Have you ever stumbled across a place that you’d heard about vaguely, but never fully explored yourself… only to discover that you had been missing out massively all this time because said spot was all kinds of amazing and you’d wished you’d found it sooner??
Well, this was our experience this past weekend when we spent some time in Wellington
Now if you’re like me you might hear the name Wellington and think of a few things – gumboots, New Zealand, dried fruit, The Duke of…
All very valid associations!
But none accurately reflecting this picturesque part of the Western Cape…. As we were to discover, Wellington was such a splendid surprise!
A few months back I was invited on a media day to discover more of this valley, and that day trip to Wellington was my first visit to the valley (and I grew up in Cape Town!!) It totally convinced me that I needed to spend more time in the area, so I made a plan to return for a weekend with my family.
The first positive aspect of Wellington as a weekend destination is that it’s not very far away. Less than 1 hour’s drive (or a little more on a Friday afternoon) and you’re there!
We left Cape Town around 5:30pm and arrived as the sun was setting at 6:30pm. Our accommodation for the weekend, The Garden Shed, proved to be a central spot for all our explorations . The family suite (2 interleading bedrooms with private en-suite bathrooms) was comfortably furnished with firm mattresses and pillows (two essentials for a good nights’ rest away from home!) and provided us with enough space as a family of 4.
With kids in tow the first thing you generally have to organise upon arrival anywhere is food! They’re almost always hungry!! Fortunately we had a booking at the Piza-e-Vino restaurant on the Val du Charron wine estate so we headed straight there…
The first thing you’ll notice at Val du Charron is the view! The most incredible view! The drive up to the estate is well worth it, but stop and stay a while to enjoy it for a little longer…. it really will capture your heart. Not only can you see vineyards stretching out towards the Drakenstein mountain range, but, on a clear day you can also catch a glimpse of Table Mountain in the distance.
Our visit was at the start of summer so the weather wasn’t quite warm enough to linger longer outside but they do have the most expansive outdoor terrace with plenty of shade and down below this awesome kids water play area that I’m sure is super popular on those heatwave days Wellington is known for….
Piza-e-Vino is a family-friendly restaurant that has a relaxed atmosphere. Attentive staff saw to our order quickly and our kids were welcomed with colouring-in pages and an interactive ordering option that saw them designing their own milkshake and pizza which they then popped into the pizza oven themselves. (well with some help!) The very reasonable Shake & Bake kiddies option is only R65ea.
The adult food was really good too. We appreciated the generous portions, thin-based pizzas, variety on the menu and reasonable prices. But the highlight of our evening most definitely was my main -Scallopini di Pollo – the most delicious and indulgent mushroom lemon chicken with tagliatelle and a side salad. I had hoped to take my left overs home, but my boys got hold of it and devoured the remains with gusto proving that I was most certainly the “winner” of this particular meal (Yes, we have a family competition to see who makes the best food choice at restaurants! Don’t you???)
The next morning, after enjoying our English breakfast in the on-site coffee shop overlooking the plant nursery, we headed out to our first destination…
After weaving our way down country roads and dirt tracks, alongside rows and rows of neatly planted vines, we finally found ourselves at Quenti Alpaca.
Home to Linda and her family of alpacas (each one named mind you!), Quenti Alpaca is an enclave of love that we just fell in love with entirely!
My kids are massive animal lovers, my husband not so much. But what Quenti Alpaca showed me is that this isn’t the total truth, because it’s here that my husband fell in love with another… alpaca!
To be fair he is horribly allergic to almost all other animals – horses, bunnies, dogs, cats – everything with fur seems to make him break out in hives. What we discovered about alpacas is that they are hypoallergenic which means their “wool” doesn’t cause him to react in any way. So much so that there’s even a video of him having a cuddle with an animal – totally unheard of before this day!!
My daughter was equally pleased with being able to enjoy some animal therapy, unfortunately she’s a total daddy’s girl and has inherited his allergies, so this interation (sans itching eyes and blotching skin) was a total treat for her too. And it made my mama’s heart so happy to see her so happy! If these amazing animals weren’t so expensive we would have taken 2 home on the spot as our family pets!!
I loved watching the baby alpacas with their own moms. Some super confident walking right up to me to find out more about my camera, others really shy and skittish. All such different personalities.
Linda started this “retirement project” about 6 years ago and since moving out to the country for the quieter life she has restored the old Cape Dutch homestead (dated around 1715), become an alpaca farmer, started a mill to process the fibre and kitted out a shop on the premises selling her own home-made knitted and woven garments, blankets and more! Whew!!
From the first 12 alpaca that arrived from Chile in 2009 the herd has now grown to around 175 animals (2 new babies joined the herd the day before we arrived, and another 1 a few days after – which my kids supplied the name for, Keagan!)
There are also three rescued donkeys from the Donkey Sanctuary in McGregor and a motley collection of chickens plus the most incredible birdlife. In fact, the name Quenti is a South American Quechu word meaning “sunbird” – a frequent visitor to these parts.
On our walk to the barn we “spotted” a Cape Eagle Owl nesting in the nearby gumtree, quite content to eye us out from her safe spot (can you see her in the pic below??)
Visits to Quenti Alpaca are by appointment, but the good news is that they are hosting a Family Day on Saturday 28 October from 9am to 5pm.
There will be lots of good old fashioned fun for the kids plus food stalls and live entertainment. It promises to be a really lovely day getting back to nature in a beautiful setting, all while learning about how we can learn to appreciate life at a slower pace and the beauty of handmade…
After meandering our way through the back roads of Wellington we finally found ourselves arriving at Bartholomeus Klip on Elandsberg Farm.
Located on a working sheep and wheat farm at the 10 000 acre Elandsberg Nature Reserve, this is an exclusive guest house set amidst the most beautiful garden, and surrounded by an even more exquisite natural one… filled with wildflowers and fynbos!
We set off on a 4×4 safari vehicle to discover more of the beautiful secrets of the valley…
Isn’t nature just so beautiful… the tiny details that make up each flower are incredible!
But the safari wasn’t just about flowers, there were insects to discover too, and, as it turns out, to taste! Here are my rather brave boys trying out a termite or two! Not me tho, I’m not that adventurous with my tastebuds!!!
After our safari drive with a difference we were treated to a private lakeside picnic at The Deckhouse overlooking THIS VIEW!
The food was healthy and delicious, the wine plentiful and the kids, happy. What more could you want from a picnic, right??
We even attempted a family rowing boat excursion but that didn’t turn out too well… You might like to watch the video below for a laugh!
Before heading “home” to our own accommodation to rest a while I took a short walk through the grounds of Bartholomeus Klip…
The main 5-bedroomed farmhouse is a tranquil haven of peace and quiet (No kids, families with children can enjoy the Wild Olive House & Cottage instead) The rooms are elegant and comfortable with an olde-worlde charm that transports you to a bygone day.
Outside Spring was taking control of the gardens in a big way and they were bursting with beautiful blooms and fresh green leaves while the scent of Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow filled the air! Rather apt when you think back on the incredible history of this beautiful building.
On heading down the steps for a better photo angle, I was suddenly struck by a sense of Déjà Vu…
It took a moment and then I realised why! This was the spot where some of The Queen TV series was shot… the scene where the Queen is in Africa and hears the news about her father’s death. Does it look familiar to you??
And then, just as we were about to leave… a parting gift in the form of a pair of woodpeckers, pecking away at their new home!
After a short snooze and a spot of Springbok supporting (that didn’t end too well), we headed out to dinner at Villamar Restaurant just across the road from our accommodation at The Garden Shed.
Villamar opened its’ doors earlier this year so are fairly new on the scene in Wellington, but they won’t stay a secret for long!
I can honestly say that this was a 5 star dining experience, right up there with the very best restaurants in the other “culinary capitals” located amongst the winelands of the Western Cape.
We were blown away by the impeccable service, beautiful glassware, perfectly plated food and strong wine list including Bosman’s Adama Red by the glass which made my husband very happy indeed!
My husband started with the Beef Carpaccio and although I didn’t try it he raved about it.
The kids shared a Salmon Spaghetti pasta. To be honest there wasn’t much on the menu for kids, but the bonus was that there was an awesome little separate room for kids to enjoy with games and colouring-in things. This meant we were left on own own for most of the meal… something I’m sure most parents will appreciate too!
My main meal of a 200g Fillet Steak was sublimely tender, served with ravioli, butternut puree, broccoli stems and beetroot jus it was well worth the R159 price tag.
My husband opted for the Cured Duck Breast with thyme, coriander, and black pepper served with beetroot crumb, dark cocoa, homemade gnocchi and seasonal vegetables.
Our final morning in Wellington was another highlight… this weekend their proved to be many!
We headed off down an unexplored dirt road (my faves!!) to find ourselves at Welvanpas – home of the Retief family since 1704! (Voortrekker leader Piet Retief was born here)
This valley was such an incredible discovery for me and I loved every moment here – from the walk alongside the rushing stream and beneath the towering oaks, to the moment to stop and catch our breath at the waterfall, to getting caught in the rain on our return, to enjoying the views of the mist-shrouded mountains, to catching a whiff of the orange blossoms on the breeze. Every moment in this place felt heavenly….. In fact I’m pretty heaven is exactly like this. I hope it is!
Unfortunately family commitments back in Cape Town meant we couldn’t stay longer than the morning (I could quite happily have stayed indefinitely!!), but fortunately that just means we’ll have to be back soon! Next time we’ll opt to take the longer hike (a 7km circular route) and pack a picnic to enjoy along the way… and we’ll most certainly be back for a slice or two of the carrot cake – that alone is worth the drive!
Please note: You need to buy a permit to hike or bike the trails on Welvanpas. Avail at the Ou Muel coffee shop (Open 8am – 5pm weekdays and til 3pm on weekends. Closed Mondays.) A cycling permit is R60 per day. A hiking permit is R40 for adults and R20 for scholars and an indemnity form must be signed! For more info contact Retha Retief on 083 2312 149 or 021 864 1239.
For more on our weekend in Wellington watch this video (Be sure to watch ’til the end for the blooper reel!)
The Garden Shed
Champagne Street, Vorentoe Farm, Wellington
Tel: +27 (0) 79 622 7911
Email: [email protected]
Piza e Vino @ Val du Charron
Tel: +27 (0) 21 873 1256
Email: [email protected]
Klein Limietrivier Farm
Tel: 021 873 6242/ 083 250 3127/ 083 452 8283
Elandsberg Nature Reserve, Riebeek Valley
Tel: +27 (0) 741 599 906
Email: [email protected]
Oudebrug Farm, Wellington, Wellington Industrial Park, R44
Tel: +27 (0) 72 617 6501
Email: [email protected]
Tuesday – Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00
Thursday – Friday 08:00 to close (last seating 20:30)
Saturday 07:00 to close (last seating 20:30)
Closed Sunday & Monday
Tel: +27 (0) 21 864 1239
Email: [email protected]
Images, Words & Video: Kathryn Rossiter