We packed Susie off for a trip to explore South Africa and to research where to go and what to do if you have a few days to spend in Cape Town.
“I was struck by the warmth and openness of the South Africa people who were always happy to help with a smile and a hello – they really make you feel at home. Here’s my round up of the key things not to miss whilst stopping over in Cape Town!”
There are several different areas to stay within Cape Town depending on what you are looking for – ask us for guidance if you’d like to know where would suit you best!
One of the most popular places to stay in Cape Town is the V&A Waterfront. Buzzing with restaurants, cafes, bars and shops each and every venue is filled with locals and holiday makers in the evenings.
There are plenty of hotels here, the most famous being Cape Grace which has fantastic views across the harbour. Along the waterfront you’ll find many shops and restaurants and the convention centre, home to events like the Cape Town Jazz Festival. From here you can take a harbour cruise, with or without dinner. Cruises vary in price from simple sight-seeing cruises to luxury 3 or 4 course dinners – ask us for recommendations and we’ll find right trip for you.
Backpackers will probably want to head for Lake Street in central Cape Town. Home to several hostels, the Lake Street area is teeming with cool pubs and shops as well as help centres like Nomads Africa and the Tourist Information Centre. Every night, this street is buzzing with young backpackers and is definitely the place to meet other like-minded travellers.
For those looking for a relaxing beach holiday, head to Camps Bay. Approximately an hour’s drive from Cape Town International Airport (if you take the scenic route) and just 15 minute drive from the centre of Cape Town, Camps Bay has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that instantly makes you feel like you’re on holiday.
This area is a paradise for those who love beach life, infact, the beach at Camps Bay is often used in adverts and promotions which gives you an idea of the beauty on offer. As an affluent area, it has many restaurants, tapas venues and trendy wine bars - many with views across the bay. It’s a perfect place to enjoy sundowners and sample freshly caught fish whilst celeb spotting - Leonardo DeCaprio has been known to visit Camps Bay to enjoy the sunset!
Food and drink are affordably priced; a 2 course meal with wine starts at approximately £20 a head, beer at £1 and a glass of wine £3. A great choice for an evening meal is UMI - with a large terrace overlooking the bay, this restaurant serves fresh sushi and meat and fish dishes with an excellent wine and cocktail list. Another popular dining option is the Village & Life Club House, serving tapas and South African wine.
The local bus services to Camps Bay are regular and reliable and a new system, Myciti Bus Link is currently being installed (Spring 2014) which will make connections around the city even smoother.
Car Rental is popular in Cape Town with good roads and manageable distances between places. Personally, I found the public transport system fantastic and using it means you’ll avoid the stress of traffic and finding parking – drama you could avoid on holiday!
The open-top hop-on/hop-off bus costs £7 for 24 hours. There are 18 stops encompassing the whole of Cape Town including Table Mountain, the central town and museums like the South African Museum and the Jewish Holocaust Centre.
Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, check-in and jump on the hop on hop off bus for a tour of the city highlights (you can buy a ticket on the bus). Stops include the South Africa Museum, Jewish Museum, The Castle of Good Hope, Camps Bay and the Aquarium so you can jump off at places of interest.
End your day at the top of Table Mountain for sunset - the views from the summit are spectacular. Sunset can be a busy time so allow plenty of time. Dine at the top whilst overlooking the whole of Cape Town as you see the sun set and the moon rise over the Atlantic!
Day 2: Head down to the V&A waterfront, for some retail therapy. With over 450 retail outlets this is the perfect location for some light shopping. Or visit the Two Oceans Aquarium to see 3,000+ sea creatures including sharks, seals, turtles and penguins!
Enjoy lunch along the waterfront before heading to Robben Island, home to the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. Tours are often guided by former political prisoners who will share their first-hand accounts of life in the prison at Robben Island. You can visit the prison, including the cell in which Nelson Mandela spent so many years of his life.
Robben Island tours depart from the waterfront throughout the day until 3pm, the latest returning at 6.30pm. The 45-minute ferry ride offers great views across the city, Table Mountain and its coastline and you need to allow about 3.5 hours to explore the island.
Once back at the V&A water front , why not explore with a harbour dinner cruise or a visit to one of the many restaurants and bars in Camps Bay?
Day 3: Take a day trip up to Cape Point which will include Cape Point and the Good Hope Nature Reserve, Hout Bay, Seal Island and Simons Town, along the scenic coast. All the way you’ll encounter beaches, historic villages and scenic views with stops in quaint fishing villages and Chapman’s Peak - towering peaks with sheer drops into the sea below, before reaching the Cape of Good Hope.
Take a hike and you will see zebra, ostrich and antelope, or take to the water for diving and snorkeling, with shipwrecks waiting to be discovered just off the shore.
Day 4: Bottoms up – today you’ll explore the wine lands! Just a short drive from Cape Town, enjoy a day wandering through the vineyards, sampling the local vintage and tasting the foodie delights. You might want to consider booking a hotel here to continue your trip! OR, for the wild at heart - CapeTown is one the best spots in the world to go cage diving with Great White Sharks. Trips depart daily, early in the morning. Trip prices vary but are around £75 – if you dare!
Self-drive to the wine lands - hire a car and spend a night or two at in Franschoek or Stellenbosch. The little town of Stellenbosch is an artist’s paradise with plenty of galleries to explore. Being a student town, Stellenbosch has lots of buzzing cafes, pubs and eateries to enjoy as well as all the stunning vineyards. Franschoek is smaller but renowned for its culinary delights - visitors flock from miles to visit the top restaurants in Franschoek such as Reuban on Le Quartier Francais (the number 1 restaurant in the country!) booking is essential as they fill up fast!
For those looking for something a bit different Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms – stroll through the grounds enjoying the plants and animals before a delicious lunch of freshly baked bread, cooked meats and homemade cheese and chutney – (the best sandwich I have ever tasted!). Here you can stay in one of 13 luxury cabins with a stunning spa, swimming pool and gym. Use the free bikes to explore the farm and children can go out with the workers to help on the farm or feed the animals. Fresh fruit picked from the gardens is delivered daily to the rooms and free farm tours go each morning.
The flight from London to Johannesburg takes 11.5 hours. Johannesburg to Cape Town is 2 hours.
If you’d like more advice on where to stay in South Africa or Cape Town or the tours and day trips we can include in a tailor made itinerary – simply give us a call on +44 1273320580 or request a quote. We can tailor-make your trip to include car rental or campervan hire, and add other stops in Africa to your itinerary.
Here are some ideas for how to include South Africa in a multi stop ticket – call us for more suggestions:
London - Johannesburg - Perth // Sydney - Bangkok - London: Flights from £1,107 pp including taxes
London - Johannesburg // Cape Town - Kota Kinabalu - Singapore - Tokyo - Los Angeles // San Francisco - London: Flights from £1,335 pp including taxes