Stellenbosch is alongside the Eerste River, and as hydraulic engineering was a specialty of the initial Dutch settlers, a system of waterways was built to utilise the resource of the river, leading to several early mills which required workers. The settlement grew so rapidly that within three years it became necessary to establish an independent local authority. As more settlers arrived, they began to work the fertile valleys around the settlement, notably the French Huguenots, who planted grapes which led to a thriving wine industry. van der Stel had overseen the planting of oak trees in the early days of the settlement, and the town became known as the City of Oaks, which attracted many visitors to Stellenbosch.
The settlement’s first school was established in 1683. A seminary of the Dutch Reform Church was opened in 1859, and a year later, Rhenish Girl’s High School was established, the first school exclusively for the education and accommodation of girls in South Africa. 1918 saw the University of Stellenbosch chartered. The University, one of South Africa’s finest, has a current enrollment in excess of 25,000. Engineering, commerce, arts and sciences are among it’s graduate faculties.
The hilly regions of the Cape Winelands surround Stellenbosch. The terrain, dark-soiled and hilly but well drained and a part of the Mediterranean climate makes it ideal for a variety of agriculture, especially vineyards. The Stellenbosch region is widely known as the South African wine centre. Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon has a world-wide reputation among wine connoisseurs. Dry warm summers, with temperatures sometimes rising to 30C. are not unusual. Winters are characterized by windy, rainy and cool conditions, temperatures averaging between 13 to 16C.
The entire Stellenbosch region is a vacationer’s dream. Hundreds of wineries dot the area, each unique in its’ own way. Tours are conducted regularly, and the beauty of the surrounding mountains provides excellent backdrop for a summer’s wine-tasting and sightseeing trip with full accommodation provided. The historic Dorp Street in Stellenbosch offers old Cape Dutch architecture, along with examples of Victorian and Georgian buildings. Antique shops, fine restaurants as well as local deli’s and merchants of regional interest are in abundance. The Mother Church, or Moederkerk is a favorite of photographers for its’ beauty and lush gardens. Many area gardens feature indigenous and imported plants, a large part of them on the campus of Stellenbosch University.
Visitors will be impressed by the wide streets, lined by oak trees which were one of the first distinct features of Stellenbosch. Accommodation in Stellenbosch range from the very affordable and easily found student hostels to the many superb bed and breakfast inns. Luxury hotels are also in abundance for accommodation as are long and short term luxury apartments, quite a few of which are in or near the historic region.
Cape Town International Airport is only 45 minutes away, and transportation accommodation is served by all of the major rental and leasing agencies.