“Forget the past.” Nelson Mandela
The ‘Mother City’ as Cape Town is affectionately otherwise known is an incredible, diverse place that caters for all travellers. There’s something for every budget and taste whether it’s visiting beaches, museums, surfing, hiking, wine tasting and so much more.
Many years ago on our last visit to Cape Town we stayed at the V & A Hotel at the waterfront and with such a great location I saw no reason to change that this time. The V & A Waterfront is an ideal base with plenty of activities, shops and restaurants to explore on foot as well as good transport links to explore everything else this vibrant city has to offer. Waterfront highlights include the mall, the artisan indoor food market, the Watershed offering the best of local design and craft, Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Wheel (think London Eye), boat charters, bus tours and my favourite, helicopter tours over the bay.
With so much to do and see Cape Town can keep you busy from dawn to dusk. I’m not a fan of an organised tour but Lucky and Lost Tours (LLT for short) may have converted me. As travellers themselves they do things a little differently and even go in the opposite direction to all the other tours to avoid the crowds. My friend, a South Africa newbie, discovered them on the world wide web and their 1-day essential Cape Town tour seemed the perfect way to pack in lots of sights that I’d experienced before in one day.
Our LLT guide for the day was the enthusiastic Ziggy, a very knowledgeable and entertaining hostess who hails from Cape Town. This tour was non-stop activities and I would highly recommend the experience, after all guests were collected from respective accommodations (mainly hostels, let’s just say we lowered the age range quite significantly) the first stop was the colourful houses of the historic muslim area Bo Kaap, the home of Cape Malay flavours.
After a quick stop enroute to meet a shark watcher in his tower we were lucky to spot southern right whales in the bay. Next stop was the penguin colony at Boulders Beach (disappointedly due the high volume of tourists you can no longer go on the beach and waddle with the penguins as my kids did years ago) near Simon’s Town.
A homemade South African picnic lunch was enjoyed beachside at the Cape of Good Hope followed by a hike along the coast to Cape Point and a kodak moment at the most south-western point of Africa. What’s the perfect antidote to a sweaty stroll, why wine of course and the next stop was a group tasting at the beautiful Cape Point Vineyard with views over Noordhoeks Long Beach.
As we made our way back to the city via the scenic Chapmans Peak Drive (you will have seen this on many car adverts, in fact a sporty Jag ad was being filmed by drone while we were there). We had one last stop along the drive to take in the views and have an afternoon snack of koeksisters, a South African sweet donut made earlier that day in Bo Kaap.
I’m not a fan of the touristy hop on, hop off city buses but guess what, we did two of those routes (even did one twice), just call me Mrs Bus Tour. Again an easy way to explore and see all the sights, prime stops include Table Mountain (for incredible panoramic views), Camps Bay (to mix with those who have), Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (to see proteas, the National flower of South Africa), Constantia Groot (to drink wine) and Hout Bay (to see and ‘smell’ some seals).
The Uber service in Cape Town is excellent with lots of drivers and fares cheaper than regular taxis. However wifi is scarce so it can tricky to use the app without a data package, save plenty of battery life too (take it from me). Let’s talk about trains in Cape Town, there is a ‘tourist’ route but I would suggest, based on a horrendous personal experience, to avoid it at all costs. Trains do not run to schedule, carriages are unmarked, there is no security onboard or at the stations and the ‘tourist’ route runs through and stops at some less visitor friendly areas. Trains, it’s a big fat NO from me.
Helicopter tours are one of the top attractions, an awesome experience with spectacular aerial views across the bay and beyond. It’s pricey and weather dependant but like us you can strike a deal with the touts at the waterfront. The adventure begins with a glass of bubbly followed by the obligatory safety briefing before being whisked off to your helicopter and flying high above Cape Town across Table Mountain and along the coast. Helicopters, it’s a YES from me.
Wine is a major talking point everywhere in South Africa, so many local varieties at reasonable prices it’s rude not to try as many as possible. Local vineyards are easy to visit and each one offers its own experience. Along with the wine, South Africa is enjoying its own gin craze with loads of artisan gin makers and many varieties to try, really cool bottles and packaging too if that’s your thing.
Foodies are well catered for especially meat eaters who can try an abundant of steaks and game, plenty of seafood too. Camp’s Bay is a great place to enjoy top notch food, wine and service, if the sun’s out the beach and beachfront high end restaurants are jam packed and buzzing. The Kove Collection have lots of really good restaurants, in fact most of the places in the Camp’s Bay area seem to be part of the group. Zenzura for delicious fine-dining Italian cuisine, La Paranga for its Mediterranean and seafood and La Belle for breakfast, toasties, fresh juices and coffee.
After visiting Tashas Abu Dhabi I was keen to visit the South African chain in its home country. The large waterfront location didn’t disappoint, in fact we went twice for coffee and a bite to eat. Tashas is a great casual spot to grab some food with a large and varied menu, the cakes alone are worth a visit.
If you are exhausted from all the non-stop tourist action what better thing to do than book a spa treatment. We tried the Twelve Apostles Hotel, a leading hotel of the world, located in an elevated secluded spot with amazing ocean views. Although the decor of the hotel itself is pretty dated it did have a certain old world charm.
The spa was a unique underground experience with cave pools but certainly not as luxurious as its UAE counterparts. We both had Elemis facials which were good, overall it was a relaxing afternoon that we topped off with cocktails watching the sunset from the Leopard Bar terrace.
Riding the cable car to the top of Table Mountain is obviously one of the top things to do while in Cape Town or even hiking up if you are feeling energetic but there are so many other things to do to. Take photos of brightly coloured beach huts and surf the waves at Muizenberg, take a boat trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, hike Lion’s Head, watch the sunset atop Signal Hill or indulge in some sundowners at the Twelve Apostles hotel.
- Book your Table Mountain in advance tickets online and download the app to check up-to-date queue times to avoid hours waiting in line
- Book a Lucky and Lost tour for a fun day out taking in lots of sites
- Try the CitySightSeeing Hop on, Hop off buses for a convenient way to get around (book consecutive days if you think you will go more than once as it’s cheaper)
- Download the Uber app if you don’t already have it
- Take warm clothes as Cape Town is very windy and the weather changes quickly
- Cape Town is suffering from a severe water shortage at the moment so use water wisely and limit usage where possible. Take quick showers and refrain from having baths too
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry lots of cash
- If your budget allows take a helicopter flight – we used NAC Helicopters
- DO NOT go on the trains
We stayed at the Victoria & Alfred Hotel in the waterfront for three nights followed by Dunmore Blue a two bedroom apartment in Clifton for the remaining four nights. On our final night back in Cape Town we stayed at the Cape Royale Hotel. We travelled from Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg with Etihad Airways and onto Cape Town with South African Airways
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Bus photo used with courtesy of City Sightseeing
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