There really isn’t anywhere quite like it; Cape Town is a soul-lifting oasis that connects humankind to mother nature in the most theatrical way imaginable. Breathtaking sunsets, magical mountainous backdrops and beautiful coastlines coalesce to form just a fragment of Cape Town’s charm.
This wonderful city, and its surrounding landscape, was at the top of my travel bucket list until I first visited in early 2019 – I have been back twice since. Whether you are looking for an adventure or a place to unwind, Cape Town has it all.
Before you venture out of the city, there are some must-see spots right in the heart of Cape Town. South Africa has a rich, vibrant culture that permeates the air, and its various cities and towns are shrouded in history; Cape Town is no exception to this. Bo-Kaap, a former slave quarter, boasts a collection of colourful houses that have been renovated post-apartheid and is one of the most photographed locations of the city. These cobbled streets are not just photogenic, they have a story to tell – head to Bo-Kaap Museum for an interesting history lesson.
The V&A Waterfront is a definite must-see; the historic harbour is set against the backdrop of Table Mountain, with ample opportunities for shopping. Popular with tourists, this pretty marina also hosts a multitude of bustling restaurants and bars, where you can find locally caught fresh seafood and top-quality steak. One of the best ways to see Cape Town and its sunsets is on one of the many evening catamaran tours; sit back and relax with a glass of fizz and take in the vistas in the golden light – you may even be joined by dolphins or whales.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in South Africa’s powerful historical legacy, there’s no better place to do so than on Robben Island. Home to the prison in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, Robben Island is a fundamental rung in the ladder to South Africa’s freedom. Visitor tours begin with a boat trip from the waterfront and progress with a guided tour from an ex-inmate. Informative and heart-warming at the same time, a visit to the prison is a must to understand this country’s past and present.
For an active way to witness Cape Town’s magic, you should head to Lion’s Head Mountain, where you can follow a winding hiking trail to the summit. Surrounded by the glistening ocean and towering above the entirety of Cape Town as you ascend, this hike gives you 360-degree panoramic views when you reach the top – and it is so worth it. The best time to put your hiking gear on and head to the trail is either at sunrise or sunset, where you’ll be able to find some relief from the scorching sun.
The star of the show, however, is undoubtedly Table Mountain; this magnificent feat of nature soars over the city and is its defining feature. Whether you choose to tackle the difficult hike or would rather take a leisurely journey in the cable car, the reward at the top is an awe-inspiring view like no other and you will not be disappointed.
Not to be overlooked is the beautiful Camps Bay which is my favourite area to stay; bursting with stylish bars and restaurants, this sandy bay is lined with palm trees and is nestled at the base of the Twelve Apostles. A perfect spot to catch the sunset, Camps Bay is also home to wonderful boutique hotels and stunning apartments.
Before you leave Cape Town, take a trip to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens where you can glide through the treetops on the aerial walkway known as ‘Boomslang’. These gardens are blooming with biodiversity and are famous for their spectacular floral displays which have earned them status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Road trip: Cape of Good Hope
The day trip down to the Cape of Good Hope begins with a world-famous scenic drive that will take your breath away; Chapman’s Peak Drive hugs the cliffside as it winds its way around the headland and boasts magnificent coastal road views. 5km in length, this toll road links Hout Bay with Noordhoek and offers picnic spots and viewpoints along the way.
To beat the crowds, head out early and straight down to Cape of Good Hope. At the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula, the rocky cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope sit boldly overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Deep sapphire and pastel blues swirl below you as you look out to sea and feel as though you are at the end of the earth; this dramatic coastline is one of the highlights of a trip to South Africa. Once you have taken in its natural beauty, continue on to Cape Point where you will discover more humbling views, thousands of sea birds and a historic lighthouse.
On your return journey, stop off to see the famous Boulders Penguin Colony, where over 3000 African Penguins reside. Beginning at the Boulders Visitor Centre, you can take the boardwalk that meanders down to the coves and gives you a closer look at the penguins. This endangered species is protected and has grown substantially over time.
Before heading back to Cape Town, it is worth stopping for something to eat in Kalk Bay, a small but vibrant fishing village that is home to an abundance of quirky restaurants and independent shops. Fish and Chips is popular here, with fresh catches a daily occurrence. If you are interested in naval history or fancy a harbourside drink, Simon’s Town is also worth a visit; with two naval museums and a picturesque waterfront, this small town is a popular pit-stop.
Wine region: Franschhoek and Stellenbosch
The wineries in and around Cape Town are amongst the most beautiful in the world; with South Africa considered by many as the motherland of winemaking, a visit to the wine region is an absolute must. A personal favourite of mine is Franschhoek, a small picturesque town in the heart of the winelands, surrounded by majestic mountains. Not only does this little haven host an abundance of elegant restaurants and chic shops but is also the starting point for the Franschhoek Wine Tram.
This historic tram takes you through the countryside and allows you to hop off at the wine estates of your choice; well-organised and a lot of fun, the tram tour is the best way to experience the wine region in a day. Wine tastings can be organised on arrival and there are opportunities to buy your favourites. The Orange and Purple lines were recommended to me by a local hotel owner, and they did not disappoint; Boschendal, Babylonstoren and Vrede en Lust were amongst the most picturesque wineries on these routes. If you’re looking for somewhere to have a sparkling wine sundowner, Haute Cabrière is famous for its Méthode Cap Classique and offers spectacular views of the valley.
Stellenbosch is also home to an array of wineries; with charming vineyards and mountainous views, these wine estates are also worth a visit. With many of the estates offering high-class wines, quality dining and good value tours, you will be spoilt for choice. Meerlust, Marianne Wines and Delaire Graff Estate are some of the most popular. If you are searching for delicious dining, Stellenbosch is the perfect choice. With many restaurants specialising in high-quality steaks and fine dining, you won’t struggle to find what you’re looking for.
Cape Town is calling
Cape Town is not just special because of everything it has to offer, but also because it makes you feel at home; it opens your heart and gets under your skin. The scenery evokes a deep sense of gratification for mother nature and makes your heart burst with joy. Whether you are sitting at the top of Table Mountain in the last light, sipping on a Pinot Noir in a sun-soaked vineyard, or listening to the crashing of the waves at the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town will leave you wanting to return before you have left.
Featured Image: © Kyle Frederick