One thing you learn very quickly about Stanford in the Overberg is that it’s hard not to fall under the spell of its numerous restaurants and wineries. But wining and dining isn’t the only thing to do in the town, not by far. Here’s my pick of 17 things to do in Stanford.
You’ll find Stanford just a two-hour drive from Cape Town in South Africa, an attractive 25km drive from Hermanus on the Cape Whale Coast. It’s the perfect blend of country atmosphere and small-town living, mountains, rivers and lagoons. I love it for its natural surroundings – and yes, also for its wineries and great little restaurants that focus on locally source food.
1. Ride a horse
2. Go nature quad biking
3. Go whale watching
4. Visit the village markets
Another market takes over the stoep of the Stanford Hotel on the main road every Saturday morning. Here the locals sell cakes, pastries and pies, breads, preserves, honey, flowers, herbs and fresh seasonal veggies from their gardens. Take a basket or shopping bag to carry away your stash.
Many of the people who sell at these markets belong to the suitably epic-sounding Stanford Food Heroes – a local initiative that promotes locally grown and made produce in a way that helps the local economy and is environmentally friendly (most is organic and there’s no long-distance transport to hoik up the carbon footprint).
5. Go on a river cruise
Stanford lies along the Klein River, and there’s a path along the bank that you can walk. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the river and see some of almost 130 bird species that occur here is to take a late afternoon river cruise on the African Queen or Lady Stanford. Watch the mountains change colour and discover why the locals are so besotted with their sunsets.
6. Go beer tasting
7. Visit a Big Cat sanctuary
Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary just off the R326 about 10km from Stanford village is 40ha of true sanctuary where the primary focus is on the well-being of the animals – lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs and caracals – that live there. In a perfect world these animals should be wild but life has thrown them into negative situations from which they can never be rewilded – think canned lion hunting, the tiger and lion bone trade, cub petting, circuses and breeding farms. Panthera Africa gives these rescued animals a forever home in a protected area and is dedicated to educating people about the horrors of these exploitative industries. They are fiercely committed to not trading or breeding any of their animals. You can visit to photograph and learn about these beautiful cats and the threats they face. No hands-on interactions allowed. Bookings are essential.
8. Go bird watching
9. Explore a mountain reserve
10. Take a walk through historical Stanford
11. Treat yourself to a massage
You’ll find the Mosaic Private Sanctuary’s Milkwood Spa on the edge of the Klein River lagoon a few kilometres west of Stanford. Enjoy a massage in the minimalist salon or outside under the milkwoods, with a view of the lagoon. Being surrounded by nature in this tranquil environment is the ultimate indulgence.
12. Go cheese tasting or picnicking
Enjoy a picnic lunch (Monday to Saturday from 9:00 till 16:00) at a shady table or on the extensive lawns. Buy an artisan cheese platter of Klein River cheeses, fresh ciabatta, beetroot chutney and nasturtium pesto, or grab a basket and create your own picnic from all the goodies in the picnic shed. You’ll find everything you need, from cheese boards, drinks, deli items, even blankets. There are kiddies’ baskets too, and a lovely playground.
13. Get some retail therapy – with a difference
Walk through the village in search of antique shops, galleries and gift stores where you can browse and buy.
14. Go wine tasting and eat at good restaurants
15. Stay over in Stanford accommodation
Stanford Valley Guest Farm is tucked into the Klein River valley outside Stanford and its main attractions are its serene country atmosphere and mountain views. Added attractions are a horse paddock, rolling green lawns, a vineyard, farm dam for swimming, and hiking and mountain biking trails. Really good food in The Manor House restaurant too (sorry, couldn’t resist mentioning food again).
At Mosaic Private Sanctuary & Spa you can stay at Lagoon Lodge or in self-catering cottages at Die Spookhuis. Both have a wide-screen view of mountains and the lagoon, which is sometimes awash with flamingos.
Blue Gum Country Estate is a working wine farm among giant blue gum trees on the banks of the Klein River. All rooms have private verandahs looking out over vineyards, gardens or mountains where you can listen to the coucals and other birds in the morning. The lush gardens inspire walks – or you can go on a 45-minute trail above the manor house.
For lots of other options, see https://booking.com/stanford.
16. Plan a destination wedding
If you dream of a destination wedding and are lucky enough to be able to afford one, Stanford may just be the answer you’re looking for. Think gorgeous surroundings for anything from a stylish luxury wedding to something smaller and more intimate. There are plenty of guesthouses and B&Bs to accommodate your guests, and spectacular settings for your photographs. All the places I mentioned in point 15 can help you plan a wedding, or simply Google ’Stanford wedding venues’ to explore some choices.
17. Explore further afield
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Why to visit Stanford Valley Guest Farm in Stanford, South Africa
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