Travelling is one of the greatest ways to open our mind, to help broaden our imagination to beyond what our limits once were and teaches us the life skills that no school, degree or manual ever can. It is not enough to explore a country and simply tick off all of the main sights or to take a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower so that all of your Facebook friends have proof that you were indeed there. Instead, we must transform ourselves from a tourist into a traveler by immersing ourselves into the sights, sounds and smells of everything around us. Cape Town for one is no exception and I would most definitely recommend doing the popular touristy things such as the cable car, Cape Point, Camps Bay and Franschhoek to name a few, but the list down below are my suggestions of Cape Town’s hidden gems that are slightly off the beaten track for the average tourist:
1. 12 Apostles Hike. My first hidden gem is not so hidden at all seeing as though it is based, quite literally, on top of Table Mountain, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The city of Cape Town is built around Table Mountain which can be seen from anywhere within the city and although it’s great to go up to the top via cable car, it is even better to get out and experience the mountain on foot, enabling you to see a 360 degree view of Cape Town from above as you walk across the top of the 12 apostles. The trail starts at Hout Bay/Llandudno and ends at the cable car station. There are several paths leading up to the mountain plateau from the ‘pipe track’ if you don’t feel like hiking from beginning to end. This requires majority of your day to do, obviously depending on where you start, so don’t forget sunscreen, a camera, plenty of water/juice and snacks!
2. Kalk Bay. Situated on the warmer False Bay waters of Cape Town, Kalk Bay is a quaint fishing town situated on the slopes of the mountain and is home to some very unique antique & hippy shops. The Kalk Bay harbour is a great place to witness first hand how many fishing villages within Cape Town used to operate on small scales as well as selling the freshest fish in Cape Town. If fresh fish is not for you, stop in at either Olympia cafe or the Brass Bell, the latter being one of Cape Town’s more famous restaurants/bars which serve anything from the likes of pizza to fish and chips. On Wednesday evenings you can show off your skills with karaoke or listen to live band performances. P.S. Shoes are not required in Kalk Bay – take it or leave it.
3. Llandudno. If your feet can no longer handle having no shoes on, take a drive across the peninsula to the colder Atlantic waters of Llandudno beach. It is close to beach perfection with pearly white sand as well as some amazing surf, although the water can get ridiculously cold here. If you prefer the more natural side of life, head over the rocks to Sandy Bay, Cape Town’s very own nudist beach. I would advise against going there if ‘flaunting what your momma gave you’ isn’t quite your scene. Despite the fact that Sandy Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches, I however, still have nightmares.
4. The Grand. One of Cape Town’s more popular restaurants situated near the V&A Waterfront, another must see for any visitor. The Grand is one of the places ‘to be seen’ in Cape Town and serves really good food in an amazing location. The outside area is covered with beach sand and is relatively informal however at night, it turns itself into a really lovely dining experience. Although I haven’t spent much time here, I did manage to successfully gatecrash Casey Neistat’s wedding which turned out to be an extremely fun night!
5. Long Street. Yes, it’s pretty long. It also happens to be a street. This street is one of the most well-known in Cape Town and home to many of Cape Town’s backpackers. The nightlife tends to be very vibrant on almost any given evening with lots of interesting places to stop in for a drink, such as Bob’s Bar. It has some great shops, restaurants and clubs but if you are not quite in the mood for squeaking your dance shoes too hard, head over to Beerhouse, one of Cape Town’s finest craft beer bars. It does get groovy in the evening so get in there early if you want to have more of a relaxed atmosphere.
6. Sunrise hike on Lion’s Head. That’s right, this involves actually getting up when your alarm goes off! Although you might question your motives as you decide not to hit ‘snooze’, you will be extremely glad that you sacrificed one morning of lie-ins to witness the sun rise over the Cape before the city wakes. This does involve a relatively easy hike up to the top (+-45 minutes) but it’s a great way to get your day started.
7. Blue Peter. Explore the West Coast of Cape Town, Bloubergstrand, a place where the sea is cold, sand is white and the vibe is great! Do not miss out on spending an evening at the legendary Blue Peter for sun-downers and ridiculously good pizza (I do recommend their Long Island ice tea…it’s strong). On any evening when the weather is average to good, Blue Peter fills up and leaves little space for late comers. The views of Table Mountain from this venue are iconic, especially at sunset so do not forget your camera.
8. Petits Fours.If you happen to have gone a little bit larger than planned at Blue Peter the previous night, head on over to Petits Fours for scrumptious breakfasts, coffee and treats. This is situated down the road from Blue Peter right on the rocks and has the potential to cause obesity within one sitting. Their treats are absolutely irresistible!
9. West Coast National Park. A little further up the coast is the West Coast National Park. During spring, the whole park becomes carpeted in brightly coloured flowers as they come into full bloom. This only happens when the weather conditions are right, so if you happen to be there when they are in full bloom, one, you’re lucky and two, get there early! Even if you are not there in Spring, the West Coast National Park is home to beautiful desolate beaches, rich history and unreal scenery. Pack a picnic, swimming costume and towel and make sure you visit Kraalbaai/Churchhaven beach which is situated on the Langebaan lagoon. It tends to get scorchingly hot in summer so bring umbrellas and sunscreen. I would also caution you that there seem to be an abundance of sand sharks and although they are completely harmless, they still manage to scare the life out of me when stood on. SO don’t pull a ‘Nicole’ and resort to doing frantic doggy paddle in ankle deep water because quite frankly, besides from it looking absolutely ridiculous, it also tends to embarrass whatever company you’re with. Rather, just bring a lilo.
10. Yzerfontein. If you go even further up the West Coast roughly 45 minutes from Cape Town you will come across a little town called Yzerfontein (pronounced A-zer-fon-tane). It is perfect for families, couples or solo adventures with plenty of surf, huge stretches of untouched beach, a range of activities and stunning accommodation. If you do visit this great West Coast village, you must most definitely go to Strandkombuis (Afrikaans for beach kitchen), a quirky restaurant & BnB on the beach that serves delicious food and has become a popular choice as a wedding venues.
11. Woodstock. This area houses majority of Cape Town’s hipster population. In fact, about 99%. I’m not kidding. Woodstock Exchange is a great place to go and explore hipster shops including a tea emporium, delicious food at Superette and even better coffee at Starling & Hero cafe. Near to the Woodstock Exchange is the Biscuit Mill, a rather pricey yet awesome market that comes to life on weekends. Try out the Pot Luck Club for dinner as it’s reputation is one of the best in Cape Town. When you’ve filled your bellies with food, coffee and treats, take a drive through the streets of Woodstock and stop and admire the arty graffiti on the houses, colourful buildings and different walks of life which provide amazing photographic opportunities.
12. Bo-Kaap. Situated on the slopes of Signal Hill with some of the best views that Cape Town has to offer, Bo-Kaap is characterised by it’s different brightly coloured houses and cobbled streets. Originally known as the Malay Quarter during Apartheid’s racial segregation, it is strongly identified with the Cape Malay culture of Cape Town. Be sure to switch on all of your senses as the amazing smells of home-made local food wafts through the colourful doors of the houses. If these smells strongly turn on your mouth watering mechanism, pop into Haas cafe (pronounced ‘harse’ and means rabbit in Afrikaans) in Rose street for good food and coffee.
13. Chapman’s Peak Drive. You might be familiar with a lot of car adverts that are based on a beautiful scenic mountain road with heaps of sharp bends and a cliff overhanging the ocean on the other? Well those are all most likely shot on Chapman’s Peak toll road. This is probably the most spectacular road in Cape Town and links Hout Bay with Noordhoek and visa versa. You will have to pay a small toll fee on the Hout Bay side but it is well worth it and a must-see whilst in Cape Town. If it happens to be a Thursday, make sure you venture into Cape Point Vineyards for their weekly market, bring picnic blankets, grab a glass of wine and choose from a selection of gourmet food!
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Mike Lundy’s amazing trail guide of Cape Town
- My personal favourite – Keypod
- International drivers
- Your adventure spirit
This list could go on & on with activities and places to try! I hope you get to do at least some points on this list if you are visiting us 🙂 Put your high heels away for most part of the day and wear the soles of your shoes down by exploring every opportunity that you are given!