Cape Town: The What to Do

Welcome to South Africa week readers! I’m going to be sharing what we did on each of our main stops (see here for our hotels and route) plus a couple of additional South Africa related fashion and lifestyle posts. There may be more than one each day so do come back and as always, if you have any recommendations related to the post, please do comment and let everyone know!

Let’s get started with our first stop, Cape Town, where we spent the first three nights of our trip.

Our flight arrived in around midday and once we had got the car, bags and made the short (~30 minute) drive to our hotel in Camps Bay, the weather had started to go off a bit. We had checked the forecast and were expecting rain for about 24-36 hours from this point so weren’t too disappointed and decided to take in some culture by visiting the South African National Gallery. It turned out this was a great choice as the gallery was hosting a photographic art exhibition about Apartheid which was a great introduction to a time period I didn’t know much about – particularly how recently many of the laws that persecuted black South African people were introduced. The gallery also happened to be right next to Company’s Garden and the Botanical Gardens which we wandered through on-route to Long Street (just a couple of blocks across) and The Grand Daddy Hotel for a celebratory first-day-of-holiday cocktail on the roof under the heaters with blankets and Airstream caravans! It was cold but we were happy and as the weather really moved in we chose a local Camps Bay steak house and grill (which I think is a chain,) called Hussar’s for dinner that evening. We feasted on steak and a burger and enjoyed one too many glasses of brilliant South African wine 🙂

It’s worth noting that we could have spent quite a bit more time in museums – the District Six museum, The Slave Lodge and South Africa Museum all looked interesting and are very inexpensive to get into. (The gallery was R30/£2)

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On Day 2 we were beholden to the weather as the rain with high winds continued  – some of the activities we had on our to-do list like Table Mountain and Robben Island were weather dependent. We decided to make a day of driving down to the Cape of Good Hope and around the Atlantic peninsula which although a wet experience, was a great day and I’d highly recommend it. The weather was quite appropriate as the rugged coastline was pounded by huge waves and racing clouds.

The Cape of Good Hope marks the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and warranted a photo stop before we went to Cape Point where there is a chequered maritime history due to the stormy Cape seas. There is a little museum marking these events, 2 lighthouses (one old and a newer one lower down making it more visible through the omnipresent fog,) and a funicular to take you to the top if you don’t want to walk.

There’s also a nice restaurant and a cafe where you can grab a snack or longer meal and I imagine that would have had an epic view for lunch if the weather had been better. After a warm-up coffee we headed up the Indian Ocean side of the penninsula through Simon’s town to Boulders beach.

Boulders Beach is famous for its African penguin colony – they’re called Jackass Penguins as they make a donkey-like hee-haw noise during the mating season (which we were there during) and apparently in the summer months they swim in the sea with beach goers. We watched them from a viewing deck and wandered down to another beach along the boardwalk with huge boulders and crystal clear turquoise sea as the weather started to brighten up.

By the time we reached our final destination Kalk Bay, the clouds were breaking and we sought out Live Bait for dinner.

Part of the harbour wall, you look directly onto the ocean, harbour and coastline and the seafood we ate there was not only the best but the cheapest we had all holiday. We feasted on a huge seafood platter that cost less than £25 and headed home just before sunset then hung out at the hotel that evening, warming up in our huge bath.

On our final full day in Cape Town the weather was still cold but perfectly sunny so we were able to visit Robben Island and go up Table Mountain. We drove to the V&A Waterfront area and parked before going to the Nelson Mandela Ferry Terminal to board the boat. It was an eventful 30ish minute trip as the sea was still rough and we were rocked a lot but there were amazing views back to Table Mountain and Cape Town!

Your ticket includes the ferry and then two tours. The first is a bus tour by a local Capetonian who told us all about the history of Robben Island – far from being just a prison it has also been a military base and a leper colony. The second part was a tour by a previous political prisoner who details what life was like as a prisoner whilst guiding you through the eerily empty and foreboding prison, including Nelson Mandela’s cell. I was a little unsure how that would be and anticipated it to be harrowing and uncomfortable but our guide stuck to a matter of fact style and covered the daily life and I think I actually would have liked to know more.

After disembarking the boat we grabbed a sandwich at the V&A and had a quick wander around the waterfront. If I’m honest this wasn’t an area that was for us. It was clearly the tourist centre and not representative of Cape Town at all, but it was busy, safe and very jolly with street performers and a fun atmosphere.

By late afternoon we drove back to Table Mountain – you can climb up along several paths of varying difficulty and I think it takes around 2 hours from the car park which is already a good way up, but we opted for the very fast cable car. It only takes about 5 minutes and revolves all the way up. We were told it would be cold at the top but it really was freezing. We were lucky it was clear though with amazing views in front to Table Bay, and left and right over the Cape Flats or the Atlantic coast down to the Cape of Good Hope. There are short, medium or long walks at the top, (which don’t take as long as they say they do) and we spent some time watching the famous ‘tablecloth’ of cloud coming over the top inland, then magically disappearing as it fell onto the Cape Town side.

We were too cold to stay for sunset and headed back to the hotel then chose a place that I had had several recommendations for called the CodFather. They have a great sushi bar and then a fish counter where you choose your fish for dinner but we were warned it was overpriced (we felt) for what it was – especially the prawns, and if I went back I would simply stick to the sushi which was brilliant. We did however very much enjoy our seat by the fire and it was busy with a great atmosphere even though most places were quiet due to the cold weather.

Our final day was my birthday and we woke to even warmer sunny weather. We were due to leave and keen to get to Stellenbosh, but decided to head down to the beach at Camps Bay as we hadn’t had much chance to enjoy it. The beach was glorious – white sand, crashing waves, blue sea. We sat and watched surfers then walked the beach admiring the dramatic back drop of table mountain before heading off for Stellenbosch.

That’s where I’ll leave you readers, until tomorrow!


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14 thoughts on “Cape Town: The What to Do

    1. I’m so glad we aren’t staying at the Waterfront and are in Camps Bay
    2. Love the Yellow coat.

    1. Did you have to book for Robben Island as according to Lonely Planet we should but like you say, what happens if its raining?
    2. If anyone else is staying for longer, what would your other options be for your last day?
    3. Are there fees for getting into the National Parks i.e. do we need to keep change available all of the time?
    4.. In terms of timings, the guide books make it sound like you need to start early and finish late to get stuff done in a day….is this accurate too?

    Sorry for all of the questions…..

    The only other thing is that my best friend has been to Cape Town and said something about a seal colony? Does anyone know anything about this as I think its on the Penguin drive to the Cape?

    LOVE South Africa week.

    • Replies 🙂
      1. We booked in advance for Robben Island but for the first day when the weather turned out to be poor and the ferry was cancelled, ( the Table Mountain cable car was also out of action.) If the trips are cancelled your ticket is automatically refunded to your card and we just went along and bought one on the day we eventually went. It wasn’t busy or a problem but I imagine it may have been in high season.
      2. I would have done more museums…
      3. Yes. The Cape Point area NP was about R90 no fee (I don’t think) for Table Mountain apart from the Cable car ride.
      4. Both the Atlantic peninsula trip and the Robben Island/Table mountain day we spent were full days. (Not crack of dawn starts though, leisurely breakfast first.) We left the first day about 11 and got back at 7 but could have spent longer on beaches etc if the weather was better. Our Robben Island Tour was 11am and we got back to the V&A about 2.30 then to Table Mountain about 3.30-4 and home about 5.30-6.
      Hope that helps!

      • Thanks! I think we will be there in Spring so its not “high season” but I imagine it will be pretty busy.

        P.S. I love how all of your restaurant choices are trip advisor No 1 and 2’s. You are clearly also fans! I’d already earmarked Huzzars in Camps Bay!

        • Actually Becca, I don’t use trip advisor much – I think opinions really are only as useful as your knowledge of the person reviewing it. For example one person may go camping every year and the review a hotel a brilliant which a person used to staying in 4*’s may think is rubbish.
          I always use Lonely Planet Guides though, even now we’re not ‘roughing it’ – Live Bait was found in there. Hussar was recommended by the hotel and Codfather by a friend.
          I also recommend always making use of the concierge too or hotel staff – they know where the good local places are 🙂

          • Totally agree on Lonely Planet but we bought the “Southern Africa” book as we’re going to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Nambia too which I think was a mistake as the sections on each are really thin. The reviews on Amazon said its quite outdated and they are bringing another version out in August for those thinking of booking next year.
            I am wary of things on trip advisor but you do get a general theme emerging when you have so many comments. The best bit now is that I can see whether any of my facebook friends have posted things on particular places so you can gauge the recommendation slightly better.
            Glad you said the Codfather was slightly overpriced as we were thinking about it following another recommendation and I don’t think we’ll bother now.

    • Hey Becca,

      For the Robben Island trips, when I was over there last for a year abroad, I was able to just hop on a boat in September, but not in in Spring. It was SA school holidays when we turned up (March time), so while it wasn’t high season, they were fully booked for a week. Next time I go I’ll definitely book in advance, so as not to be disappointed!

  2. The scenery looks amazing and as for that plate of food… whoa. I never thought South Africa was somewhere I was that interested in but I think these posts are changing my mind! x

  3. Great post – looks like a fab start to your trip. I’m really trying to persuade the other half for us to do SA later this year (albeit a far less fancy version of it!) but he isn’t convinced so these posts will help my cause greatly I reckon! Sounds amazing already and you’re only a few days in!

    Can I ask – when you say you went for dinner and drinks in the evening did one of you always drive or did you get taxis via your hotel or what? I know one of my husbands greatest fears is the whole safety at night element so just wondering how you got around the restaurants of an evening…probably a really naive question, sorry!

    Looking forward to the rest of the posts.

    Anna x

    • Hey 🙂

      One of my biggest concerns and the reason it took us so long to go to SA was the same as your husband, the safety. I’m actually going to write a post about it as part of this week with some tips and my experiences/perspective, so look out for it.

      In terms of getting around at night. On days where we were already out we drove, and Pete wasn’t drinking a great deal (he broke his ribs before we left and consequently was a little under the weather with pain and taking a lot of painkillers.) However, In Cape Town/Camps Bay taxi’s are everywhere, hotels or restaurants will order them for you and they’re perfectly safe and very cheap. Short journeys are only £1-2 and I don’t think we paid much more – that said, we did eat out locally. Even into CT on the first day however was only about R8 though (£5-6) Walking around at night is a no-go – there’s just no-one around and no one local does it either. They drive/taxi everywhere and consequently all the tourist attractions have parking that is also cheap.

      Hope that helps and good luck convincing the hubby – it really was fab.

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