Your Guide To The Open Road
Huck Finning it down the Breede
Along the R317 slow lane between Robertson and Bonnievale
Those rods are gathering a healthy layer of dust, the family canoe fast becoming a planter in a far forgotten corner of the garden. Come on, time to turn the situation around with a Huck Finn-style adventure along the banks of the Breede River. We can’t think of a much better stretch than the 30km of sluggish water between Robertson and Bonnievale.
Looming first up in the windscreen is Robertson, a fine stop-off to get the weekend ball rolling, with an impressive spread of breakfast and lunch spots to start the weekend. The town has been undergoing a gradual facelift over recent years - unlike many a Hollywood starlet, it’s looking a whole lot better for the makeover. Away from the main artery, it has a pleasant heart of oak-lined residential streets, roses and exploding purple jacarandas in season.
Robertson done, it’s down the R317, Bonnievale-bound. There could be worse places to spend a weekend - a wide valley flanked on either side by vineyards, fruit farms and the backdrop of the Langeberg Mountains never far off. On a balmy Spring day, this is super-chilled cruising country. The CBD is nothing to write home about, and don’t base yourself in town itself - that would be silly.
Accommodation in these parts is popping at the seams - there’s everything from vineyard living, to mountain slopes, to riverfront cottages shaded by massive trees and grassy slopes flowing down to the water - the latter by far our first choice. Wherever you decide, the kids will be out an gone before you can kill that motor.
The chardonnay... not too shoddy. Buy a case for those lazy canoe trips, riverside picnics, late lunches at a nearby wine estate, sundowners on the water, more sundowners on the deck. There’s so much to do on this 30km stretch - fishing, canoeing, walking, a boozy boat trip on the Breede River Goose, cheese farms, wine farms… Ah, the agony of choice.
The day done, dig in to that case of chardonnay, fire up the Blitz and settle in to the sound of hadedas heading home and the occasional plop of the one that got away - not to worry, tomorrow is another day.
Now, don't tell us SA life isn’t good!
Don’t forget the Tabard. You’ll need to keep the mozzies at bay if you’re on the river banks in summer.
Explore the wine farms. There are a number of cellars in the area.
Pack a picnic and head off down the river, many getaways have canoes which guests can use.
Take a boozy boat trip of the Breede River Goose, a large river barge based in Bonnievale.
Throw a line. There are some great fishing spots along this section of the Breede.
"Lovely food in a friendly atmosphere"
"Where the harvest influences the menu"
"Beautiful cosy farm setting"
"Wonderful fine wine and dine menu with outstanding views"
"Perfect risotto amd amazing Springbok fillet"
"Rustic and charming"
"How did I not know about this place?"
"Food was good but not quite the standard we were expecting"
"Elegant wine country dining"
"Quaint decor, good food"
"Great coffee and salads"
- If you can muster the energy, pack the sarmies and head into the Langeberg foothills. There is wide scope for arduous hiking but most will be content with a stroll among the vines. Your quickest access to the Langeberg is via Leopard Trail Guestfarm – the farm holds a permit to a section of the mountain.
- For mountain biking androids, Leopard Trail Guestfarm is again the way to go, while mere mortals will find the dirt roads around Bonnievale loaded with far easier informal possibilities. The same applies to weekenders in 4x4s.
- Book a ‘Trip ‘n Braai’ on The Breede River Goose (tel 023-616 2175), a square barge described as, “not your average ugly duckling”. Trips are dependent on weather and river conditions.
- Bonnievale is home to seven of Robertson Wine Route’s 23 estates and co-ops.
- Robertson’s wine route comprises some 24 farms and co-ops that are open for tasting, including the hi-tech Graham Beck Winery and Van Loveren, a cellar John Platter recommends as among the friendliest and most charming around. Just across the road from Beck, you will find the curiously named Gospel Express Tea Room housed in an old railway coach. Dare you to visit and let us know what you find.
- For more wine head out to Viljoensdrift, an estate draped on the banks of the Breede, 12km from town. Apart from wine tasting, the estate offers a 60-minute cruise on a riverboat called Uncle Ben.
- When it comes to eating, Robertson is your spot, with a generous choice of restaurants, coffee shops and farmstalls - many of these are lined up along the R62 as you enter the town. Bonnievale trails a distant second, with not much to write home about on the culinary front - you would be better off with a well-stocked Venter trailer of Woolies treats.