Posted by Caleb | April 30, 2016
There is a ton of stuff to do in the Cape Town region and with the U.S. dollar rising to all-time high purchasing levels, now is the time to go. Below we’ve outlined a 12-ish hour itinerary we used to see just a bit of what the Cape Town area has to offer.
Our first recommendation is to consider renting a car in Cape Town. It is affordable and easier to get out of the city. We had a rental car for our full five days in Cape Town as we were planning to drive to the Eastern Cape (Garden Route) on our way out. This was a great decision as it allowed for a ton of flexibility, avoiding the tricky cab situation and it pulled us away from the few places with tourist buses. There are American rental car companies in Cape Town if you are worried about legitimacy, and they all operate straight out of the airport, for cheap. You should be able to find a rental car for under $20/day.
Day Trip Itinerary
7:30 a.m. Boulders Beach Penguin Sea Kayaking
Up at the crack to hit the road to Simonstown, as we had booked a sea kayaking tour for the early morning. It is about a 70-minute drive from downtown Cape Town. Drink the appropriate amount of coffee that keeps you alert for a winding mountain road, but not too much that you have to pee as there is not really a great place to stop.
The kayaking tour meets at the wharf in Simonstown and runs tours at 8:30 and 11:00 (depending on the season) and costs 300 R ($20) per person. The guy that runs the show reminds me a bit of a Midwestern farmer, no wasted words and an overly aggressive handshake. We joined a group of six so he had another Canadian guide helping out. The tour itself paddles you past the Naval Harbour where both South African and British navy ships are posted up, then out to the famous Boulder’s Beach to see the penguins. Due to the fact you are on the water, you can get a bit closer to the penguins than the folks on land as the area itself is protected. From here you also get some pretty great views of the cliffs and mountains that surround the Cape Town area. There is an opportunity to hop into the water as well near the penguins…no takers from our group, bit too chilly.
The tour runs a full two hours and requires a bit of paddling, you’ll be sick of exercise by the end. We were in a tandem kayak but there is single options available as well. Here is the website: www.kayakcapetown.co.za.
If you are hungry after the kayaking there are a ton of restaurants on the wharf. We chose Saveur Restaurant Group just next to where you dock, you should too.
12:00 p.m. Cape of Good Hope
45 minutes from Simonstown is the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. This is National Park that was initially thought to be the southernmost point in Africa (where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet), turns out whoever first said that was wrong, but there is still a good amount of history and certainly some killer views in the park. The entrance fee is 125 R (about $8.50 USD in 2016) per adult and it runs just like a U.S. National Park, paying your fee in cash at the gate.
The park itself has thin paved roads sprawling everywhere and tons of stuff to do. There are several beaches that you can drive up to and mostly likely be the only person there. If you are into shipwrecks there are several walking trails that will take you to see some downed vessels. If you insist on walking more, there are multiple trails from 30 minutes to three hours long that will guide you around the point. You can supposedly even do some serious whale watching from the coast during the migration (June thru November). All that info can be found at the parks stellar website: http://capepoint.co.za.
The major tourist attractions (where you see the buses) are up around the lighthouses at Cape Point. Here you will find hundreds of people either walking the cliffside stairs or taking the Flying Dutchmen Gondola up to the top. We felt obligated to see this part of the park but were much more impressed with the side roads and views from other cliffs.
We spent just about four hours in the park total between the driving, beach hopping and hiking. If you are interested and do not have a car, there are bus tours available as well. They look to be about 1700 R or $115 USD per person for the full day and transport, however, maybe you are better Googler than me, there is probably cheaper options.
4:00 p.m. Cape Point Vineyard
Next stop was a winery for a quick sip and snack. Cape Point Vineyard was the only winery we could find with ocean views and it is pretty spectacular. You can read Beth’s reviews on wine tasting here.
5:30 p.m. Chapman’s Peak Drive
Well this sounds a bit out of order doesn’t it? I can assure you that I took it easy at the vineyard, as I would advise anyone preparing for this drive. It is essentially a tourist attraction in itself, Chapmans Peak highway is built during WWI and restored in 2000. Etched into the side of a cliff it is an engineering nightmare and thus includes a toll payment of 40 R per car. There are a ton of scenic overlooks to pull off and view, or drive off if you’re busy gandering into the abyss. Even if you do not make it down to Cape of Good Hope, this drive should be on your Cape Town list. If you’re more fit and adventurous than us you can run or bike the route as well.
6:30 p.m. Sunset
From here you start to drive through the ritzy areas of the Cape. Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay are the three most expensive areas to live in South Africa, with average house prices in Clifton sitting at about 1.5 million USD (we looked just because we were on a points high). All the homes are huge and built into the cliffside. It’s a great drive that can take you up to Signal Hill to catch the sunset. Absent is a picture on this one as we skipped the sunset, I had become hangry.
7:30 p.m. Dinner on Kloof Street
Probably my favorite street name thus far on the trip, Kloof street is the spot to eat for relatively cheap. It is a gentrified area that hosts a row of bars and restaurants full of diversity. We landed at Sushi Box, a quick casual Japanese place as the block of cheese housed on the drive home was sitting heavy. If you are feeling more adventurous, find your way to the Eastern Food Bazaar just down the road from Kloof. It is an open market full of Indian, Chinese and Turkish grub for very cheap prices. The area around the bazaar does feel a bit shady at night as there is a visibile homeless population lingering outside but the food is what you are picturing in your head.
This was one of our favorite days in South Africa, and it only cost us about $106 USD (or $53 per person, just slightly more than the $50 average we’re shooting for on this trip). Adventure activities, beautiful views, good food and good wine. It’s hard to go wrong anywhere in Cape Town, but we recommend allowing time in your itinerary for this short day trip.