Stanford is a strong contender for South Africa’s best country dorp. A short drive from its more touristy neighbour, Hermanus, it’s got that quiet country charm of pancake stands on the main road on Saturday morning, food markets with organic farm-fresh produce, broekie-laced quaint pubs, and friendly locals. Stanford also offers fantastic restaurants, including the award-winning Mariana’s, a wine route with some up-and-coming wineries, and a renowned microbrewery. There’s a wealth of activities for outdoorsy types. Just beyond the town are scenic mountain biking trails, there’s canoeing and cruising on Klein Rivier, and Salmonsdam Nature Reserve has scenic hiking trails amongst mountain fynbos, forests and waterfalls. There’s something to please everyone in Stanford, and coupled with its convenient location in the Overberg (it’s close to Gansbaai, Elim, Cape Agulhas and De Hoop Nature Reserve) means that if it’s not at the top of your dorp to-do list, it should be.
While you could easily spend a weekend in Stanford chilling out at one of its charming guesthouses or B&Bs, there are so many things to do in and around town that you’d be missing out. Here are 12 things to do in Stanford (try and fit them all in to one weekend if you’re one of those ‘can’t sit still’ types).
1. Beer tasting and pub grub
The Birkenhead Brewery produces some fantastic microbrewery beers: do a tasting of their six beers (see if you can handle the Black Snake – a blend of ale, brandy and stout), and then decide on your favourite to accompany great pub grub such as calamari and chips (my favourite dish), hake in Birkenhead beer batter, and Birkenhead beer pie. Tel 028-341-0183.
2. Italian dining
Couple Catch and Jero Revette run the Graze Slow Food Café, a fantastic Italian restaurant, which is only open on the weekend (book in advance). They serve up scrumptious seasonal meals cooked with ingredients from their garden – homemade pastas, mouth-watering risottos and sensational gelati for dessert. Cell 082-491-8317.
3. Country cooking
Mariana’s, is probably South Africa’s best country kitchen (it’s won Eat Out the award for best country kitchen numerous times), is booked up weeks in advance (and I mean weeks), and it’s easy to see why: the food is excellent and the service quirky and personal. Mariana Engelbrecht cooks in a tiny kitchen, while husband Peter serves up her creative yet simple seasonal dishes: think perfect chicken pie, springbok ragù, spinach and gruyere roulade, and gorgeous puddings: I loved the mulberry platter of mulberry cake, ice cream and sorbet. Tel 028-341-0272.
4. Cheese, glorious cheese
Go for a cheese tasting at Klein Rivier, and try the award-winning Havarti, Raclette and Gruyere. Between November and April, the cheese farm offers picnics on the lawns – a great idea for kids, as there’s a playround and pen with farm animals. Baskets are R220 for two adults (children’s picnic baskets are also available), which include salads, cheese, cold meats, cake, tea and coffee. Tel 028-341-0693.
5. River cruisin’
River cruises on the Klein Rivier are a great way to while away a sunny afternoon, and spot the 129 species of birds in the area. Platanna (cell 073-318-5078), African Queen (tel 028-341-0929) and River Rat (cell 083-310-0952) all offer guided river cruises.
6. Hiking and mountain biking
Salmonsdam Nature Reserve, 20 kilometres east of Stanford, has three one-day hiking trails, ranging from three to seven kilometres. There are also mountain biking tracks. Buy a permit at the gate which costs R30 for adults and R15 for children (two to 13). Tel 021-483-0190, www.capenature.org.
7. Wine tasting
The Stanford Wine Route encompasses Springfontein Wine Estate, Raka (try the Biography Shiraz), Brunia, Boschrivier, Sir Robert Stanford, Stanford Hills, and Lomond Wines. Meander through the wine farms and stop for lunch at Madre’s Kitchen on the Sir Robert Stanford estate. For information about the Stanford Wine Route, call tel 028-312-1785.
Head to the dune-lined windswept Mierkom Beach to the west of Stanford for whale and dolphin spotting and walks along the coast. If you’re in a 4×4 you can do the Walker Bay Fisherman’s 4×4 Trail (be careful – the sand is very soft). Contact Cape Nature, tel 021-483-0190.
9. Tree hugging
Go hiking in or take a guided tour of Platbos Indigenous Forest, home to 1000-year-old trees, such as wild stinkwood, millkwood and wild peach on the slopes of the Baviaanspoort Hills. Entrance fees are R50 an adult and R20 a child. Call beforehand to book a guided tour. Accommodation for six people is in eco-friendly tents with a fully-equipped kitchen. Rates start at R700 for the camp (for six people). Cell 082-411-0448, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.platbos.co.za.
10. Horse riding
Go horse riding along the beach or in the mountains around Stanford. The African Horse Company offers one-, two- and three-hour rides starting at R200 a person, as well as multi-day horse rides, which start at R5700 a person for three nights. Cell 082-667-9232, email email@example.com, www.africanhorseco.com.
Stanford’s Victoria Street is lined with antique shops stocking all manner of treasures, from jewellery and furniture to old trunks and bric-a-brac. Stop in at the New Junk Shop (tel 028-341-0797), Stanford Trading Store (tel 028-341-0449) and Sir Robert Stanford Antique Shop.
12. Fabulous weekend markets
If you’re in Stanford on the last Friday of the month, don’t miss the market held on the village green in the late afternoon. The whole town seems to be there, accompanied by kids and dogs, in what is the social event of the month. Sip Birkenhead beer and local wines and sample the smorgasbord on offer, from pancakes and Prego steak rolls to Provencal quiches and vetkoek with perlemoen. Stock up on pinotage jam, fudge, kudu boerewors, bottles of wine, and creamy homemade feta cheese. Cell 083-604-0808. The Saturday morning market on Stanford’s main drag, Queen Victoria Street, exemplifies country living at its best – locals catch up on gossip while a band plays in the background. There are hard-to-resist cupcakes and tarts and cakes (my favourite were the apple-and-peanut-butter muffins), freshly baked artisanal breads, bunches of country flowers, organic veggies, cheeses, jam and preserves, including tasty chilli marmalade. Tel 028-341-0499.
Accommodation in Stanford
Stanford River Lodge is just outside town, set on peaceful 300 metres of riverfront (borrow one of the canoes for a paddle). Owned by Valda and John Finch, a friendly couple who are more than happy to give you suggestions for things to do and book you restaurants, the lodge has five cosy rooms and two self-catering cottages, all with views of the river. Rates start at R590 for a room in the guesthouse or a self-catering cottage (sleeps two), to R790 a room for the honeymoon suite, which has the best view in the lodge over the river. A full English breakfast with all the trimmings can be ordered for R85 a person. Tel 028-341-0444, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.stanfordriverlodge.co.za.
Rolling green hills surround Stanford Valley Guest Farm, a 10-minute drive from Stanford on the R326. The organic working farm (guests are invited to pick their own veggies) is a wonderful place to stay if you’re looking for the restful quiet of the country. There are walking trails on the farm, as well as dam for swimming. There are 19 cottages, of which 10 are en-suite and nine self-catering. Rates start at R595 for the ensuite cottages and R650 for the self-catering cottages. Tel 028-341-0574, email email@example.com, www.stanfordvalley.co.za.
For more accommodation options in Stanford, go to accommodation.getaway.co.za.
Who to contact
For more on Stanford tel 028-341-0340, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.tourismstanford.co.za.
Getting to Stanford
From Cape Town take the N2 towards George, and then take the R43 – exit 90 (Hermanus turn off). Carry on this road through Hermanus towards Gansbaai/Stanford. Stanford is 22 kilometres from Hermanus. Stanford is 144 kilometres from Cape Town.
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Author : Sarah Duff