In of a sea of things to do in Cape Town, consider spending a glorious day in Paarl South Africa. It will be memorable for foodies, outdoor lovers, kids, adventurers, and wine connoisseurs alike!
The town of Paarl is a scenic 45-minute drive from Cape Town. It was established in 1687, so it is a little town that is rich in history and cultural traditions. Incidentally, this is where you will hear a lot of Afrikaans.
Paarl is a beautiful, historic little town with roads lined by old oak trees and grand manor Cape Dutch homes. But there is so much more…
"Foodies" love Paarl South Africa
Eating in South Africa is generally good, but eating in Paarl (or the Winelands) evokes a different atmosphere because you are surrounded by the magnificence of the vineyards and mountains.
Restaurants in Paarl range from the very best of local fare to the finest international cuisine. You will be spoiled for choice! Restaurants offer South African, Indian, French, Italian, Mexican, and Mediterranean dishes, among many others.
This town can accommodate your every desire, whether you prefer to dine in elegant surroundings or in a relaxed family atmosphere, buffet-style, or alfresco – or pack a picnic basket and enjoy the fresh country air.
But if finding restaurants feels like a chore to you, you could just go to the Spice Route in Paarl. It’s a delightful farm village with three fabulous restaurants. (Every artisan at the Spice Route is literally handpicked.) Incidentally, they have more than great restaurants at the Spice Route. They also have a variety of local wine, beer, gin, and chocolate tasting shops, an outdoor kids’ play area, a coffee shop with homemade ice cream, an interiors and gift shop, a deli, and a glass-blowing and ceramic studio.
Paarl Wineries, Distilleries & Breweries
Do keep in mind that South Africa’s drinking age is 18. They are not very strict on checking ages in South Africa, but if someone is clearly underage, they are thankfully unlikely to serve.
But if you are over 18, there is something to be said about having a glass of wine / beer / gin from where it was made. Paarl has it all.
If you are a wine connoisseur, (or you enjoy your wines), Paarl has to be on your itinerary because it boasts several award-winning wine farms.
Paarl is the largest wine-producing region in the Cape. It is considered the Pearl of the Winelands. At present count, there are 21 wineries in Paarl alone! Nederburg, KWV Wine Emporium, and Fairview are just a few.
If you enjoy wine, consider going on a tour through the Paarl Wine Route. Paarl is renowned for its rich, full-bodied, spicy red and crisp white wines. In particular, Paarl is best known for the quality of its Shiraz. Their Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Viognier, and Mourvedre are increasingly well regarded.
Even if you are not into wines, consider going on a tour anyway. The food always seems to be great, the views are breathtaking, and the atmosphere is lovely. Also, the educators at these wineries are generally very well educated. Depending on where you go, they really know their stuff! They can tell you about spices that are grown on one part of the winery, and how that affects the flavor of the grapes due to the wind blowing in a specific direction. All these facts may go over your head (like it did with me) but it is just fascinating to know how these wines are made.
There are a number of craft breweries in Paarl, where they produce a limited amount of beer. Thanks to passionate brewers who dedicate their time to taste and quality, flavor is single-handedly the biggest differentiator between craft and commercial brewing. If you like your beers, this is something you will want to check out. Visit their hospitable taprooms to have a taste for yourself.
Outdoor Lovers and adventurers in Paarl South Africa
Afrikaans Language Monument | Image Credit: Karel Stone
Paarl is blessed with a quaint countryside, a nature reserve, beautiful mountains, vineyards, orchards, rivers, and streams—it’s a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts! Whether you are into hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running, horse-riding, caving, fly-fishing, abseiling, or golf—there’s an outdoor activity for you to enjoy in Paarl.
Paarl is an absolute feast for outdoor adventures, with 8 world-class, custom-built trails through wine farms, olive orchards, nature reserves, past herds of sheep, bistro’s and museums, up close to fragrant fields of fynbos and amazing views.
However, do keep in mind that as amazing as the trails are, they are not free. Day passes for an adult is R60, (approximately $4.10 at the time of this writing), and R40 per child. Your fee includes a detailed route map.
You could buy a day pass from Paarl Adventure Trails, or there are 5 places where you can buy the permits and register to use the trails. The wonderful thing is that most trails start from where the permits can be purchased: (This list is provided by Paarl Online.)
- Frater Square, Melissas Coffee Shop (Main Road Paarl)
- Paarl Tourism Office (Main Road Paarl) Visit Paarl
- Hero Adventure Trails at Rhebokskloof Wine Estate (Main Road Northern Paarl) Hero Adventure – Rhebokskloof RHEBOKSKLOOF WINE ESTATE
- Ridgeback Wine Estate (Main Road Northern Paarl) Ridgeback Wines & Guest House, Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa
- Hero Adventure Trails at Spice Route Destination ( Suid- Agter Paarl Road, Paarl ) Hero Adventure at Spice Route Paarl
If you love hiking, Paarl would be a dream come true. Here are several trails to choose from:
- Elands River Trail (which is part of the Limietberg Nature Reserve). This is a 5 mile/ 8km hike along the Elands River. It will take you through the pristine fynbos landscape. After an initial steep climb, the route becomes easier following the Elands River.
- Krom River Trail (which is part of the Limietberg Nature Reserve). This is a day hike is one of the best-known walks in the Limietberg Nature Reserve, in the Du Toitskloof Pass between Paarl and Worcester. The trail is 4.3 miles / 7 km long and takes 3 to 5 hours to complete (there-and-back). There are several small pools along the way as well as two beautiful waterfalls.
- Miaspoort Trail (which is part of the Du Toitskloof Pass). This trail is approximately 2.5 miles / 4km (3 hours). It is on the Paarl side of the Du Toitskloof Pass. The trail leads to the Italian Cross at Huguenot Kop, (which was erected by the Italian prisoners of war who built the pass).
- Donkerkloof Trail.
- Limietberg Trail. This trail offers secure parking and camping facilities.
- Klipkershout Walking Trail (which is part of the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve). This trail offers various scenic walking trails from 1.5 to 6.2 miles / 2.5 to 10km. It’s a circular route that takes about 2-3 hours to walk.
- Vlermuisgrot Bat Cave Walking Trail (which is part of the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve).
Please keep in mind that hiking in South Africa may not necessarily be the same as hiking in your native country. For example, some of the trails may not as well maintained. Be safe and follow these safety guidelines as set by Cape Nature if you are going on long hikes.
If hiking is not really your thing, there is also…
- Golfing. The Paarl Golf Club is the first 27-hole championship golf course in the Western Cape, situated on the beautiful Boschenmeer Golf Estate. There is also the 18-hole Pearl Valley golf course, which is located nearby.
- Take a scenic drive up Bainskloof pass for swimming in freshwater rock pools during summer, (December to February).
- Challenge yourself to rock climbing or abseiling from Paarl Rock or at Cascade Manor.
- Go horse-riding on trails or on some wine farms. (If polo is your thing, there are also regular polo matches at Val de Vie.)
- Climb Bretagne Rock;
- Go canoeing. The Berg River in Paarl is the starting point for the internationally renowned Berg River Canoe Marathon.
- Fish for bass at Nantes Dam or on Paarl Mountain. You can get a permit from the Drakenstein Municipality or in the Berg River.
- Go fly-fishing at Elandspad on Du ToitsKloof.
- Have a picnic at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve;
- Mountain bike. There are mountain bike trails dotted around Paarl including in Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, Jan Philips mountain road, Agter-Paarl road, and Rhebokskloof Wine Estate.
- See some wildlife at the Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Center. In addition to giraffes, they have lots of other animals too, like foxes, variations of deer, serval cats, tortoises, snakes, crocodiles, ostriches, and much more. Do call ahead of time to check if they are open! They may close for parties and events, so it’s always best to call and check before you go.
- Checkout Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm. They have sunset crocodile tours, nighttime crocodile cage dives, crocodile tours for kids, picnic facilities, a beautiful restaurant, and amazing views! As with the Giraffe House, do call ahead of time to see if they are open.
- Go see lions at the Drakenstein Lion Park.
A note from the author
If you plan on going to Paarl, try to get there early in the morning so that you have the whole day to enjoy.
We LOVE Paarl! After all, what’s not to love, right? There is so much to do, so we try to squeeze at least two days for Paarl into our itinerary.
As the first thing, we try to do some outdoor activities like hiking and golf. After that, we usually have a big lunch, (The Spice Route is one of our favorite places to go for lunch.) Then, we hit a winery or two, and a brewery. We do try to spread everything out so that we can eat at the wineries/ breweries too. It’s hard though. You end up eating and snacking on so many good things, you’re stuffed at the end of the day… but it’s all good and lovely.
Let us know what you like(d) in Paarl.