If you take the Helshoogte pass from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek, you climb up up up, swinging along the bends as you steadily rise and fall, and then in an instant the entire valley opens, with giant mountains peaking sharply into the sky and stretches of vineyards, lush green lawns and estates spread out in front of you. The incredible beauty of our winelands captured in one breathtaking moment. And it is here, just on that turn, where you’ll find Banhoek Lodge, a small venue with six modern, luxurious rooms that open up to a view that is simply astonishing.
We were invited to spend an evening at the lodge, and between my love for my hometown and desire to escape the city, I was really excited to head out there. It’s just about an hours drive from Cape Town but it feels like a different world once you have those mountain ranges towering on either side of you and the fresh air in your lungs.
The lodge is adjacent to Zorgvliet and used to be part of the wine estate. Under the current ownership Banhoek Lodge has been given a makeover, introducing plenty of light and a combination of eclectic and modern furnishings. On arrival I instantly spotted the Skinny la Minx fabric on chairs in the reception, alongside artworks by local artists Michelle-Lize van Wyk and Machdel Basson, which can also be found in the rooms and are all for sale.
We were received with a warm welcome and shown to our room upstairs. Keep in mind there is no lift and no porter, just the receptionist who didn’t look much stronger than me, so be careful about packing heavy luggage.
I thought the room itself was beautifully decorated, in a modern style with blond wood finishes and singular splashes of colour from the bright lampshades and proteas on the side tables. The room we stayed in had a king size bed, a dressing table with a large round mirror and small standing mirror, and a dresser with two fluffy white robes inside and plenty of space for your clothes. There is also a decent size flat screen television and a mini bar area where you can find mostly drinks including water and wine, but little to eat.
A nice touch is the concertina doors separating the bedroom and balcony, but also the bedroom and bathroom. So if you aren’t shy, you can open these up completely to increase the sense of space.
The bathroom was decent with a decent-sized shower, double sink area and a large bath by the window. There was plenty of space on the counter for your things, and some storage space underneath if you are a neat freak. They definitely scored extra points with the heated towel rails. For me it is one of life’s great joys to wrap a warmed, fluffy white towel around me when I get out of the shower. And then there are all the usual comforts like a vanity kit, soap, body wash and shampoo, all of which were on standard with the things you normally find at hotels.
The thing that really impressed, however, was the view from the rooms. The lodge lies on one side of Zorgvliet, and there is nothing between you and the estate stretched in front. Since the lodge is on the estate grounds, you can take a walk through the vineyards to the wine tasting room at Zorgvliet, which is a lovely way to soak up the beauty of this area.
If you live in the city for long enough you really appreciate 1. views and 2. grass beneath your feet. There is something about sitting on a porch, sipping a cup of coffee and being able to look far out at things that aren’t variations of grey. But for me the biggest treat was being able to sling my camera over my shoulder and head out into the vineyards towards Zorgvliet, strolling lazily and taking in the way the sun caught the wildflowers and vine leaves. And hey, the award on the other end was a glass (or more) of red wine. Happiness is…
The lodge also has a pool area, which you will really appreciate in the summer when this area reaches temperatures of 40°C and your mind can’t think of anything other than cold water. It was slightly chilly when we visited, but I could definitely see us settling down in the little courtyard with a glass of chilled white wine.
It is a shame that they don’t have their own restaurant. The closest places to eat is Tokara and Delaire Graff, both of which will set you back quite a bit. It is only 10 minutes drive or so to Stellenbosch, but we weren’t in the mood for driving the pass at night – there are no street lamps and if you don’t know the road it can be a daunting trip. But mostly we were so content to stay in that spot and just settle in that we missed the option of a quick, quiet dinner or even some room service. We did learn afterwards that you can order a cheese plate from the lodge to enjoy in your room.
We decided to have dinner at Delaire Graff restaurant, which is just around the corner from the Lodge, and it was absolutely spectacular. When we arrived home our beds had been warmed up with electric blankets and we each had a bottle of water next to the bed. As soon as my head hit those soft pillows I was out like a light.
The next morning was a perfect day in the valley with clear blue skies and a light mist hanging over the vineyards. Breakfast is served on the front porch, the perfect setting to enjoy the sight. The tables were set with a taster of muesli and yogurt and there was also a buffet with a selection of cereals, dried fruits and nuts, and a yummy variety of cold meats and cheese. Upon that you have the option to order a hot breakfast. The husband went for the classic English breakfast, which was great except that we waited a bit for our toast to arrive. I had the eggs benedict, which was fine but the hollandaise was a bit too much like melted butter in my opinion.
I think this is a brilliant place to book if you want to stay in this valley. The Luxury rooms start at R2100, which is very fair when compared to what you would pay for rooms in the area. I loved that you are still a stone throw from Stellenbosch but not in town, which can get quite busy when all the students are around, and a quick drive away from Franschhoek. You can even walk to a couple of the neighbouring wine farms if you wanted to.
After visiting them we were very sad to head home, and I was once again reminded how much I would love to live in the winelands again. It really has a way of stealing your heart.
For full rates and more info, visit banhoeklodge.co.za