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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Driving Cape Town’s Wine Route

We could have rented a car to visit the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, but the thought of driving on the left-hand-side of the road while downing glasses of wine did not thrill me. It was a wise move to hire a driver, especially when we realized that the drive is exquisitely beautiful with vineyards rolling to the base of jagged mountain peaks, dotted with the distinctive white Cape Dutch style architecture. Our driver, Malcolm Frye, picked us up in his comfy VW Van and off we went to Stellenbosch. Malcolm delved into the complex and often tragic history of South Africa while stopping at four very different wineries he had selected. He was a wonderful companion for the day, full of anecdotes from a very full life in southern Africa (ask him about his military stint in Angola and about his son, a pilot for Cathay Pacific). I’d highly recommend him for drives to the Wine Region, Cape Point, Hermanus, and the Garden Route.

Our first stop, Meerlust, is a sixth-generation Dutch farm estate known for its award-winning Rubicon wine. Next up was the more commercial Spier Wine Farm, where we tasted a very good chenin blanc. The opulent Delaire Graff Estate is owned by the diamond dealer, Laurence Graff, and is now a Relais and Chateau property housing mega-sized portraits and sculptures by South African artist Lionel Smit and a diamond store that will make you weep with envy. Thankfully, the vista of the breathtaking mountain pass was free. My favorite winery, Delheim, was where we had lunch. Lost in the vineyards at the base of a mountain, Delheim was the antithesis of Delaire Graff, simple, authentic, one of the first wineries to open in Stellenbosch over 50 years ago. We dined on wild mushroom lasagna and lamb shank, so tender it fell off the bone, washed down with a wild fermented chenin blanc. 
Malcolm dropped us off at our lodging for the night, La Residence, located in the hillside outside of Franschhoek. If I die and go to heaven, I want it to look exactly like La Residence. This is as close to a bucolic paradise as I’ve found. Our room overlooked a pond where a black swan swam. Peacocks were found on the branches of a tree nestled on the shore. Beyond the pond were springboks running, and surrounding our spacious suite was a valley of tightly woven vineyards ringed by mountains. The town of Franschhoek was also a gem, lined with restaurants and boutique artisanal shops. We were there on a Saturday morning, when the local Farmer’s Market was in full swing. We made the mistake of having Malcolm pick us up after only one night in Franschhoek. Next time, I’ll book La Residence for at least two, if not three nights, to relax and savor the scenery and wines. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 25, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Highway 29/Silverado Trail Loop, Napa Valley, California

Only an hour drive north of San Francisco, expect the vineyard-draped hillside of Napa Valley to be tinted with crimson and gold come autumn. But the real reason to head here this time of year is to participate in one of the harvest season’s crush parties, where you get to stomp on the grapes. Some of the biggest names in American wine, from Opus One to Stag’s Leap, line Highway 29 north of Napa and the Silverado Trail heading back south from Calistoga. Stock up on cheeses, bread, cupcakes, and other picnic fare at the 40,000-square foot Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Then hit Highway 29 to pick your selection of wine. Have the requisite mud bath in Calistoga at Golden Haven Hot Springs. Andaz Napa is a 141-room boutique hotel located in the center of Napa, a good place to unwind after your day or two of touring. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/25/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Highway 385, Rapid City, South Dakota

The fall foliage road trip was designed with places like South Dakota in mind. Venture to Rapid City and you’ll have the chance to cruise with relatively little traffic up and down the pine forests and granite passes of the Black Hills. Highway 385 will lead you to Vanocker Canyon and Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway, home to waterfalls and golden aspens. Also in the Black Hills is the 68-mile Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (a 4-hour drive) that winds through six rock tunnels, past towering pinnacles and over pine-clad peaks, only to arrive at the most famous sculpture in the country, Mount Rushmore. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, the annual fall round-up of bison takes place tomorrow, September 25th at nearby Custer State Park. Watch the cowboys and cowgirls drive the herd of some 1,300 buffalo, some of whom will be sold at auction in November. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Route 54A, Keuka Lake, New York

Autumn in the Finger Lakes of western New York State is the time of year when leaves on the maples turn a tad crimson and the grapes on the vines are ready to be harvested for their award-winning Rieslings. Start on the northern tip of Keuka Lake in the town of Penn Yan. Head south on Route 54A and just outside of town, you’ll see signs for Apple Barrel Orchards, a third-generation U-pick apple orchard that makes homemade cider on the premises. Continue south along the shores of the 20-mile long lake to reach Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellar. Founded in 1962 and now run by Dr. Frank’s grandson, Fred, Dr. Frank put the Finger Lakes on the wine lovers’ map with his award-winning dry and semi-dry Rieslings. Have lunch on an outdoor deck overlooking the narrow northern part of the lake at Heron Hill Winery. The Blue Heron café takes full advantage of its locale nestled amidst the farmland to offer local seasonal fruit over field greens and a caprese salad with large fresh tomatoes. A perfect place to stay in Hammondsport is the octagonal-shaped Black Sheep Inn, where the owner, a former caterer in Cleveland, creates innovative and tasty breakfasts. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, The Fruit Loop, Hood River, Oregon

Autumn colors are not usually associated with the Northwest, the land of conifers. Yet, outside of Hood River, the 35-mile Fruit Loop feels like a quintessential fall drive back east. That is, until you look up and see the lofty snowcapped peak of Mount Hood towering above 11,000 feet. The route is lined with pear orchards, fields of lavender, alpaca farms, farm stands, wineries, and an emerging hard cider scene. Sample the wares at Hood River Cider Works, Fox-Tail Cider, or Hood Valley Hard Cider, and you’ll be surprised to find that the drink is crisp, refreshing, and can easily be paired with the Chinook salmon and steelhead trout the region is known for. Quaff down a cider at the picnic tables behind Solera Brewery in Parkdale and you’ll be mesmerized by the spectacular view of Mount Hood. Make the wise choice of spending the evening at the Columbia Cliff Villas in Hood River and you’ll wake up to a sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 21, 2015

Favorite Fall Drives, Route 100, Vermont

Mid-September to mid-October, when the summer crowds are gone and the snow has yet to drop, is my favorite time of year to cruise around America. This week, I’m going to delve into some of those blessed routes. First up, a fall foliage drive on Route 100 in Vermont. 
Don’t believe the Vermont fall foliage hype? All it takes is one drive on Route 100 from Killington to Stowe to understand the allure. Traveling along the ridgeline of the 4,000-foot Green Mountains radiating with its verdant robe of multi-hued maples, you can’t help but sing its praises. Be sure to stop in the farming community of Rochester for the requisite “cows and meadow” photo and the historic village of Stowe to find one of the numerous freshly painted white steeples. Along the route, you’ll want to visit the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for your jug of cider, out-of-the-oven doughnuts, and genuine maple syrup. Nearby is the Ben & Jerry’s factory, where you can take a tour, sample the wares, and find out how the duo started their celebrated business. Spend the night at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, at the base of Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, and you’ll have the opportunity to take in the fall foliage while playing a round of golf

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway…in Your Own Lamborghini

The drive to Whistler from Vancouver is on one of the most breathtaking stretches of roadway in North America, the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The drive heads north away from the ocean high into old-growth forest. Just outside Squamish, you can see rock climbers scurry up the cliffs and spot the white dome atop 8,787-foot Mount Garibaldi. Then you pass two impressive waterfalls, Shannon and Brandywine, before making a final ascent to the lofty peaks of Whistler. I always love taking this route on the open-air compartment of the Rocky Mountaineer’s “Whistler Sea-to-Sky Climb.” But next time I might have to take the train down after first driving to Whistler in a Lamborghini. Scenic Rush, a Vancouver-based tour company that started in 2014, offers four exotic driving experiences ranging in price from $495 to $1,295 CAD per person. The 3.5-hour Sea to Sky Experience also includes the opportunity to take the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish or a helicopter tour above the alpine peaks of the Coast Mountain Range. Be sure to spend a night or two in Whistler to try the longest zipline in North America, take the spectacular Peak 2 Peak Gondola over a 2.5-mile span from Whistler to Blackcomb, and try the summer bobsled.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where the Farmland Meets the Sea

Sandwiched between the far better known travel destinations of Newport and Cape Cod is a little slice of heaven reserved for New Englanders in the know. Head an hour southeast of Boston past the gritty ports of New Bedford and Fall River and you’ll reach a sylvan stretch of Massachusetts and Rhode Island where farmland rolls to the ocean and long inlets are bordered by historic towns settled as far back as 1616. This drive (or bike ride) on backcountry roads is only 38 miles, but you’ll want to give yourself a day to explore. 

Start in the former whaling port of Padanaram, a picturesque village in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Design stores for summer cottage owners and casual seafood restaurants have replaced the shipbuilders that once lined the harbor of the Apponagansett River. Details & Design (332 Elm Street) features driftwood planters, women’s sundresses, and “Padanaram” pillows, complete with longitude and latitude. Down the block, Flora Home (324 Elm Street) offers outdoor patio furniture and pitchers and glassware, ideally suited for serving lemonade on a porch. 
To read about the entire route, please check out my latest story for Yankee Magazine

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/29/14 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Washington D.C. to Shenandoah National Park

There’s no need to be caught in summer traffic on the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive when you can have the mesmerizing Shenandoah National Park roadway to yourself in the shoulder season. After the 2-hour drive from DC, drop your bags off at the Skyland Resort, the premier Shenandoah lodge originally open in 1888. Perfectly perched at the 3,680-foot apogee of Skyline Drive, you have exquisite vistas of Shenandoah Valley. The famous Skyline Drive twists and turns atop the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering numerous opportunities to stop and take pictures or go on a walk. At Mile 42.6 is one of Shenandoah’s signature trails, White Oak Canyon. The five-mile trail snakes through towering hemlocks into a deep and narrow gorge that’s home to six waterfalls. More than half of the plant species in Shenandoah are wildflowers, so be on the lookout for the bluets, pink azaleas, and the fragrant white flowers of the mountain laurel. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 5 Favorite Spring Drives, Austin to Texas Hill Country

An hour west of Austin lies the Balcones Escarpment, a long geologic fault zone that divides Texas in half. Balcones is Spanish for “balconies,” an apt way to describe how the Texas Hill Country suddenly thrusts up from the gently rolling prairie to create limestone canyons. On lonely backcountry roads, you’ll be driving under tall cypress trees past large cattle ranches and fields of bluebonnets that are in bloom come April. Take US 290 west from Austin to Johnson City’s Wildflower Loop. Then be sure to tour the nearby LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, stop for bratwurst and a pint of Shiner Bock in the German settlement of Fredericksburg, go for a stroll on the pebble-strewn paths of the 5400-acre Hill Country State Natural Area, and listen to the next Willie Nelson at the legendary country music hamlet of Luckenbach. The homey Hoffman Haus B&B in Fredericksburg is a good place to rest your legs after a day of touring the region. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/13/14 at 10:00 AM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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