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Pampoenkraal, still a place of plenty

Written by  Nikki van Coller
| in op Reis
| February 10, 2015

Durbanville is the largely unsung hero of Western Cape tourism. One could spend a fortnight here and still not have enough time to experience everything this picturesque area has to offer.

Spanning 27.41 km2 and with a population of around 55 000 people, Durbanville is a rural residential suburb on the northern outskirts of the city of Cape Town, surrounded by farms and vineyards. Dripping in old-world charm and scenic beauty, but with all the modern amenities one could want, it’s the perfect base from which to explore Cape Town and its surrounds.  

Developed from natural abundance

        Originally known as Pampoenkraal, the area developed as a direct result of the discovery in 1658 of a large fresh water spring, by some of Jan van Riebeeck’s men. Legend has it the water became known as the best to be found within an 80km radius, and so Pampoenkraal became a popular watering hole and outspan for travellers between Cape Town and the interior. By around 1700, the first settlers decided to put down roots and take advantage of the fertile soil.
        The village experienced its first growth spurt after 1801 when local farmer Jan Uys was granted land to build a corn-grinding mill and Onze Molen was erected. This prompted other local farmers to grab at the reserve land and increase their own boundaries and production activities.  op-reis-feb-1
In 1812, the British ruled that every settlement was to have a church and a school in order to be recognised. And so, in 1826 the N.G. Moederkerk was built in Pampoen-kraal and by 1828, a school was erected nearby.
        The name was changed to D’urban in 1836 after the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin D'Urban and then finally to Durbanville in 1886 to avoid confusion with Durban – by then considered an important East Coast port.
        The village of Durbanville grew rapidly once again after the turn of the 19th century, when the local wagon industry was started by the King Brothers Wagon Works.
        Today, Durbanville is experiencing a new growth spurt and is one of the fastest-growing towns in South Africa. With its rich history, tree-lined avenues, great schools, ample shopping facilities and developed infrastructure - not to mention the stunning landscape and mountain views - Durbanville is a wonderful place to call home.  
        But it is also a well-established tourism hotspot offering a plethora of hotels, lodges, guest houses, self-catering cottages and bed & breakfast establishments to suit every tourist’s accommodation needs. And while Durbanville is a mere 20-minute drive to the V&A Waterfront, the beautiful beaches of Blouberg and many other tourist destinations, visitors need never leave Durbanville to find an astonishingly wide variety of activities and experiences.


World-class wining and dining

        The Durbanville Wine Valley lies nestled in the Tygerberg Hills and boasts flourishing vineyards, award winning wines, fine dining restaurants and good old fashioned South African hospitality. At present there are twelve official member wineries, some of which have been making wine for six generations, as well as a number of boutique wine cellars crafting low volumes of handmade wines.
        What makes this Wine Valley unique is that most of the vineyards are between 10 and 15km from the cold Atlantic Ocean, making it one of the Cape’s coolest coastal wine areas. Because the grapes ripen at a slower pace,   Durbanville’s winegrowers have the flexibility to produce an array of cool-climate wines. The high clay content of the soil is especially suited to Sauvignon Blanc - Durbanville’s signature wine, produced in a variety of styles by all 12-member wineries of the Durbanville Wine Valley.
        Besides Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Chardonnay cultivars are planted, and some winemakers are also experimenting with Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Semillon.
        Wine farms include Durbanville Hills, Hillcrest, Nitida, Bloemendal, and D’Aria, as well as the historic cellars of Altydgedacht, Meerendal and Diemersdal.
        Most of the wine farms have their own restaurants, ranging from fine dining to more relaxed eateries offering tasty country fare. Nitida has two popular restaurants - Tables, a child-friendly, café-style eatery and Cassia, offering a contemporary dining experience overlooking the farm dam.
        The Eatery at Durbanville Hills  Wine Farm offers unpretentious yet sophisticated meals, served on the deck with panoramic views of Table Mountain, Table Bay, and the rolling hills and vineyards of the surrounding areas.


        De Grendel Restaurant is also well worth a visit. A culinary collaboration between De Grendel Wine Farm and Crown Hotels and Restaurants (owners of the Michelin starred The Crown and Celtic Manor), De Grendel offers fine dining in a warm, elegant space – don’t miss the unforgettable 5-course tasting menu.
       Aside from those found on the wine farms, Durbanville has a host of restaurants catering to every taste and budget. Those worth a mention include Erawan Thai restaurant, recipient of the 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence; the Olive Bistro, with its Mediterranean-inspired menu and cosy atmosphere; Bossa Social Cafe for after-work drinks and socialising; and Chocolat for coffee, cake and other decadent indulgences.  

Meandering Markets

        For those who enjoy strolling around a farmer’s or craft market on a Saturday morning, Durbanville has plenty to offer. The Nitida Fresh Produce Market serves up a hearty farm breakfast made from free range ingredients from the farm, while the stalls display a variety of local produce, including free range eggs, farm butter, freshly baked breads, meats, mushrooms, cheeses, olives and preserves.
        Craft lovers can pop into the well-known Durbanville Craft Market at Rust en Vrede Estate on the first Saturday of every month, where around 200 craft stalls, set under the age old Oaks in the beautiful gardens, sell everything from pottery and needlework to original artworks by local painters and sculptors.
        A monthly market is also held on the beautiful lawns of the Crown Restaurant at Meerendal Estate, where visitors can shop to their hearts’ content for anything from olive oil and honey to homemade pies, as well as clothing and arts and craft items. This market offers plenty of entertainment for kids and adults alike, with a jumping castle, horse rides and live music.
        But perhaps the most popular market in the area is the Willowbridge Slow Food Market, with a wide variety of specialty suppliers, including local farmers, grocers, bakers, organic merchants, fine food purveyors, butchers, local fashion designers and craft beers.

op-reis-feb-4Natural abundance

        Durbanville is home to not one, but two Nature Reserves - the Durbanville Nature Reserve and the much larger Tygerberg Nature Reserve.
        Despite its diminutive size of only 6 ha (15 acre), the Durbanville Nature Reserve has much to offer the nature lover, including beautiful hiking trails, bird watching, picnicking, an indigenous plant nursery and of course its setting in an endangered indigenous veld environment, where renosterveld, coastal fynbos and mountain fynbos grow together.
        By contrast, the Tygerberg Nature Reserve spans 278 ha (687 acres) and boasts 460 different plant species. Of these, 12 are threatened with extinction, eight are endemic to Cape Town and three are endemic to Tygerberg itself. The Nature Reserve also offers a number of hiking trails and is home to around 50 different mammals, 125 bird species, 35 different reptiles, eight types of frogs and 33 different butterfly species.
        Gardeners and plant lovers can also visit the Durbanville Rose Garden, a 3.5 hectare garden situated on part of the old wine farm, Evertsdal. Established in 1979, the Rose Garden boasts 500 rose varietals and 6 000 rose bushes, miniature beds, a tea garden, a café and benches where one can simply sit and soak up the splendour. The best time for viewing the roses is from October to May when they’re in bloom.

Sports and Leisure

        Those seeking a more active, adventurous stay in Durbanville will not be disappointed. Golfers can enjoy 18 holes at the Durbanville Golf Club, situated on the rolling slopes of the Durbanville Hills. The course provides an enjoyable challenge for golfers of all abilities, with greens that rate among the finest in the Western Cape. You might also be lucky enough to bump into a local celebrity or sports star at the 19th hole.
        The Tygervalley Golf Village offers a driving range with target greens and pins, medium and fast-paced putting greens, chipping and pitching practice area, bunker practice area, a 27-hole adventure golf course for kids, and the Paul MacKenzie Golf Academy.
        Horse racing enthusiasts can watch and bet on racing events at the Durbanville Racecourse, a left-handed, winter course with a circumference of about 2 200m.
        And if riding these majestic beasts is more up your alley, you will not struggle to find a riding school offering everything from beginner’s lessons to dressage and jumping.  Outriding trips can also be enjoyed on many of the breathtaking trails found in the area.
        Durbanville is also an extremely popular hiking, trail-running and mountain biking area and home to a growing network of trails including the Meerendal, Contermanskloof, Hooge-kraal, Green Corridor, Hillcrest, Nitida and Majik forest trails. If cycling or running through rolling vineyards and fruit orchards, or atop an old granite quarry is your idea of fun, there is no better place than Durbanville, which is also home to the ABSA Cape Epic Mountain Bike Race.

Arts and Entertainment

        Durbanville is certainly not lacking when it comes to entertainment. For starters, the Galileo Open Air Cinema, set against the spectacular backdrop of Hillcrest Quarry, offers visitors the experience of watching classic films under the stars, from the comfort of the lawn and accompanied by delicious food, making for a memorable movie experience.
        For those seeking a more local, cultural experience, Die Boer is a must-visit Durbanville landmark.  This intimate, upmarket dinner-theatre serves up amazing cuisine alongside wonderful live music and entertainment from some of South Africa’s favourite stars.


Life springs eternal

        Today, as in the 19th Century, Durbanville provides a bounty of refreshment, restoration and sustenance for the traveller. This semi-rural suburb overflows with things to do, see, experience and savour. From long lazy lunches at wine farms and world class restaurants, to horse riding along stunning mountain trails, or watching a classic movie under an illuminated sky. Life is good. La Dolce Vita!