Cape Town is a beach city at heart, putting around 20 sandy stretches at your fingertips. It’s a coastline of two halves, ranging from the icy Atlantic to the warm Indian Ocean. On the Atlantic coast, you’ve got the four beaches of Clifton. They’re all attractive, white-sand swathes fronted by cyan-blue waters and backed by mountain peaks. Further down, there’s Blue Flag-winning Camps Bay Beach. Here, the blonde beaches come with matching glammed-up sunbathers to boot. And the slopes are home to a sprinkling of luxe penthouses. The sands are backed by upmarket cocktail bars and restaurants, along with great views of Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles mountain range. Plus, there are a good helping of sheltered, tot-friendly tidal pools. Over on the False Bay shoreline, you’ll find the famous, penguin-filled Boulders Beach, as well as warm waters for swimming. Muizenberg is a favourite among locals and families – its 20 kilometres’ worth of sand comes with retro bathing boxes and waterslides.
South Africa’s now the seventh-biggest wine producer in the world, with exports expected to grow by 13 per cent in the next decade. A 20-minute drive from Cape Town will take you to the start of the Cape Winelands. This is South Africa’s biggest winemaking region, and the place to sample some of its award-winning wines. The best bit? The tastings won’t set you back a fortune. You can taste a selection of wine from around 40 Rand – around £2.20. If you do your research, you’ll find a couple of estates even offer free-of-charge tastings. Stellenbosch is one of the most well-known routes, with just-short of 200 wine farms. But it’s not just the wine that makes these areas stand out. The towns in these parts are hubs of art, culture and food. Stellenbosch’s art galleries, museums and bars are constantly packed with students, locals and tourists. While the laid-back town of Franschhoek has earned the title of South Africa’s culinary capital, thanks to its chic, French-style restaurants. And to top it all off, the scenery is real travel magazine territory – all mountains, lakes and lush vineyards, decorated with traditional Cape Dutch manor houses.
Once you’ve had your fill of wine, you can turn your attention to Cape Town’s restaurant scene. And it certainly doesn’t fall short. Case in point – it’s been crowned the Number One Food City in the World by Condé Nast readers, beating the likes of Dubai and Hong Kong. It also happens to have Africa’s best restaurant in residence. The Test Kitchen prides itself on cutting-edge dishes, like scallop with cauliflower cheese foam, which are paired with unusual crockery, and a matching wine and tea. Cape Town’s cuisine has a traditional side to it, too. Cape Malay food blends African traditions with Malaysian and Indonesian influences, resulting in saucy and spice-heavy curries, stews and roasts. Head to the city’s brightly-coloured Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap, where the Cape Malay dishes get the thumbs-up from locals and tourists alike. While you’re there, don’t forget to snap some Instagram-worthy shots of the hot pink, orange and lime-green houses – no filter required.
You don’t need a boat to spot whales in South Africa. That’s because it boasts some of the best land-based whale-watching in the world. Just under two hours’ drive from Cape Town, Hermanus is well set up for sightings, with seven miles of coastal paths. From July to November, the shoreline is awash with migrating southern right whales, who come to calve and nurse in the warm waters. Humpback, minke and killer whales often stop by, as well. They frequently come within metres of the shore, so you’ll get an up-close view of them in action. If you don’t have a car, simply head for a waterfront café along the False Bay coastline. And there’s a good chance your meal will come with an acrobatic side show.
Cape Town happens to be just up the coast from the Great White Shark Capital of the World. Gansbaai – around two hours’ drive away – is a popular jump-off point for cage-diving trips. A boat will whisk you to the aptly-named Shark Alley, where you can lower yourself into a submerged cage and watch the huge predators in their natural habitat. For less of an adrenaline rush, you can watch from the boat, as the sharks thrash about and leap out of the waters. There are trips closer to Cape Town, too. False Bay and Simon’s Town are both shark hotspots. Plus, it’s not just tourists drawn to the furry residents of Seal Island. Great Whites are regular visitors to the area, so it’s a good spot to watch them hunt. Shark cage-diving in Gansbaai runs all year-round, while Seal Island trips only head out between May and September.
Just because it’s a city doesn’t mean Cape Town lacks wildlife. On top of whales and sharks, you can also check out penguins. You’ll find the black-and-white critters on Boulders Beach, about an hour’s drive from the city centre. As well as being home to around 2,000 endangered African Penguins, the beach is also a postcard-perfect stretch of white sand, so it’s really a two-for-one deal. You’re free to roam about the beach, exploring its gigantic, granite boulders, rock pools and calm, wind-sheltered waters. But the best penguin viewing point is from the wooden walkways that line the sands.
Despite being a cosmopolitan capital, Cape Town still gives nods to its past. After all, it is the oldest settlement in South Africa. A good place to start is at the Castle of Good Hope – the city’s oldest building. Nearby, you’ve also got the Company’s Garden. This place started as a vegetable patch in the 17th-century, and has grown into a beautiful botanical garden with an aviary, fish pond and rose garden. Then there’s the District Six Museum, which traces the forced removal of a whole community during the Apartheid era. If you only do one history trip, though, Robben Island is a must. It’s where many of the country’s freedom fighters were imprisoned, and Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in a prison cell here. Today, tours take you around the former maximum security prison and the lime quarry where prisoners were forced to work. Plus, you’ll be led around by former prisoners of the site, who can share their first-hand experiences with you. Since it’s so popular, you’ll need to book in advance.
Google ‘South Africa’ and we bet the image results return a familiar flat-topped mountain. Soaring 1,087 metres over Cape Town, Table Mountain is one of the country’s most snapped landmarks. Its bottle-green peaks are often covered in a layer of cloud, dubbed the tablecloth. With that in mind, it’s best to visit during the city’s long, dry summer, from November to February. This is the perfect weather to enjoy hiking in the surrounding National Park, which also lays claim to Lion’s Head, the Twelve Apostles and wild baboons. If you don’t want to brave the hike to the top, you can take the cableway. It takes just seven minutes to reach the summit, and each cabin revolves so you can see the views from every angle. Alternatively, for photos with the world-famous landmark in sight, hike or drive up Signal Hill or Lion’s Head.
Last but not least, it’s one of the best-value destinations around at the minute. Post-Brexit, the pound has weakened against the Euro and Dollar, but that’s not the case in South Africa. In fact, the Sterling’s currently reached an all-time high against the Rand, with £1 worth more than R20 – that’s double what it was just five years ago. So, if you exchange £500 into Rand, you can expect to get an extra £130.
So, what are you waiting for? See the world’s best city for yourself on one of our Cape Town City Breaks.
Author: Annabel Langley
The puts you in the heart of the action in Cape Town. Restaurant-lined Long Street is 10 minutes’ walk away, while there’s a free shuttle bus to the V&A Waterfront.
You’ll find the in one of Cape Town’s seafront suburbs. As such, you’re a few minutes’ walk from the ocean.
With the dramatic Lion’s Head mountain on one side and a sandy beach on the other, the has one eye-catching postcode.
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