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By Johan Kloppers

It may appear to be the quieter sibling of Paarl and Stellenbosch in South Africa's wine route and in it most famous wine valley, but once you visit, you’ll realise that there are plenty of things to do, lots of delicious restaurant options, and tons of lovely places to stay in the crown jewel of South Africa's Western Cape towns, Wellington.

I had three days to try and fit as much as I could into finding out more about this town. What I didn’t realise is that once you start talking to the locals, there is a whole lot more to do and see that doesn’t necessarily come up when you do a Google search! It seems I will have to go back and investigate the Wellington Wine Walk, the Winelands Vitamins and go visit the Buffalo Ridge mozzarella farm, to name a few. But here are some things to get you started when you visit Wellington.

Take a tour of Jorgensen’s Distillery
Jorgensen’s is no ordinary distillery. It’s a place where gin, vodka, brandy and absinthe are lovingly crafted using age-old methods and herbs from the garden. While you learn about about the 13 different ingredients that go into Jorgensen’s Gin, Roger Jorgensen will keep you entertained with stories about bottles of vodka sent from Russia and why certain plants need to be kept away from the family dog. After the distillery tour and botany lesson, relax on the giant stoep of their beautiful 1812 home for a taste of pre-Russian Revolution vodka and a sip of absinthe out of an absinthe glass dating back to 1895. You’ll find out why ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.’ Tours are free, but by appointment only. If you give enough notice, you may even get a food pairing, including absinthe ice cream.

Visit the alpacas at Quenti Alpaca Farm
If you think that garments made from alpaca fleece are expensive, here at Quenti Alpaca Farm is where you’ll find out why. During a tour of this alpaca farm you’ll see just how much work goes into making that scarf or pair of socks; machinery that can take your fingers off in seconds; and hear how this whole operation was started thanks to an alpaca called Pedro.

Art at the Breytenbach Centre
It’s quite fitting that displays of artworks by South African (and international) artists can be found in what was originally the home of South African poet, Breyten Breytenbach. Walk on wooden floors through a maze of rooms, each holding something different. There’s an airy gallery, a ceramics room, a second-hand bookstore and a coffee shop. Take some time to meander through the small lush garden with mosaics, a fountain, poetry and angels. At the back there’s a small dinner-theatre that hosts shows by local musicians, caberet artists and actors.

Mountain biking trails at Welvanpas Family Vineyards
I haven’t experienced this first-hand, but I was told that these mountain biking trails are some of the top trails in the world. The trails start on Welvanpas Family Vineyards, where you can get your permit (and a cup of coffee) from ‘Die Ou Meul’ coffee shop. There are four different routes, ranging from 15km to 29km. You can also go wine-tasting afterwards (even on Sunday). While you are there, have a peak at the gardens on the opposite side of the road. To be honest, I’m not sure if we were supposed to be in there, but they are rather magical and worth a look if you like the secret garden idea!

Wine-tasting with a personal touch at Bosman Family Vineyards
The impressive gates of Lelienfontein are open to the public on Saturdays from 10:00 to 15:00 for tastings, but if you want personal attention, which includes a warm refresher towel on arrival and cucumber sandwiches, then call or email ahead to make a booking for any day of the week, except Sundays. The tasting includes a tour of the 250-year old cellar, where you’ll see original tools and barrels used eight generations ago (nothing here is from an antique store, it all comes from the farm), learn about how the Bosman family has been grafting vines since 1888 (their vine nursery is the biggest in Africa) and hear about their incredible social upliftment programme.

Dine with owls at Twist Some More
Another funky restaurant in a barn where families are welcome (there’s a jungle gym and sandpit for kids). Apparently if the resident Eagle Owl poops on you or your dinner, your dessert is free! I didn’t see the pooping owl the evening I was there (I did hear him), but I really enjoyed my crispy pork belly served on equally crispy stir-fried vegetables with Chinese noodles and a caramelised chilli-ginger sauce, followed by a hazelnut crème brulee. Owner and chef, Johan van Schalkwyk, says that is one of his signature dishes that the locals won’t allow him to remove from the menu and I am not surprised. All Johan’s dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients, including his other signature dish, the Wild Boar Burger, which is also available as a Banting version with a cauliflower & cheese bun.

Pub grub at The Bell Inn
If you are looking to have a couple of bevvies and a simple, but ample meal that won’t see you breaking the bank, then stop by this local watering hole in Church Street. There’s seating outside and inside and the waitrons are a cheerful and helpful bunch. There are also big screens for those who want to catch the cricket or rugby.

Pet-friendly Bastiaanskloof
A previous visit to Wellington saw a group of us staying at Bastiaanskloof, where eight of us took over two of their cottages, Wild Olive and Restio (they are next door to each other so it was perfect). While we did spend a day wine-tasting in Wellington, it was more of an ‘escape weekend’ and what a perfect place to do just that. We chatted on the stoep, cooked up a storm, took afternoon naps, went on walks, splashed about in the waterfall and quaffed wine while watching the stars. While it doesn’t seem to mention it on their website, we were allowed to take our well-behaved dogs (by arrangement) and they had a blast as well with much to explore and sniff out. The place is quite secure as well, so you won’t have to worry about your hounds getting onto the road. Bastiaanskloof may be a little further out, but the drive along Bainskloof Pass is truly beautiful and you will feel a world away from anything.

Labyrinths and legends at Doolhof Wine Estate
The drive into Doolhof is a pretty one through horse paddocks and a friendly Jack Russel is likely to greet you when you step out of your car. Doolhof means ‘labyrinth’ in Afrikaans and was so named because of the many interwoven hills and vales. There is a real labyrinth on the farm, similar to the one found at in the cathedral at Chartres, and you are welcome to walk it and perhaps clear your mind after a wine-tasting!

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