With only three full days to enjoy the fabulous city of Cape Town. Time was of the essence. To make the most of our limited time we planned a couple of day tours too to see the surroundings areas.
Day trips from Cape Town
Our first and probably one of the most popular full day excursion from Cape Town is the Cape Peninsula tour. You can experience this trip by various means either self drive or with bus tours. We chose a private tour as it offered flexibility to the schedule – crucial when travelling with young children. The service we received from beginning to end was flawless. Our guide Jorge was knowledgeable and great with the kids. He kept them interested throughout the eight-hour tour and the adults well-informed with all the history and local stories.
Our day started with a sharp 8.30am pickup. Once settled in the clean and comfy people carrier stocked with cold bottles of water. Jorge broke the bad news. There would be no trip to the top of Table Mountain on the rotating cable car. Now I’d been warned about this occurrence by friends, who also failed to reach the top of the iconic landmark on their visits. The cable car is regularly closed due to high winds and the infamous tablecloth that shrouds it once at the top. I mean, really mother nature…I’d travelled 8000 miles. How could you?
Internal rage tempered and presenting my best fake smile I turned to the kids and said ‘Never mind, plenty more to see’, as we continued on our journey towards the Cape of Good Hope. And in hindsight, we really did have many more jaw-dropping vistas to ogle.
En route we cruised past exclusive residential neighbourhoods of Bantry Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay with glorious coastal views. Catching glimpses of Clifton’s four pure-white sand beaches, sheltered from the south-easterly wind and revered by sun-worshipers everywhere. I clocked the suburbs in my memory banks for future stays in Cape Town. Even the Twelve Apostles, the small mountain peaks that run along the coast of Cape Town were hard to spot. The blanket of low clouds enveloping it made for some dramatic scenery.
Next we passed the fishing community of Hout Bay – a cosy little hamlet full of craft markets, antique shops and big wave surfers. The small town is surrounded by mountains to the North, East and West and the Ocean to the South.
Soon we were heading towards the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive. Renowned for its spectacular 180° views of the Cape Peninsula as well as a whooping 114 twists and turns. The road hugs the near vertical face of the mountain opposite the Hout Bay inlet. The exhilarating drive and the breathtaking views of the ocean meeting the mountains is truly magnificent. Obviously we stopped for the obligatory family snap!
The closer we came to the Cape Point Nature Reserve we noticed the frequency of one particular sign. It didn’t take long before we spotted our friends or should I say thieves hatching plans to steal food from passers-by and cars.
And it’s definitely not a good idea to feed them as they can be aggressive. You do need to have your wits about you (and windows closed) as they’re absolutely everywhere.
Finally we arrived at the most south-westerly point of the African continent. A life long bucket list ticked! We had to contend with the ‘South Easter’ winds, affectionately known locally as the ‘Cape Doctor’ due its healing powers (apparently). Obviously Mr S and I are now cured of any lingering ailments!
It took a lot of concentration and balancing power to walk up to the infamous Cape of Good Hope sign. We could barely stand and taking photos whilst being whipped by our tresses amused the girls no end.
It’s a hard walk up hill and with little legs on board we whizzed up to the Cape Point lighthouse on the Flying Dutchman funicular. Dating back from the 1860s the lighthouse was built too high up, so was often obscured by mist and fog, which led to a new one being built in 1919 at Dias Point.
Once off the funicular you still have to walk a few hundred yards up steep steps to reach your final destination. Well worth it when you hit the top. You really do feel like you’re at the edge of the world. It felt incredible looking out to the powerful ocean, whilst standing up to the force of the South Easter winds, with the knowledge the next land mass is Antarctica.
Oh and let’s clear up a falsehood circulated by many travel agents. The one where they claim this is the point where the ‘two oceans meet’.
Tourism hype at its finest. The the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in fact meet near Cape Agulhas about 105 miles South East and varies according to sea conditions. Not as scenic as the Cape of Good Hope, hence often ignored. Plus the Cape of Good Hope, is the historically important one. Vasco da Gama got that far trying to find his way to India and, naming it the Cape of Storms thought ‘Christ that was hard – wish there was a service station.’ So they built one, decided they really liked the place and went on to colonise Southern Africa to boot. And the rest is, erm, history.
Suitably battered by the winds it was time for lunch. We dined at the Black Marlin on the outskirts of Simon’s Town. Once a whaling station and open since the 1960s, it’s earned a reputation for delicious seafood and incredible views.
The food was delicious. We started with a huge lime marinated beetroot and goats cheese salad. Mr S tucked into a seared tuna steak with wasabi mash, soy sauce and seasonal vegetables. To abate the kids pasta cravings we ordered salmon penne with a creamy garlic sauce and queen prawn tagliatelle tossed in garlic, olive and chilli. I enjoyed a delicious Cape Malay vegetable curry accompanied with rice and a selection of sambals. If in the area this restaurant is definitely one to put on your list.
Bellies full. The kids were beyond excited for the next stop on our itinerary. The penguins! Boulders beach has been home to a penguin colony of African penguins since 1982 from just two breeding pairs. Referred to locally as the ‘Jackass’ penguin they strut about ignoring the daily hoards of camera-touting tourists. To protect them a special walkway has been created to keep people off the beach. I admit I wanted to take one home. That didn’t last long mind you – they generate vast amounts of bird poo and smelt not-so-great.
We bid farewell to the cute little birds in tuxedos and continued on our journey with a quick stop to see Muizenberg beach from a viewpoint. The South Easter winds were not letting up, so we decided against seeing the Insta-friendly colourful beach huts up close.
Heading back towards Cape Town our final stop was Kirtsenbosch Botanical Gardens, which covers five hectares on the slopes of Table Mountain. It’s also one of South Africa’s World Heritage sites and justifiably acclaimed as one of the great botanical gardens of the world. There are gentle pathways, inviting grass lawns and an astonishing array of indigenous plant species to discover.
There is so much to explore, but I’d recommend the Boomslang (‘tree snake’), a large winding canopy walkway through the treetops. There’s a gorgeous enchanted forest area with the best climbing tree I’d ever seen – The kids loved it! It took a lot of negotiations in Kinder chocolate eggs to make them leave.
A private tour is the perfect way to see the spectacular Cape Peninsula when pressed for time. I loved the flexibility of deciding exactly where we wanted to spend our time. Also, all entrance fees are included in the price. Not waiting in queues to enter the Cape Of Good Hope Reserve, the Cape Point funicular, Boulders beach and Kirstenbosch was a major plus too.
Taking into account the length of the tour my girls thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the occasional snooze in between stops helped too. You can catch up on why I think South Africa is great for families here.
This Pixie may not have been bitten by any mosquitos, but has definitely been bitten by the African travel bug!
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