A Cape Town Wine Tour with City Sightseeing’s open-top bus
This week, I had the pleasure of a day off; being that this is a rare event I celebrated by indulging in a City Sightseeing Tour. You might think me strange, being that I live in Cape Town and work in tourism? But I was really excited to experience an activity that everyone loves, and even more keen to do the new Wine Tour. Yes. Wine.
The Wine Tour is an extension (and a free one at that!) of the Blue route – or, Mini-Peninsula Tour. You hop on to the Blue Tour bus (which is still a red bus by the way, it just has a Blue banner to indicate the tour….) then you hop of at the Constantia Nek point to take the Wine Tour. This sounded like too much fun to miss!
After consulting my timetable (there is one in every City Sightseeing brochure) I arrived at the Aquarium Stop to await the Blue Tour bus. There is a ticket kiosk there and the staff were very friendly, issuing me with my ticket, some snazzy headphones and explaining where to wait and how the Wine extension worked. I bought some water as I had not thought to bring my own, and browsed around the little shop, before remembering that I needed to put sun block on.
Sun block, a hat, water and sunglasses are absolute essentials for sitting on the top deck, even if you sit at the front of the bus, under the shelter. There is something quite exhilarating about sitting upstairs, the wind blowing through your hair and your camera able to click away; if however you are not as excited by this prospect then don’t worry; The lower deck is awesome! The windows are deep for a full view, the air-conditioning is wonderful and there is a fabulous atmosphere, in part thanks to the jovial staff.
The bus headed out of the Waterfront and into the city, with a guided commentary playing away in my ears. Unlike other tours I have taken, this commentary was entertaining, light and although informative, didn’t go into too much (boring) detail; that said I learned quite a few things I didn’t know!
Before long, we headed along De Waal drive and out to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the lush landscape a complete contrast from the city. The tall trees and steep mountain slopes are the start of your introduction to wine country, and as we rounded the bends to reach Constantia Nek, the guide came around explaining our next stop and how to join the Wine Tour which would take us to the vineyards that we could now see, across the valley.
Transferring to the Wine bus was so easy; the bus was already awaiting our arrival and the staff were just as helpful and friendly; I headed upstairs once again and plugged my red earphones into the little unit so that I could hear all about Constantia’s wine history.
Heading down the hill was a brief affair and we soon found ourselves in Groot Constantia, the oldest of the wine producing farms in the Cape and a farm that has a great deal to see and do. Declining the offer of a guided audio tour, I headed off the bus armed with a map of the estate, in the direction of the cellars (of course!) A cellar tour & tasting takes place on the hour, every hour and is a great way to learn about the world-famous wine and also to build up an appetite for lunch.
On the estate you will find two well-known restaurants, both of which offer picnics; Simons & Jonkershuis are very popular so if possible, it is advisable to book in advance, especially if you would like to take a picnic onto the grass under the oaks. You can of course, head out into the vines, or take a walk up the slopes for the most spectacular view if you prefer to take a packed lunch. Nothing could be prettier!
In addition to food & wine, history is very well documented at Groot Constantia and you will find a wealth of interesting historical artefacts, buildings and information throughout the estate. Izikio Museums is custodian of the Orientation Centre, the Manor House and a number of other outbuildings & points of interest. This estate really does have it all.
Next on the route was Eagles’ Nest, a newer wine farm that is already becoming known for the quality of their wine. The estate is not quite as accessible as Groot Constantia, but it is well worth the stop off just for the tasting alone and to experience the enthusiasm of the passion they clearly have for wine! Having satisfied my curiosity, it was back on the bus to Constantia Nek and time to join the Blue Tour bus again.
You would think that that was the end of my tour being that I had intentionally wanted to try out the Wine Tour; but the great thing about the Blue Tour is that there is just so much to see! In fact so much, that I now intend doing it again, so that I can take a Township tour; visit The Original T-Bag Company; go back to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (always a favourite for me) and stop off in Hout Bay for a swim!
Here are my tips for the Blue Tour:
- Go early to allow for spontaneity, you are going to discover places you will want to stop at.
- Take refreshments but also book a picnic for Groot Constantia – yummy.
- Pack on plenty of sunblock, take a hat that won’t blow away and wear sunglasses
- If you don’t want to miss out, then buy a pass that gives you more than one day – there really is THAT much to see and do on this one.
- Take your costume and stop off in Hout Bay. The beach is amazing for swimming and is right next to the bus stop.
It was a remarkable way to spend the day, doing things that I am always recommending to others and the City Sightseeing staff are very helpful and friendly. I can’t wait to go again!