Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Natasha Lassen & Shutterstock
At its heart, Somerset West is still the small Winelands town of years gone by, close to nature on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains, with vineyards abutting its streets and a river running through it. The attractions of this leisurely lifestyle have enticed so many newcomers that the small town long since outgrew its original boundaries, with new developments and gated estates more than doubling its size. It now stretches alongside the N2 in both directions and joins up with the neighbouring town of Strand. But for long-term residents, the close-knit community endures.
“I love Somerset West for the mountain and the people,” says Dawn Wyatt of The Toy Store. “There’s a very nice community and you’re close to the sea and Cape Town. It’s almost like living in a beautiful bubble, and everything works.”
Winding up above the Main Street, the original residential streets of Somerset West are leafy, lined with family homes with gardens and gorgeous views up to the mountain peaks or out over False Bay. Narrow lanes lead up a secret valley to Spanish Farm, and the beautiful Helderberg Nature Reserve descends to meet the streets of Nature’s Valley, providing families with a beautiful setting to picnic, enjoy summer concerts and hike year-round.
Tucked between the reserve and the wine farms, Erinvale Country and Golf Estate combines world-class golf with a secure lifestyle, and all these roads lead to the town’s old centre, which remains a trendy shopping hub for locals despite the rise of out-of-town malls. “We’re trying to keep the old Somerset West alive. There are lots of independent small businesses around Main Road,” says Dawn.
New estates are being developed on the outskirts of town – Sitari Country Estate and Somerset Lakes, for example – meeting the overwhelming demand for secure country living within reach of the city and Cape Town International Airport.
The huge Somerset Mall provides convenient retail therapy and movies for residents from the Helderberg region, and various business and industrial parks along the N2 make the town self-sufficient. If you need more, Cape Town is only 50km away.
The schools are another of Somerset West’s drawcards for families. “We have excellent public schools like De Hoop Laerskool/Primary School, Beaumont Primary School and Parel Vallei High School, and private schools such as Somerset College, Somerset West Private School, Reddam House Somerset and Curro Sitari. Children have endless opportunities when it comes to sports too: dancing, surfing, football and karate,” says Nelia de Wet of Gister, who moved to the area from Cape Town 25 years ago.
Dawn says, “Everyone flocks here for the schools. It’s become harder to get places in the public schools. Property located close to Parel Vallei commands a higher price, as families with high school kids want to be close enough for them to walk to school.”
Others choose to commute to the renowned Stellenbosch high schools an easy 20-minute drive away.
The hardest part about weekends is choosing where to explore next. “The Helderberg Nature Reserve is very popular for hiking, and many of the farms are open for mountain biking routes,” says Nelia. “We’re surrounded by the best wine farms in the world. Tastings, food markets and music festivals are our favourites.”
Practically within the town, the historic wine farms of Lourensford Wine Estate, Vergelegen Wine Estate and Morgenster Estate are perhaps the best known, but to discover more of the wine and food of the area the annual Taste of Helderberg (Friday, 8 June) showcases more than 25 wine estates, along with gourmet tastings from local restaurants. Strand is close by for surfing and family beach play, and golfers can choose between three golf clubs, all sharing the scenic mountain backdrop and dramatic sunset views that make Somerset West such a popular place to call home.
“It’s quieter and less rushed than city living. Nature provides for lots of family activities like hiking, surfing or cycling. On weekends, there are many family-oriented markets on nearby wine farms. We have strong community support.”
Nelia de Wet of Gister
- The Restaurant at Waterkloof: for modern French cuisine
- Camphors at Vergelegen (currently on a winter break): for fine dining
- Stables at Vergelegen Wine Estate: for child-friendly lunches
- The Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford Wine Estate: for bistro food and pizza
- Giovanni’s in Waterstone Village: for Italian cuisine
- Giuseppe’s: for wood-fired pizza
- Helderberg Nature Reserve: for hikes, picnics and summer concerts
- Radloff Park: for dog-walking, sports and playing on the river bank
- Strand Beach: for surfing and outings with the family
- Lourensford Market on Friday nights and Sundays in season: for a variety of artisanal goods and live entertainment
- The Playhouse Theatre: for fun amateur productions
- Golf at Erinvale or Somerset West Golf Clubs
- Chelsea Village: for boutiques and vintage decor at Gister
- The Toy Store: for pre-loved toys
- Schoon on Bright Street: for the best artisanal bread
- Somerset Mall: for all the major chain stores
- Waterstone Mall: for the flagship Woolworths Food store
A local property expert gives us the inside scoop on Somerset West.
Why should investors consider buying in Somerset West?
With the increasing house prices on the Atlantic Seaboard and Stellenbosch, Somerset West is primed to offer great value for investors, with rental returns commensurate with those seen closer to Cape Town. It also offers a desirable location, 15 minutes from the airport and a short drive away from world-class wine farms and stellar beaches. It’s also close to top schools, Stellenbosch University and picturesque mountain ranges.
Gabriel Da Matta
021 020 0849 / 082 552 5798