Stanford is a wonderful family destination which is only two hours drive from the Mother City, and those lucky enough to have shrugged off city life for country simplicity are happy to share the secret good life with visitors.
by Philippa Murray
The clean air, views of morning clouds cloaking the Klein Rivier Mountains that fill our eyes on our morning strolls to school, our leiwater system filled with evening platannas and the wild, free and innocent old-fashioned childhoods that we can give our children make country life sublime.
1. Cycle down a lane
Bring your bikes because there are many flat roads and gentle slopes to explore in Stanford. Cycling down to the King Street slipway is a favourite, and usually ends in an unplanned dip in the Klein River, tootle along the Wandelpad or leaf boat race down the leiwater system. At the top end of Queen Victoria there is also a BMX track in amongst the blue gums. This is an excellent spot to while away an afternoon and from which to see fish eagles.
2. Go on a river cruise
There are a few boats to choose from depending on the size of your group. For smaller twitcher families, the Platanna is perfect while the River Rat can handle two families for an afternoon braai. For multiple family get-togethers, the African Queen offers a gentle trundle down the river with a braai and inflatables for energetic kids and enthusiastic adults.
3. Have a low-key lunch just outside town
There are a few family-friendly places to eat in and around the village. The Tasting Room at Stanford Hills has a play area, tame animals, kiddie’s menus and meals for adults. The Stanford Harvest has a light menu which can accommodate children and has a farm atmosphere with sheep, while the Lagoon Cafe at Mosaic also has a light lunch menu and sprawling outdoor spaces shaded by ancient milkwoods which children love to climb. The Birkenhead Galley serves light meals and boasts one of the best views of the Klein Rivier Mountains with loads of romping space for children. Madre’s Kitchen also has a play area and a Stookhuis for grappa tasting but caters more for adults than small children on the menu.
4. Picnic under a tree
The Picnic Shed at Klein River Cheese Factory has a pack-your-own basket style deli with assorted nibbles to complement their cheeses which you can enjoy on their manicured lawns while the children play in the play park. On the second Sunday of each high season month, Beloftebos Wedding Venue opens its beautiful oak tree garden to all for a slow Sunday picnic and harvest table.
If building your own picnic and finding a secret place is more up your street, make sure you catch the Saturday Morning Market on the hotel stoep for local produce and baked goods, or the Graze Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings for fresh farm produce.
5. Explore the heart of the village
Families love walking Queen Victoria Street on Saturday mornings. Besides the morning market’s tasty goodies, children usually manage to snag themselves a delicious Italian gelato at Don Gelato to fuel them on their way. Many stoeps offer pop-up tables of fundraising food, like pannekoek for the NG Kerk, or boerewors rolls for the koshuis.
6. Play on the Market Square
This is the last untouched market square in South Africa and its geography in the centre of the village makes it perfect for bringing people together. Bring your own soccer ball or frisbee to make use of the space, or come to one of the Sunset Evening Markets (last Friday of every month from September to May). A new park is almost complete which will make the square even more attractive to younger children.
7. Birdwatching at Willem Appel Bird Hide
Pop into the Tourism Office and put down a deposit on the key to the bird hide. A short stroll to the hide in the morning or evening always grabs the attention of children who sit quietly for a few moments, watching moor hens, ducks and dragon flies darting over the water lilies.
8. Visit the big cats at Panthera Africa
Families must book in advance but a visit to Panthera just outside town always moves visitors. The beauty and majesty of the rescued and retired big cats is a conservation lesson in itself. Kids are always excited to see lions, leopards, tigers and caracals up close.
9. Take a flip with African Wings
A flight over Walker Bay in a small 4-seater aeroplane is a nerve-rattling experience for some but for others a splendid adventure. During whale season, African Wings guarantees sightings of whale pods, and sometimes even albino calf, shark and dolphin sightings are thrown in as added extras.
10. Hike along Die Plaat
For those who like to keep their feet firmly on the ground, the Wortelgat road out to Die Plaat is a 20km drive to a beautiful untouched piece of wild coastline. You can slide down the dunes or watch the sun set over the backs of Southern Right whales. A 4×4 is necessary unless your family is happy to walk the last 2 kilometres.
Of course, there is lots more to do. There are friendly restaurants in town, and a couple of very fancy restaurants for which you may prefer to hire a babysitter to watch the kids. A new Stanford Wine Route has been set up outside the village. Our neighbouring villages have beautiful beaches, caves, hikes and restaurants. Load the Geocaching application onto your smart phone and explore the Overberg with your kids. The whole experience bursts with moments to treasure.