During our most recent family holiday, we explored the Western Cape Region. One experience we wanted to do was the Franschhoek wine tram.
Getting to Franschhoek
Franschhoek is a small village in South Africa, about 90 minutes from Cape Town.
The easiest way to get to Franschhoek is by car. We rented one from Cape Town International Airport, and it was an easy drive to Franschhoek. It is a scenic drive with the vineyards and beautiful mountains surrounding the road.
An alternative way to get there is to arrange for a transfer when booking your wine tram tours. The wine tram website offers transfers at a rate of R550 per person.
Looking for hotels and AirBnB in Franschhoek?
There are many options for accommodation in Franschhoek – take a look at this map to see what your options are!
What is the Franschhoek wine tram?
Although the website states that it is a wine tram, this is not completely true. Depending on the wine estates you choose to visit, transport will involve using both a traditional tram and a trolley bus. The trolley busses are something in-between a typical bus and a safari type of vehicle. Although this may sound a little bit dangerous, it is quite safe.
The wine tram itself only runs between Rickey Bridge and Grand Provence. So, make sure Rickety Bridge is one of your stops.
Routes of the Franschhoek wine tram
The routes seem to be regularly updated. While I was doing my research for our trip, I noticed that other bloggers spoke about there being only two routes, but when we arrived in Franschhoek, we could choose from 5 different routes (blue, green, red, purple and yellow). There is some overlap between the routes, which make it a bit easier to choose the route featuring the vineyards that you want to visit.
When you book your tickets, you also get a brochure with details of each vineyard and the times that the trolley bus will be stopping there.
Booking the tickets for the Franschhoek wine tram
It is possible to buy the tickets for the Franschhoek wine tram online on the Franschhoek Wine Tram website. Since we did not know which route we wanted to take, we decided just to buy it in Franschhoek.
We arrived in Franschhoek on a Sunday and drove through the village. Franschhoek is not a large place, and it took less than 10 minutes to drive through the main area. Sundays seem busy; there were cars parked in almost every parking spot we saw. Franschhoek is considered the culinary capital of South Africa by many people. It has a large variety of well-known and highly-rated restaurants, which are popular over weekends.
We eventually managed to find a parking spot almost in front of the Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket booth! While planning our trip, we had decided that we should speak to the cashier about the different routes as we were not sure which route would be best for us. We did not know any of the wine estates and had never tried any of their wines before. The cashier asked us what types of wines we liked. We told her we loved light, fruity wines and she suggested taking the red line. So, we bought the red line tickets for the next day.
Starting the tour
The next morning our tour was due to start at 10:30, so we decided that it would be a good idea to have breakfast first. Drinking wine on an empty stomach is never a good idea!
When we booked the tickets, we were given red stickers to identify us as taking the red tour. The tours depart from the ticket booth and our trolley bus arrived right on time.
We boarded the trolley bus and sat right in the back to allow us to take photos without being in anyone’s way.
Tip 1: Take a jacket with!
Even though it was just the start of autumn, the Western Cape is known for its windy and unpredictable weather. Standing still and walking around were pleasant, but sitting on the trolley bus without any sides or windows was freezing! Always take a jacket with!
Lucky we had brought jackets even though we had thought it was not necessary. We were pleased that we did!
How the Franschhoek wine tram works
The Franschhoek wine tram works like a hop-on-hop-off bus. You can choose to visit any of the estates on your chosen route. There are, however, fixed pick-up times from each stop. The schedule usually gives you about an hour at each wine estate you visit. Should you want to spend more time at a particular vineyard, you can spend 2 hours there, but it does mean that you will have less time to get off at other wine estates along the way.
We found the hour sufficient if you just wanted to do the wine tasting. At several of the wine estates, it is possible to order snacks or food but this could mean that you needed to stay longer than the allocated hour.
It is important to bear in mind that the wine tram ticket does not automatically give you a free wine tasting. We had to pay extra for wine tasting at most of the vineyards we visited.
The red line tour of the Franschhoek wine tram
Unfortunately, we did not know any of the wine estates on our route. We just read the descriptions and decided based on the ones we thought sounded the nicest.
Our stops included the following wine estates:
The red tour stopped at Maison first, but we decided to start at Eikehof. Eikehof appeared to be quite small and had only one building which served as a shop. Since we had breakfast before starting the tour, we did not order any of the platters on offer.
Eikehof is a lovely vineyard. There were some long wooden tables and chairs outside the shop, and we all got seated there. The owner's wife served us for the wine tasting and gave a brief history of the vineyard. Her husband was the fourth generation owning the estate. We tried three different wines here and found them tasty enough to order a few bottles to be delivered at home.
From Eikehof the next stop was Leopard's Leap. Leopard's Leap was the one estate I would have liked to visit, but since it was a Monday, it was closed.
Tip 2: Check which estates are closed on which days
Some of the estates close on certain days; some on Mondays, others on Tuesdays. Bear this in mind when choosing your route, especially if there is a specific estate you want to visit.
2. Dieu Donne
From Eikehof, we drove past Leopard's Leap and arrived at Chamonix. It looked like a charming vineyard, and one of South Africa's best chefs has a restaurant there. We decided to rather continue to Dieu Donne since it was supposed to have a stunning view of Franschhoek!
We were not disappointed! Dieu Donne is a modern, beautiful wine cellar. We chose to sit outside and admired the view. Dieu Donne is located on the slope of a mountain which gave us a beautiful view of the entire village below.
We also enjoyed the wines at Dieu Donne; they were lovely, light, and reasonably priced. The cashier also explained to us what each wine was and how they were different from each other.
3. Franschhoek Cellar
From Dieu Donne, we decided to go to the Franschhoek Cellar. My daughter was with us and was getting a bit impatient with us tasting wine all the time!
Franschhoek Cellar is also quite modern. They offer cheese and wine or chocolate and wine tastings. We decided that one of us will have the cheese and wine and the other the chocolate and wine and that we will then share the chocolate or cheese that accompanies the wine. The wines are the same whether you have the chocolate or cheese.
The pieces of cheese and chocolate were large enough for each of us to have a decent bite of each. For me, this was the loveliest experience of the day. A staff member explained the cheese/chocolate and wine pairings.
We decided to have lunch here as well. It was a family-friendly place with meals for kids and a big play area. It was lovely sitting under the trees and just enjoying some good food.
Tip 3: Booking lunch in advance
To book lunch at some of the wine estates, you need to book in advance. This also applies for picnic baskets.
4. To Rickety Bridge with the wine tram
We wanted to experience the wine tram and decided to take the trolley bus to the Rickety Bridge.
The wine tram is a beautiful vintage tram. The distance between the Grand Provence platform and the Rickety Bridge was not very long, but long enough for us to enjoy the experience! Driving through the vineyards on the tram was an enjoyable experience!
When we arrived at Rickety Bridge, we decided that we really could not do any more wine tastings. We stayed until the tram returned and enjoyed the ride back.
The end of the Franschhoek wine tram tour
From there we boarded the trolley bus again, and it took us back to the ticket booth in Franschhoek. Even though it had been a cloudy and relaxing day, we were feeling tired.
Our view of the Franschhoek wine tram tour
For South Africans, it is probably not the cheapest way to spend a day, especially since you have to pay for most of the wine tastings. Foreigners coming from countries with stronger currencies should find it significantly more affordable.
Going on the Franschhoek tram was a lovely experience. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. My daughter is a teenager - too young to drink and too old for play areas, so I think for her the day was a bit of a bore. You can always do fewer wine tastings to accommodate the older kids if you have any.
The Franschhoek wine tram is worth doing if you are a wine lover!
Have you been to Franschhoek? Would you enjoy doing something like the wine tram tours? Have you ever done anything similar?