Things to Do in Western Cape
Robben Island—where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years—was a place of isolation for nearly three centuries, housing many political prisoners and serving as both an asylum and leprosy colony. Today, the island remains a tangible symbol of political freedom and a reminder of the difficult road to South African democracy.
With its huge sea cliffs, bays, and valleys, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve—situated at the very tip of the Cape Peninsula—is one of the most scenic spots in South Africa. A trip to Cape Point and the reserve, part of Table Mountain National Park, is an easy must-do when visiting Cape Town and highlights include animal sightings, scenic drives, and deserted beaches.
Lined with brightly colored houses and lively streets, Bo-Kaap is as vibrant as it is culturally rich. The historic neighborhood, set just outside central Cape Town on the flanks of Signal Hill, is a dynamic melting pot of Malaysian, India, Sri Lankan, and African culture. It was one of the first settlements of freed slaves and Muslim immigrants in South Africa.
Panoramic ocean views, towering cliffs, and 100-year-old lighthouses define Cape Point, located at the tip of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula. Set within the Cape Floral Region (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Table Mountain National Park, the reserve is a haven for hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography.
With pristine white sands and calm turquoise waters hemmed in by gigantic granite boulders, Boulders Beach is one of the Cape Peninsula’s most magnificent beaches. Located just outside Simon’s Town, the beach is protected as part of the Table Mountain National Park and renowned for its African penguin colony.
Chapman's Peak is a mountain on the Cape Peninsula with a 5.5-mile (8.8 kilometers) road, said to be one of the world’s most scenic drives. The road winds from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, clinging to the side of the steep mountain almost the whole way. Traveling this road’s 114 turns is a must-do in Cape Town.
Table Mountain is a must-see for all Cape Town visitors. The panoramic views from the top of its 3,563-foot (1,086-meter) peak are well worth the climb—though you won’t have to break a sweat thanks to the mountain’s two cableways, each with a revolving car ferrying passengers to the summit. Once at the top, a series of hiking trails show off Table Mountain National Park’s geographic features, while daredevils can test their mettle by rappelling from the upper cable station.
Table Mountain's distinctive plateau is the backdrop for iconic Cape Town views, but that's just the beginning of its namesake national park. Stretching the length of the Cape Peninsula, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to hiking trails, diverse flora and fauna, and—of course—South Africa’s most famous coastal and mountain vistas.
Originally a jetty built in 1654 to provide fresh water and produce to the sailors of the Dutch East India Company, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is now one of the most-visited attractions in South Africa. The area is a development consisting of two harbors, retail shops and museums, seascapes and mountain views, and plenty of places to bed down, drink up, and eat away.
A quaint fishing village on the Cape Peninsula’s Atlantic Seaboard, Hout Bay is an idyllic vacation spot with a historic downtown, a bustling harbor front, wineries, and marine life. While only about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Cape Town, the community has a remote feel, giving visitors a chance to slow down and savor the seaside vibes.
More Things to Do in Western Cape
The Delaire Graff Wine Estate, near Stellenbosch, is a beautiful winery destination in the Cape Winelands region
Laurence Graff, a diamond dealer of many years, bought the Delaire Estate in the early 2000s. The estate was re-opened as Delaire Graff in 2009, and now features not only the winery but also world-class dining, luxury lodges, a spa, an excellent art collection, a diamond boutique, and picturesque botanic gardens.
Delaire Graff Estate is a luxury destination where you're tempted to stay for a few days, but you can also visit for a day to sample the estate's wines. Sip Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, rose and sparkling wines, and both white and red blends.
The impressive Cape Town Stadium, built to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup and formerly known as the Green Point Stadium, is Cape Town’s architectural and entertainment centerpiece. With a capacity of 55,000 people, the venue hosts everything from rugby matches to big-name performers. Visitors can catch a game, show, or explore the stadium on a tour.
Boasting four acclaimed white-sand beaches, Clifton attracts Cape Town’s elite residents and wealthiest visitors. From upscale homes perched above the shoreline to high-dollar yachts anchored in the bay, the Cape Town suburb has a reputation for being frequented by celebrities and wealthy entrepreneurs. That said, anyone can spend the day sunbathing and enjoying drinks and seafood served on the picturesque beaches.
Plenty of Cape Town visitors head for the Cape of Good Hope thinking it's the southernmost point of South Africa, but that distinction belongs to Cape Agulhas. It isn't quite as dramatic as the Cape of Good Hope, nor as picturesque, with more of a gently curving coastline rather than a point, but there is a small rocky beach, and a geographical marker in Agulhas National Park indicating its status as South Africa's southern tip.
A shipwreck is still visible on Cape Agulhas, but many ships were lost in the difficult seas off the coast. The lighthouse in the national park was built in 1848 to help cut down on the number of wrecks. In addition to being the country's southern point, it's also off Cape Agulhas that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.
Twelve Apostles Mountain Range—with its rock buttresses and deep ravines—stretches majestically south from Cape Town along the rugged Atlantic Coast. You can explore the mountains up close on numerous hiking trails, or you can view the scenic formations from the coastal road that runs between the base of the bluffs and ocean.
Tiny Duiker Island—also known as “Seal Island” for its large population of Cape fur seals—sits just off the South African coast at Hout Bay, near Cape Town. It measures just 253 feet by 312 feet (77 meters by 95 meters) and is a seabird sanctuary in addition to sheltering thousands of Cape fur seals.
The Camps Bay suburb of Cape Town is all about beaches and nightlife, whether you're a Cape Town resident in search of a weekend getaway or you're a visitor.
The wide, white sand beaches of Camps Bay sit beneath the imposing Twelve Apostles peaks and Talbe Mountain itself. Vacationers play beach volleyball, go surfing, and simply relax in the sand. By night, Victoria Road hums with activity – it's the place to see and be seen, lined with trendy nightclubs and restaurants.
Camps Bay Beach has been listed as a Blue Flag Beach since 2008, meeting strict environmental standards.
As the most accessible of Cape Town’s three peaks, Signal Hill is a prime spot for catching sunset over the city. In addition to its spectacular scenery, Signal Hill also harbors the Noon Guns, two Dutch naval guns, and the last remaining Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation.
Because of the climate that’s needed to grow wine, vineyards are often located in areas with exceptional natural beauty. In the case of the famous Cape Winelands, however, the rolling hills and jagged mountains provide an awesome sense of wonder that’s stronger than most other wine regions. Of all the wineries in Stellenbosch, the Jordan Wine Estate is one of the more scenic, luxurious, and storied places, and has been family-owned since 1982 well before the area had become famous.
In addition to the spectacular natural surroundings, Jordan Wine Estate owes much of its success to the area’s mineral-rich soil, which tour guides discuss and explain in depth while strolling the vineyards before heading down to the impressively engineered cellar. As a winery that focuses on blending methods from the New as well as Old worlds, Jordan Winery has stainless steel tanks as well as wooden barrels, which along with the fresh, flavorful grapes and decades of winemaking knowledge, help create the distinctive flavors that Jordan Wine Estate is known for.
Rising more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) above the Atlantic Ocean, Lion’s Head peak presides over Cape Town and can be spotted from nearly everywhere in the city, but the real treasure is the view from the peak. Hike the steep trail the top to be rewarded with views of the coastline, cityscape, and neighboring Table Mountain.
One of the world’s first botanical gardens, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden hosts more than 7,000 plant species from throughout Southern Africa. Visit to explore the 1,300-acre (528-hectare) gardens spread across the slopes of Table Mountain, including extensive hiking trails, a stone sculpture garden, and sunset summer concerts.
Step into Cape Town’s dynamic history by visiting the oldest remaining colonial-era building in the country. Built by Dutch colonists at the end of the 1600s, the Castle of Good Hope once served as a maritime resupply point and military hub. Its historic architecture and displays make it a popular attraction on tours of the city.
The farm at Boschendal Wine Estate was established in the 1680s, and it's one of the oldest wineries in South Africa. It is set between the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands region. The main house was built in 1812 in the Cape Dutch style, and it's been converted into a museum showcasing how the family lived on the estate in the 18th and early 19th centuries. There is an assortment of cottages for overnight guests.
The estate grows grapes for wine, the most prevalent being Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Visitors can enjoy walking and biking trails, dining in the restaurants on the property, and visiting the various historic buildings.
District Six Museum was founded in 1994 to honor those who were forcibly removed from their homes in the area. In the mid-1960s the South African government began relocating some 60,000 nonwhite residents to a slum-like township miles away and destroyed their homes in order to make the neighborhood whites-only.