Text and pictures by Peter Frost
The Overberg’s favourite dorp is bouncing back after the enforced Covid hiatus. Ahead of this weekend’s three markets, we headed to Stanford for an update on the area.
The little Overberg village of Stanford is back with a bang. Not that it went anywhere actually, but new initiatives, rejuvenated infrastructure and a fighting spirit are cementing its rep as the town de jour for the weekender market.
Take note: Until the R46 roadworks between Hermanus and Stanford are complete (before high season in December), if you’re coming from Cape Town it’s a good idea to route through Caledon from the N2, rather than taking the R43 from Hermanus. Stop-and-gos, especially at weekends and over holidays, cost plenty of time and are hardly conducive to a restful holiday vibe.
Stanford lies between Hermanus and Gansbaai on the R43, nestled under the Klein Rivier Mountains, along the Klein Rivier. The river – one of the shortest in the world from source to sea – feeds the Hermanus Estuary, often referred to as ‘the lagoon’, though it rarely breaches naturally. It’s this waterway that provides most of the town’s water sport opportunities. Close by is Cape Nature’s Walker Bay Nature Reserve and the small settlement of De Kelders, popular for whale watching.
Mooching through town
The roadworks on the R46 have now reached the town itself, making what was traditionally the busy top end of town around Ou Meul Bakery a bit of a challenge. Added to that, the municipality is tarring a few of the key village roads right now, a (mostly) welcome initiative that will provide more parking and an alternative route through town for the big poultry trucks bound for the Wortelgat Road hatcheries.
No matter: park and walk, Stanford is easily small enough to explore on foot. Queen Victoria Road, the main drag, sees most of the foot traffic, with a mix of antique, art and gift shops as well as many of the town’s restaurants. Halfway down, opposite Penny van der Berg’s recently renovated Stanford Hotel is a new initiative, Harry Poortman and Steyn Jacobs’ Made in Stanford, a collective shop and restaurant that champions only local products. And there’s a lot on offer – Su Wolf’s much-collected collages, Mariana Esterhuizen’s homemade foods and jams are hugely popular (she used to own the famous Marianas restaurant in town, which is now Peter Bruce’s upmarket Madre’s). There’s a large selection of local wines and spirits, including rarer Raka varietals, as well as artisanal gins and Susanne Schneider’s Fynbos Revolution vermouth. It’s a good place to start a tour of the town, simply because so much of it is represented here.
Also on Queen Victoria Road is the newest eatery in town, Odine Moolman and Johan Erwee’s Oliiilo Coco. The idea is a fusion of food and art, hearty meals as well as a collection of local and curated art. The murals outside the restaurant, as much as the menu, are causing a stir.
There are other fusions happening as well – by far the coolest eating spot in town is Egret & the Owl Book Cafe (@egret.owl.book.cafe) over on Morton Street, Annalize Mouton and Greta Muller’s restaurant and bookshop. Annalize is the author of a number of local history and coffee table books and the five-roomed house has become the unofficial library of choice for locals. And when the coffee shop next door shut up shop, she decided to fill the void with a simple breakfast and lunch, one-choice-only eatery. It has been hugely successful, especially with town folk avoiding the busy visitor streets.
For the energetic
Hike Phillipskop Mountain Reserve’s Waterfall Trail
Phillipskop, just outside Stanford on the R326 to Caledon, is a good private reserve for discovering Stanford’s surrounding Klein River Mountains. There are a number of routes on the farm, choice among them arguably the Waterfall Trail up Candlewood Valley to the waterfalls and caves of the area. Visit the website.
Cruise the Klein
De Hoop Nature Reserve mover and shaker William Stephens and Grootbos legend Michael Lutzeyer jointly run the Lady Stanford river boat which offers a sedate cruise down the river. The double decker, mini Zimbo houseboat setup makes it ideal for birders and Cape Clawless otter spotters out for the money shot. More taxing canoe trips are available with John Finch at River Paddling (082 378 19350).
Walk the Wandelpad
Stanford’s wandering nature walk is a revelation – unlike many village initiatives across the country, this one is carefully and regularly maintained by a dedicated team of volunteers. It winds through the village’s green zones from the Willem Appel Dam, below the old cemetery, along the Klein Rivier to the reed beds parallel to the Hermanus main road.
Take a picnic to the Walker Bay Nature Reserve
The large reserve extends from the Klein Rivier Estuary along the coast to De Kelders. Access it from the Wortelgat Road from Stanford (4×4 only) and find yourself in the rarely visited, high dune middle section. Empty, exceptional, it’s perfect for quiet picnics and long sundowner walks. Alternatively use the main gate just before De Kelders. For more information, click here.
The markets this weekend
Stanford Sunset Market. Food, fun and good tunes. Friday evening, 18:00 to 20h00 in Heritage Market Square, Queen Victoria Street. @stanfordsunsetmarket
Saturday Morning Market. A fresh produce market on the stoep of the Stanford Hotel in Queen Victoria Street from 09:00 until 12:00. Get there early for artisanal bakes and foods. @stanfordhotel
Stanford Junktique. The junk and collectables market attracts stalls from across the region. In the courtyard of the Stanford Tourism Office, Saturday morning.
Where to stay
Stanford’s stock-in-trade is its self-catering cottages, though they are in short supply after the tough lockdown year: many short term houses were given over to long term tenants in an effort to stay afloat. For a comprehensive, up-to-date listing, visit the super-efficient tourism website at stanfordtourism.co.za. Getaway recommends The Stanford Old Mill in Caledon Street (stanfordoldmill.co.za), as well as the recently refurbished Stanford Hotel (stanfordhotel.co.za).
Mosaic Lagoon Lodge
Down the Wortelgat Road out of town, parallel to the Klein Rivier, is Mosaic Lagoon Lodge, set among the estuary’s mature milkwoods. Once a tented camp, it has evolved into a limestone, wood and thatch lodge with special views over the water to the Klein Mountains. The essence of that original, ecologically sensitive approach remains though; it has the feel of the best Zimbabwean stone and thatch lodges of yore, sweet smelling grass ceilings, polished concrete, the careful synthesis of inside and outside. The owners and staff are locals, keen on retaining the estuary’s ‘light footprint’ ethos, which means walkways through the milkwoods, only four suites, a strong emphasis on recycling and alternative energy sources. There’s a full service spa and a range of activities available, including water and land based guided excursions. mosaiclagoonlodge.co.za Facebook @MosaicSouthAfrica
Mosaic Lagoon Lodge is running a special offer
Mosaic Lagoon Lodge is running a special from 1 May 2021 to 31 July 2021 of R3 200 per person sharing per night which includes all meals, a welcome drink, house beverages/wine/beer/spirits, Mosaic activities and free wireless internet. It also includes a wine tasting at either Springfontein or Raka Wine Estate and one spa treatment per person per stay (choose from the Kalahari Manicure, Kalahari Pedicure or Kalahari Neck and Back Massage).
You can also WIN with Mosaic Lagoon Lodge and Cape Town Etc!
One lucky reader can win a two-night stay for two guests at Mosaic Lagoon Lodge, including breakfast and dinner. The prize is valued at R15 000.
To enter, fill out the form below.
The prize is for a two night stay for two guests at Mosaic Lagoon Lodge, breakfast and dinner included. Transport to the property, Beverages & Spa are for the competition winner’s own account. Valid until 31 August 2021.
Perivoli Lagoon House
Also down the Wortelgat Road, Perivoli takes a different approach; if Mosaic is old-school, Perivoli is as cutting edge as it gets, a lodge conceived as an architectural tour de force as much as an environmental sanctuary. And impressive it is; the building mirrors the far-off Klein Mountains in form and material – curves, colours, textures – and allows the estuary in at every opportunity. Extensive glazing means suites (there are four) feel part of the landscape. Wake up of a morning, open the curtains and the fynbos, water and mountains are right there. The lodge is offered on a full board or a self-catering basis, the owners understanding the popularity of a self-sufficient house, beautifully located. A chef and staff are on hand, if required, or guests can be left to their own devices. Activities, whatever is required, are also by request; shark cage diving in Gansbaai, whale watching, Klein River excursions or hikes through Perivoli’s fynbos reserve are options. Visit their website here, and follow them on Facebook or Instagram
En route to Stanford
Routing along the N2 and then through Caledon has its own appeal. The padstals alone are worth the trip: The Orchard outside Elgin (@theorchardN2) is currently making a superb takeaway bobotie tray; Peregrine Farmstall (@peregrinefarmstall) has Burning Books, a very decent bookstore housed in a 1955 Bedford Green Goddess Fire Truck; and Houwhoek Farmstall (@houwhoekfarmstall) sell all their wine at cellar door prices as well as those epic pies. And of course, Dassiesfontein (@dassiesfontein), not far from the Greyton turn-off, rewards those who venture to the back of the warren-like shop with an awesome veldskoen range from around the country.
For more information on activities, accommodation and events contact the very well organised Stanford Tourism offices at 13 Queen Street, or check in online at stanfordtourism.co.za, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram