Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens: a hidden gem
Cape Town and all the little towns around it are so full of hidden gems that even after living here for 10 years I’m still discovering new magical places that have been there all along. Stellenbosch is no exception.
Stellenbosch is a tiny little university town built around the University of Stellenbosch which is nestled deep in wine country. The small university town of Stellenbosch is one of my favorite places to visit. It’s about 40min drive from Cape Town, so not too far. This little town is built around the University of Stellenbosch and is nestled in between dozens of vineyards, with the Jonkershoek mountains as a backdrop. The result being a cozy little town with coffee shops at every corner. It’s romantic oak tree lined streets give this little town such a cozy feel that you can easily forget that you’re in South Africa at all.
There is also a little market every Saturday where you can get all sorts of local produce from breads to jams and fresh fruit.
My favorite time of year to visit Stellenbosch is Autumn, when the leaves on the oak trees start turning shades of reds and oranges. Driving into Stellenbosch you see fields of orangey-reds as the leaves on the grape vines turn colour for autumn. You get the feeling that you are in a vivid oil painting. It gives Stellenbosch such a quaint and magical feel that it’s easy to see why this place, in itself is a hidden gem. But the truth is that Stellenbosch has quite a few hidden gems of its own just waiting to be discovered.
In all the years that I’ve been living in Cape Town and have been visiting Stellenbosch I honestly thought I have seen and done all there was to see and do there. I’ve been strawberry picking, wine tasting, coffee shopping, visiting museums and I’ve even attended a conference at the University itself. But then Jake and I heard about a botanical garden in the heart of Stellenbosch, so naturally we had to go check it out.
Being that Stellenbosch is such a small town I really didn’t expect much, but we went anyway to take a look. Honestly, the Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens blew my expectations away. There is just so much to see and do there, considering that it occupies so little space. The garden is incredibly well laid out and ever square metre of space is used to its fullest, without leaving you feeling like you are cramped up in a small space.
They have a pathway that leads you around the gardens to the glass houses, the lily pond and the bonsai garden, and a handful of cozy nooks where you can sit and enjoy the gardens and have a bit of quiet time, without being disturbed by everyone else.
Stellenbosch’s Botanical Garden: The Hidden Gem
When we first went there we almost drove right past the entrance, it’s easy to miss because it is crammed into such a small piece of land, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in anything a massive botanical garden would have.
Walking into the botanical garden was like walking into a wonderland. There are a shocking variety of plants nestled into such a small plot of land, yet somehow they managed to make it feel massive. The path leads you on twists and turns through the garden and around every new corner is a new environment housing a magical new garden with its own special variety of plants.
The pathway also leads you to cozy little nooks in the botanical gardens where you can sit on a bench and take in the beauty of it all. There are also patches of grass where you can have a little picnic.
About The Gardens
The gardens were established in 1921 and is the oldest botanical garden in South Africa. It houses a massive variety of plants that are both indigenous and exotic to South Africa. Their themed gardens include the bonsai garden, bulb beds, water lily pond, rockeries a fern house, an arid glass house and a tropical glass house.
What To See And Do
The garden has such a calming, tranquil feel to it that even just walking around, admiring the flowers is a treat. You can wander around and explore all these beautiful gardens or you can sit on one of the many benches and grass patches around the gardens and enjoy it.
The Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens also has a little restaurant where you can order something to eat or just have some tea or coffee.
What To Expect
When you first enter the Botanical gardens you find the succulent garden then off it is a little garden dedicated to edible plants (veggies and herbs). Following the path you’ll come to a tea garden and just beyond that is a stunning lily pond with lotus flowers.
There are 3 green houses each with their own little habitat for specific plants. We visited the tropical garden one and were not disappointed. The variety of plants in each greenhouse is amazing.
Just past the green houses, and through a little gift shop/ nursery, we came to Jake’s favorite area, the bonsai garden. I can honestly say that I have never seen so many bonsai in one place in my life.
As we explored the gardens we realised there were more hidden nooks that we hadn’t seen and we explored another tropical section full of ferns and waterfalls.
How Long Will It Take?
In total we ended up spending 2 hours there, exploring and chilling, enjoying the incredible plants around us. This is easily one of my favorite hidden gems so far and I’ll be visiting it more often.
How to get there:
The garden is off Neethling road and you will need to find street parking as there is only a pedestrian entry way.
R10 per person
No picnics are allowed.
No photoshoots are allowed without prior arrangement.
You may not pick any plants.
Children must be under supervision.
Larger groups are welcome with prior-arrangement.
08:00 to 17:00 (Monday to Sunday).
The Garden is closed on certain public holidays.