When it’s cold on the Cloud in the Northern Hemisphere, I head south of the equator to Cape Town in South Africa to enjoy the outdoor life. Cape Town is a multicultural and friendly city full of fun and action!
The first Europeans to visit the region were the Portuguese who entered the waters around Cape Town in 1488. The explorer Vasco de Gama sighted the nearby Cape of Good Hope in 1497. It was the Dutch, however, that first settled the region when the Dutch East India Company planted a colony in 1652. Cape Town is thus the oldest urban area in Southern Africa. The British captured the city from the Dutch in 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars but it was returned in 1803 before it was permanently ceded to the British in 1814.
Here’s a pro tip: I use Cape Town as my embarkation post for trips to Antarctica. While it is not the closest urban area to the frozen continent, it is perhaps the most convenient. I enjoy spending several days there on either side of a trip to the ice.
Today, Cape Town is frequented by outdoor lovers who enjoy hiking, surfing, sailing and generally enjoying the warm sunshine. There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that it is difficult to shorten the list to the highlights. However, here are my favourite “must-sees”:
- The Cape of Good Hope – It’s obligatory to stand at the most southerly point on the continent of Africa and look out to sea (and what will you see? You’ll see the sea!).
Kite-surfing with Table Mountain in the background.
Those clouds are called “The Table Cloth”!
- You can also stop at nearby Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony. The penguins come here for holiday as well!
- Table Top, Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak – a hike up these mountains requires physical effort but offers a thrilling view of Cape Town. If you’re not feeling so energetic, you can take a cable car up to Table Mountain. There are more than 70 peaks higher than 300 meters (980 feet) within the city limits!
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden – stroll this park and enjoy the vast collection of plants; some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
- Winery tours – the nearby Stellenbosch region produces some of the finest red and white wines in the world. I’m convinced the best wines are prohibited for export because the locals enjoy them too much!
- Aquila Private Game Reserve – while this doesn’t have the attraction of a bigger park like Kruger, you can still see the Big Five just a short distance from your hotel!
- Robben Island Museum – this island was a prison for centuries but its most famous inmate was former President Nelson Mandela. The museum is a sobering reminder of the recent period of Apartheid in South Africa.
- V&A Waterfront – this is the Victoria and Alfred port which houses an entertainment district to rival Navy Pier in Chicago.
- Adventure Sports – whatever your adventurous thrill may be, you can probably enjoy it in Cape Town including; paragliding from Table Top, swimming with sharks, surfing, ballooning, sailing, kite-surfing and whale watching.
Shark Diving is risky, so check your insurance!
Here’s another pro tip: If you enjoy adventure sports then please ensure that your travel insurance includes a rider for such activities. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Reaching Cape Town is easy because of the efficient Cape Town International Airport. There are convenient services from many major hubs and easy connections over Johannesburg. Once in the city, you can use the MyCiTi articulated buses that operate on dedicated busways. Taxis are available and also popular ride-sharing services. Of course, Cape Town is a port as well. So options via boats and ships are available.
Some of my favourites include The Queen Victoria Hotel right in the V&A Waterfront, the Bay Hotel which is beautifully situated on Camps Bay and the relaxing Cellars-Hohenort Hotel & Spa.
I recently stayed at the Cap Serein Guest House owned by Petra and Kurt Schramm. This small property offers welcoming and affordable guest houses and Kurt is a fantastic chef who greets you in the morning with a tasty breakfast!
Speaking of food… Cape Town offers a dizzying variety of options because of its multicultural heritage. At the best restaurants, food is sourced locally from the verdant surroundings and is therefore fresh and clean.
Cape Town Airport: Do elephants lay eggs?
My favourite restaurants include The Pot Luck Club on the sixth floor of the Old Biscuit Mill which offers a panoramic view of the city, and Greenhouse which features deconstructed local cuisine at the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel. Willoughby’s & Co. – an institution within the V&A Waterfront and The Skotnes Restaurant within the Norval Foundation art museum.
On the path climbing Lion’s Head Mountain
It’s a bit of a secret because it’s situated in the atrium of the Honest Chocolate Café. The Planet Bar at the luxurious Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel offers nearly perfect cocktails and has an excellent wine selection. The offbeat Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar in Cape Town Central is fun and the view is great!
Here’s a final pro tip: the low value of the Rand makes local purchases affordable. I’d recommend stocking up on wines from the region. They are good value, can be shipped directly to your home and are much lower priced than in Europe.
I hope you take the time to visit Cape Town during the summer. It’s a welcome break from the cold weather of the Northern Hemisphere!