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The suburb is primarily residential and is often praised for its peacefulness and abundance of trees. Pinelands is one of the few areas in Cape Town in which sale of alcohol is prohibited and is a popular place for senior citizens to retire to. While there are several retirement homes in the suburb, younger people are increasingly moving in and it has become one of the most racially-mixed middle class suburbs in Cape Town.

The main road is called Forest Drive and the suburb contains two small shopping centres, namely Howard Centre (named after Ebenezer Howard who led the garden city movement) and Central Square. Central Square is neighbour to the closely situated Dutch Reformed, Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist Christian churches of the suburb. Pinelands is served by two railway stations: Pinelands Station on the western edge of the suburb and Mutual Station on the northern edge. The suburb is bisected from the north east to the south west by the Elsieskraal River, which has flowed through a large concrete drainage canal since the 1960s.

The layout of Pinelands is based on the revolutionary town planning ideas of Sir Ebenezer Howard, and was the first attempt at a town-planned area in South Africa. Pinelands was originally a Victorian era farm named Uitvlugt that had thousands of pine trees planted in it, and was later deemed an economic failure by the Department of Forestry. The land was then granted to "The Garden Cities Trust" and the founding Deed of Trust was signed in 1919. One of the first members of the trust, Richard Stuttaford (head of the department store Stuttafords), made a £10,000 gift donation to serve as capital, and a loan of £15,000 from the government was invested in Pinelands. The trust brought in an overseas expert, Albert John Thompson, in 1920 to design the area.

The first (thatched) house in Pinelands was built in Mead Way in February 1922. The house and entire street were declared a national monument in 1983. New thatched roof houses have not been permitted due to the fire hazard for many years. Pinelands converted to a municipality in 1948 and has since been merged into the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.