Lisa Owen

With its superb mountain views, beautiful beaches and the ideal climate for producing wines, Cape Town offers up something for every traveller.

There’s lots to do in and around Cape Town and you may find yourself staying longer than you planned.

Here are my top 10 things to see and do during your stay in Cape Town.

1. Head up to the summit of Table Mountain

Looming over Cape Town lies Table Mountain and it’s the city’s premier attraction.

There’s two ways up the mountain – you can choose the sweaty way and hike up, or opt for the far less arduous route and take the cable car up.

Hiking Table Mountain will take about two hours one-way. The most popular and recommended route is via Platteklip Gorge, which starts about a kilometre past the Lower Cable Car Station.

The hike up is exposed and pretty much all rock stairs so you’re sure to get a work out as you make your way up this stairmaster of a gorge.

The cable car only takes a few minutes but the queue to get on the cable car can be long so get there early. Tickets can be bought online to save you some time, but you will still have to queue for your turn. Tickets start from $30 AUD and the price depends on if you want a morning or afternoon slot.

table mountain

2. Watch the sunset from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill

Table Mountain is not the only peak in Cape Town. You can see the unique peak of Lion’s Head from the city, as well as Signal Hill.

Both these peaks are popular for sunrise and sunset.

To get to the summit of Lion’s Head, you’ll need to hike up. The hike takes about one hour but is not for the faint hearted. The trail gets narrow about halfway up with steep drop offs. Then you’ll need some agility to tackle the ladders and chains, and rock scramble the last 30 minutes to the summit.

You can get good views from various points on the way to the top if you don’t want to go the whole way.

Make sure you bring a headlamp with you if you do the hike for sunset as you’ll need it for the way down in the dark.

Signal Hill is also a good option, and most people head there for sunset. You can drive all the way to the top of Signal Hill.

sunset over south africa

3. Check out the food market at the waterfront

You’re sure to have worked up an appetite after all that hiking and the waterfront food market is the perfect spot to pick up a hearty meal or sweet treat.

Cape Town’s Victoria & Albert Waterfront precinct offers up restaurants, a shopping centre, handicraft market and priceless Table Mountain views - but my favourite attraction was the food market.

The food market has a wide selection of offerings ranging from Turkish and African cuisine, fish and chips, sushi and meat pies.

There’s also ice cream, brownies and pastries available for those with a sweet tooth.

penguins at boulders beach

4. Swim with the penguins at Boulder’s Beach

Less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town is the beautiful Boulder’s Beach – a rocky beach that’s also home to a colony of African penguins.

There’s two access points to see the penguins. One takes you along a boardwalk, while the other takes you onto a beach where you can take a dip and you might be joined by penguins.

The entry cost is $8 AUD and enables you to access both penguin viewing points.

To get to Boulder’s Beach, you can hire a car or take a tour from Cape Town.

most south westerly point of africa

5. Head out to the most south westerly point of Africa

The Cape of Good Hope is the most south-westerly tip of Africa and it also sits at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans. It’s a great spot for a photo opportunity – but it does get very windy.

A short drive from the Cape of Good Hope is Cape Point – a scenic point that has two lighthouses. The highest lighthouse was actually built too high on the point, resulting in it often being obscured by fog. So another lighthouse lower down on the point was built to guide ships.

Take the 15-minute walk to the top lighthouse (or take the funicular) and get stunning ocean views – and you can also walk out to the second one in about an hour return trip.

Many Cape Town tour agencies operate a tour out to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.

western cape coastline

6. Take a scenic drive along the Western Cape coastline

The Chapman’s Peak Drive offers beautiful views of the coastline near Cape Town as you drive past towering rock walls.

Every few minutes, you’ll get a clear view of long stretches of white sand bordered by miles of turquoise ocean.

The drive includes views of the beaches of Hout Bay and Camps Bay.

You can do this drive in a hire car, or it is included in the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point tours.

7. Try going for a swim at one of Cape Town’s beaches

Cape Town is blessed with beautiful beaches only a short drive away.

One of the most popular is Camps Bay, which also offers an impressive view of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. Llandudno Beach is another popular choice, located further down the coastline.

The catch is the water can be very cold on the southern side of Cape Town! Bring your swimmers in case you’re feeling brave, otherwise pack a picnic, a good book and a towel, and enjoy the views and a day by the beach.

cape town food

8. Go wine tasting at local vineyards

South Africa is well known for its wines and you can’t visit Cape Town without visiting some local wineries.

The wine regions of Stellenbosch or Franschhoek can be reached by hiring a car, Uber or you can opt to head out on the many wine tasting tours offered from Cape Town.

Cape Town’s hop on-hop off bus also offers a wine tasting tour to wineries on the outskirts of the city.

Most wine tastings offer you the opportunity to pair the wines with cheese or chocolate.

9. Get your adrenaline pumping with adventure activities

Cape Town is the jumping off point for many activities for the more adventurous traveller.

You can go shark cage diving, skydiving or paragliding, and even abseil down the side of Table Mountain.

10. Enjoy Cape Town’s café and bar scene

Foodies will enjoy exploring the streets of Cape Town. There’s many trendy cafes and bars scattered throughout the city and many are easy on the wallet.

Check out Kloof and Bree streets for the best cafes.

For beer and cocktails, local and tourist favourites are the Beerhouse and Tiger’s Milk.

Outside of Cape Town’s city centre, the Observatory neighbourhood is also popular with coffee lovers, as well as thrift shop fans.

cape town

After you enjoyed the best that Cape Town has to offer, there’s more of South Africa to explore.

From Cape Town, most travellers head out on the scenic Garden Route, which follows 200 kilometres of South Africa’s coastline, starting in Mossel Bay and ending at Storms River.

Solo travellers can buy a pass on the Baz Bus, while couples or groups might want to look at hiring a car.

Things You Should Know

  • When out and about in Cape Town, keep your valuables close and take special care at night. There are many beggars on Cape Town’s streets, especially around Long Street. Take as little as possible with you and avoid walking solo.
  • Uber is a cost effective and safe way to get around Cape Town. It is a particularly good way to reach the Lower Cable Car Station at Table Mountain, the trailhead for Lions Head and local beaches, as well as to get around at night.
  • You can easily hire a car in Cape Town or take advantage of the many tour operators to see the sights located just outside of Cape Town. To access the Garden Route, hire a car or book a ticket on the Baz Bus.
  • If hiking up Table Mountain or Lion’s Head, make sure you go up in a group and take the tourist routes. Plattenkip Gorge is the recommended option for Table Mountain and is frequented by both tourists and locals. It is particularly busy on weekends. Research any other hikes thoroughly and check with your accommodation if it is safe. Muggings are well known to occur on other mountains such as Hout Bay’s Mt Sentinel.
  • At the time of writing (May 2018), Cape Town was in the middle of a drought and is on severe water restrictions. Be aware that tourists are encouraged to reduce their water usage while in Cape Town. Methods include keeping showers to 90 seconds and using hand sanitiser instead of soap and water to wash hands. Many hostels no longer offer laundry services.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 70 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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