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Lying in a well-watered valley and surrounded by two mountain ranges, Wellington’s protected location and rich soils are ideal for fruit production and vineyards. Early Dutch and French settlers recognised this and today the town is renowned for quality pot-still brandy and fine wines, and is the country’s dried fruit HQ. Wellington is also a major supplier of vine rootstock material, free of the phylloxera aphid that once almost obliterated the world’s wine industry.
Wellington is an academic centre with several campuses and student digs spread throughout the town. It has its own wine route set amongst sloping green hills that will surprise and delight any traveller but what makes Wellington truly stand out is the friendliness of the people, quick with a smile and happy to stop and chat.
Wellington is an hour’s drive from Cape Town, reached via the main northern highway.
Top 8 reasons to visit Wellington
1. Take a walk through the town to appreciate the large church, the Cape Dutch architecture, the Wellington Museum and the Breytenbach Centre, complete with restful garden gallery, book trader store, ceramic studio and dinner theatre venue.
2. Drive out on the Ceres road to view the old British blockhouse built during the South African War, then double-back to cross the single lane Lady Loch bridge, the country’s first all-steel bridge construction. Stop here to relax at the Berg River passing under the bridge.
3. Travel the Bain’s Kloof pass to admire the amazing feats of engineering employed to build this scenic pass. Expect to see baboon troops along the way. The popular Tweede Tol resort (120 person limit) is at the end of the pass and located on the banks of the White River.
4. Hike the Limietberg Nature Reserve to reach the almost 2km-high du Toit’s peak. Interesting stops along the route are an old manganese mine, graves of convicts used to construct a pass nearby and early rock art.
5. Wellington’s established wine route consists of 21 magnificent wineries, however, the route has much more to offer: sample authentic buffalo mozzarella cheese, stop at an alpaca farm, dine at a country restaurant and visit a handcrafted leather supplier.
6. Enjoy a game drive at sundown through the Bontebok Ridge Reserve where the regal eland and rare bontebok antelope species can be viewed. The reserve is an active participant in the quagga breeding project, an attempt by animal geneticists to revive the species that died out in late 1800s.
7. The historic Welvanpas wine farm has 3 top mountain bike trails to cater for all riding skills. The routes travel through fruit trees and cross shimmering mountain streams. There are rock pools to cool off and the farm has a coffee shop to enjoy a meal afterwards.
8. A must-stop is the dried fruit factory shop in town to sample a fruit roll – a fruit pulp thinly pressed and dried outdoors then rolled, and mebos – preserved fruit cut into squares and coated with sugar.
The nearest airport to Wellington is Cape Town International, 65km away. The airport, Cape Town and neighbouring Paarl have car rental agencies, however, bookings can be made online. If you have the Uber app, order a taxi via your mobile phone. Terence Zweni Express offers shuttle services between Wellington, Cape Town and the airport.
Did you know?
The founder of the Pinotage grape varietal, Dr Abraham Perold, was born and schooled in Wellington. Pinotage is unique to South Africa and Dr Perold merged Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut) grapes to create the blend. Internationally, Pinotage is judged in its own category.
Wellington has a large coronation arch in the town centre that was built in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of British King Edward VII but was never seen by him, an ostentatious white elephant.