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South Africa’s Western Cape is Neverending Adventure

6 min read
Published on Feb 28, 2024
Christian Baines
By Christian BainesContributing Writer

South Africa’s Western Cape is more than just a beautiful place. It’s a feeling that mixes adventure, freedom, and expression, inviting you to discover more about South Africa and yourself. Once you experience a few days on the Cape, it’s easy to understand how it speaks to people in languages that range from Cape Town’s vibrant city hum to the entrancing sunset view from Lion’s Head.

Cape Town: Africa’s Ultimate Urban Safari

A woman leaning against the front of a parked, blue car in front of a symmetrically split, brightly coloured green and pink building

The Western Cape offers spellbinding natural sights and experiences, but that doesn’t mean you should skip Cape Town. Multifaceted, multicultural, and ever-changing, Cape Town has borne witness to some of the most dynamic changes—and challenges—in South Africa’s history. With near perfect weather year-round, it’s an ideal playground for urban explorers.

The Bo-Kaap neighbourhood is one of the best known, with its rich Malay heritage and brightly coloured houses. While a walking tour here is a must, a cooking class is the best (and tastiest) route to the neighbourhood’s heart. Head over to Woodstock for a vibe more hipster than hippie. This lively neighbourhood is defined by its street murals, artisanal shops, and dining options, which serve innovative dishes paired with fine vintages from the nearby Winelands.

One unforgettable dinner experience is GOLD restaurant, which invites your tastebuds on a tour of Africa over a 14-course menu with live entertainment. It’s an ideal way to cap off a day exploring either Bo-Kaap or the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where you can lose yourself in world-class art galleries such as the Southern Guild, the Donald Greig Gallery and Bronze Foundry, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Africa.

Icons and Outdoor Wonders of the Cape

Clouds rolling over Table Mountain at dawn

Whether you’re exploring Cape Town or hiking to awesome views, pack good walking shoes. You’ll need them! Table Mountain dominates the skyline, but don’t worry, there’s a convenient gondola if you’re not feeling its choice of hiking options, which range from a two to three hours to a full day. The surrounding nature reserve is enormous, crisscrossed with hikes that show off the region’s diverse geography and flora. It separates central Cape Town from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, another must-visit.

Overlooking Clifton Beach, Lion’s Head is Cape Town’s other spectacular peak. Some argue that the views are better than those from Table Mountain (plus, they have Table Mountain in them), but we’re not taking sides. Back on ground level, explore South Africa’s turbulent twentieth century on a Walk to Freedom tour. Learn about the city’s sobering Apartheid past, and the communities and districts that survived and thrived through this period and beyond. If you have time, a ferry ride out to Robben Island is a great way to put these years of oppression into perspective, as a former inmate takes you on an inside tour of South Africa’s most infamous political prison, where former presidents Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma both served sentences.

A Place Where Adventurers Meet

A colony of penguins marching along a beach

South Africa offers many thrilling encounters with the animal kingdom, but the Western Cape does things a little differently. Here, the most fearsome predators and gentle giants swim offshore. Steel your

nerves for a cage dive with great white sharks, or embark on a whale watching safari between June and December, when Bryde whales, humpbacks, orcas, and other species are commonly seen.

Things get a little smaller, and cuter at Boulders Beach, where a colony of wild African Penguins have been in residence since 1982. The best way to see the beach’s endangered celebrities is via Willis Walk, a wooden boardwalk from nearby Foxy Beach. Built with both great photos and healthy, penguins in mind, it takes you within metres of the colony, with the option to swim at a designated nearby swimming beach without disturbing the birds. If you don’t mind a drive, Betty’s Bay Stony Point, just 90 minutes away from Cape Town is home to another thriving colony. Regardless of site, common wildlife sense applies. Don’t feed or get too close to the animals, and report any injured or sick birds to park staff.

Of course, you didn’t come all this way not to visit the southern tip of Africa, did you? Follow the spectacular trails and don’t be ashamed of snapping a selfie. Once you see the view, it’s hard to resist.

Let the Cape Drive Your Wanderlust (or Winelust)

Rows of a green vineyard leading to Table Mountain on the horizon

South Africa is a relatively straightforward place to rent a car for a driving vacation, making this an ideal way to hop around the Western Cape from Cape Town, to the Winelands, to the Garden Route.

Let’s talk wine! The Western Cape’s warm climate and terroir produces vibrant wines that are big on flavour. All your familiar favourites are here from pinot noir to Riesling, but for a more local specialty, sip your way through a bottle of red Pinotage—South Africa’s signature grape, or white chenin blanc. Bolder, yet drier than its French counterpart, South African chenin blanc has played a key role in putting regions like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek on every sommelier’s map.

Getting further out of town, follow Route 62 out to the Garden Route. Cheerful towns dot this famous drive, which is lined with magnificent white sand beaches and some truly spectacular regional scenery. At its far end, drive through Klein Karoo to explore some of South Africa’s less famous (and busy) wine regions, weaving through awesome natural formations and pretty towns such as Oudtshoorn, known as the ostrich capital of the world. Keep your eyes peeled for these enormous birds while driving in South Africa and of course, give them their space.

Not all the action lies to the east. Follow the West Coast along the Atlantic to find the Cape’s wilder side, with whale watching, more wine tasting, towns with few other tourists, and the unique San culture, particularly in the town of !Khwa ttu.

The Western Cape of “Neverending Tourists”

Wide shot of Table Mountain surrounding the Cape Peninsula

Neverending tourists? Stay with us. We’re not talking about crowds of bus tours and selfie-snappers here. We’re talking about people whose visit to the Western Cape sparks a lifelong love affair, luring them back again and again, or for longer stays, whether it’s weeks or months. With so much to discover—far more than we can cover here—in the region, you may want as much time as possible, particularly if you love a blend of culture and the outdoors as much as the locals do.

When long-stay travellers and digital nomads came knocking, the Western Cape responded. With more options than ever to set down and immerse yourself in this spectacular corner of Africa, there’s never been a better time to start your own love affair at the point where oceans meet.

Related Topics
Nature & Wildlife
History & Culture
South Africa
Christian Baines
Christian Baines
Goway - Contributing Writer

Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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