Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by thecapetownblog
The Franschhoek wine tram is one of the best ways to discover the Western Cape’s amazing wines. Set in the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, you get to travel between wine farms on an old-school tram, enjoying beautiful views and sipping on lots of delicious South African wines.
Franschhoek is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, but with the wine tram explorer tour, you can enjoy all of the tasting fun without having to worry about a designated driver or booking overnight accommodation.
My friends and I had such an amazing day out on the Franschhoek wine tram, so I’ve written this guide/review containing everything you need to know before you go. The wine tram is a hop-on, hop-off experience and it’s pretty easy to do, but it can seem a bit complicated at first, so it’s worth knowing what to expect.
What is the Franschhoek Wine Tram?
The Franschhoek wine tram is a tram and bus system that connects different wineries in the Franschhoek Valley. It makes for a really fun day out in the Cape Winelands, and you can visit up to 5 different wineries.
There are actually eight different routes that you can take, but if you want to do the wine tram in a day from Cape Town, it’s best to book the explorer tour, which usually means you’ll be doing the Navy route. I loved the wine farms on this route. I’ve actually done the Blue Route in the past, but I thought that the Navy one was a lot better.
How to get to the Franschhoek Wine Tram from Cape Town?
The easiest way to do the wine tram from Cape Town, without staying overnight in Franschhoek, is to book this wine tram explorer tour. It includes return transport between Cape Town and Franschhoek, as well as your tram tickets. The bus departs from the Cape Town aquarium at 8:30 am and gets you to the Groot Drakenstein tram station for 9:30, so you get to catch the first tram of the day and maximise your time wine tasting.
I’ve done the wine tram previously, but we had to stay overnight near Franschhoek and arrange a private shuttle to and from the tram station, and book our tram tickets separately. It was a lot more hassle than doing the tram explorer tour. Ubering to and from Franschhoek is also expensive and it can be really difficult to get one, so the wine tram explorer is by far the easiest way of doing it. I wish I had known about it sooner!
How does the Franschhoek wine tram explorer work?
The wine tram explorer tour bus leaves from outside the Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront at 8:30 am.
You can get yourself to the Aquarium, or catch a free shuttle bus there from several points in the city beforehand. There are pickup points in Sea Point, Green Point, Camps Bay, and the CBD – we caught ours from Long Street to save money on an Uber ride.
Once you set off, there’s guided commentary on the bus, and you should get to Groot Drakenstein tram terminal just before 9:30. Before you get off of the bus, the staff will come around and give you your wine tram ticket, a timetable, a list of specials at the wine farms on the route, and a sticker that you’ll need to wear. I put mine on my bag so that it didn’t come off of my dress and get stuck in my hair, which is what usually happens.
You’ll start on either the tram or tram bus, which you get to decide when you book the tour. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, but do make sure that everyone in your group selects the same option.
When you first board the tram (or tram bus), you’ll be given a plastic wine glass and get a free taster of wine. Then, it’s off to explore the wine farms!
Trams come past the wineries roughly once an hour. When you get off, the staff will let you know when the next pickup time is, and the servers at the wineries also help you to keep an eye on the time. Plus, you’ll have your timetable with you.
Lots of the wineries also offer special tram tastings that can be done fairly quickly. Basically, it’s pretty hard to miss the trams!
The maximum number of wine farms you can visit on the Navy route in a day is five, out of a potential ten. The ones you visit are up to you.
We did the tram first, and visited Plaisir Platform and Vrede en Lust that way. Then, we returned to Groot Drakenstein and switched to the tram bus to visit Bartonney and Le Pommier. We only made it to four because we loved Bartonney so much that we decided to spend two hours there and enjoy some lunch. That’s the beauty of the wine tram: it’s flexible!
We were dropped back at Groot Drakenstein at 5:35 pm and then were back at the Waterfront just before 6:30 pm, just in time for dinner at our favourite restaurant.
Which wineries do you visit on the Franschhoek Wine Tram Explorer?
For most of the year, the Franschhoek wine tram explorer takes you on the Navy line. There are 10 wineries in total, and we visited 4.
We started off at Plaisir Platform, which had a beautiful garden to do our tasting in. We had a cheeseboard here and there’s also a food market that you can check out, where one of our friends found some (admittedly tasty) chicken and chips. I think that Plaisir had the best wine of the day, and our server was super friendly and knowledgeable.
After that, we went to Allé Bleu, which had beautiful views, and then we took the tram back to Groot Drakenstein terminal. The staff told us that we could chill on the stationary tram while we waited for the next tram bus, so imagine our surprise when it started moving and heading towards Boschendal Platform, which we had chosen to skip. Fortunately, we were able to just stay on board and were back at the main terminal before the next tram bus arrived.
The highlight of the day was definitely wine farm number 3, which was Bartonney. The views here were just spectacular, and we got a cheese and charcuterie board which was absolutely delicious. In fact, we loved it here so much that we decided to miss the next tram, order some bottles of wine, and stay for 2 hours. It was a good decision!
We finished up at Le Pommier, which also had very beautiful views, and some award-winning wines.
What’s included with your Franschhoek Wine Tram Explorer ticket?
The wine tram explorer includes a tour bus to from Franschhoek, your tram ticket, and a free glass of wine when you first get on the tram.
The tastings and food are all on all on your own account, since this is a hop-on, hop-off tour. I definitely recommend the cheese boards at both Plaisir and Bartonney!
How much does it cost to do the Franschhoek Wine Tram from Cape Town?
The tour costs R695, which is £29 or $36 USD at the time of writing. How much you spend overall does depend on the tastings and food that you choose along the way, but here’s how much I spent, including tips of around 10%, which is the standard in South Africa:
- R695 for the tour
- R90 for my tasting at Plaisir Platform
- R100 for the premium tasting at Allé Bleu
- R280 at Bartinney for my tasting, a cheeseboard shared between two people, and two bottle of white wine, we which split 8 ways
- R65 for a tram tasting at Le Pommier
So the whole experience cost me R1,230 (£53/$66) in total – not too bad for a beautiful day of tasting wine in the sunshine!
Why book the Franschhoek Wine Tram Explorer?
The Franschhoek wine tram explorer is by far the easiest way to do the wine tram from Cape Town. You don’t need a designated driver, and getting an Uber back from Franschhoek can be tricky. I wouldn’t bank on that, as it will take you quite a while!
Everything was super well organised from start to finish, and it was so easy to book online. We didn’t have to worry about finding a driver, timings, booking separate tickets, or choosing a route. All we had to do was sit back and enjoy the day.
Having done the wine tram independently and with the wine tram explorer tour, I can safely say that the latter is so much easier to organise. It’s just one booking!
As well as being super easy, the Franschhoek wine tram explorer is much cheaper than hiring a private driver or taking an Uber there and back. You just pay one flat price for your return transport and tram ticket, which also includes a free shuttle to the Waterfront.
The wine tram is a hop-on, hop-off experience. You can choose which wine farms you want to visit and how long you want to stay for. There are also plenty of tasting options, including tram specials that can be done in exactly the right amount of time. A few of the wine farms, such as Plaisir Platform and Bartinney, also offer gin tastings, which is ideal if someone in your group (gasp!) doesn’t like wine.
Beautiful wine farms
The wine farms on the Navy route are absolutely stunning. Bartinney is actually my all-time favourite wine farm, because the views were just so beautiful. However, every single one that we visited was honestly gorgeous.
How to book the Franschhoek wine tram explorer
We booked the Franschhoek wine tram through Viator. It was super easy, and you can change or cancel your booking for free up to 24 hours beforehand, so it gives you extra flexibility.
When booking the Franschhoek wine tram explorer, you can choose to do the tram or tram bus first. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, as you will end up travelling on both.
However, make sure that your entire group chooses the same option. Two of my friends chose the tram bus when everyone else had picked the tram first, so we had to speak to the staff and ask if they could change the order. Luckily, there was enough room on the tram for them to travel with us, but it would have put a bit of a damper on the day had that not been the case!
What time does the Franschhoek Wine Tram Explorer leave?
The wine tram explorer bus leaves from outside the Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront at 8:30 am. Do try to be there about 15 minutes beforehand, though, as you’ll need to go into the kiosk and print your paper ticket.
As mentioned, there are free shuttles to the Waterfront which you can catch from around town. We caught ours from Long Street at 8 am, and they printed our tickets for us there since it’s also a tour office.
Is it worth doing the Franschhoek Wine Tram Explorer from Cape Town?
Yes! As I’m sure you can tell from this review, I think it’s an amazing day out, and so worth it.
I had done the Franschhoek wine tram once before doing it through the explorer tour, and it was a lot more effort. Prior to doing the wine tram as part of the tour, I always said that I preferred the Constantia wine bus to the Franschhoek wine tram, but we had such a great time that I’ve changed my opinion. It really is a fantastic experience, and such a great way to enjoy a day of wine tasting.
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