There’s a semi-secret outdoors lovers’ playground in the Overberg. Situated between Stanford, in the west, and Bredasdorp, in the east, it is bordered by mountains to the north and the ocean to the south. Boasting an exceptional diversity of fynbos, it was once a region best known for its protea farms; though increasingly wine farms and sports like mountain biking are drawing in adventurous visitors. It is the Strandveld.
The Base for your Adventures: Stanford Valley
While the central point of this Overberg gem is the Moravian mission town of Elim, the best place to base your explorations from is Stanford Valley. Located in the Klein Rivier Valley, on the Akkedisberg Pass between Stanford and Van Brakel Stoor, Stanford Valley is a guest farm with self-catering cottages, a restaurant and conference centre. It is also one of the trail heads for the region’s ever-expanding network of mountain bike trails.
Stanford Valley is a cluster of white-washed Cape Dutch buildings, surrounded rolling lawns giving way to fynbos and farmlands. It boasts a variety of accommodation options, from simple double rooms to small family cottages. While self-catering is an option for most of the guest farm’s cottages there is also a restaurant on-side. The Manor House Restaurant is open for dinners, from Wednesday to Saturday, as well as breakfasts and lunches, from Thursdays to Sundays.
Find out more about Stanford Valley: www.stanfordvalley.co.za.
Why Stanford Valley
The guest farm is not just a luxurious and comfortable place to stay, it’s also one of the best spots to explore the region from. Situated on the western edge it is located closest to Cape Town. In fact; it is just 155km, or under 2 hours’ drive, from the Mother City’s CBD to this the jewel in the peaceful heart of the Overberg.
In addition to being one of the trail heads to the Stanford mountain bike trail network the farm also boasts exceptional hiking, trail running, birding and a large farm dam to swim in. Beyond its boarders there are wine farms, breweries, land-based whale watching, beaches, a fromagerie, a big cat sanctuary and quaint villages to explore. Some of the spots will require you to venture off the asphalt main arteries and onto the legion of gravel roads, which criss-cross the countryside, but even in winter all the major gravel road remain navigable by car. You won’t need a 4×4 for this adventure.
For mountain bikers and trail runners the Strandveld is an increasingly attractive destination. Along with Stanford Valley the farms of the Perdeberg have steadily been building a spectacular network of singletracks. What makes these trails special is the fact that many of them wind their way through fynbos.
Most Western Cape trail networks feature loops into pristine fynbos, but few can match the extent of the natural veld riding as the Stanford trails. In addition to the volume of fynbos trails is the fact that the Strandveld features so many endemic species, which only occur on particular slopes of the Akkedisberg mountains. For riders and runners with a floral interest the various Erica species, in particular, are worth stopping next to.
The beauty of riding or running in the fynbos is that there is always something in bloom. From the glorious proteas to the finer flowers, like the aforementioned ericas or buchus. That said the network boasts more than just routes through the fynbos. One of the region’s oldest trails follows the lazy ebb of the Uilkraalsrivier. Under a canopy of old-growth poplars it provides a very different experience to the rest of the routes.
There is also a plethora of gravel roads to explore. For gravel grinders and mountain bikers looking to add kilometres the options are virtually endless. Quiet district roads link hamlets like Baardskeerdersbos and Sandy’s Glen with small towns like Elim and Napier. While tougher jeep tracks provide challenging climbs; the type you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a hilly, rather than mountainous region.
Ascending to the summit of the Salmonsdam Nature Reserve requires an 8.3km long climb, which gains 430m in elevation to 630m above sea level. Though only averaging a 5% gradient the loose and rocky surface ensures it remains a stern challenge. That is however not the region’s highest peak. A split half-way up the Salmonsdam climb leads you onto private land, for which you will need special permission to access (ask at Stanford Valley). The summit of that climb is situated at 820m above sea level and offers panoramic views across the Strandveld. Apparently on clear days Table Mountain is visible to the west and Cape Agulhas is visible to the south east from the top.
The Stanford trails are open throughout the year and day permits can be purchased at Stanford Valley. Trails are well marked, with signs directing you towards destinations, like Belofebos, as well as back to the trail head. For day visitors from Hermanus a trail riding or running excursion is a great way to sample the Strandveld. But the best way to experience the region is full immersion.
Book a long weekend at Stanford Valley and explore by bike, on foot and in your vehicle. Alternatively, if you prefer event-driven exploration the Stanford MTB Classic takes in the best riding the region has to offer. The 2021 race is scheduled for the 27th of February and will include a brand-new section of trail. Dubbed the USP, or Ultimate Southern Pass trail, it is sure to elevate the already outstanding riding to a world class level.
Other Things to Do in the Strandveld
Wine Tasting in and around Stanford
- Raka | rakawine.co.za
- Stanford Hills Estate | stanfordhills.co.za
- Sir Robert Stanford Estate | robertstanfordestate.co.za
- Springfontein Wine Estate | springfontein.co.za
- Boschrivier Wines | boschrivierwines.co.za
Wine Tastings further afield
- Lomond Wines | lomond.co.za
- Zoetendal Wine Farm | zoetendalwinefarm.co.za
- The Berrio | theberrio.co.za
- Black Oystercatcher Wines | blackoystercatcher.co.za
- Strandveld Winery | strandveld.co.za
Distilleries & Fromageries
Cruises, Paddles and Shark Cage Diving
- River Rat Cruises and Kayak Hire | riverratstanford.wordpress.com
- African Queen | africanqueenstanford.co.za
- Lady Stanford | ladystanford.co.za
- Marine Dynamics | sharkwatchsa.com
- Mike Rutzen’s Shark Diving Unlimited | sharkdivingunlimited.co.za
- White Shark Adventures | whitesharkadventures.co.za
- Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary | pantheraafrica.com
- Stanford MTB Classic | stanfordmtbclassic.co.za
- The Lomond Triathlon | scuttle.co.za
- Stanford Bird Watches Club | stanfordinfo.co.za
- Guided Tours | overbergmtbevents.co.za