The South Africa Cape Peninsula

Traveling south from Cape Town along the N2 highway you will pass the grand UCT (University of Cape Town) and enter a lush, green area called Newlands.

This is where the many rugby and cricket matches of local and international level are played. If you are into sports, then be sure you don’t miss out on a great match. Newlands is also the place where these famous sportsmen hang out and after games you can see the bars and restaurants along the main road filled to the brim. Another great area that is famous among locals and is always full is called Foresters Arms situated in the tree lined suburb. One of the most splendid parts of Newlands is the forest which offers great hiking and walking trails as well as picnic and braai areas.

Claremont Nightlife

For those that love to party, there are various clubs and party hangouts in the city bowl and in the suburb of Claremont. Dotted along the main road all in walking distance from each other are clubs and bars. They are all in close proximity to Cavendish Square, the local mall which is a good place to park and is always open so that you can get back to your car easily. There is also a bowling alley here and laser quest for more fun.

Kirstenbosch Gardens

One of the most amazing displays of flora boasting the finest wildflowers in the Western Cape is the famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens just 15 minutes from the center of Cape Town. Here you can enter the wonderful world of plants and trees and learn all about the interesting varieties that cover 528 hectares. There is also plenty of wildlife here like tree squirrels which are quite friendly and there are certain types of mongoose as well. This garden is a “no bin” area, which means that you have to take any refuse out with you when you leave. This prevents the animals from digging and rummaging, thus causing a littering problem in the gardens. Here the public can bring picnic baskets and enjoy the surroundings and also enjoy the many concerts that are held there. In keeping with the strict rules, you are not allowed to bring any furniture into the gardens, even to the concert area.

To make things easier, like if you want to enjoy a concert after you have just come back from a hike up Skeleton Gorge (the back of Table Mountain), you can also purchase ready made picnic hampers from the restaurants and collect it before the concert. The Sunset Concerts include performances by various local and international acts like Bryan Adams and Josh Groban. Every year a well attended Carols by Candlelight is held here. There is also a tea garden offering delicious cakes and refreshments and you can also look around at the curio shop for some items to take back home with you. The garden was founded in 1913 by a man called Pearson and has grown to include the Sanlam Hall, Nedbank Lodge, Conservation houses and Pearson House. There is also a Centre for Biodiversity, Botanical Society House and Gold Fields Education Center as well as a restaurant, cafe and other places of interest. There is a garden fair held every year at the Stone Cottage to raise funds for the botanical society and you can come and purchase some indigenous plants for your garden.

Constantia Valley

For the wine lovers among you, Constantia, in the center of the peninsula, is the place to visit. Here you will find plenty of top class restaurants and hotels set among the vineyards offering fine cuisine, fine accommodation – and fine wine. Groot Constantia was the residence of Simon Van der Stel and is the oldest wine farm in the country dating back to 1685. The building is considered one of the best preservations of Cape Dutch architecture in the country and has been a national monument for many years. Aside from Groot (Large) Constantia, the wine farms that have branched off include Constantia Uitsig (View) which consists of a fine wine estate, country hotel, restaurant and luxury health spa, Klein Constantia, offering exquisite wines and cellar tours, and Steenberg with its pristine 18-hole championship golf course, luxury country lodge, and a five-star restaurant. The wines produced at Constantia have a deep-rooted history and some of the vines here are over 100 years old and still bearing wonderful grapes. The wines of the Constantia Valley were loved by Napoleon Bonaparte and are still loved by people from all over the world. For the more active at heart you can also enjoy a day in the forests having a paintball challenge with your friends.

Simon’s Town and Boulder’s Penguin Colony

To arrive in Simon’s Town at the bottom of the Cape Peninsula, just 40 minutes outside of Cape Town, is to step back in time. The village is quaint and bustling with activity. From the many historic buildings and cobblestone Jubilee Square to the massive navy dockyards filled with the ominous grey ships, ever minute of the time you spend in this place will be fun and amazing. Simon’s Town was discovered by Simon Van der Stel and a group of adventure seekers and it has become home to the South African Navy and Naval Academy. From the second you arrive here, sailors and crew in training will greet you and on occasion you may be lucky enough to witness (and hear!) the practice rounds shot off from the Lower North Battery and Upper North battery guns. In the centre of town you have the choice of going to various lovely restaurants that offer lovely food and drinks and along with plenty of shopping at the Waterfront and local curio shops, this area also boasts stunning hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Some favorite places include the Quayside Hotel, Whaleview Manor, The Central Hotel and Boulder’s Beach Lodge where the famous African penguin colony resides. The African penguin, formerly called the Jackass, is one of the most quirky creatures in the Cape. It is also considered an endangered species, as many of them have been affected and killed from various oil slicks that occur in False Bay. SANCCOB the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, a volunteer organization, plays a key role in rehabilitating these birds and every year the Simon’s Town Penguin Festival helps to raise money for the organization. Many of the penguins are released at Boulders Beach. This is a safe haven for them and protected under the South African National Parks Board. You can enter the beach with a pass and frolic in the calm waters with these cute creatures.

There is also a shop there and Boulder’s Beach Lodge offers a lovely restaurant and accommodation right on the beachfront. When in Simon’s Town, you might see and hear the name Just Nuisance. This refers to the only nonhuman officially listed member of the British Royal Navy, Able Seaman Just Nuisance who was a Great Dane. He lived in Simon’s Town at the Naval base with his owner after being enlisted in 1939. He was born in Rondebosch, Cape Town and died in the Royal Naval Hospital in Simon’s Town on his birthday in 1944. He was buried with full naval honors at Klavers Camp near Simon’s Town and one can visit his grave site and memorial there.

Seal Island

Take an exhilarating boat ride from Simon’s Town Jetty out to Seal Island, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean.

There are often Southern Right Whales in the Bay during August to October months and you are also able to see plenty of Heaviside’s or Dusky dolphins playing in the wakes created by the boat. Once you reach the island you can witness the huge colony of Cape Fur Seals which come here to breed. Just off the rocky shores of the island you will come to the section of sea known as the Ring of Terror where the notorious Great White Sharks roam for easy meals of injured or slow seals. From the boat you will have the best view of False Bay and you can see the shores of both Simon’s Town and Strand and Gordon’s Bay on the opposite side. On the island itself your tour guide will explain the significance of the breeding ground and give you insight as to the lighthouse and beacons that you can see. You can make your booking on the day and the boats will depart every hour or two, obviously weather dependant.

Cape Point

Reaching Cape Point will take you on a winding journey through the nature reserve that makes up the Table Mountain Chain and you are likely to meet troops of Chacma Baboons on the way. These creatures are very inquisitive but dangerous, so you should keep your windows closed and do not feed them. To get into Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve you will need to pay a small fee or make use of a pass called a Wild Card. This can be purchased from the South African Parks Board or at the entrance and will allow you free access to any other park areas like Boulder’s Beach. Inside the reserve you can see a variety of mammal and bird life. There is also an ostrich farm about 600 meters inside where you can take a guided tour and purchase some real ostrich skin products. For those that want a secluded getaway, there is even accommodation here at the Olifantsbos Cottage.

If you want a bird eye view of Cape Point, why not try the funicular. This old-fashioned lift, nicknamed the Flying Dutchman, will take you up 238 meters to enjoy panoramic views of the area and to take a tour of the old lighthouse. In total there are 1200 plant species here including varieties of indigenous fynbos and proteas. From the shore you can see the areas where many shipwrecks have occurred and learn about the holy man Antonie that is still worshiped here everyday by the local Muslim community. A few meters away, Smitswinkel Bay, offers a sanctuary for divers and sea explorers. There are at least 6 shipwrecks that you can see along the ocean floor from this diving spot. For other adventurous types, you can enjoy hiking, walking and cycling inside the reserve. The most spectacular reason for visiting Cape Point is to see the exact spot where the oceans meet and here you will find a plaque signifying that it is the southwesternmost point of the African continent. After a long day discovering the reserve, make sure you have a tasty meal and relax with a drink at the fabulous Two Oceans Restaurant.

Chapman’s Peak

From Cape Point traveling around the tip of Africa passed Scarborough you will reach Kommetjie taking you back towards Cape Town. Instead of taking the highway, why not enjoy a gorgeous sunset drive over Chapman’s Peak. This mountain drive linking Noordhoek to Hout Bay has been closed various times due to rock falls and has been upgraded recently to be safer for the public. It is now a toll road and many new tunnels and pillars have been erected to stabilize it. To get there, you will need to take the road passed Longbeach Mall and through the leafy, horse riding village of Noordhoek. As you ascend Chapman Peak which was first envisioned in 1910 and deemed impossible. With the determination of Charles Marais, who had also convinced Paul Kruger to establish the Kruger National Park, the sheer 300 foot drop cliffs where eventually surveyed, and building began on the Hout Bay side in 1915. A year later the building began from the Noordhoek side and culminated in the meeting of the two in 1922. This project was estimated to have cost 20 000 Pounds, which was a lot of money in those days.

There are many lookout points to stop at with breathtaking views and many local crafters use the opportunity to sell their unique wares. At the Hout Bay end of Chapman’s Peak there is a lone bronze sculpture of a leopard gazing out over the bay. This was crafted as a tribute to these creatures that used to roam the mountains here years ago. Just below the road further down from the statue, there is an old fort, East Fort Battery, which was built in 1796 by the British to protect the bay. There was said to have been a secret staircase from here to caves below on the water’s edge, but it has never been found.

When the road, named after the founder of the area, British pilot John Chapman, was opened a journalist wrote the following words that still ring true today, “It is a picture which is impossible to paint in words without the use of meaningless superlatives. But as the setting sun bathes the cliffs in gold, roaring breakers thread white ribbons through the blue-green water below and spring flowers squander color on the hills above, it’s tempting to try. It is, after all, one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world.”

South Africa’s Boland, Northern and East Coast Regions >>>