Visitors to the South Africa's Western Cape province can now experience the picturesque Franschhoek Wine Valley, the country's premier culinary destination and one of its leading wine producing regions, in a unique way with the launch of the Franschhoek Wine Tram.
The hop-on hop-off tour offers its passengers a leisurely way to see the Franschhoek Valley as they journey through rolling vineyards in a combination of open-side tram and open-air tram-bus, stopping in at some of South Africa's oldest and most distinguished wine estates.
The combination allows passengers to experience the activities on offer at each stop - wine tasting, cellar tours, lunches, or simply a stroll through the vineyards - and to continue the tour when they are ready.
The tour takes passengers into the heart of the Franschhoek Valley, with guided commentary and unparalleled views of the valley and vineyards.
Wine tourism is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of the global tourism market, and contributes in excess of R5-billion to South Africa's tourism revenue.
Benefits for the local community
"This project is a success story," Franschhoek Wine Tram general manager Duncan Gordon said in a statement on Monday. "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."
According to Gordon, it took the developers several years to realise the goal of creating a world-class wine tourism experience.
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 gases 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 US which are used to transport tourists on sightseeing excursions.
"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," said Duncan.
Tickets and prices
The hop-on, hop-off tour departs from the Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket office, located in the centre of 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 10:00am to 3:20pm, with departures every 40 minutes.
Tickets can be purchased at the Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket office at Bijoux Square, 60 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek (on the Franschhoek main road), or 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.