To Do Cape Town / South Africa

DSC06118-2DSC06131-2DSC06194-2DSC06212-2DSC06201-2We met up with family and spent a full week in Cape Town and loved every minute. The coastline is incredibly beautiful and rugged along the water, especially dramatic when shadows are cast by the mountains at sunrise or sunset. There’s much to do for anyone, whether you want to eat and relax or stay active. The only downside we felt was the sharks and mild racism we experienced leftover from apartheid, otherwise an ideal city!

Touristing
Chapman’s Peak is a beautiful drive along a road hanging over the ocean that’ll make your palms clam up. Cape of Good Hope is known as the southernmost point of South Africa (though Cape Agulhas really is). You can FUNicular or walk ten minutes up to the lighthouse, and from there you can take another hour to hike around the point. Nearby at Boulders Beach we watched a colony of penguins patter around, you can snorkel with them too we heard. There’s also tons of vineyards around Cape Town that can be fun if you have a driver (for a fancier vineyard lunch try the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch).

Eating + Shopping
The Old Biscuit Mill is Cape Town’s version of Bushwick, where young creatives are transforming rough terrain into cool coffee shops and craft markets, and facelifting decrepit walls with murals. Along the Victoria and Alfred (V+A) waterfront, the Water Shed warehouse has a ton of local craft vendors and next door is a cute indoor food market. Every restaurant we ate at was great and, with the US exchange rate, affordable. As gourmet as we got, still our favorite food was rusks, which are the cheap tea biscuits found in the cereal aisle ($3 for a whole box!). For a fancier meal, the Harbor House is a whitewashed waterfront shack great for lunch.

Cultural
One thing we regret not doing was visiting a Township, areas on the outskirts of town reserved for non-whites during apartheid. It’s a totally different reality from the posh and well manicured neighborhoods you find in the city. If you ask around you can find someone that leads tours through their Township and you can get a taste of what life is like there. There are very different sides to Cape Town and a very relevant and tangible history that has given rise to the current culture (given that apartheid ended just 20 years ago). We were shocked by the mild racism that still exists, though impressed by how open locals are about apartheid and the progression from. A visit to Robben’s Island is worth it to see where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and get a better understanding of apartheid times – book in advance as days do sell out.

Hiking
Getting a view from the top of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head of the city and the ocean is unreal. Lion’s Head is free to hike up and great early in the morning as the sun is coming up. It’s 50 minutes up at a good clip and requires some climbing with hands, so not recommended for seniors. We found parking along the road, but space looked limited. Same for Table Mountain. We funiculared up since time was limited, but a hike up and funicular down would’ve been our ideal. For a romantic sunset with hundreds of other tourists, there’s snacks and wine up at the top. Be aware, it’s chilly and we waited in line at the top for an hour to get back down. The Kirstenbosch National Botantical Garden is worth a half day trip for wandering (even running), it’s massive.

Surfing
There are tons of surf spots all around Cape Town. Sharks are more prevalent, though still rare, and water is cold (wear a 4/3 and booties). We surfed at Llandudno, Muizenberg, and Kommetjie. There are a ton of surf and coffee shops and a familiar beach vibe in Muizenberg. We also went out one day with a Stoked Surf School guide who drove us further out of town to Big Bay. Here’s more details on Cape Town surfing.

At a glance…

  • Do hike Table Mountain or Lion’s Head.
  • Surf lessons with Stoked Surf School.
  • Drink some wine at local wineries.
  • Learn something and visit Robben’s Island and a Township.
  • Explore en foot Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock. Eat at the hip new Potluck Club, but make a res weeks in advance.
  • Tips – renting a car was ideal, but Uber is also super useful in the area.

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