blog_post_16

3 Days in Cape Town

Cape Town tops the “favorites list” of travelers everywhere. With it’s amazing beaches, thriving waterfront, mountains, wineries, and outdoor activities it’s easy to see why this city is a top travel destination.

When We Went

Late September

Pros - great weather - not too hot, not too cold, perfect for sightseeing

Cons - Unless you’re a child or just very warm blooded, it wasn’t hot enough for swimming

How We Got to Cape Town

Flew from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) to Cape Town (CPT)

Rental Car - Drove from Cape Town Airport to our AirBNB accommodations downtown.

Selah getting her exercise upon arrival in Cape Town

Pros - we could stop as desired and were able to drive to various sights and wineries out of town.

Cons - We did not book a rental car in advance which proved to be a big mistake. I underestimated the demand in September and we nearly paid a premium price for the only vehicle left which was an upscale model. After visiting what seemed like every rental company available, we did find a compact car at a better price. However, I said a manual would be fine because my husband usually enjoys driving those, but because of the downtown traffic, hills, and jaywalkers we had to call the company and exchange the vehicle for an automatic the next day. Don’t underestimate the distraction of jaywalkers downtown here. Also, remember you will be driving on the left side of the road. My husband had time to practice this in Kruger before putting it to the test in a busy city.

Verdict - we would rent a car again but would not stay downtown. The views were amazing but the driving was stressful. If we had stayed closer to the gardens it would have been fine. Parking downtown at the waterfront was simple with the parking garage and we enjoyed the ability to drive everywhere.

Tip - Reserve and pay for your rental car with a credit card that provides insurance and covers damage.

Tip - reserve and pay for the car with a credit card that provides insurance and covers damage. We had an extra $200 bill for a scuffed bumper on return. Didn’t recall hitting anything but the garage parking was tight. We could have submitted that to our credit card company if we had paid for both the rental and damage with the same card and submitted a claim immediately upon our return.

Alternative transportation options - Hop on/Hop off red bus tours and the train, along with, of course, taxi, bus, and uber.

Where We Stayed

Our Airbnb in Cape Town had full view sliders from the living room and master bedroom onto a deck overlooking the city and water view. With the amazing exchange rate from U.S. dollar to South African Rand (ZAR) this Airbnb rental cost us just over $100 per night. You can view current exchange rates at xe.com

Airbnb listing 3035021 found here.

Pros - Amazing views, laundry service included which was much needed after our 5 days in Kruger, walking distance to the V&A Waterfront, restaurants, and stores, wonderful host and recommendations

Cons - Located on a very busy street with an incredibly  tiny garage which made it stressful to park and exit. We had to pay damage costs for our rental car.

What We Loved

The landscape of Cape Town. So diverse and beautiful.

The amazing exchange rate from U.S. dollar to South African Rand (ZAR). You can view current exchange rates at xe.com

Chapmans Peak Drive - This is the drive you see in all of the car commercials and it did not disappoint. Simply breathtaking. There is a small toll (the site currently states R45 or $3) that you must pay before driving. 

Amazing views around every curve on Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa

Camps Bay Beach - We visited this beach after finishing Chapmans Peak Drive and let the girls swim while we watched the sunset. It is a very vibrant beach with loud music, busy restaurants, and plenty of shopping. While far too busy for a week’s stay, it was fun to visit for an evening. I don't think I personally would love it for much longer than that because it was so busy. There are other beach options if you prefer a longer more peaceful visit. This just worked out on our drive back from Chapman's Peak.

Boulders Beach in Simons Town - Who wouldn’t love swimming with African Penguins? There is a boardwalk area for those who simply want to view the penguins and also a swimming area further down with large boulders and a sandy beach if you would like to be a bit more adventurous. This area was so fun to climb the boulders and maneuver our way to a secluded spot. Our daughters sat in the water and watched the penguins walk right by them for a swim. After our visit, we ate at the restaurant near the lot where we parked with a lovely view of False Bay.

There is a boardwalk area for those who simply want to view the penguins and also a swimming area further down with large boulders and a sandy beach if you would like to be a bit more adventurous.

Singing for money near the parking lot and craft markets, views on the drive to Simons Town and Boulders Beach, hello Mr. Penguin, lunch views from Seaforth Restaurant near the parking lot, African penguins at play on Boulders Beach

V&A Waterfront - If you enjoy Navy Pier and the like this would be a great stop for you. I enjoy the waterfronts with local shopping, musicians, food, and artists. Be sure to stop by the website to check out current events, restaurant specials, and kids activities before visiting.

Kirstenbosch Gardens - I wouldn’t say we are flower people, but when traveling with kids any space to roam is good and the gardens provided that and so much more. As stated on their website “Kirstenbosch national botanical garden lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.”   Some of our favorite places on the garden map were the  boomslang (tree canopy walkway), forest fig, dell, and Colonel Bird’s Bath.

Some of our favorite places on the garden map were the  boomslang (tree canopy walkway), forest fig, dell, and Colonel Bird’s Bath.

Plenty of room to roam at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain - We took the Cableway to the top and took the small hike to enjoy the amazing views. You can also purchase food and drink up here or pack a lunch and enjoy dining with a view. I wanted to abseil but didn’t have any adventurous takers to join me. Maybe next time. The site link will give you all of the activities, prices, etc. 

Amazing 360 degree views from Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Vergelegen Winery - This winery is filled with history stretching over 300 years, beautiful gardens, delicious cuisine, world renowned and handcrafted wines and exquisite grounds. I really wanted to reserve the picnic in the woodlands but unfortunately we were not in season for that. Instead we enjoyed a wine tasting outside near the garden maze and dinner at the Stables Bistro Restaurant onsite. Our girls loved the grounds and play area on site. I only wish we had more time to spend at this location.

Beautiful grounds at Vergelegen Winery in South Africa

Spier Winery - We enjoyed the wine and chocolate tasting here while our girls browsed through the attached gift shop. I highly recommend the tasting as the pairings were spectacular. We were a bit rushed and had to hurry out to the bird encounter where we had promised our girls they could interact with owls, eagles, falcons, and hawks. It was definitely worth the rush and small fee to enter. We then wandered the grounds briefly before heading back to Cape Town. There are so many options at Spier Winery. They offer segway winery tours, spa services, picnics, restaurants, a hotel with childcare services, and craft market with locally made goods, along with beautiful grounds. 

Enjoying a chocolate and wine tasting, interacting with owls and falcons during the bird encounter at Spier Winery in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa

We visited the Kirstenbosch gardens in the morning and then drove to the two wineries, but if you can, I recommend visiting the gardens on another day to allow more time enjoying the grounds and activities at Vergelegen and Spier Winery..

What We Disliked

Jaywalkers - Seriously, I used to think the whole jaywalking law was kind of stupid, but after visiting this place and nearly hitting a dozen or so people I have a newfound love and respect for the rule, haha.

Picketers - The workers for the table mountain cable cars were on some sort of half strike during our visit. While waiting in line for our tickets they were demonstrating with loud chants, horns, etc. Entertaining for a minute and then just really annoying.

Cape Point Nature Reserve - Ok, so we didn’t dislike this necessarily, it was just the least favorite activity of our visit so if you are short on time I recommend cutting this out. However, this is a natural world heritage site at the tip of the cape peninsula. It is often touted as the southernmost point of the African Continent although that is not accurate as that title belongs to Cape Agulhas. Still many a tourist waits in line to get a photo with the sign. There was about a 45 minute queue to enter the reserve and of course a per vehicle fee for entry. We enjoyed the ostrich families roaming about and while fun to see the area, it was probably the most anticlimactic of our visit. If you do go, you can hike up or pay to take the funicular. I wanted to hike but was outvoted by my family and once we exited the funicular and I realized just how windy it was I was glad they vetoed my hiking desire. Dress appropriately for high winds. After all, the cape is known for “violent storms and dangerous rocks that over the centuries littered the coastline with shipwrecks.” We came here after our visit to Boulder’s Beach so we weren’t exactly dressed appropriately, but fortunately we had puff coats in the car.

Ostrich family, views from the lighthouse, the Cape Point lighthouse and sign, hello Mr. Ostrich, family photo fail, the wind had other ideas, haha

Things to be Aware of

Scam Artists - When we returned to our car after visiting Boulders Beach a man acting as a parking lot attendant came over and yelled at us because our daughter opened her door too far and bumped the car next to us. It left a white scuff which he wiped off with his glove revealing no damage underneath. However, he told us we needed to pay him money or he would report us to the authorities. We ignored him and began to back out when he said we needed to pay him now and his manager was coming right behind us. My husband said, “good, let me talk to him.” To which the man made some excuse and the supposed manager walked on by. We didn’t pay him and nothing bad ever happened but it was unsettling. 

Townships - You will see these on your drive from the airport along the highway. Basically metal shacks stacked side by side with dirt streets composing a small village. Kids will be playing just outside along the highway.

One of many townships seen along the highway in South Africa

Racism - Unfortunately, South Africa makes the U.S. look amazing in this regard. While at a store downtown we witnessed the manager treating an employee very rudely and with disrespect. It’s sad to see. Also, not so much here but in Kruger it seemed the racism was more against us. It’s a strange dichotomy and one they really haven’t sorted out since apartheid ended. Just be mentally prepared for a different climate in this regard.

Additional Itinerary Options

Bo-Kaap and Bo-Kaap Museum

Robben Island 

Great White Shark Cage Diving and Whale Watching - If you visit during the correct season, shark diving and whale watching might be a great option. We actually saw whales on our hike back from Hole in the Wall during our Coffee Bay visit. So, if you’re heading that direction it may not be necessary to double up. You can read more about that here.

Visit an Ostrich Farm - There are several options available near Cape Point Nature Reserve and some include meal options, ostrich races, and photo options siting on an ostrich. Do a quick google search to find your preference.

Local wineries - We had a rental car so we chose to drive to the Stellenbosch wine region, but if you are short on time or transportation there are some great winery options much closer to Cape Town. Try visiting Groot CostantiaCape Point VineyardsSteenberg Vineyards or doing a quick google search for additional options.

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