Having earned a reputation for being a thriving business hub, and home to some of the country’s best vineyards, along with the university and being nestled in the shadow of mountains, Stellenbosch offers the whole package
With oak-lined streets, many well-preserved historic buildings, the Eerste River bubbling through, Stellenbosch – in the shadow of the Jonkershoek Mountains and home to 18% of South Africa’s vineyards – is the country’s second-oldest town.
It also commands some of the region’s top residential and agricultural property prices. Originally regarded a rural farming town with a good university, Stellenbosch has rapidly earned a reputation as a thriving business hub.
Several corporates have moved their head offices to the town – with is only about 30km from Cape Town International Airport. Mike Greeff, chief executive officer of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate, says Stellenbosch offers the total package: “This town possesses stunning architecture, a rich history, convenience, beautiful scenery and wonderful educational offers.
“The area has old-world charm, but oozes a young and vibrant feel. It is a popular entertainment destination as the heart of the Cape Wine Route. Stellenbosch has something for everyone to enjoy.” For resident Jess Eley, it’s a total way of life.
“I have lived in Stellenbosch most of my life and fall in love with it again every time I return. “It is beautiful, small, quirky and with old-school charm. Take a moment and walk down oak treelined Dorp Street – you will fall in love with it too.”
The university, academically ranked fourth on the continent, contributes R5.6 billion annually to the regional economy. It’s the desirability of this institution that sets the property market alight – there are about 30 000 students on campus and the 31 university residences are able to accommodate only 6 500.
The rest require private “digs” in and around the town. Private student accommodation runs upwards of R90 000 a year, so focus also falls on privately-owned apartments as options.
In the past 12 months, according to Lightstone statistics, 140 sectional title units changed hands in the R1,2 million to R2m range. For some parents, there is a case to buy a property rather than rent while their child studies.
Mortgage repayments on a property in this range would be about R12 000 to R15 000; renting a spare room or two to other students would offset costs.
Once a student graduates, the property can be sold or retained as an investment. Lightstone indicates sectional title units have mainly retained or grown in value during the past five years, in the face of a general market close to meltdown.
A visit to Stellenbosch soon convinces even the most jaded of travellers of its natural beauty and extensive facilities. The municipality is one of 25 in the Western Cape to have received an unqualified audit from the auditor-general.
The town is well served by schools, medical facilities, recreational opportunities and a vast range of award-winning wine farms. The Stellenbosch Wine Route was the first of its kind; now it boasts more than 150 stops on five sub-routes. Rhenish Girls School, established in 1860, is the oldest such school in South Africa. The town is home to several more of the country’s best-known schools.
Jess Eley’s favourite things to do
There’s no shortage of outdoor activities. Mountain biking trails abound, there are easy-to-find hiking and running trails in the mountains on the edge of town and, if you’re willing to take a short drive, there are loads of wine farms where you can lounge on the lawns, enjoy good food and admire stunning views.
You are spoilt for choice in Stellenbosch with eateries that cater to all tastes, from students wanting an economical meal, to those looking for finer dining. Visitors will find top wine farms on the outskirts and themed restaurants in town. One only has to walk through the streets to find a host of good eateries.
For an eating/ drinking/shopping destination, De Warenmarkt, in an 18th-century building in the heart of the cultural district, offers several options; 021 883 2274. Jordan Wines is more a more expensive treat with spectacular views over a dam and vineyards; 021 881 3441
Blaauwklippen Family Market, open every Sunday, is perfect for children and pets. Great food options, rolling lawns and abundant parking; 084 608 6325. Stellenbosch Slow Market has run every Saturday from 9am to 2pm for 10 years – the German bakers are unique; 081 831 3011