Cape Town is a city drenched in a mix of cultures, activities and rare natural beauty to suit almost every visitor’s taste. Our local’s guide to Cape Town lists our kept best secrets. Initially compiled for our visitors and competitors in the 52 SUPER SERIES events, we now share it with you.
1. Catch a ferry to historic Robben Island
A day trip to Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must. Robben Island’s allure lies in its rich and wretched history. South Africa’s first democratically elected president and freedom fighter; Nelson Mandela was imprisoned here for 18 of his total imprisonment time – 27 years, notably the most famous inmate on Robben Island.
2. Visit the Silo District
The Silo District at the V&A Waterfront is near
the Robben Island Ferry base. This is one of Cape Town’s newest hubs and has plenty to offer. Indulge in many dining options, decadent local designer stores and extravagant views from roof top bars at the Silo Hotel and Radisson Red.
The Zeitz MOCCA (Museum of Contemporary and Classic Art) is set in an old grain silo, which was once the tallest building in Africa. It acts as the centrepiece for this district. The Silo was originally built in 1921, and today you’ll find architecture, themed restaurants and tranquil public spaces that pay homage to that history.
3. Take in a summer sunset concert at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch is acclaimed as one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world as few can match the sheer grandeur of the setting against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Visitors are welcome seven days a week to wander the gardens, dine out at various restaurants and explore Table Mountain with numerous hiking paths up the east face.
A favourite activity is the Summer Sunset Concerts hosted in the garden – showcasing top local and international musical talents every Sunday evening.
For the line-up and ticket details visit here.
4. Join first Thursdays and burger brews
On the first Thursday of every month, the main streets of Cape Town are open to pedestrians only. Walk the streets while visiting eateries, bars, art galleries, and shops. The best place to start is Bree Street. Find the spots to visit here.
Burger Brews follows the experience of four regular Capetonian ‘bru’s’ (best friends) in their search for the best burger spots in Cape Town. And what’s a good burger without a good brew? Buy your tickets online and meet them at The Striped Horse on Kloof Street every third Thursday of the month for the best burger & beer crawl in the Cape.
5. Visit Kalk Bay
A gem on the False Bay coastline, Kalk Bay is known for its raw beauty, interesting shops, vast selection of restaurants, rock pools and stunning views. You can easily spend a full day here and still not experience it all. Just a 30 minute drive from the CBD.
6. See Table Mountain by cable car
Table Mountain has joined the list of the natural wonders of the world standing tall above the city.
For those wanting to experience the magic views of Cape Town, the Aerial Cable Car offers a gentle ride; the rotating cars takes visitors from the lower station to the top station in around 5 minutes. The station operates seven days a week and trips occur within 10 to 15 minutes of each other, the times of first and last excursion vary according to the sunrise and sunset times.
For the more adventurous visitors see the views from the top of the Table Mountain range.
This trail is accessible to anyone, but this climb should not be underestimated. This 2 to 2.5hr’s hike is quite steep. You’ll find the path sign along Table Mountain Road, past the lower cable car station.
Time: 2hrs up – Distance: 2.83km – Elevation: 706m – Difficulty: Strenuous
Kloof Corner is perfect for grabbing a quick sunset to relax after the daily grind.
Follow the road to the Table Mountain Aerial Cable Way and park at the first parking area on your left. On the left hairpin you will see a municipal sign tucked under a tree next to a driveway with stairs, follow the stairs all the way to the cliffs at Kloof Corner.
Time: 0.5hrs – Distance: 0.95km – Elevation: 181m – Difficulty: Moderate
For those with a sense of adventure, this hike offers a more interesting (and difficult) alternative to getting to the top of Table Mountain. This steep route winds around Venster Buttress with a few sections that require climbing with incredible views all the way up.
A local tip is to begin this route at the bottom of Platteklip Gorge, following it to the contour path until you are just above the lower cable station. Follow the India Venster trailhead, as it gets steeper beneath the line of the cable car.
There are a series of climbs, but you’ll be aided by bolted rock handles. The path then flattens out (relatively) as you wind around the back of the upper cable station approaching from behind the mountain.
Time: 4-5hrs – Distance: 3.01km – Elevation: 820m – Difficulty: Difficult
Cape Town’s most iconic, must-do hike. This route is quick and offers a 360˚ view of the city and surrounds. There is a lot of foot traffic on this route and it is ideal for sunrise or sunset. Again, do not underestimate this hike though. The path is easy to follow, starting from the Signal Hill Road (look for the red Vida é coffee truck). After the first 100m of jeep track you will ascend quickly along rock steps until the gradient requires some scrambling up rocks, which is made easier by chains and bolted rock handles. The last stretch is on bare rock and it is quite steep.
Time: 2-3hrs – Distance: 2.11km – Elevation: 312m – Difficulty: Strenuous
For more of Cape Town’s hiking routes download the Forge App for information and GPS Tracking as you go.
* Please always respect the elements and make sure you are prepared. The weather is notoriously fickle in the Cape. Always check the conditions, take lots of water, snacks, sun protection, suitable shoes and a jacket with you.
A cyclists paradise
Cape Town sports some of the most beautiful cycling routes.
A highly recommended route starts in Sea Point on the Atlantic seaboard and follows the coastal road through Camps Bay, Bakoven, past the Twelve Apostles Hotel, through to Hout Bay and then on to Chapman’s peak.
A return trip gives riders a comfortable 60km session.
Mountain biking is also a huge drawcard in Cape Town and there are many routes in and around the Table Mountain reserve. A favourite is in the Cape Point National Park.
Distance: 30km – observe Eland and Bontebok as you wind towards the Cape of Good Hope (the southerly most point of Africa). Stop off at the popular picnic spot at Buffels Bay.
Cape Town is known for her beauty and relaxed atmosphere, and where better to experience this than on one of the many pristine, white sandy beaches on offer? From Cape Point to the West Coast these are our favourite spots to soak up the sun.
This is a local favourite for the family, and the dog-friendly atmosphere. Llandudno beach is also popular with surfers. Its bright, turquoise water and fine white sand is due to the southeaster wind which prevails in the summer, which is also why the water in the summer months is possibly the coldest in Africa.
Glen beach, Camps Bay
Glen beach nestles between Camps Bay main beach and Maidens Cove. This spot is one of Cape Town’s best beaches for private sunbathing, relaxation and sunsets on the rocks. And for surfing too.
Diaz beach, Cape Point Nature Reserve
Diaz beach is without a doubt one of Cape Town’s most beautiful beaches. It remains largely undisturbed due to its remote access – a 20-minute walk from the parking lot down a rather steep set of wooden stairs to the white sands. But for the stunning views alone, it’s undoubtedly worth it.
For the brave surfers and body boarders among us, you’ll love tackling its hollow barrels. However, swimming is not advised due to the strong currents. Opening hours: 6am – 6pm (October to March); 7am – 5pm (April – September). Try arriving early to make the most of your time and to avoid the persistent SE wind.
For more information and prices visit Capepoint.co.za.
Food lovers and market goers unite
South African cuisine, like its culture, is varied and delicious. Indulge your senses in everything from fine dining to street food experiences with this quick guide to all things yum in Cape Town.
The V&A food market
Situated within the V&A Waterfront this food market is the perfect lunch stop. Pop-up stalls offering everything from local seafood to international cuisine can be found here. While you’re there, pop into the Watershed just next door for your fill of local art and design or even to find a quiet workspace in Workshop 17.
Oranjezicht city farm market
This charming and vibrant urban farmers market boasts fresh produce, local designer wares and delicious artisanal foods. It’s located in Granger Bay, adjacent to the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town stadium. Open Wednesday nights and Saturday & Sunday mornings till 2pm.
Old Biscuit Mill neighbour-goods market
Located in the heart of Woodstock, the Old Biscuit Mill hosts a market each Saturday to celebrate local artists, food and music of the area. Follow here for more info on the market dates and times.
Chef’s Warehouse Beau Constantia winery
Pristine views and decadent food, this is a modern dining space with a sleek open-plan kitchen overlooking the Constantia wine valleys. Beau Constantia offers a casual fine-dining experience. Chef Ivor Jones offers up his unique perspective on the classic Chefs Warehouse tapas-style dining, which is a mix between a traditional tasting menu and a small sharing plates experience of contemporary tapas. Book in advance.
1043 Constantia main road | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 794 8632
Round House in the Glen
The former hunting lodge of Lord Charles Somerset has been sophisticatedly restored and nestled amongst 300-year-old pomegranate trees and landscaped gardens you can enjoy contemporary French cuisine, boutique wines and classic cocktails.
The Glen | Camps Bay | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 438 4347
Kloof Street hopping
One of Cape Town’s main hubs, Kloof Street stretches from the centre of Town up towards the mountain. This area is dotted with bars and restaurants perfect for a sneaky pub crawl. Here are our suggested stopovers (bring your walking shoes and your appetite). Starting at the top of Kloof at Bombay Bicycle Club and then onto Dark Horse, Striped Horse, Van Hunks, Yours Truly, Fat Cactus on Park Road, and end at Tiger’s Milk on Kloof.
Eat on the balcony overlooking the vineyards or go one step further and eat in the vineyard at a table set up amongst the vines. Enjoy Italian food inspired by homegrown ingredients paired with the Estate’s wines.
3 Green Valley Road | Franschhoek | +27 (0)21 876 2738
Day trips outside Cape Town
If you find yourself looking to explore beyond the city limits, the beautiful landscapes surrounding Cape Town have a ton to offer. From fishing villages, to marine parks and lagoons, to wine tastings and safari’s – you’ll find it all just a short drive away.
Aquila Game reserve
Located 2hrs outside of Cape Town, Aquila Private Game Reserve is home to South Africa’s Big 5 and offers half day, full day and overnight safari packages. With conservation at their core, Aquila also has a rescue centre (ARC) that was established as a sanctuary for animals that can never be released into the wild again. It is also a temporary home for animals that need attention before being released into the wild.
A quick 1.5hr drive from Cape Town, Langebaan has been voted one of the best kite-boarding sites in the world. Grab your gear or rent some kit when you arrive and get out on the water on Main Beach or at Shark Bay. Obsession Kiting will assist you with gear rental, lessons and local knowledge of the best areas to kite.
Franschhoek and Stellenbosch
Wine lovers head out to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek for internationally admired wines produced by beautiful estates.
Our top picks include:
Babylonstoren, Franschhoek +27 (0)21 863 38 52 – a piece of garden heaven
Vergenoegd, Stellenbosch – +27 (0)21 843 3248
Delaire Graff, Stellenbosch – Indochine +27 (0)21 885 8160
Le Petit Ferme, Franschhoek – +27 (0)21 876 3016
Article originally written by Sail+Leisure for the sailors and visitors of the 52 SUPER SERIES.