Here is my round up of my wonderful jam-packed city break to Cape Town. As city break’s go it may sound quite extravagant… but my boyfriend was lucky enough to get some free flights, and as we both had limited annual leave left we needed somewhere with minimum jet lag and maximum culture and weather – so Cape Town it was!
I had never been to South Africa before and I was blown away by the diverse landscapes, fantastic food and friendly people – safe to say that this will probably go down as one of my best trips ever!
Day 1: London-Johannesburg-Cape Town. We took a comfortable over night flight on British Airways from London Heathrow to Johannesburg and then took the short connecting flight onto Cape Town. We were treated to some impressive views of Table Mountain and the surrounding hills, after landing in (a very windy) Cape Town, we picked up our hire car and checked into our hotel and made the short walk to the V&A waterfront.
Centred around the working harbour, the V&A Waterfront is the hub of Cape Town, it’s a vibrant, colourful part of the city which houses numerous shops, restaurants and bars with Table Mountain providing a dramatic back drop. We found ourselves every evening for our meal.
Day 2: Garden Route. Today we really started to get under the skin of South Africa, we took the garden route along the coast towards Hermanus. Pausing regularly to take photographs of the amazing scenery, the high mountains just plummet into the sea. In the season (June-November) it is also possible to see whales from the road – no luck for us this time though.
After a while we came to a sign with a penguin and an arrow on it, naturally we followed it and after a while we arrived at Betty’s Bay and got our first sight of the adorable African Penguins, at that time they were moulting so they sit very still to conserve energy and we managed to get very close to get some pictures.
We continued along the garden route to Hermanus with the hope that we could go on a whale watching trip, however due to high winds the boat trips had been cancelled. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as I wouldn’t have enjoyed going out with the sea being so rough!
My boyfriend then followed the road past some tuna canning factories (and I had no idea where he was taking me) until we came to a lovely restaurant with fantastic views of the bay of Hermanus.
On the way back we visited the Cheetah Outreach Sanctuary, a care facility which breeds dogs to protect livestock from big cats so farmers don’t have to resort to shooting the animal.
Day 3: Robben Island and Table Mountain. Today we had another jam-packed day in Cape Town. We started off taking the ferry over to Robben Island, you get the ferry from the V&A Waterfront and it takes about an hour to cross to Robben island (depending on the weather and boat used). Make sure you pre-book tickets for this as the queue can be quite long and we saw several people who hadn’t booked get turned away.
Once on Robben island we boarded a bus for an island tour, one of the first things I noticed was that despite there being a number of tourists the island was very quiet and peaceful. Our first stop was on the tour was some beautiful view points across the sea towards Table Mountain and an opportunity to see some more African Penguins. Then we wet onto the quarry and saw were Nelson Mandela and other prisoners were forced to carry out hard labour whilst being imprisoned from 1964-82. Our guide was very informative and gave us a lot of the history, stories and anecdotes about the people who were imprisoned and lived and worked on the island.
Later we visited the prison itself and a fascinating and unusual element of the tour was that we were guided by an ex-prisoner who gave us real insight into the harsh life in the prison. We saw the court yard and Nelson Mandela’s cell (all 8×7 feet of it) and I was humbled how someone who had suffered so much verbal, physical and emotional abuse and endured much of their adult life with little freedom, sleeping on a thin straw mat, can go onto to do so much good.
This trip was truly emotional, inspirational, informative and a real bucket list experience, a must-do if you’re in Cape Town. An added bonus was that on the boat on the way back to Cape Town we spotted a whale coming up for air in the distance, no-one else on the boat noticed – so it was our magical secret!
After lunch in the V&A food market at our favourite burger stall Woodies as the weather was good, and with little cloud we decided to head up Table Mountain – another must do!
We took the cable car up to the top (R255 return) and were greeted to panoramic views in each direction, you had fantastic views of Cape Town, Robben Island and Camps Bay. We walked around the top for a whilst soaking up the incredible scenery and spotting the really cute Dassies who call Table Mountain home. We took the cable car down, but I think next time (and there will be a next time) I’d like to walk (or even abseil!) down.
Our full on day wasn’t over yet… That evening we went along to Cape Town Comedy Club, a brilliant night out enjoyed by lots of locals (which is always a good sign!). I made the schoolboy error of saying that we were from the UK – and we promptly got heckled a lot.
Day 4: Stellenbosch. After a late night at the Comedy Club – what better way to start the day then with wine?!? Back in the UK we had decided to book a full-day wine tasting excursion with Wine Flies, a company which had very good reviews. We visited 5 different vineyards for tastings, learnt about the production of wine and also had wine matching with cheese and chocolate. My favourite vineyard was just outside Stellenbosch, the house was beautiful and they actually played classical music to the vines to encourage grape production. It was an interesting and informative day.
Day 5: Cape Point, Boulders Beach – London. Our final day started by by tracing the coast towards Cape Point, driving down Chapmans Peak Drive, one of the most beautiful stretches of road I’ve ever driven down. It is a toll road, but well worth it the views are incredible. We finally made our way down to the Cape of Good Hope and got the obligatory photo by the sign before going on a short walk.
We then went onto Boulders Peach to see the penguins, as it was busy we didn’t actually end up going to the beach but instead visited a beach next door where there were lots of penguins, dassies and no people!
Sad to leave our African adventure behind, we then made our back to the airport for our return flight to the UK.
South Africa – we will be back!