Cape Town is a nice enough city on its own, but what makes it an incredible city is the juxtaposition of urban life, ocean beaches, and unusual landforms. It’s a fine day for a visitor to delight in the trendy boutiques, hipster restaurants, and vast amount of bars, but my most memorable parts of Cape Town were my trips out into its backdrops that set the stage for Capetonian life.
When I was doing a bit of research on what I wanted to do in Cape Town, I came across Kirstenbosch Gardens and thought….meh. Luckily, my Capetonian friend Margo told me that I had to go and I forever grateful that I didn’t miss out on this magical otherworld of a garden. Calling it a garden seems misplaced, as it is more of an enchanted nature reserve, where you expect to see dinosaurs roaming at any minute.
I ended up in the gardens on a rather overcast day in the start of winter, but there wasn’t much of a crowd and the sun would peek its head out every so often to cast the bright flowers and greenery in a golden light. I enjoyed reading about Nelson Mandela’s golden flowers, or the yellow bird of paradise, smelling the scents of petals and leaves in the fragrance garden, and walked over the “snake bridge”, which coils through the trees and gives a stellar view of the mountain slope.
I ended my two hours of walking around with a rewarding latte at the restaurant on the grounds, Moyo. The view of the gardens from my seat was serene perfection and I absolutely did not want to leave.
Table Mountain is forever watching over Cape Town and yet, many of its residents seems to forget about it. I spoke to Uber drivers and locals who talked about forgetting it was there or not looking at it enough or fully appreciating its beauty. It seems we can become used to anything, even living in the shadow of a worldwide tourist attraction.
Table Mountain got its name for its flat top, or plateau, and when the fog settles around it, Capetonians cleverly call this the “table-cloth”. This mountain is one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and people come from all over to hike up it or around its plateau. My friend Jazz and I decided to take the cable car up (R135, not cheap) and hike down. The cable car rotates 360 degrees on the way up, so you get each and every gorgeous view that you could want. At the top, we walked down a random path and had our picnic with a top-notch lookout. Table Mountain is full of dassies, angry looking, but docile rodents of an unusual size and we tried our best to get away from them. They mostly stay in the main tourist area, where ignorant visitors try to feed, pet, or take selfies with them.
The trail down to the bottom is not very well-marked and we missed it…by 20 minutes. Therefore, after back-tracking and wasting 40 minutes of hiking time, we decided to just cable car down again. It also helped persuade us to spend the money when we saw an elderly woman coming up the trail, wheezing, and saying under her breath, “so difficult, so dangerous!”
Lion’s Head Mountain is another unique landmark in Cape Town and it is popular for sunrise and sunset hikes (I strongly advise going with a group, not alone). I opted to go in the middle of the day with no water so learn from my mistakes.
Although I felt jet-lagged and dehydrated, the hike that circled around the base of Lion’s Head and took us along the coast was a lovely little hike and there were some hills that certainly gave us our workout for the day.
The trails are rocky and there isn’t much shade so be prepared. It takes approx. an hour and a half to reach the summit, or you can take a shorter hike, like we did, around the base.
Constantia Valley Wine Route
Look here, an outdoor activity that includes wine! It doesn’t get any better. This wine route is only twenty minutes out of the city and is one stop past Kirstenbosch Gardens on the hop on, hop off bus. I am almost always adverse to those kinds of buses, but in Cape Town they are the most convenient way to see these sights (plus you get educational guides to listen to on the bus for free). It also doesn’t hurt that you can drink a bottle of bubbly on the top deck at sunset while careening back to Cape Town along the coastline. Absolute perfection.
We went to Beau Constantia Wine Farm and it was effortlessly classy. The wine tasting area is all white linen and floor to ceiling windows, but alas, it was too busy for us. Unlike most wineries in the States, wine farms serve you your tastings, and they were booked. So instead, we happily bought a bottle of red and sat out on the green lawn, drank our delicious wine, and looked out on the mountain ranges and vineyards. I think we may have gotten the better deal.
According to my tourist bus guide, in Camps Bay you may see “Charlize Theron sipping some champagne with friends or Leonardo Dicaprio out at the club.” Exaggeration for sure, but not as much as you would think. Camps Bay is a very wealthy area of Cape Town and celebrities are known to flock to it when in town. It’s easy to see why everyone wants to live here, the beaches are unbeatable and the sunsets are the kind that make you happy to be alive.
I went with a few new friends to experience the sunset and we laid out a blanket on the white sand, nearby a simultaneous rugby and ultimate frisbee game. There were many people out walking their dogs in the surf and we just sat back and enjoyed our snacks ,while getting whiplash from looking at the sun melting in front of us and turning around to see the Twelve Apostles mountains behind us.
Cape Town is a city that caters to outdoor enthusiasts and my suggestions only scratch the surface. Let me know what other wonderful outdoor places you love to visit in Cape Town!