"Breathtaking!" - "Stunning!" - "Amazing!" - were the superlatives coming to mind every day I spent in this amazing region!
Cape Town and the Cape Penninsula are without a doubt one of most stunningly beautiful and varied regions in the world!
Whether it is the turquoise blue ocean, sandy beaches, exceptional wildlife - whales, sharks and penguins in particular - historic Mandela sites, luscious vineyards or just Cape Town's beautiful downtown, this amazing region has it all!
I recently spent 6 wonderful weeks here, including a month long farm sit in the wine region and another house sit with the penguins of Boulder's Beach and was amazed every day at the stunning beauty I saw all around me.
Cape Town is awesome and not without reason one of the top travel destinations in the world. I have yet to meet a person that visits this magnificent city and doesn't absolutely love it!
These are my Top 10 Most Amazing Things to do in Cape Town - with an obvious emphasis on the magnificent marine life here - but also the many other varied experiences Cape Town has to offer.
Attractions are spread out over 4 major areas:
* Cape Town itself
* Cape Penninsula with Cape of Good Hope
* Cape Winelands, spreading all the way to Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Wellington
* Whale Coast Route & Shark Alley along the Eastern Coast (starting in Gordon's Bay)
Let's begin with a trip around the Cape Penninsula, boasting 3 of the most famous - and most stunning - attractions Cape Town has to offer:
1) Chapman's Peak Drive
One of the iconic scenic drives in the world!
Located between Cape Town and the West side of the Cape Penninsula, this beautiful drive is only 15 km long, but of such spectacular beauty that you will want to get out of the car every 2 minutes.
"Chappies" is winding its way around Chapman's Peak Mountain along steep cliffs that offer stunning vistas and ocean views. Absolutely amazing!
2) Cape of Good Hope
"Cape of Good Hope" - a name of mythical allure and adventure....
Definitely one of the absolute must-see things in the region. While it is not the Southern most point of Africa or the place where Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet - that honor goes to Cape Agulhas further East - it is nonetheless an amazing place to visit.
There are several shorter hikes and you can even stay overnight.
3) Penguins at Boulder's Beach
The 3rd major highlight is located on the Eastern Side of the Cape Penninsula!
There are several penguin colonies along the South African Coast, but this is the most famous one and only an hour away from Cape Town. Boulder's Beach is part of Simon's Town - a quaint, historic coastal town with a British expat vibe, famous also for whale watching.
You pay a small entrance fee and can then walk along a beautiful board walk to the beach. The penguins are wild and you are not allowed to touch or feed them, but they are used to humans and will sit or walk right next to the board walk.
Once you reach the actual beach you will be blown away by the sheer numbers! - penguins everywhere, on the beach, in the water, on the rocks - just amazing! Don't miss it.....
4) Whale Watching
The waters around Cape Town, and especially heading East towards Hermanus, offer some of the richest whale sightings anywhere in the world. - if - you pick the right season, which is late August into early December.
From Cape Town you can either go to False Bay on the East Side of the Cape Penninsula, featuring pretty little coastal towns like Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and Simon's Town.
Or you drive East along the Whale Coast Route (starting from Gordon's Bay) towards Hermanus, the whale watching capital of the world.
Wherever you go along the coast, whales will be visible close to the shore. You can sip a coffee on the beach and see them right from there or join a whale watching cruise.
5) Shark Cage Diving
Another once-in-a-lifetime experience! - nowhere else in the world can you go diving with Great Whites with such ease. There are 2 other places, one in Australia and one in Mexico, but in both cases you have to pay a lot more to get far enough out to sea to encounter Great Whites.
In "Shark Alley" as this region is famously known - right off Gaansbaai (2 hours east of Cape Town) with the famous seal colony of Dyer Island - Great Whites are everywhere. Well.....most of the time and especially between August and early December.
When I recently visited the area in January, Great Whites had disappeared for several weeks to the consternation of local marine biologists and cage diving outfits. More about this phenomenon my upcoming article.
During most times of the year though you should be able to see them, just make sure you call ahead. Most outfits provide transport from Cape Town and it's a beautiful 2 hour drive.
Sharklady Adventures is one of the best known - and ethical - cage diving outfits. This cool lady actually started it all in the early 90s - and since then Princes Harry and William as well as Brad Pitt have gone shark diving with her.
Rather than treating shark cage diving as an adrenaline activity, I invite you to see it as a rare opportunity to come close to some of nature's most fascinating - and terrifying - creatures that are often misunderstood and sadly endangered.
6) Cape Winelands
South African wines are famous and this is the region where they grow - the fertile winelands around Cape Town.
The most beautiful scenery and largest wineries can be found along the Wine Route near Constantia, easily accessible via the Hop on - Hop off Bus from Cape Town.
Other famous areas include Stellenbosch and Franschhoek as well as the lesser known region around Wellington where I recently did a farm sit (see the little white building in the background):
7) Nelson Mandela's infamous Prison: Robben Island
To me, one of the most important things I wanted to do in Cape Town was a visit to Robben Island, the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years of incarceration - featured in many documentaries and movies.
My visit turned out to be deeply moving and transformative which I'm describing in my article "7 Powerful Gifts I received from Nelson Mandela".
Another famous Mandela site in the Cape Town region is the prison in Paarl, right next to Wellington, the last place of Mandela's internment and starting point of his famous "Walk to Freedom".
8) Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Yep....that's a dinosaur....;-) - one of several in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kirstenbosch is gorgeous, vast and peaceful. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy some quiet time under a tree or a stroll through the many pathways lined with indigenous plants and flowers.
The scenery is beautiful, the views of Cape Town stunning, and evenings can be enjoyed listening to an open air concert.
No article about Cape Town would be complete without a mention of its many fantastic beaches. Lonely Planet named Cape Town 2nd in its list of the best beach cities in the world and as an ocean lover and beach aficionado, I couldn't agree more!
The water is turquoise blue, the beaches sandy and white and in many places you have Table Mountain as a magnificent background. When you add in whales and penguins, it doesn't get much better than this....
Cape Town's beaches can be found in 3 different areas:
FALSE BAY to the East, stretching from Gordon's Bay via Muizenberg and Fish Hoek all the way to Simon's Town and Boulder's Beach.
ATLANTIC SEABOARD with Hout Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point. This is the area right around Cape Town, easily accessible via the Hop on - Hop off bus.
WEST COAST with Bloubergstrand (see the kite surfing picture above), Melkbosstrand and Sunset Beach
10) City of Cape Town
Last, but certainly not least, the beautiful city of Cape Town herself. Without a doubt the most modern of all African cities.
There is a cool, eclectic, hip vibe about Cape Town that is simply fun!
Explore the beautiful harbour around Victoria Wharf - also starting point for Robben Island tours.
The Malay Quarter with its beautifully colored houses:
or Cape Town's hippest block: Bree Street
The easiest way to get around to all of Cape Town's attractions is the Hop on-Hop off bus. Even the locals use it, which is always a good sign....;-) - and it's an inexpensive and easy way to explore this beautiful city and region.
They have 4 different routes: the main route, the beach towns, historic downtown and the Wine Route and all can be easily combined.
My "secret tip" for accommodations is the Newlands Guest House near Kirstenbosch. Ask for the Beach Cottage, you'll thank me later...;-)
There you have it - my Top 10 for Cape Town! - Feel free to add and comment......