Close your eyes and turn in a circle. When you slowly open them, what will you see? Green, gold and purple nearly all the way around…Tulbagh is a unique town, in the Western Cape, where bright shining mountains surround you in a near 360 “bowl”.
Snowy peaked in winter, shining purple in summer, the hum of this small, wine-producing town just 90 minutes North East of Cape Town, has Tulbagh earmarked as a much loved wine producing area, picturesque wedding venue and historical site holding the record for the most historical houses in one road, Church street.
While a 1960’s earthquake shook the town to its core, the stark white houses and thatched roofs of Church Street continues to encapsulate a glimpse of eighteenth-century South Africa.
Having visited Tulbagh on a number of occasions and struggling to get a greater sense of the town (businesses close early on a Saturday afternoon so arrive early to make the most of it), we started dissecting the local, printed map. Available for free from the tourism office, combined with a few tips from the locals, here’s our list of things to do in Tulbagh:
Things To Do in Tulbagh 2021
- Olive Tasting at Oakhurst Olive Farm
- Red Wine Tasting at Digger’s Home Estate
- Krone MCC Tasting at Twee Jonge Gezellen
- Saronsberg Art Gallery
- Lunch at Duikers Drift
- Shopping at MIT (Made in Tulbagh)
- Get Your Free Map
- Walking Down Church Street
- Beer at Paddagang
- Dinner at the Tulbagh Hotel
- Spying on Animals at Welbedact Nature Reserve
- Kole en Deeg
- Vindoux Spa
1. Olive Tasting at Oakhurst Olive Farm
Start the morning in one of the furthest locations to squeeze the most in. Set on a lush, green farm, set deep within the Tulbagh mountains, Oakhurst Olive farm is an award-winning, Proudly South African olive farm. The most frequent owners removed all the fruit trees, replaced them with olive trees and have never looked back!
The building is well air-conditioned with lots of seating, a grand piano (which is still used), friendly service and exquisite views of the mountain (there’s nothing higher up than Oakhurst). Enjoy an olive tasting for R30 per person.
We highly recommend their olive tapenade, which is vegan friendly, as it is made with capers, not anchovies. The olive marmalade (chilli or plain) are both also delicious and you would never imagine they are made with olives!
2. Red Wine Tasting at Digger’s Home Estate
We visited Digger’s Home by pure chance. While chatting to a mutual friend in town, the owner invited us over for a quick tasting. The small estate lives up to its homely name with a porch tasting room, delicious home-made snacks and a wine tasting straight from the barrel! Visit Digger’s Home to talk all things red wine with passionate, local winemakers.
3. MCC Tasting at Krone (Twee Jonge Gezellen)
Just 5km’s from Oakhurst (towards town), the Twee Jonge Gezellen wine estate is home to famous South African MCC: Krone. The 300-year-old farm creates MCC in the traditional method (methode cap classique) and offers beautiful, rooftop views across their vineyards.
The historic white buildings shine against the deep blue Tulbagh skies, and is a stark contrast against the vibrant green vineyards and rugged, purple mountains. Once upstairs in the tasting room, one might be attracted to the shade but the real fun is on the rooftop porch.
The estate is large and includes a gallery, with large lawn play areas for kids as well. The tasting room is NOT open on Sundays, but visit between 10am and 4pm from Monday to Saturday.
We recommend their Barrealis Vintage Cuvée Brut, which has a slightly less bitter edge than most South African bruts. “…true to 2019’s growing conditions, the acidity is firm and cleansing.”
4. Art Gallery at Saronsberg Wine Cellar
The large sculptures present upon arrival at Saronsberg immediately gives the estate a feeling of interactivity. The wide, natural surroundings with lush lawn and shimmering dam welcome visitors to the well-known wine-producing farm.
Before indulging in a little wine tasting, visit the Saronsberg art gallery. The duplex art gallery is the centre of the tasting room and displays floor to ceiling contemporary South African artwork in natural lighting. Find sculptures, paintings and prints from local artists as well as more information about their award-winning wines.
After exploring the powerful pieces, tuck into a Richard Bosman meat and cheese board while enjoying their wines. We recommend the viognier or shiraz.
5. Lunch at Duikers Drift
Duikers’s Drift is a more recent find of ours, which was recommended to us by two individual locals on our most recent trip. The dog-friendly restaurant is very busy over weekends, with their outside breakfast braais, where a large fry up takes place on their outdoor fires.
Pull up a seat on the glass top palettes or sit inside for a cooler experience. Shop their little deli filled with sweet treats, baked good, home-cooked meals and crafts before heading home. The road to the venue is dirt and there are lots of wild animals on the way, so drive slowly to exercise caution.
6. Shopping Local Products at MIT (Made in Tulbagh)
MIT (Made in Tulbagh) is a store on Tulbagh main road that champions all things local. From quality leather bags, hand-crafted toys, preservatives, “create your own” spekboom forests, leather jackets, concrete pot plants, children’s clothes/bags/dolls made from recycled vintage fabrics and original vintage children’s annuals upcycled into new notebooks – MIT is a real display of local ingenuity and creativity.
Sourcing items from Tulbagh and the surrounding areas (Ceres, Wolseley, etc) the local store was created by former GQ magazine creative director, Arthur, in collaboration with friend Gail. Made in Tulbagh is worth a visit if you’re looking for superior gifts and good quality clothing items.
If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, we recommend buying a few fresh veggies from the stoep (porch) pop-up stall that is often available on a Saturday. Alternatively, enjoy a quick, fresh lunch from their small in-house kitchen.
7. Get Your Free Town Map
Church street is actually a great place to start each visit in Tulbagh as it has the visitors centre right at the start of the road. Pop inside and get your FREE printed, paper map of the town. It illustrates all the routes and which roads are tarred or gravel.
8. Cruise Down Church Street
When entering Tulbagh via the main road, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Vos street “triangle island” on the left, which takes you directly into Church street (Kerk straat). The Old Church Museum on the left is a good landmark to look out for, with its large white gables and canons out front.
The famous street holds the South African record for the most historical buildings in one road, with some properties being over 200 years old. Some have plaques outside with further information, while others offer accommodation, gift shops or eateries. If you have time, park the car and take a peek into each house to see the treasures inside.
9. Beer Tasting at Paddagang Eatery & Brewery
Halfway down Church street is a dirt road entrance to Paddagang eatery and brewery. If you’re keen to taste local beers, drive down and around the back of the building to the parking on the right. Grab a beer and a bean bag and lounge outside on the lawn, in the afternoon sun, before the evening’s activities.
10. Dinner at the Tulbagh Hotel
As the foyer lights warm up the stone porch, the Tulbagh Hotel offers a warm welcome to visitors looking for an evening meal. Fairy lights twinkle in the tree as guests return to the hotel for the evening.
The restaurant is open to the general public and offers easy grazing: steaks, pizzas, salads with attentive service. We weren’t expecting much and were pleasantly surprised by both the food and service. Add it to your list of things to do if you want someone to take over the cooking for the night.
11. Spying on Animals at the Welbedacht Nature Reserve
We accidentally ended up the Welbedacht Nature Reserve thanks to Google Maps doing us a dirty. (The road between this side of town and Oakhurst no longer connects due to the road becoming too dangerous.) Before ringing Oakhurst and trying to make our way there, we spotted a number of zebras, springbok and horses in an open field.
While we didn’t have time to stop in, they do list, “game viewing, nature trails, bird watching, swimming in the dam, exploring the labyrinth or a visit from our free-roaming horses” as some of the activities on their site. Definitely a location we’ll be returning to in the future!
12. Breakfast at Kole en Deeg
We noticed Tulbagh’s latest addition, Kole en Deeg, when driving down the main road in late 2020. While talking to some locals, the eatery came highly recommended so we decided to stop in for brunch on our way out of town.
With a mixture of modern colours and natural textures, we were immediately impressed by the baked goods in the glass display. Ordering bacon and cheese roosterkoek (grilled sandwich), a caramel frappa and chicken wrap with avo and salad, it’s hands-down our new favourite restaurant in town.
The prices are also out of this world and we highly recommend the Sweetie pie cupcakes, which cost just R25! We’ll definitely be back…
13. Have a Spa Treatment at Vindoux Spa
If you need some extra love over and above blowing off some steam wine tasting, then book yourself in at Vindoux day spa. Enjoy a full body massage, foot massage or some general pampering for “out of town” rates (like R250 for 30 minute back destress massage or Hot Stone full body massage for R450!), the perfect way to grab some “me” time while in the valley.
14. Wine Tasting at Montpellier
One of Tulbagh’s most loved venues, due to its 300-year-old heritage and charming chapel on the hill, Montpellier is known for its relaxed atmosphere and world-class wines. This is another venue that closes reasonably early, so be sure to visit earlier in the day in order to pop in for some of great South African wine.
15. Local Events
Before heading to Tulbagh for the weekend (if not for a wedding), take a look for some local events. There are bands that play from time to time as well as the Day at the Duck Race, where a ton of ducks are chucked into the local stream and “raced”. Held at local b&b Essere Lodge, grab your Wellies, bet on a duck and head down to Day at the Duck Races.
Tip: View Antelope at Vindoux
The Vindoux Estate has a viewing deck for visitors. They have springbok and zebras on their farm, which may be available for public viewing. Give them a ring and see if they’ll let you pop in for a visit.
Arts at Makers Mark – CLOSED
UPDATE: DECEMBER 2020: Unfortunately, Maker’s Mark did not manage to survive the tough times of 2020 and is officially closed. We wish them well in their future endeavors and extend condolences for the loss of such an art-centric venue.
We’ve really come to enjoy Tulbagh over the past 5 years as we visited more and more locations. The wine is world class and it’s always a good feeling to be out in the fresh air and warm sunshine.
It’s a relatively quiet town, compared to Franschhoek, for example, which is always bustling no matter the time or season.
So book for a quiet, relaxed weekend away in the countryside and enjoy the best Tulbagh has to offer. Enjoy!