Africa’s pinkest city is a glam-to-the-max destination that any LGBT traveller should have on their bucket list. De Waterkant, the queer precinct, is welcoming to everyone, from Cape Town’s finest drag queens to leathered-up Muscle Marys. Throughout the year the city hosts several gay festivals and events.

GLBT Rights & Challenges

During apartheid, gay male erotic contact was illegal. (Female same-sex conduct never was, however.) With democracy, South Africa became the first country in the world to enshrine gay and lesbian rights in its constitution. There’s an equal age of consent and GLBT people are legally entitled to marry, too.

Sadly, alternative lifestyles are not embraced by all South Africans. Hardly a year goes by without several gay hate crimes being reported in the Western Cape. It is not unheard of for lesbians in black communities to be subjected to 'corrective rape'. Anti-hate-crime legislation exists, but the laws are rarely put into action.

Connecting with Locals

The closure of the long-running Amsterdam Action Bar in De Waterkant in 2017 could be seen as something of a weather vane. The gay vibe of the district remains intact, but it's noticeably less busy than in previous years and will take another hit when the old Cape Quarter complex (home to the long-running bar and restaurant Cafe Manhattan) closes for renovations in 2018.

Cape Town's lesbian community continues to party on with the M.I.S.S (Make It Sexy Sisters; www.facebook.com/MISSmakeitsexysisters) events, and the Unofficial Pink Parties (www.facebook.com/pinkpartyza). These are lesbian-run but welcoming to everyone.

If you fancy going hiking with gays and gay-friendly folk while in the Mother City, check out the Cape Town Gay Hiking Club (www.facebook.com/groups/6068816435).

Gay Language

Moffie, the local term for a homosexual, comes from the Afrikaans word for glove; it’s also the title of the flamboyant leaders of the performance troupes in the Cape Minstrel Carnival. Among gays, moffie has come to be used like ‘queer’ – in an affirmative way to repudiate its negative connotations.

Older Capetonian gays will also remember an apartheid-era code language, called ‘Gayle’, in which women’s names stand in for certain words; for example, ‘Beaulah’ for 'beautiful' and ‘Hilda’ for 'ugly'.

GLBT by Neighbourhood

  • De Waterkant This compact ‘gaybourhood’ is at its cruisiest on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • East City, District Six, Woodstock & Observatory There's a couple of LGBT venues around Harrington St and boho Obz's is certainly queer friendly.
  • Sea Point to Hout Bay Sea Point has long had a gay vibe; Clifton No 3 is the beach for the beautiful, and Sandy Bay for nudists.
  • Gardens & Surrounds Inner city 'hoods with a sprinkling of GLBT-run and -friendly businesses.

Need to Know

Information

  • Pink South Africa (www.pinksa.co.za)
  • GayCapeTown4u.com (www.gaycapetown4u.com)
  • Mamba (www.mambaonline.com)
  • Mambagirl (www.mambagirl.com)
  • SA Leather South Africa (www.sal.qw.co.za)

Magazines & Newspapers

  • Pink Tongue Free monthly newspaper covering local GLBT news and events
  • Out Africa Magazine Free quarterly glossy paper publication.

Support

  • Triangle Project Leading local gay support organisation, offering legal advice and a range of education programs.
  • Pride Shelter Trust (www.pridesheltertrust.com) Africa's first autonomous GBLT crisis centre, which has been in operation since 2011.

Best Lists

GLBT

  • Glen Boutique Hotel Glam Sea Point digs and Cape Town's best 'straight-friendly' hotel.
  • Crew Bar The most happening of De Waterkant’s clubs, with muscular barmen.
  • Alexander Bar & Café Classy venue with theatre that puts on a great range of shows.
  • Clifton 3rd Beach See and be seen on the cruisiest of Clifton’s quartet of beaches.
  • Pienk Piesang Learn to dance Afrikaans-style at these Northern Suburbs parties.
  • Sandy Bay Shed your clothes and inhibitions at this gorgeous nude beach.

GLBT Stays

GLBT Bars, Clubs & Cabaret

  • Babylon Plush velvet upholstered booths, topless twinks and cubs, and views of Table Mountain from its balcony.
  • Bar Code Depending on the night, clothing may be optional.
  • Beaulah Fun club for the girls – but welcoming to the boys, too.
  • Gate69 Cape Town Glam it up for the dinner-theatre shows at this camp and glitzy drag venue.
  • Evita se Perron Head to Darling for the home theatre of local legend Pieter-Dirk Uys.

GLBT Eats

  • Beefcakes Burger bar with campy bingo, drag shows and topless muscle-boy waiters.
  • Lazari Ditch the diet: the cakes and bakes here are divine.
  • Cafe Manhattan Pioneer of the De Waterkant gay scene.
  • Raptor Room Cute pink dinosaurs and sassy staff at this fun diner in the East City.

GLBT Festivals & Events