One of South Africa's leading wine producing regions, as well as one of the country's premier culinary destinations, the Franschhoek Wine Valley, has once again every reason to raise a glass with the launch of the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a new and unique way to experience this picturesque wine valley.
Passengers aboard the hop-on hop-off tour will experience a unique and leisurely way to see the Franschhoek Valley as they journey through rolling vineyards in an open-side tram and open-air tram-bus stopping in at some of South Africa's oldest and most distinguished wine estates.
A combination of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour. The tour takes passengers right into the heart of the Franschhoek Valley, with a commentary guided tour and unparalleled views of the valley and vineyards.
Years to realise the dream
It took the developers several years to realise the goal of creating a world-class wine tourism experience which is poised to become a new icon for the Western Cape. Wine tourism is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of the global tourism market and contributes in excess of R5bn to South Africa's tourism revenue.
"This project is a success story," says general manager of Franschhoek Wine Tram, Duncan Gordon. "The benefits to the local community are already being felt with the creation of 13 full-time jobs with the expectation to further increase that number in the near future. We believe the Franschhoek Wine Tram will give local tourism the boost it needs and create further opportunities in our own community."
The newly constructed tram is modelled after the open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890 and was built by Prof Engineering, a South African specialist engineering firm. As a green initiative, it uses the latest in bio-diesel engine technology to reduce greenhouse gasses and other environmentally hazardous emissions. It seats 32 passengers on eight benches with six of the benches having flip-over, tram-style seat-backs that allow passengers to enjoy the breathtaking view in both directions. The tram-bus design is based on the open-sided road trams commonly seen in the USA and which are used to transport tourists on sightseeing excursions.
Looking for new experiences
"Tourists are continually looking for new ways of experiencing a location whether by foot, road or rail and no other wine growing area in the world can boast its own rail and road based tram system giving tourists direct access to wine estates, this truly is a unique project. The service will provide another hugely popular and distinct reason to visit Franschhoek further strengthening Franschhoek's appeal locally and internationally," explains Duncan.
"The Franschhoek Wine Tram has also been endorsed by Alan Winde, Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism for the Western Cape. The Provincial Government has been very supportive of the project and aims to utilise the project as a catalyst to promote tourism development in the area."
The hop-on hop-off tour departs from the Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket office, located in the centre of the historic Franschhoek Village, and includes six stops: Grande Provence, Rickety Bridge, Dieu Donne, Haute Cabrière, Chamonix and the Huguenot Museum. A commentary guided tour, focusing on the history of Franschhoek and wine cultivation in the Valley, and a complimentary wine tasting are included.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram operates daily from 1000 to 1520 with departures every 40 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket office located at Bijoux Square, 60 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek (on the Franschhoek main road) or online at www.winetram.co.za. Ticket prices are R130 for adults, R65 for children 5 to 17 years of age and no charge for children four years of age and under. For more information, contact +27 (0) 21 300 0338, e-mail or visit www.winetram.co.za.
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What a simple, but great concept! I hope to see this initiative being rolled out in other popular tourism areas of our beautiful country. Perhaps a sunshinecoast-tram or a cradle-of-human-kind-tram? Well done and good luck!