Leaving aside the lively attractions of this vibrant city centre, here’s a few ideas to give you a better all-round perspective of this beautiful peninsula and coastal area.
You’ll definitely need transport to see most of these sights as, with the exception of Table Mountain (which can also take an age if you’re not pre-prepared) all are within and hour or so’s drive of Cape Town – but well worth it.
Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town
Now more of an extended suburb of Cape Town than a separate town, Simons Town is best known as an old Royal (and now South African) naval base but its historic buildings and location on the eastern side of the peninsula on the southern end of False Bay makes it an attractive location to visit.
A few minutes away is Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African Penguins. Very much a tourist attraction in their own right, nevertheless the well managed walkways enable the colony to remain largely undisturbed as they nest and congregate on the beach between the towering heights behind them and the crashing waves of the coast.
Cape of Good Hope & Cape Point
The coastal journey on the 60km journey to and from Cape Point is as dramatic for its landscapes as the headland itself. Vast sweeping bays with towering cliffs and multi-coloured vegetation peppered by vibrant yellow pincushions (proteas), create stunning and memorable vistas.
On arrival at Cape Point, firstly take the funicular up to the lighthouse (unless you fancy walking both ways) to get a perspective of its juxtaposition with the Cape of Good Hope around the next headland to the west. From the lighthouse you’ll see the crashing waves on the inhospitable rocks 200mtrs below, then dodge the numerous selfie sticks to find the path downwards through the Baboon colony, for a fifteen minute walk back to the car park.
From here, drive the five minutes around to the Cape of Good Hope where you’re now level with the Atlantic rollers that smash ashore on the shattered rock shore.
Cape Point is commonly mistaken for being the southern-most point of South Africa, whereas it’s actually the most south-western point of the African continent – picky perhaps and academic if you were shipwrecked here but nonetheless dramatic for this misconception.
Although your destination is Franschhoek, less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the route there and back is equally as fascinating as you skirt the Drakenstein and Wemmershoek mountain ranges that add a sense of grandeur and scale to your trip.
Franschhoek itself is a unique entity unto itself; meaning ‘French Corner’ in Dutch, it was colonised by exiled Huguenots, fleeing persecution from France under Louis XIV .
The distinctive Cape Dutch architecture, numerous restaurants, art galleries full of original African art/sculpture and museums, including the Huguenot museum and the Huguenot Monument to religious freedom, make Franschhoek a highly popular destination for tourists but not to the extent that it spoils the natural charm of the town.
For those accustomed to the often ‘farm-like’ vineyards of France, you’re in for a surprise with the beautifully groomed and manicured estates of Franschhoek and nearby Stellenbosch (just 30 mins away).
So, if you fancy a fascinating journey into the slightly surreal, Franschhoek is well worth the time invested.
Well, any of the beaches around the peninsula, really, but we’ve selected this one because its wide, rugged and windswept, giving you more of a feeling of freedom and nature in the raw that’s less apparent in the rest of the peninsula’s more populated and groomed white sand coastline.
It’s on the way to Hout Bay from Cape Point, so if you’re doing a round trip of the peninsula it’s not a big detour, compared with heading off to Walker Bay (that’s featured further down).
Again, you’ll be impressed by the dramatic coastline and narrow winding roads that cling to the sides of the cliffs en route to Hout via the breathtaking Chapman’s Peak road.
Nordhoek is ideal for a long walk, or horse ride, along the strand to blow the cobwebs away from too many visits to the vineyards!
Well, it had to feature in our review – bearing in mind that we visited Cape Town three times before the ‘tablecloth’ of cloud lifted and the wind dropped enough for the cable car to run; so Table Mountain might still be an elusive quest of yours too.
There’s absolutely no substitute for booking your tickets online beforehand – even if it’s on the day, as we did. They have generously open timescales (given the setbacks we’ve just described from earlier visits) and more importantly enable you to escape queuing for hours to get tickets at the cable-car itself. We only waited about 30mins to get to the front of our priority ‘with tickets’ queue and momentarily really felt sorry for those standing without tickets in the long snake of people during the heat of the day.
The next pleasant surprise was on entering the cable car itself; as despite most immediately heading for the windows at front and back to secure the best vantage points for views, no sooner had the car set off than the whole floor rotated as we climbed, describing a full 360 degrees during the ascent – so everyone gets to see up, down and sideways on the journey with open windows front and back for those with cameras. The same occurs for the descent.
We planned for an afternoon visit as crowds are less and we were able to walk around the table-top without being either cramped or disturbed for the most part. Needless to say, perhaps, given that we had good visibility the views are phenomenal in all directions – and when you’ve finished with those then the Hyrax, or Rock Dassies and colourful plant life (the mountain is a unique ‘wildlife kingdom’) will keep you occupied until you choose to descend.
We’re sometimes reluctant to simply follow the crowd and paying to stand on a rock seems faintly bizarre – but Table Mountain was definitely worth overcoming any reservations for.
Walker Bay/ Hermanos
If you’ve a day to spare then head for Walker bay Nature Reserve as you head towards the southern tip of Africa.
On the way you should stop at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay, where there’s another African Penguin colony and then on to Hermanus.
If you’re looking for a good place to have lunch then we highly recommend Bientang’s Cave restaurant where, if you book early, you can get a table right on the shoreline, on a rocky platform just above the crashing surf – a hugely dramatic backdrop to simply excellent fresh fish platters. This restaurant is well worth the visit even if you have no interest in the dramatic scenery it embraces.
If you’re still of a mind after such a great lunch, then head towards Gansbaai and onward to Walker Bay, making sure you keep a sharp lookout for whales blowing and breaching (assuming you’re not actually driving at the time) as this is the best land based location for whale watching; all along this coast – especially in the calving season around November.
Why not download our guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to let us know what you’d love to do?
Whether you’re pre-booking or just checking out timings/weather/availability, these websites could be invaluable to you.
Table Mountain website for tickets and information