A coming-together of cultures, cuisines and landscapes, there's nowhere quite like Cape Town, a singularly beautiful city crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain National Park.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Cape Town.
Location and unique flora combine to make these 5.28-sq-km botanical gardens among the most beautiful in the world. Gate 1, the main entrance at the Newlands end of the gardens, is where you’ll find the information centre, an excellent souvenir shop and the conservatory. Added for the garden's centenary in 2013, the popular Tree Canopy Walkway (informally known as the 'Boomslang', meaning tree snake) is a curvaceous steel and timber bridge that rises through the trees and provides amazing views.
This 77.5-sq-km section of Table Mountain National Park includes awesome scenery, fantastic walks, great birdwatching and often-deserted beaches. The reserve is commonly referred to as Cape Point, after its most dramatic (but less famous) promontory. Bookings are required for the two-day Cape of Good Hope Trail, a spectacular 33.8km circular route with one night spent in a basic hut. Contact the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre for further details.
Around 600 million years old, and a canvas painted with the rich diversity of the Cape floral kingdom, Table Mountain is truly iconic. You can admire the showstopper of Table Mountain National Park and one of the 'New 7 Wonders of Nature' (https://nature.new7wonders.com) from multiple angles, but you really can’t say you’ve visited Cape Town until you’ve stood on top of it.
Stretching from Signal Hill to Cape Point, this 220-sq-km park is a natural wonder, its range of environments including granite and sandstone mountains, giant-boulder-strewn beaches and shady forests. For the vast majority of visitors, the main attraction is the 1086m-high mountain itself, the top of which can easily be accessed by the cableway, which runs every 10 to 20 minutes.
Used as a prison from the early days of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) right up until 1996, this Unesco World Heritage site is preserved as a memorial to those (such as Nelson Mandela) who spent many years incarcerated here. You can only go here on a tour, which lasts around four hours including ferry rides, departing from the Nelson Mandela Gateway beside the Clock Tower at the Waterfront. Booking online well in advance is highly recommended as tours can sell out.
This picturesque area, with enormous boulders dividing small, sandy coves, is home to a colony of some 3000 delightful African penguins. A boardwalk runs from the Boulders Visitor Centre at the Foxy Beach end of the protected area – part of Table Mountain National Park – to Boulders Beach, where you can get down on the sand and mingle with the waddling penguins. Don’t, however, be tempted to pet them: they have sharp beaks that can cause serious injuries.
It's impossible not to be emotionally moved by this museum, which celebrates the once lively multiracial area that was destroyed during apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s, its 60,000 inhabitants forcibly removed. Inside the former Methodist Mission Church, home interiors have been recreated, alongside photographs, recordings and testimonials, all of which build an evocative picture of a shattered but not entirely broken community. Many township tours stop here first to explain the history of the pass laws.
This magnificent 5km stretch of beach is favoured by surfers and horse riders. It tends to be windy, and dangerous for swimmers. The Hoek, as it is known to surfers, is an excellent right beach break at the northern end that can hold large waves (only attempt it at low tide); it’s best with a southeasterly wind. The large beach is isolated in places and attacks have occurred here, so don't go alone and seek local advice beforehand.
The beaches beside this pleasant coastal suburb are where the British won their 1806 battle for the Cape. The panoramic view they provide of Table Mountain across Table Bay is fabulous, but these beaches are also popular with kite-surfers and windsurfers; watching them ride the waves on the weekends is an impressive sight. You can also see Robben Island clearly from here.
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