Once the N7 completes its (relentless) upgrades, the already short trip from Cape Town to the Riebeek Valley will become a cinch – what takes just over an hour now could easily become as effortless as under an hour’s drive.
The uncontested capital of the Swartland, the Riebeek Valley is already a popular weekend haunt not only because it’s so close to the Mother City, but because there is so much to offer the visitor.
The tourist show-town of Riebeek Kasteel has a ‘high street’ and little ‘village’ awash with elegant accommodation, boutique-style shops and foodie havens, bakeries and restaurants that serve up a decent meal (even food intolerances are welcome as the new local bakery does gluten-free).
Just 7 km up the drag is the farming community of Riebeek West, where everyone with a shop in Riebeek Kasteel chooses to live.
Its busy main road disguises the fact that Riebeek West, aside from serving as a place to shop (they have a modest Pick n Pay) for local farmers, is also a haven for artists and those after a country lifestyle without the price tag of Riebeek Kasteel.
A little further along the R311 brings you to the PPC cement village of Ongegund.
The poorer cousin of Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West, Ongegund nonetheless has one major drawcard. The original farmhouse in which Jan Smuts was born in 1870 still stands in the grounds of the factory. Visit over weekends when you can also picnic under the trees.
For those after fairly priced olive oil, wines, beers and other artisanal products the Riebeek Valley is a find. Visit!
10 of the coolest artisanal spots in the Riebeek Valley
There’s room enough in the Riebeek Valley for at least two micro breweries. Family-owned and run Flagship Brew is one of them. They produce only small batches of hand made Swartland quality craft beer.
Their taproom is on Church Street, still on the R311(in the same vicinity as Café Felix, before the turn into the heart of Riebeek Kasteel) where you can get an impromptu tour by the brewmaster himself, if he’s around. But the little garden at the back is an easy second choice. Try their Red Valley ale – you won’t be sorry.
Stay at Blaauw Cottage for its comfort, local art, pool and views.
In the heart of Riebeek Kasteel’s ‘village’ you’ll notice the bright yellow Garagista delivery van on Main Street long before you find the brewery. The boutique beers and ciders are hand made right here at the micro-brewery. Garagista used to be based in Woodstock, Cape Town, before upping to the country; a wise move all round as there’s more space to savour the fermented hops and, when combined with the views, only tastes better.
Stay at Anna Katarina Guest House for the clean lines and furniture, art and pleasing use of space.
Beans about Coffee
You’d not be the first to supplant the word ‘beans’ with ‘nuts’ and, like the locals who tend to hang out here, it wouldn’t take you long to work out that this brew is worthy of your dedication. Conveniently placed on Fontein Street in Riebeek Kasteel Beans about Coffee is a firm favourite. If the smell of roasting beans is your thing then watch as small batches, from single origin beans, become the coffee used in their distinct espresso blends (closed on Tuesdays).
This group of independent, like-minded wine growers of the Swartland is keen to share its individual wine terroir with visitors to the region. As a starting point they’ve come up with a set of guidelines for vineyard and cellar practices that add to the wines’ expression of ‘Swartlandness’. For instance: the independent wine must be entirely grown, vinified, matured and bottled in the Swartland, with a minimum of manipulation in vineyard and cellar (so, naturally produced with no inoculated yeast, added tannins etc.). Interested? You can taste their wines at The Wine Kollective in the main road of Riebeek Kasteel.
Stay at Bloemendal Guest Cottage for its art works and lengthy veranda with wide stacking doors.
Kloovenburg is the first vineyard and farm you happen upon at the base of the R46’s Bothmaskloof Pass that brings you across the Kasteelberg into the Riebeek Valley. Most visitors stop here either on the way in to the towns, or out, to do both olive and wine tastings. You need go no further, if you so choose, as the beautiful estate has its own restaurant and accommodation options.
Het Vlock Casteel
If you’re even vaguely fond of olives then you’re spoilt for choice in the Riebeek Valley, particularly with Kloovenburg and Hetvlock within a stone’s throw of one another (the Olive Boutique is also directly opposite Hetvlock Casteel). You can’t miss Hetvlock Casteel as various signs line the road to the estate. Don’t pass up the opportunity to buy a 5 litre vat of locally grown, cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil for less than you pay on supermarket shelves.
Stay at Merindol Manor in Riebeek West for real country-style guest house appeal. Besides, it’s in one of the oldest houses in the valley.
Only once you know someone in the Riebeek Valley will you find out about the dirt road that winds around the backside of the Kasteelberg. It’s really worth a drive, particularly at sunrise or sunset when the light of the valley is at its best. And it isn’t just a great drive, it also passes a couple of wine estates and farms, including Goedgedacht. To reach the road, head out on the R311 past Pulpit Rock and Ongegund and take the next signposted dirt road left. It joins up with the Riebeeksrivier Road (there’s another sign).
Stay at Ruby Rose for its interesting refurbishment of an old manor.
This beautiful 1704 farm estate lies on the back slopes of the Kasteelberg on the Riebeeksrivier road. On the estate is the Goedgedacht Trust, an educational and charitable organisation that uses the money from its olive products to change the lives of impoverished local people of the Swartland (if you’ve ever visited a Help the Rural Child charity shop, now you know where your money goes). Stop and visit.
Stay at Pictorex Apartment in Riebeek Kasteel for its access to the village centre.
Twice as Nice Vintage shop
On Riebeek West’s main road through town is this little gem for those who love a ‘bargain find’. The clothes are surprisingly varied, imaginative and priced to go. If you have a moment make this a must-do.
Relihan produces handcrafted gins and vodka produced on SpesBona farm made from local ingredients, like their Cape Fynbos Gin that uses buchu, wild fennel and rooibos on the farm for flavour. You can book a gin and spirit tasting and a chance to explore the distillery.
Stay at Vineyard Views Country House in Riebeek Kasteel for its views (obviously!) and the ground floor suite’s private pajama lounge.