SA Itinerary 1: Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula
Starting point: Cape Town International Airport
Collect your pre-arranged rented vehicle from the appropriate parking-lot and ask for a detailed map and/or instructions to get to your first stop-over. If you’ve not been to the Western Cape previously, this is most likely to be Cape Town.
You’ll have to drive along the motorway bordering one of the ‘townships’ that surround the more salubrious parts of Cape Town, this is initially off-putting for some visitors, but it’s part of being in an emerging nation. Just don’t go there unless you are on a guided tour.
Although it’s the big city at the ‘bottom’ of the continent of Africa, Cape Town is actually orientated to the North, on the Atlantic. The tip of the continent is Cape Agulhas, a bit to the south and east. But it is the location of the first settlement by Europeans and the city surrounds the ‘Company Garden‘ park, created originally to provide fresh provisions for Dutch ships progressing to and from the East Indies and now an attractive green ‘lung’ in the centre of the hectic metropolis.
Cape Town has spread between the ocean to the lower slopes of Table Mountain, with the downtown City Bowl facing north and the suburbs and original wine growing area of Constantia facing south.
Accommodation in Cape Town
We’ve stayed in a range of accommodation on our various visits in and around Cape Town. In the city centre Phil and Liz make you exceptionally welcome at Parker’s Cottage, a beautifully decorated establishment just off Kloof Street. Breakfasts are charmingly presented and Phil hosts an early evening wine tasting event twice a week which introduced us to a couple of wines we investigated further.
Things to do in Cape Town
Company Gardens is a long, narrow park sloping down towards the waterfront; it has a cafe which is a welcome sight if you've been walking round the city centre.
South African National Gallery is adjacent to Company Gardens; it has a permanent collection and good temporary shows.
V&A Waterfront is a development of the original docks area of Cape Town [it is still a major port] bars, cafes, hotels, shops and waterborne activities — trips out are all here in a quite tasteful package.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden has a wonderful display of indiginous South African plants with lots of seats in shady bowers to appreciate the plants from a cooler vantage point. It's also famous for hosting open air concerts — especially for New Year's Eve.
Big Red Tour Bus takes you to Kirstenbosch, Groot Constantia winery, Hout Bay and Camp's Bay, great if you have not got your car and good value for money too.
Dining and Drinking in Cape Town
Long Street has many bars, cafes and restaurants including Fork [at 84 Long Street], a tapas bar with an upstairs terrace for evenings. For other casual dining options, fashionable Kloof Street has Arnold's a very friendly bar/cafe/restaurant open all day and Hudson's, a very good burger restauarant. Both of these have outdoor seating to watch the hip crowd go by. We have also been to Savoy Cabbage on Bree Street that combines high quality food and presentation in a stripped walls and industrial chic style of environment.
The Cape Peninsula
South of the city bowl and suburbs surrounding Table Mountain is a mountainous peninsula that terminates at Cape Point. The spine of the peninsula is a continuation of the Table Mountain National Park with a diversity of communities tucked into the spaces between the mountains and the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno are all upmaket locations facing due west, further south is Hout Bay and Noordhoek and Kommetje separated by the private Chapman's Peak scenic drive. Facing east on the slopes of Table Mountain are the wine estates and mansions of Constantia with Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fishhoek and Simon's Town on the road down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.
Accommodation on Cape Peninsula
Our top recommendation is The King's Place, on Valley Road, Hout Bay. Comrising of two large properties — one divided into apartments and a large house available in it's entirety or divided in two. The Pool Room apartment is our favorite — see our Tripadvisor review. The owners also have a livery stable and greenhouses for their landscaping business on site and you have access to the tennis court too — equipment provided.
Things to do on The Cape Peninsula
In Hout Bay, the Mariner's Wharf and fishing port is a big attraction for day visitors with themed facilities and attractions on the quay — a band and a performing seal are often present. There are trips out to see the seal colony at Duiker Seal Island and traversing the Chapman's Peak Scenic Drive [toll payable] is a must. The beach is well looked after, but invariably windy, so not so good as sunbathing venue. For self-caterers there are plenty of shops and supermarkets: upmarket Woolworths [very similar to M & S in the UK] a big Checkers and a SPAR that both offer pre-cooked hot food to take away.
Just north of Hout Bay is Llandudno — a community of beach house properties—some in a contemporary style to die for, perched above a gorgeous beach with huge boulders either end, popular with surfers during the day and with couples, friends and families for 'sundowners' in the evening — ignoring the ban on alcohol on the beach signs. A very popular venue with parking marshalls helping you find space to leave your car. Llandudno is also the access point for Sandy Bay where you can sunbathe how you like. It's part of the Table Moutain National Park — you have to walk through the fynbos vegetation to get to the beach.
Noordhoek and Kommetjie are at the south end of the Chapman's Peak Scenic Drive, the beach at Noordhoek seems to go on forever — we've yet to walk the full distance, accessed over dunes protecting some very attractive beach house properties.
Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Simon's Town on False Bay have a British seaside atmoshere about them — the naval station at Simon's Town is a British legacy with old British style suburban trains running along the back of the beaches. There are cafes and antique [junk] shops and fish and chips is very popular too.
Boulders Penguin Colony is around the corner from Simon's Town, a colony of African Penguins that live amoung the eponymous rocks and in some residents gardens too. Access is controlled by the SANParks organisation allowing visitors to traverse a boardwalk above the penguins' burrows and gathering places.
The Constantia Wine Estates were established by the first governor of the Cape Province for the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. In addition to their original purpose they are now a big tourist attraction and the mansions lining the roads surrounding the estates are some of the most prestigious addresses in Cape Town. The original estate was divided up and at Groot Constantia Estate, now owned by a trust, you pay R 33.00 each for tastings in a big Cape Dutch style building; friendly and on the Big Red Bus tour route, it also has two restuarants. Klein Constantia is a family run venture where tastings are on the deck near the winery; whereas Constantia Uitsig Estate now has three restaurants, an hotel and a spa — all in Cape Dutch style — in addition to the wine farm. Tastings are R 25.00 per person. The Steenberg Estate has a contemporary winery adjacent to a tasting area and bistro style restuarant overlooking a water feature and garden featuring indigenous plants. Also on the estate is an hotel with restuarant and an 18-hole golf course! Buitenverwachting Estate is more traditional, wine tastings are in a converted farm building, as is the restaurant. Picnics can also be ordered and consumed under the trees.
Dining and Drinking on the Cape Peninsula
A favorite location for a sundowner drink in the bar, eating on the terrace or in the restaurant is the Chapman's Peak Hotel overlooking Hout Bay. The recommended calamari platter and other seafood should be paired with a bottle of Adi Badenhorst's Secateurs Chenin Blanc. The Ocean Basket chain of seafood restaurants are very popular too and offer fantastic value-for-money. You can sit outside under a big tree at the Hout Bay location and enjoy platters of prawns in 3 sizes, fried or grilled fish accompanied by chips or rice and you can BYO [bring your own wine] or choose from a good list. Friday night is live band night at The Lookout Deck down on the quay overlooking the fishing boats and pleasure craft. There's the bar for just a drink or a platter, the outside deck if the weather is OK or the more formal restaurant. If it's not too windy The Dunes on Beach Road has an attractive upper deck all in scraped-paint beach shack style. For a more funky vibe Pakalolo offer Mexican[ish] food, cocktails and wifi internet access.