The Western Cape is that ‘special kind of paradise’ with something for everyone; a bustling metropolis surrounded by tremendous natural beauty. Picturesque mountains perfect for adventure (hiking, biking, gliding, rappelling – you name it!) lead directly into an Ocean full of swimmers, surfers, kayaks and sharks!
Cape Town, the Mother City, is a colorful collection of cafes, culture and a uniquely relaxed atmosphere. Wale street was truly the highlight of our Cape Town walking tour. This unique neighborhood (a historic market district turned Islamic Quarter) maintains much of the original, amazingly colorful, flair. You can find the oldest building in Cape Town on this street, which is now also home to the Bo Kaap Museum.
The suburbs surrounding Cape Town are definitely worth exploring and, depending on your style, may even be a better choice for your accommodations. Our interests drew us to Camps Bay, an area known for its long stretch of white sandy beach, trendy restaurants and rich nightlife scene.
Much of the dining in Camps Bay is upscale but ‘beach comfortable’, but there are also a number of casual options from pool halls to pizza bars. There wasn’t a meal we didn’t enjoy, with Blues Restaurant (http://www.blues.co.za/) being our standout favorite and most memorable, with incredible food and a simply spectacular view. Delicately battered prawns served over arugula, avocado and tomato – a definite highlight with glasses of South African Sauvignon Blanc and Castle Lager the perfect accompaniments!
Not to be missed on a visit to Camps Bay; a quick visit the 12 Apostles Hotel for sunset drinks. The hotel occupies a remote location just at the edge of the Bay, affording it the most stunning Western view imaginable for perfect sunset viewing. While I cannot vouch for the hotel’s food, I can assure you that the house cocktails are almost as divine as the view from the Leopard Bar. Make sure to get there before 6PM to get a good seat on the patio!
We walked to the waterfront from Camps Bay, a long walk (5 miles), but well worth the effort if you enjoy walking tours. This is a beautiful walk following the ever-curving bays into Capetown. A good tip is to leave before 9AM to avoid the hottest part of the day. We ended at the V&A Waterfront after two hours where we enjoyed lunch, explored shops and listened to street performers. The harbor is the jumping off point for a variety of tours (Shark Diving, Fishing Trips) including the iconic Robben Island tour. The tour takes at least three hours and books up fast! Make sure to book ahead of time or plan to get tickets the day before your tour.
Hiking Table Mountain:
‘Normal’ people will take a taxi to the base of Table Mountain and either take the cable car or hike up, and that’s what I’d recommend. We misjudged the time and energy it would take us to walk from our Camps Bay hotel to the base of the mountain. Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we got to the bottom of the mountain! There are many trails of varying difficulty, but the most popular and direct route starts at the bottom of the cable car. The route provides breathtaking views throughout, with an enjoyable traverse across the mountain before a steep trek to the top. Bring plenty of water! Were the views worth the hike? Definitely. The view from the top is gorgeous, but the views along the way are definitely worth the additional effort. Skip the cable car if you can swing it!
Cape Point Tour:
I’m not your typical ‘tour loving’ tourist. I enjoy reading about destinations prior to visiting, and then finding my own way. Certain destinations do lend themselves to a guide – someone who knows the area and provides reliable transportation – and it is nice to connect with a local that has a unique view to offer. When you’re lucky, you even end up making great new friends! We had the pleasure of an extremely knowledgeable guide during our time in Cape Town. Steve Martin was his name – no joke – an easy name to remember. I would highly recommend his guidance on any South African tour.
Our day tour started at 9AM. Steve was able to guide us around the entire Cape Peninsula, including a scenic drive around the base of Table Mountain with a stop for lunch at the Mariner’s Wharf (modeled after San Fran’s Fisherman’s Wharf). A memorable drive along a windy, scenic, ocean-side road watching motorcycles and bicyclists zip down the steep hills.
We continued towards the Southwestern most point of the cape (and Africa itself), passing a troop of baboons out for a Sunday stroll.
Steve Martin warned us to lock the doors as they often break in on their quest for food. One last stop, because who can pass up the chance of a penguin party with a quick visit to their colony on Boulders Beach.
We ended our tour at the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens at the base of Table Mountain, overlooking the city and the sea – full of wildlife. Has our Safari already begun?!
One last stop on our way out of Capetown before making camp in the Winelands. This was one high on my list and we could not pass up the Cheetah sanctuary (Cheetah Outreach), dedicated to promoting the survival of these beauties that purr like pussy cats when you pet them.
We spent 3 full days and 3 nights exploring Cape Town. We could have stayed longer, but with so much to see in South Africa, it was time to move on. It will be nice to return one day with more time to explore and enjoy this enchanting town.