This year in April, I ticked off my third country on the African continent: South Africa! Harry and I spent an amazing two weeks in beautiful Cape Town with his family. Can’t wait to finally share my list of top things to do in and around Cape Town with you now.
Cape Town is absolutely picturesque with its iconic Table Mountain and steep cliffs along the Atlantic coast. Nature fan, adrenaline chaser, wine lover, wildlife observer: The city offers something for everyone. To help you make the best of your holiday, I’ve come up with this Cape Town travel guide listing all our favourite activities in the city and the Western Cape. It’s perfect for a one to two weeks holiday!
I can’t say what my favourite part of our trip to Cape Town was. The views from both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head were breathtaking and the challenging hikes up both were fun (I say that now…). Tasting wine in scenic vineyards with great company was lovely and playing in the ice-cold waves of the Atlantic Ocean was fun. Then there was coming up close with penguins in nature – a wonderful experience.
Top Things to do in Cape Town & the Western Cape
These are my personal highlights of our Cape Town & Western Cape holiday. I’m of course curious to hear what your favourite experiences were – so, let me know in the comments!
You can fit all those activities comfortably into a two-week itinerary. To make your planning easier, I’m including an indication of how much time you’ll need for each based on the assumption you’re staying in the Camps Bay area.
Hike up Table Mountain (3-5 hours)
Discover Cape Town from above with 360° views over the city from this flat-topped mountain. As one of Cape Town’s most iconic landmarks, you cannot miss out on Table Mountain during your South Africa holiday. You can take the Cable Car up and down but I highly recommend the hike up. It’s a bit challenging but also lots of fun and a great workout (in case you need to sweat off that Ostrich steak…). Make sure to read my tips for hiking Table Mountain.
Swim with penguins on Boulders Beach (3-5 hours or 1 day)
One of my personal Western Cape highlights was our afternoon trip to Simon’s Town. Here, we swam with African penguins on Boulders Beach. It’s actually possible to get into the water with these cute little creatures. I’ve written about this amazing experience and how you can swim with them, too.
You could combine this with a trip to Kalk Bay/Muizenberg Beach and make it a full day trip. Another day trip option is to drive all the way to the Cape of Good Hope before or after your visit to Boulders Beach.
Taste wine on Western Cape vineyards (a few hours to a full day)
Touring some of the Western Cape vineyards made me a fan of South African wines. The wine tastings are really good value and apart from tasting delicious selections of wines, you will be doing so in absolutely beautiful scenery. That’s why even if you’re not a fan of wine, it’s worth visiting some estates (for lunch, a coffee, a walk,…).
Watch out for my upcoming blog post where I will be sharing a list of my favourite vineyards around Cape Town and the Western Cape.
You can choose to visit just one vineyard or a couple and to include a lunch stop or picnic somewhere, making this an activity for just a couple of hours or even a full day.
Climb up Lion’s Head and find Wally’s Cave (2-4 hours)
Another one of my favourite activities on our Cape Town holiday: Hiking up Lion’s Head! The first part of the hike was easy and the last part is split into an easy and a difficult route. We took the more adventurous difficult route and climbed up steep-ish rocks, holding on to handrails and climbing ladders. It was really fun and the views from Lion’s Head were a good reward for the little workout. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take a little detour and try to find Wally’s Cave (tips on how to find it).
Go shopping at Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay (2-4 hours)
A lovely market in Hout Bay, you can find beautifully handcrafted products, jewellery, art, as well as lots of food stalls at Bay Harbour Market. It’s a lively, buzzing place that’s set in an old authentic fish factory. I definitely recommend coming here for breakfast or lunch on Saturday or Sunday before heading to Muizenberg Beach for a day of relaxing. There’s live music every weekend, too!
Opening times: Fridays, 5-9 pm | Saturdays & Sundays, 9.30 am to 4 pm
Surf on Muizenberg Beach (half day)
Muizenberg Beach is one of Cape Town’s most well-known and best beaches. You may have seen its colourful beach huts before or know it for being an excellent spot for learning how to surf. It’s on the Indian Ocean so the water is warmer here and the waves are easier on less experienced surfers.
Head to Kalky’s Fish & Chips in Kalk Bay after your beach day.
Picnic at Boschendal (half day to a full day)
Another Western Cape highlight is a visit to Boschendal, one of South Africa’s oldest wine estates founded in 1685. It’s located between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and a 1-hour drive from Camps Bay. It is known and loved for its farm-to-table cuisine and award-winning wines. Nestled in between vineyards and mountains, it’s a lovely spot for a picnic.
The picnic baskets contain only naturally grown produce from the estate and locally made artisanal goods with changing menus depending on what the estate’s food garden is producing. Boschendal now has two picnic areas where the Rhone Classic Picnic is a full service area with tables or picnic blankets and more selection of food in the baskets. The Werf Garden Picnic is more relaxed with bean bags, hammocks and blankets but guests are welcome to bring their own tables and chairs.
For opening times and prices check their website – you need to book in advance and it’s a lunch time affair only with picnic basket collection from 12 – 2 pm only.
Relax on Clifton 4th Beach (couple of hours to a full day)
Located next to Camps Bay, Clifton’s white-sand beaches are split into four parts by granite rocks. Clifton 4th is one of the most popular and sought-after beaches in South Africa and often frequented by the rich and famous. You’ll probably see a couple of yachts and the surrounding villas are prime real estate. We went on a week day in mid-season so the beach was quiet.
They have facilities there and you can bring drinks and food for the day so you could easily spend a day there. But if you’re staying in the area, it’s also nice to just go for a couple of hours to relax.
Sunset watching & cocktails in Camps Bay (2 hours)
I was very lucky to be living in a beautiful house overlooking Camps Bay. We were spoilt with stunning sunset views from our bedroom and the terrace. So, we often enjoyed our sunset drinks right in the house.
If you’re staying in another part of town, make sure to head over to Camps Bay in the evening for some cocktails. There are plenty of bars along the beach from where you can watch the sunset.
Cafe Caprice – very trendy and popular; the place to be on a Sunday when you should expect to queue
The Roundhouse – a restaurant on the hill with outdoor seating where you can also just come for a sundowner and overlook Camps Bay
La Parada del Mar – another trendy place by Camps Bay beach
Sunset Cafe – cute little spot by the beach with some unusual drinks
The Bungalow – on Clifton Beach, a short walk from Camps Bay, it’s a bit more high-end but come early and it’s still relaxed
Cycle (or drive) from Camps Bay to Cape Point (1 day)
This is something I have on the list for our next Cape Town holiday: A day trip by bicycle from Camps Bay to Cape Point. We did part of that route by car and the route isn’t called “scenic” for no reason. It’s stunning! With more than 65km though, it’s no easy route and you’ll have to go up- and downhill a lot, too. I’d definitely arrange to be picked up for the way back to Camps Bay!
Alternatively, you could start in Simon’s Town where a round trip to Cape Point would be 50km and take around 5-7 hours.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (a few hours to half a day)
Nestled at the Eastern foot of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch if one of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens. It’s definitely one of the top things to do in Cape Town. You can join a free guided walking tour or explore the 52,800-sq-km area on your own. 9,000 different plant species grow here and the fragrance and sculpture gardens are among the highlights. From November to March, the gardens host Sunday afternoon concerts.
Opening times: 8am-7pm Sep-Mar, to 6pm Apr-Aug, conservatory 9am-5pm year-round
A bit of history at Robben Island (3.5 hours)
A Unesco World Heritage Site, Robben Island served as a prison up until 1996. Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment here. It now serves as a museum and tells visitors about the harsh lives of apartheid’s political prisoners on the island. You need to book a tour if you want to visit Robben Island. The price includes a return ferry from the V&A Waterfront and a bus tour of the island. Ex-inmates conduct the guided tours.
Ferries depart at: 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm (3 pm only during peak season)
Shopping and lunch at the V&A Waterfront (half a day)
The V&A Waterfront is located on the Atlantic Shore of Cape Town and home to a variety of shops, markets, restaurants, bars and activities. We went for a bit of shopping and lunch once. The food market has really great options if you fancy street food. We came back for dinner at Belthazar where I had the game kebab.
If you’re interested in a helicopter ride or any other activities, most of them will be departing from the V&A.
Play time on Camps Bay Beach
Camps Bay Beach is a gorgeous, blue-flag beach with white sand and beautiful scenery. It’s the biggest stretch of beach in Camps Bay with plenty of room to play around or just relax in a quiet spot.
With this Cape Town travel guide you can make your South Africa holiday an unforgettable experience. Are you ready for your next adventure?