This November I had a week off and wanted to make the most of it – time to head somewhere new, somewhere I could switch the cold for some warmth, sunshine and adventure.
I’ve heard a lot about South Africa – it’s beaches, it’s stunning nature, the great food and local wine and some of the most exciting wildlife in the world. 👌🦈 🐳 Checking on BA.com I had three options – Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban (the latter a new BA route for 2018). After some quick research, decision was made – Cape Town here I come.
Despite the last minute booking (and planning!) and it being my first ever time in the Southern Hemisphere (!), I packed a lot into a short visit, all made possible by limited time difference and an overnight flight – I boarded from London on Saturday evening and arrived in South Africa at 9.45am Sunday morning.
So here’s a quick run down of my adventure over the week in pictures; a 7 day itinerary for Cape Town.
Camps Bay for a wonder/ freezing toe dip in the sea
Lunch at a beach front restaurant called UMI
Grand cafe (beach club & restaurant (good for sun downers and dinner )
Booked car hire using the free airport wifi as I waited for the luggage at the baggage carousel. Since being given the tip years ago from a rental company employee, I now always book the cheapest car possible online before upgrading at the desk in order to get a great deal on a decent car. This works for me 99% of the time. Cape Town was the 1% as Thrifty apparently couldn’t take payment to upgrade as I booked through RentalCars.Com (a favourite) But hey the Rolls Royce badged up as a Datsun gave us a few laughs as we started to drive into the city (about 25 min drive) and it only cost about £100 for the week. #win
Where to stay – The first 2 nights accommodation was in Camps Bay.
This area came recommended by a friend and is beautiful. White sand, natural rock swimming pool and the Twelve Apostles mountains just behind you gives you the feel of a cross between the Jurassic coast of Devon and Malibu. Behind the beach, seafood restaurants, cafes and cocktail bars which all overlook the boardwalk and crashing Atlantic waves. there are lots of places to stay some pretty pricey. my approach is generally go for something more personal, authentic and less extortionate than the 5* hotels on offer unless my plan is to sit by the pool and make the most of what that offer. There is so much to do in South Africa so I booked into a guest house. If you want the former have a look at the Belmond Mount Nelson, the later took us the the ‘Ocean View House’. (£160/night on booking.com).
Getting around – in the evening was easy and safe and cheap using Über. ideal if you want to sample some of the amazing wines on offer.
Dinner – We headed to a beach club about a 20 min drive from Camps Bay called ‘Grand Café’. Not a typically authentic South African experience but somewhere we enjoyed a few cocktails as the sun set and relaxed candlelight dinner at their restaurant. Great food, great wine and a pretty cool vibe (£25/pp). 👌
Tipping – I generally tipped between 10 and 20%.
Chapmans peak drive
Misty cliffs beach 👌
Noordhoek Farm Village (lunch at the deli)
Cape of Good Hope 🌊
Boulders beach for penguins 🐧 (late afternoon wasn’t too busy)
Llandudno beach on the way home 🏖
Hussar grill dinner 🥩 🍴
A busy day but great way to cover a few of the must do things whilst there.
Breakfast looking out over the ocean before hopping into the car. The Chapman’s Peak Drive known as one of the worlds most scenic drives is a fantastic coastal route along Chappie’s Toll road (have a few coins ready) with the most majestic scenery. 🚙 ⛰
Keep your eyes peeled for whales on the right and baboons on the left. The most amazing deserted white sandy beaches with mist blowing off the sea gives the feel your on a film set. Absolutely fantastic!
Lunch – Pop into the Noordhoek Farm Village and enjoy the ranch style setting. Eat in the deli. The cafe looks fab and the food looks delicious. we had a look around grabbed a drink and the chef made us a coupe of fresh sandwiches to go. The only thing this place was missing was a few courses tied up at the door. Highly recommended for a pit stop.
The plan then was to continue the drive straight down to the Cape of Good Hope National Park and walk up the hill (take trainers) to the lighthouse before driving back up to swing by Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach to see the Penguins.
This was good advice we were given as the penguins can be off doing there thing in the day and there are coach loads of tourists to battle. We arrived around 5pm which was perfect. They’re just as cute and funny as you might expect! 🐧
We opted to do the same drive in reverse as opposed to taking the motorway back to Cape Town dropping into a coupe places on route.
Llandudno Beach – This is a hidden gem.
Almost out of sight from coastal road, light blues melt to deep darks where many ships have wrecked themselves in stormy waters. Take a picnic blanket, a bottle of South African wine and throw all your worries away. Watch the surfers do their thing whilst you find a sheltered spot behind one of the boulders and take an ankle-deep Atlantic dip.
This was one of my favourite spots. No restaurants, not many if any tourists, easy parking and an idyllic setting.
Dinner – The Hussar Grill. Great if you like steak and wine. Whatever happens, order the Chocolate Vodka Martini for Dessert! 👌 Again approx £25/pp
About an hours drive up into the mountainous wine region we arrived in Stellenbosch, surrounded by vineyards. The town has a real colonial style to it known as Cape Dutch. The streets are lined with oak trees, cafes and art galleries and again was a safe place to walk about even at night and sample the restaurants.
Accommodation – Our home for the night was a lovely little guest house in the centre of town. 2 nights would have been great but so much to see and so little time.
Stellenbosch is wine country and you may well have treated yourself to a bottle of wine with a Boschendal label in Waitrose. Well thats exactly where we ended up.
A wine tasting in their rose garden (the biggest in the southern hemisphere), all imported from Kew Gardens. I highly recommend booking a picnic for lunch before meeting Francois, who’s family used to own the vinyard. He told us all about how its made and what to actually look for when the waiter asks if you’d like to taste the wine at dinner… 😆 We obviously then ended up buying lots to take home.
Whale watching with Ivanhoe Sea Safari’s in Gansbaai (although not that many left…best time is from June-early November)
La Perla for dinner in Sea Point.
Nice for a run along the Sea Point waterfront in the evening.
Lots of driving, a couple of whales and a fun day out. Not really prime season for whale spotting but an enjoyable couple of hours on the boat in the sunshine and the excitement of seeing a whale up close.
Would be nice to stay in Hermanus for a night perhaps and do a shark dive but again there weren’t many sharks about either due to the Orcas being in town and apparently they don’t get on too well. Whale watching £70/pp 🐋
Accommodation – A new guest house in Cape Point. ‘Maartens Guesthouse’ £60/night Bargain! Great location for getting about, friendly, comfortable and cheap.
Dinner – Relaxed dinner at La Perla near the waterfront and a short walk from the guesthouse.
Robben Island (Dutch for Seal Island), Boat departs from from Victoria & Alfred waterfront at 9am. Prison tour was excellent!
Explore of the Victoria & Alfred dock
Dinner in Sea Point at Mojo, a food hall with central seating a great bar and live music every night 👍
Robben Island – This is an absolute must. Our guide of the island prison was a former prisoner which in its self was mind-blowing that he would want to be anywhere near the place. He was imprisoned alongside Mandela and tells his story with passion. See my Instagram TV 🎥 (IGTV)
This was Mandela’s cell. He spent 18 years imprisoned on Robben Island in solitary confinement
The earliest boat leaves the dock at 0900 and returns for 1300 giving you the afternoon to explore the V&A (Victoria and Alfred) waterfront restaurants and shops. Touristy but a relaxing way to spend the afternoon listening to the various musicians and taking a stroll.
Dinner – We ate at a fantastic foodhhall, ‘Mojo Market‘. It is an eclectic mix of daily fresh goods section and over 30 food stalls. The undercover market unites the bustling roadside and passing pavement footfall with floor-to-ceiling views of the sea and palm-lined Promenade, the Market is new and is proving a huge success with live music every night. A buzzing atmosphere and nice change to a more formal restaurant dinner.
Honey I shrunk Jonny
swimming pools on the waterfront at Sea Point
One hour hike up Lion’s Head, a mountain forming part of the dramatic backdrop to the city
- Two hour hike up the infamous Table Mountain (one of the oldest in the world)
Hussar grill again for dinner.
A day of Hiking. Naturally we picked the hottest day of the week to do it… The original plan was to go paragliding from Signal Hill but the wind conditions weren’t right so we ended up doing the nearby Lions head (more intimate that Table Mountain) and then the Platteklip Gorge route (shortest 1hr 30min) up to the top of Table Mountain. Parked at the bottom of the hike which begins a short drive past the cable car which you could also take up (we took it down). An enjoyable hike. You’ll probably see a few Hyrax on your way up. These are small furry mammals. They look like robust, oversized guinea pigs. 😆
1 hour in… 😅
The top of Table Mountain. Sweaty work.
It was a challenging hike after having done 1 already that day in the heat but enjoyable. I preferred the view from Lions head personally as you could see 360 degrees but recommend doing both.
Clambering my up Lions Head
The view our first conquest, Lions head. Taken from the top of Table Mountain 📸
The earlier the better if you want to be the only ones up there. A friend decided to propose whist up there, to make sure they were alone they dd the sunrise hike. 0430 start! 🌄
Paragliding off Signal Hill (finally after delays due to windy weather!) – great fun, about £70/pp
Afternoon tea to finish the trip at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. 👌
Paragliding is fantastic but very weather dependent. I recommend booking knowing that you may have to come back and try another day if the conditions aren’t quite right. this happened to us but thankfully managed to launch off a hill on the final day. It was worth the persistence.
To top of an utterly spectacular week we headed to the prestigious Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel for afternoon tea. Lots of cakes and lots of tea. you get a 2 hour slot with passed quickly so worth arriving a few mins early to make the most of it.
Then it was the to head for the airport, board the Queen of the Skies and depart for London.
Don’t forget to use seat guru to find the best seat available in your cabin on the aircraft. For those that worry when it comes to turbulence have a read of my ‘where to sit’ blog.
Things we didn’t do but wanted to
Hop on hop off bus
Shark diving (not many around due orcas apparently)
Walking tour in city centre
Delaire Graff Estate (vinyard)
Grande Provence Estate – The Restaurant, Franschhoek
the kitchen (cafe/restaurant), Woodstock
I hope you enjoyed the read and that you find what I managed to fit into a week useful for planning your trip.
South Africa is an incredible country with so much to offer. I only touched the surface but absolutely can’t wait to return!
Please do leave your comments and questions. Have an awesome day.