Cape Town is one of those destinations that you dream about visiting. Being a the tip of South Africa, it adds an elusiveness to the destination and travelling there instantly becomes harder in your mind than it is in reality.
In reality, the flights are no more expensive to that of Dubai, Bali or many of the other well travelled destinations of people from Ireland and once you get there you can rest assured that you will spend less there than you ever would somewhere like Dubai as well.
I planned my itinerary for Cape Town with the assumptions that I might never visit there ever again – because who knows, I might not! While it definitely isn’t as difficult or as expensive to get to as even I first anticipated, there is always a chance that I may never return which meant I wanted to really make use of my time while I was there. Cape Town was the last stop on our 16 days road trip through South Africa and we were looking of a mixture of adventure, with a little bit of time to unwind. Here are some of the top things I recommend doing while you are in Cape Town:
ALONG THE CAPE:
Muizenberg beach is one of the nicest beaches on this side of the cape and would be most notably known for it’s gorgeous fishermans cottages that will no doubt catch your eye as you drive passed.
Simons Town, Boulders Beach (Penguins!)
If you are looking to get up close and personal with the Penguins of the cape, then look no further than Boulders Beach! Boulders beach while busier than Bettys Bay, is also home to more penguins and I felt like it has more to offer in general. You have to pay a small admission fee into Boulders Beach to walk along their man made promendade and while you will find Penguins dotted about the walk and sometimes in your way, try and keep your distance where possible. If you exit Boulders beach entirely and walk left down that road it will bring you to a second area called Foxy Beach. This is a much less restricted area where you can do and play with your penguin friends! You have to pay a small admission fee into here also, but if you keep your ticket from Boulders Beach it will allow you access to here also. There is no promise that you will see Penguins here, but when I visited they were dotted along the beach and one even hopped into the water with me and swam around my feet! It’s a lot more relaxed at Foxy beach and with half the crowds, it really is a must do.
Camps Bay Beach
In my opinion, Camps Bay is the nicest beach that Cape Town has to offer. The streets are lined with bars and restaurants just parallel to the beach meaning you have plenty to do while you spend your day there. Not a fan of the sea? Camps Bay also have a tidal pool that you can swim in to avoid those pesky waves and crazy currents.
Apparently one of the most romantic places to stop along the cape route, Chapmans Peak is not to be missed. Make sure to create your itinerary so that you arrive at this destination for sunset to really make the most of the amazing view.
IN THE CITY OF CAPE TOWN:
The V&A Waterfront is the most popular place in all the city. Here is where you will find an array of eateries, a huge shopping centre and a ferris wheel complimented by a beautiful view by the water. Here, you can organise a boat tour along the cape or just spend your days wandering through markets and shopping centres alike. There is really no avoiding the V&A waterfront during your stay!
Helicopter & Marine Safari
This was something that I had not planned before coming to Cape Town, but after having done one I would HIGHLY recommend booking this during your stay! We booked a helicopter tour and marine safari in one, and it just so happened that we got crystal clear weather for the day that we chose. We chose the company Cape Town Helicopters and did the ocean safari with Ocean Experiences – and this is the exact tour that we booked here. The two together cost us roughly €140 each, and personally, I think that is an amazing price for two really amazing experiences with two highly established companies.
This is one of Cape Towns most distinct neighbourhoods, and when you get here you will see just why! The choice of colour for each building is said to be attributed to the fact that while on lease, all the houses had to be white. When this rule was eventually lifted, and the slaves were allowed to buy the properties, all the houses were painted bright colours by their owners as an expression of their freedom. Easily accessible from the waterfront by foot, this is the perfect place to spend the day walking around, taking in the views and sampling one of the many cafés and eateries within the vicinity. *Yes, that is a abdly photoshopped blue sky, but I just didn’t think the grey skies that we saw did the houses any justice so I couldn’t help but tamper with it!!*
The Companys Garden
The Companys Garden is a beautiful green in the centre of the city. Having stumbled upon here by mistake, this was a very pleasant surprise to find! The garden is quite extensive, with markets of authentic handmade items being sold here on a weekend. It is the perfect place to go for a walk and relax and for a small price you can buy nuts from the locals to feed the friendly birds and squirrels!
NATURE & HIKING:
Table Mountain is the most renown mountain in Cape Town, and for a brilliant reason. Situated within Table Mountain National Park, you can reach the summit in a number of ways. There are several paths up to the top of table mountain, but we chose to take the path called ‘Platteklip Gorge’ which is a roughly one hour climb to the top of the mountain. The top isn’t a summit in the way you would usually be used to as due to the flat surface, there is quite a bit of exploring to do once you arrive. On top of the mountain you will find a café, toilets and multiple look out points along with the cable car that can take you both up and down. The queues can get incredibly long, so make sure that you book your ticket in advance to avoid waiting too long. Tickets are roughly €11 for one way and €18 for return – you can find out more about tickets here.
We hiked up the mountain and decided to get the cable car down. If you decide to hike, make sure that you pack for all weather conditions as it is known to go from fair weather to high winds in an instant. The climb is not the worst, but if done in Summer make sure to bring plenty water with you as it can get quite warm in parts. If you have a decent level of fitness I would recommend climbing up as you get to see the city down below from an array of angles, and it is also quite rewarding.
Lions Head mountain is a smaller mountain in the city, and quite distinct looking from a distance with its pointed summit. The climb is shorter than table mountain at about 40 minutes up and 25/30 minutes down but more steep and with a more difficult route. There are areas of the climb which involve using chains to hold on, as well as metal steps in the rocks to go from a lower level up to complete the climb.
Signal Hill for Sunset
If you are looking for a place to go to watch sunset, then Signal Hill is one of the most popular within the city. You can drive to the summit of this hill which is why it is so popular, but once you are up there you can nab a spot on one of the benches. Bring a blanket and a picnic to create the perfect evening!
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch is claimed to be one of the best botanical gardens in the world, and is easily visited in Cape Town by car. Kirstenbosch includes a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden, a braille trail, and a cycad amphitheatre. There is also the Botanical Society Conservatory, which houses plants from the continent’s more arid regions. To immerse yourself in all that the Garden has to offer, it is worth taking one of the free guided tours that depart from the Visitors’ Centre at 11am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday. If the times are inconvenient, audio guides are also available. If you aren’t too afraid of heights, make sure to find time to walk the Tree Canopy Walkway which gives stunning views of the surrounding.
While in Cape Town, we had four days to cram in as much sights and activities as possible. We did not get to do absolutely everything listed above, but anything we did not get the chance to do were highly recommend to us by our tour guide before going or by people that we met along the way. Cape Town is such a diverse city that allows you to enjoy everything from gastronomy and nightlife to marine life and mountain climbs. Have you ever been to Cape Town before, is there anything that you would add to the list of things to do here?