Ah, Cape Town. Bikinis and boardshorts, beach days, sunsets, cocktails, nature, nightlife, and that mountain. Impossible to ignore, Table Mountain is always right in your face. You have to go around it to get anywhere, and some part of it pops up in every holiday snap you take. But this is not a bad thing.
Cape Town Summer Travel Guide
Here are six ways to navigate and embrace this dominating lump of granite, which is an integral part of Cape Town, and actually a giant playground.
1. Confront this mountain head on
Take a walk on its shaded slopes, push yourself to get to the top using your own legs, or go the easy way with the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. If hiking, do consider taking a registered guide, this mountain might be in the middle of a city, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is not a wild place. Once on top, there is plenty to explore, it is highly recommended to allow plenty of time on the top. The views alone are worth it; there are two restaurants for refuelling or having a meal with the best views ever. Guided walks and routes are marked out, but from the top there are endless paths offering short walks or a substantial hike to the dams, viewpoints, streams, and valleys. Preparation is key if you are planning longer hikes. Take plenty of water, a jacket, charged phone and make sure someone knows the route you are taking.
If this sounds too strenuous, enjoy the views from the top, support local in the curio shop and if you can, come down in the last cable car of the day and enjoy spectacular views from on top of the world. Visit their website for more info: www.tablemountain.net
2. Go where the mountain meets the sea
It’s a very scenic drive hugging the coastline along the South Peninsula to Cape Point, the most southwestern tip of Africa. A funicular, or a lot of steps, take you to the lighthouse at the topmost point for outstanding views, and the Food Shop has a variety of drinks, snacks, or a meal if you just want to chill. Self- drive the many roads to find the perfect place for a swim, picnic, or chill time at the tidal pool or one of the many secluded beaches. Look for the shipwrecks, walk the trails, you might see some antelope, or just gaze out to sea and enjoy the tranquility.
On the drive back, take a break to see the penguins at Boulders Beach, grab a coffee in Kalk Bay at one of the many trendy open air venues, browse the shops and if you are hungry, grab the best fish n chips around in Kalk Bay Harbour. Visit their website for more info: www.capepoint.co.za
3. Raise your glass to the vines that thrive on the mountain
The slopes of the mountain provide just the right amount of sun, shade, and cooling sea breezes to produce some of the best wines that are celebrated all over the world. Groot Constantia is where the South African wine industry started, and this scenic estate has been producing wines continuously for 335 years. Apart from sipping wine, or doing exciting pairings in one of their three tasting rooms, you can also enjoy their wines inside or out, with a meal, or on its own. A Manor House Museum provides the back story to the estate and wine industry, and the mountain casts long shadows, ideal for beating the heat on a lazy afternoon. A walk through the vineyards and historic buildings can be fun and educational when guided by one of the three Voice Map audio guides, downloaded onto your phone. Visit their website for more info: www.grootconstantia.co.za
4. Seaspray, heritage, and the best view of the mountain
This is what you get when you take the ferry to Robben Island Museum. The salty freshness of the Atlantic Ocean on a 30 minutes trip to the island is part of the adventure. When you get to the island, a knowledgeable tour guide will take you on an island and a prison tour, where you will learn about the rich multi-layered African history dating back to the 1400s. The fauna and the flora against the mountain views are insta-worthy. Brace yourself, while there you might come face to face with an Ex-Political Prisoner, African Penguin, Springboks, Fallow Deer and Steenbok just to mention a few.
There are a lot of stories on this historic island. Visit their website for more info: www.robben-island.org.za
5. Eat, play, shop, with the mountain as a backdrop
The V&A Waterfront gets first prize for location. Perfect views of the mountain, connected to the city by road or canal, built around a working harbour, with the Atlantic Ocean lapping at the edge of it. For views of the mountain, there is the Cape Wheel, a variety of cruise boats and numerous restaurants and outdoor areas from where you can gaze in admiration at Table Mountain. To escape the mountains dominance, go indoors where restaurants, cinemas, museums, pubs, and over 400 retail stores will delight the shoppers’ soul and provide endless things to feast your eyes on. Visit their website for more info: www.waterfront.co.za
6. Embrace the blooming mountain
One of the top botanical gardens in the world is Kirstenbosch, on the slopes of Table Mountain. A showcase for all things bright and beautiful, and indigenous to South Africa, the garden offers plenty of open space, lush lawns and secluded nooks to just enjoy nature and forget you are in a city. Various walks include streams, little forests, aloes, cycads, dinosaurs and the thrilling Canopy Walk, providing a spectacular view above the gardens. Nicknamed the Boomslang by locals, an Afrikaans word meaning tree snake, as the shape of the walkway mimics a snake in motion. Kirstenbosch is the ideal venue for gentle walks on the mountain, or a scenic stroll followed by a meal at one of the two restaurants on site. Don’t miss the shop at the bottom entrance; it is jam-packed with clothing, décor, jewellery and gifts from local manufacturers, artisans and artists. Visit their website for more info: www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch
Summer or not, Cape Town is known for having all four seasons in a day so do bring a jacket, be prepared for some wind, and don’t be too upset if you have a day of grey drizzle. Believe it or not, Cape Town has great indoor venues for those days when the weather is not playing along with the idyllic summer dream.