as independent shops and boutiques.
You’ll also get some free time in Franschhoek, which is a tiny but very picturesque town. The tour also takes you past Drakenstein Correctional Centre, which is the prison where Nelson Mandela served the final two years of his prison sentence before being released in 1990.
How long does the tour last?
The tour lasts for around 8 hours, depending on where you get picked up and dropped. It’s quite a long day – Liam and I both slept most of the way home on the bus. We were picked up at around 8:30 AM and got home just before 5 PM.
How much does the Cape Winelands tour cost?
The Cape Winelands tour costs R695, which is roughly £30 or $38 USD. Honestly, I think that this is a pretty good price, especially if there’s only one or two of you. If you’ve got a big group, you’re probably better off hiring a private driver. However, there were only two of us when Liam and I went, so this was definitely the more cost-effective option!
What’s included in the price?
The price of the Cape wine explorer tour includes three wine tastings, as well as your cheese and charcuterie platter at Simonsig in Stellenbosch, and your chocolate pairings at Rhebokskloof in Paarl.
It also includes all of your transport to and from the winelands, as well as transport between the wine farms. Technically, hotel pickup and drop-off are not included, but the bus picks up from several points throughout the city, so there will be a stop fairly close to where you’re staying.
What’s not included?
The price of the Cape explorer wine tour doesn’t include your meal in Franschhoek. I had a burger and chips, which cost me R160, including a tip.
Tipping is customary in South Africa, so most people choose to tip at the end of the tour. You don’t have to, of course, but it is the done thing. 10% is usually an acceptable margin, and they do accept tips on cards, although we gave ours in cash. So if you do this tour and have a good time, I would recommend tipping between R70 – R100.
Who operates the Cape Wine Explorer tour?
City Sightseeing operates the Cape wine explorer tour. I’ve done lots of tours with them, including the Cape Point Explorer and the Constantia Wine Bus. In my experience, they’re always helpful, friendly, and reliable!
Where does the Cape Wine Explorer tour leave from?
There are a few different departure points for the Cape wine explorer tour. Liam and I caught the bus from the City Sightseeing office at the Waterfront, right by the Aquarium.
However, there are several other pickup points around the city. You can be picked up from the Long Street tour office, the Camps Bay Strip, outside the Winchester in Sea Point, or by the Green Point lighthouse.
Do you get to go on the wine tram?
No, you don’t get to go on the wine tram on this tour. The Franschhoek Cellar is on the wine tram route, but you won’t get to ride it.
If you’d rather do the wine tram instead of the winelands explorer tour, City Sightseeing also operates this tour which allows you to visit the wine tram from Cape Town, for the same price.
What are the pros of the Cape Explorer Wine tour?
- It’s convenient – everything is organised for you! You don’t have to worry about routes, timings, or which wineries to visit.
- Great guides – when we did this tour, we loved our guide and had a really fantastic day.
- Good itinerary – I loved all of the wineries that we visited on this tour, especially Simonsig and Rhebokskloof, neither of which I had previously visited.
- Good value for money – unless you’ve got a big group or a designated driver, I think that this tour is the most cost-effective way to explore the Cape Winelands in one day.
- Perfect if you’re short on time – I do think it’s worth spending a few days in the winelands if you can. However, if you don’t have time for that, then this tour gives you a great overview of the area.
What are the cons of the Cape Explorer Wine tour?
- It’s not an in-depth tour – Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl each have plenty to do and lots of wineries to explore. You could even spend a whole day in each one! So if you’re in Cape Town for a while, I think it’s worth taking the time to explore each town separately rather than doing a whistlestop tour.
- You spend a lot of time on the bus – It’s about an hour to and from the winelands, and you spend 30-40 minutes driving between the towns, so there’s a fair amount of travel time involved. That, combined with the warm weather and wine, had me falling asleep between each winery!
Is The Cape Winelands Explorer Tour worth it?
Yes, I do think that it’s worth it. I’m really glad that Liam and I went while he was out to visit!
However, it’s not the only way to explore the winelands. The Franschhoek wine tram is also a good option and you can visit 4-5 wineries this way, since there’s less travel time between the farms. Plus, the novelty of the tram and tractor rides adds to the experience!
Personally, my favourite wine experience in Cape Town is the Constantia wine bus! You can just buy a regular hop-on hop-off bus ticket and use it to visit Constantia’s gorgeous wine farms. There’s much less travel time involved and it’s a self-guided experience, so you can just go with your own group. If you’ve got time, then it’s worth doing both.
To be honest, if I had to choose just one, I’d go for the Constantia tour. You can read my full guide here!
And yet, with all that said, I do think that the Cape Winelands Explorer tour is a great option for those who want an overview of the winelands without too much time, hassle, or expense involved. We had a lot of fun, tried some great wine, and met lovely people along the way.