Cape Town is situated in one of the most picturesque locations in the world. It baffled me to see large mountains smack in the center of the city, and all along the coastline. Cape Town defies the norms when it comes to everything we think we know about landscapes and animals. I’ve never laid eyes on a combination of seals, sandy beaches, mountain ranges, and a harbour at the same time before until Cape Town. I’ve never known penguins to exist in summer weather before until Cape Town. This mysterious and magical city kind of messes with your mind in such a refreshing and enticing way. I was hooked as soon as we drove from the airport to our hotel! Here’s my 3 day photo journal of everything I did in Cape Town, with some travel tips.
Day 1: The Coastal Drive to Chapman’s Peak
Upon arriving at our hotel, the initial plan was to go to Robben Island for the day and explore the V&A waterfront by night. However, this plan was quickly shot down when the concierge told us that tickets to Robben Island were completely sold out. Instead, we came up with a quick Plan B and decided to explore the coastline by driving along the 12 Apostles through to Chapman’s Peak Drive, while making various stops along the way that seemed interesting.
Travel Tip: In Cape Town, it is highly advisable to rent a car. This way you can explore various coastal towns, neighborhoods, and nooks! Getting around without a car can be rather difficult, especially considering Taxis do not run by the meter in Cape Town, and you’re likely to get ripped off!
We were peering out of our car windows with eager eyes. The coastal road provided an almost bird’s eye view into the beaches and ocean. The coastal road is situated along the cliffs of the mountains, and as you can imagine, this drive can make you feel slightly queasy in the tummy. Our first stop along the drive was a pristine beach that caught our eye from above. We eventually found out that this place is called Camp’s Bay, where a number of locals spend their day during the weekends.
Further along the drive, we past an enormous mountain range, the 12 Apostles, which comprises of 12 mountain peaks, unlike the Australian rock formation along the Great Ocean Road drive. Who knew that Cape Town had it’s own 12 Apostles? I certainly didn’t!
We decided to stop at Mariner Wharf along the shore of Hout Bay for lunch. If there’s any place to experience stunning views, immerse in the culture, enjoy the sandy beaches, and taste delicious seafood, its here. The atmosphere is so addictive that you could easily waste away the afternoon observing your surroundings while drinking some cold beers.
A short walk further down the Hout Bay shoreline, and you’ll find a number of boat trips that will take you to watch the seals. This was a nice surprise as we didn’t expect it at all. We assumed we would see a few seals swimming in the water, if any at all, but to our amazement, we saw hundreds of them; I’m not exaggerating, literally hundreds of them were sitting on the rocks and sunbathing. It was a hilarious sight, especially to see the seals sliding around, diving into the water, and picking fights with one another. The not so exciting part was the smell! But don’t worry, you’ll eventually get used to it, and start smelling like the seals yourself. The boat ride will take you extremely close to all the seals, so you’ll definitely get a good view (and a good many whiffs of their smell, depending on the direction of the wind)! This boat trip will set you back about 60 Rand per person (3 USD). The seals can be seen relaxing on Duiker Island.
Just before arriving to Chapman’s Peak, we stopped yet again for a stunning 360 degree view of Hout Bay. Like I mentioned, Cape Town is such a magical location when it comes to scenic views and lookout points, that you will feel the urge to step out of your vehicle throughout the drive!
As if the day was not already packed enough, we continued our drive through Chapman’s Peak. This spectacular road boasts near-vertical cliffs that dissect straight into the seascape. Opened and closed down several times due to the risks it poses and a few rock fall incidents, this road that cuts along the side of the cliff is an engineering feat that deserves every penny of the 40 Rand toll fees it demands for driving through it. We ended up doing this drive again on our 3rd day in Cape Town because it was simply that stunning.
We ended our evening with a lovely walk through the bright and vibrant V & A Waterfront. This place is a sure winner for every night in Cape Town if you’re looking for some great vibes and atmosphere, coupled with a variety of food and bar options!
Day 2: History & The Inlands
Since we could not make it to Robben Island on the 1st day as planned, we ended up booking tickets for the 9:00am tour the following morning. I love exploring a country’s history, and the best place to do that in South Africa, and especially in Cape Town is at Robben Island; the location where Nelson Mandel spent 18 of his 27 years in imprisonment. I could write an entire blog about this tour, but it is more worth your while to go there and experience this emotional journey for yourself.
Travel Tip: Make sure to book your Robben Island tickets in advance, regardless of if you plan to go on a weekday or a weekend. It’s a major tourist attraction, so tickets sell out fast!
After such a heavyhearted morning, we decided to enjoy a lovely brunch at the Mondiall, a beautiful open-air restaurant along the waterfront. The sunny weather and live music from the 80s set the tone for our afternoon. We were spoiled for seafood and wine selection for such reasonable prices. I was amazed at the quality of food being served, especially the portions! Make sure to order a lobster along the waterfront. You won’t regret it.
We spent a good 3 hours enjoying our wine and conversations at Mondiall, until we finally decided to head over to Kirstenbosch, a botanical garden with a lovely canopy walkway.
I was told to purchase the cable car tickets for Table Mountain in advance as the queues here can be 2 hours long if you go unprepared. We were extremely lucky with the sunset. This might have been the best sunset I witnessed in 2015. Clouds were hugging the top of the mountains and running down the cliffs like a giant waterfall. The sky was a brilliant array of colors, and as a lover of sunsets, I was swooning.
Travel Tip: I didn’t have a chance go up Lion’s Head, but I hear it’s another great vantage point of Cape Town, and the best way to get up there is to trek it!
Day 3: The Southern Tip of the World
We had a very ambitious agenda for the 3rd day. We wanted to see a few towns, including the Penguins and drive all the way to Cape Point, the southern most tip of Africa to watch the sunset!
We decided that instead of driving inland (like in the map above) to drive through Chapman’s Peak another time before arriving at our first destination, Muizenberg. Muizenberg is known for their colorrful houses and vibrant culture. It was entertaining to watch the locals break out into dance-offs along the streets with the music blasting from their cars.
The next stop, just a couples of kilometers further was Kalk Bay. There were a number of hipster and antique stores along the streets. It looked like a great place for shopping and dining, so I made a mental note to come back here after the sunset for some supper.
Boulder Beach in Simon’s Town was next on the list! I wish it was warm enough to take a dip in the ocean, because this beach looked so inviting, especially with all the penguins surrounding it. Imagine being able to relax at the bead beside some penguins? I had no idea they were even able to survive in such warm temperatures. We were able to witness over a 100 cute penguins along this beach, and made this much anticipated destination completely worthwhile!
We were so excited to finally close off our day in Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, both accessible after a small fee is paid at the entrance of Cape Point Nature Reserve. There is so much to be explored on this nature reserve that I wish I had another 24 hours to give this place. Unfortunately for us, the sunset we were hoping to have was covered by a thick fog. We could barely see 3 – 4 meters ahead of us. C’est la vie. At least we had a great sunset on Table Mountain, so we didn’t feel entirely too bad!
Travel Tip: If you have the chance, do an overnight camping stay in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. There is a lot to explore here, and also a number of treks to wander through.
So that’s just about everything I did during my 3 days in Cape Town. It might seem like there is a large amount to cover, but it is easily doable, without feeling rushed or overwhelmed! If you do not plan to spend any nights at the vineyard, then I would recommend staying for a minimum of 4 nights in Cape Town. This way you can easily do a day trip to the vineyards at Stellenbosch and Paarl. It’s only an hour drive away from Cape Town, and I highly recommend it (if you’re a wine, champagne, or brandy love)!