Known as the “Mother City”, the coastal city of Cape Town, South Africa is truly a breath of fresh air. In the short amount of time I got to spend there, I found the natural scenery absolutely breathtaking, wildlife abundant for watching, history fascinating and world-class restaurants and wines that left me wishing there were more meals in a day so I could taste more.
One of the biggest surprises to me, which may seem a little odd, was the topography. I had absolutely no idea how mountainous this region of the world is and it only added to its beauty.
I soon came to learn that one visit to Cape Town is simply not enough. Here are a few reasons to visit for your first trip (as you’ll fall in love too!)
Easily one of the most recognized and top of the list attractions in Cape Town. It is is flanked by Devil’s Peak on the left and Lion’s Head on the right.
The quickest way up is with the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, or, for the more adventurous, there are a variety of hikes to the top.
My biggest tip is don’t wait for the crowds and keep your eyes on the clouds. Waits can get up to 2-3 hours to get back down once you’re up there. After 1pm you get a discount and we found after 4pm to be the perfect time to go with few clouds and smaller crowds. Many people recommend buying tickets online to avoid waiting in lines, but I liked watching the weather to ensure visibility before purchasing.
Cape of Good Hope
Extending south from Cape Town is the Cape of Good Hope, the peninsula that divides the Atlantic Ocean and False Bay. Did you know False Bay earned its namesake by sailors who confused the bay with Table Bay to the north?
Cape Point, a jagged, narrow strip of land that juts out into the Atlantic and acts as the continent’s southwestern-most point.
Technically, the official “tip of Africa” is actually located about 100 miles southeast at Cape Agulhas, but standing on the edge of Cape Point made me feel like I had reached the edge of the world. Amazing, breathtaking, and impressive don’t even begin to describe the views from the cape. Another stop on the trip where I could have easily spent more hours simply watching the waves go in and out.
And of course, the wildlife is fun too! We ran into some ostrich, but unfortunately we didn’t come across any baboons. So odd because there are actually baboon trackers because they can sometimes be a nuisance!
To get to the Cape of Good Hope, you have to enter the Cape Point Nature Reserve. My biggest tip is start the day early to beat the lines. Our guide mentioned the long waits and he happily agreed to meet us earlier than originally scheduled so we could get an early start on the day. As we were leaving the nature reserve, driving by lines and lines of cars, we were thankful to not have spent our precious time that day sitting and waiting to simply enter.
Located on False Bay, Boulders Beach is one of the few sites in the world where the endangered African penguins can be observed at close range, wandering freely in a protected natural environment.
Easily this was one of my favorite moments on the trip. Penguins in their natural environment, waddling around and swimming through the ocean waters was so endearing!
Parking and lines to see the penguins can become a challenge. During peak season, plan accordingly and allow for ample time to get to Boulders Beach, park, enter and then wait to see the penguins. For a shorty like me, it was even more challenging to get a look with the number of admirers that day.
Bo Kaap is recognizable from the famous bright rainbow-colored houses and cobblestone streets and this vibrant neightborhood houses Cape Town’s Muslim community. The residents are the descendants of “Cape Malays,” slaves brought by Dutch settlers from Malaysia, Indonesia, and numerous African countries.
The people in this area welcome visitors and while there isn’t much to do, the beauty of this neighborhood (and some delicious samosas!) made the stop totally worth it.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens houses more than 7,000 species of indigenous species, many of them rare or threatened. What I loved about my time this particular day was having our private guide take us through the gardens. With such a limited amount of time in Cape Town and to spend at the gardens, he was able to take us directly to some of the highlights and then point out what we should come back for.
I definitely recommend it for an entire day and the chance to have a picnic – and I know I must go back to stay for a concert!
Foodie Dream Destination
Food has and always will play a huge role in my travels and Cape Town did not disappoint! The only disappointment, which was completely understandable and respected is a few restaurants that were high on my to try list were closed for the Christmas holiday. But that didn’t mean we went without some amazing eats.
One retaurant was a true standout and we liked it so much, we went two nights for dinner! Kloof Street House was a special treat – especially when sitting at the bar. Bookasa was probably one of the best bartenders I have ever met in my life. He kept his cool during the busiest points of the evening, had fun no matter how many orders were coming in and his drinks were leaps and bounds better than any I’ve had anywhere! No wonder we sat right in front of him for about 5 hours our last evening in the city.
Harbour House was a seafood lovers dream! The views made the food and wine even more special.
Solo Restaurant was a cute little café/coffee shop where we grabbed lunch. Yes, I flew across the country and ordered chicken and waffles – I believe it’s always a smart choice 😉