With its beaches, restaurants and cultural attractions, it’s hard to imagine why any traveler would want to leave Cape Town. Yet spending a day or two exploring the Western Cape’s other assets is sure to enrich any South African sojourn. Here are some of Cape Town best day trips.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula, Hout Bay is a dynamic suburb with an active harbor and booming fishing industry. This is where you’ll find one of the region’s most popular fish and chips joints. The aptly named Fish on the Rocks sits right up against the rocky seashore and cooks up freshly caught prawn, hake or snoek (a local favorite white fish) in a casual setting.
Walking around the harbor is a wonderful chance to see fishing boats coming in with their daily catches, and sometimes there’s a playful seal or two waiting patiently around the docks to catch any fish castoffs.
If you visit on a Friday night or weekend, don’t miss the eclectic and colorful Bay Harbour Market; it’s a superb place to sample an impressive selection of food and drinks, as well as buy clothing and art from local artisans. Aviary fans should visit World of Birds, Africa’s largest bird park, which will delight those seeking South Africa’s wildlife, including monkeys and meerkats.
Hout Bay is also the starting point of the dazzling Chapman’s Peak Drive, possibly the most beautiful drive in the entire country.
Simon’s Town & Boulders Beach
Just a 45-minute drive down the Cape Peninsula along the striking coastline of False Bay, Simon’s Town is one of Cape Town’s most popular suburbs for good reason. The historic town features many charming shops and cafés that are perfect to pop in and out of as you walk along admiring the spectacular sea views.
As the location of South Africa’s largest naval base, it also has a fascinating naval museum, complete with an authentic submarine control panel.
While you may not be familiar with Simon’s Town, you’ve most likely heard of its most famous residents: the penguins at Boulders Beach. The beach lies on the outskirts of town and hosts thousands of endangered African penguins.
The garrulous, bewitching creatures can often be seen sunning themselves on boulders or swimming alongside humans going for a dip. Beware: Though they are cute, they do bite if you get too close.
Ask Capetonians about their favorite place for a weekend escape, and you’ll likely hear them wax lyrical about Hermanus. Even if you can only devote a day to this seaside town, you won’t be disappointed.
The thriving area still boasts the welcoming appeal of a small fishing village, with an astonishing abundance of natural beauty thanks to a gorgeous coastline and a verdant mountainous backdrop.
Hermanus is part of South Africa’s whale route, and from June to November, it’s said to offer some of the best land-based whale watching on the planet.
As if an idyllic landscape and whale watching weren’t enough to recommend it, the town is also set in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, another of the country’s top wine-growing spots. Hemel-en-Aarde, which is Afrikaans for “heaven and Earth,” features dozens of picturesque wineries perched among mountains, making internationally lauded pinot noirs and chardonnays.
Stellenbosch Wine Region
You don’t have to be an oenophile to thoroughly enjoy a visit to the Western Cape’s premier wine region. Less than an hour from Cape Town lie more than 150 wine farms (as they are called in South Africa), producing award-winning reds, whites and sparkling varieties.
The appellation is particularly well-known for its pinotage, a smoky, earthy red; it’s South Africa’s signature grape. Many winery tasting rooms are in elegant, centuries-old manor homes, with friendly staff — and often the winemaker or owners themselves — offering personalized, inexpensive tastings.
Stellenbosch is the second-oldest town in the country, with lovely sites. If you need to refuel, pop into the Oak Leaf Restaurant at the historic boutique Protea Hotel by Marriott Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa to try some traditional South African comfort food.
The Cape Point nature reserve lies at the southwesterly tip of the Cape Peninsula and forms part of South Africa’s extensive Table Mountain National Park. The sprawling, scenic reserve features lush swaths of South Africa’s distinctive shrubs and flowers knows as fynbos.
There’s also a marvelous array of birdlife, as well as eland, baboons, bontebok and zebra. For incredible panoramic views, walk or take the Flying Dutchman funicular to the top of the Cape Point lighthouse, or take in the views at a more leisurely pace with a hike on one of the park’s many trails, including some walks centered around shipwreck remains.
Cape Point is also home to the famous Cape of Good Hope promontory, which was once believed to be the most southerly point of the African continent, though that honor now rightly goes to Cape Agulhas.