Visit the Cape of Good Hope
Amongst many other day-tours, this one is a MUST SEE on you bucket list!
How long does it take to go to Cape Point? This is one of the questions we often get to answer...
Well, nothing less than a full day! Personally, I could go there every week for a day, and spend hours walking through the numerous paths, but as a day visitor I understand you'd want to make the most of it and only have so much time to visit all that you want to see.
What we usually recommend is to go around the peninsula from the East coast down, and back up the West coast, reason being that you'll always be on the "right" side of the road (yes, we do drive on the left-hand side!). What I mean is, not only will it be easier to stop alongside the road into one of the many bays, but you'll have a better view of the scenery in general, and the ocean(s) in particular. Even though it's commonly admitted that the two oceans meat at Cape Agulhas, I guess this could also apply to Cape Point. I don't see why not?!
Leave Carmichael House Boutique Hotel no later than 09h-09h30 (if you can earlier, it's even better), hop onto the M3 dual carriage way, all the way towards Muizenberg till it ends...at a traffic light (we have a couple of highways that end like this, one of them being the N2 ending up at the entrance of the city bowl, with huge backlogs during peak traffic. Strange...).
You'd want to prefer the Old Boyes Drive to the coastline road, for two reasons:
- you have a much better view,
- if it can get busy it's never congested,
Old Boyes Drive will offer you awesome scenic views of the ocean and False Bay at large. Maybe you'd want to stop at the shark spotter viewpoint? This is where the spotter stands all day, watching over Muizenberg with a large pair of binoculars for potential shadow of a shark. Muizenberg is the right spot for beginner surfers since the waves are kind of gentle, and the shark spotter is here to protect them from any potential shark attacks. How often does this happen? Well, in the 13 odd years we've been here, I've never heard of any, but rather be safe than sorry...
The drive will end at Kalk Bay, joining the coastline road. Kalk Bay is one of the oldest and last fishing harbours in the Cape Peninsula and is named after the mussel shells that accumulated over the years, creating lime deposits that were used in building. Kalk Bay has a number of great art galleries, but most of all, this is where my favourite restaurant is: the Olympia Cafe! Very casual and basic place, but the food!... Always fresh and tasty. Double the portion for half the price of what you get in those trendy places at the V&A Waterfront.
Follow the coastline road, going past Fish Hoek and its small bay, then Glencairn, all the way to Simons Town. Just before you get to Simons Town, you can stop at the "Mineral World".
You can see them sorting gemstones and have a look at their boutique selling all sorts of jewellery and ornaments. For the kids of all ages, there's the scratch patch. You buy a zip bag at the entrance, and you can fill it up with all those beautiful stones. Of course, they're all rejects, but who cares! I often tell parents that they can drop their kids there, do the entire peninsula tour and come back just before closure time, they'd still be there scratching.
At the entrance of Simon's Town, "the Sweetest Thing" offers a variety of delicious French pastries, and honestly, those are the best we've ever come across in the whole of the Western Cape (and beyond?). But of course, if you came to Simon's Town it's primarily to visit the pinguin colony. The main nesting area is within the SANParks demarcated perimeter. There's a small entrance fee but it's worth every penny. Like for most tourist attractions, understandably visitors tend to go straight to the main one, in this instance, the pinguins. Yet, there are other things to do or see. You should consider paying a brief visit to the pinguin museum. It's small, yet you'll learn a lot from the few information boards on display. If you don't want to go inside the pinguin sanctuary, you can also get to see them in any of the following ways:
- just below the parking on the southern side of the park, they are a few odd ones that nest under the milkwood trees & bushes. Don't even think of reaching out to them, they bite!
- or going from the ocean side, making use of a canoe guided tour. A great experience, with well-trained guides. The danger won't come from the ocean, but from the sun. So, make sure you protect yourself against potential nasty sunburns. This is where I got one of my worst one, from the knees down to my toes. Never again!
From there on, and all the way to the Cape of Good Hope National Reserve it's a succession of gentle curves, in an unspoilt environment. Once you've entered the park, you will probably want to drive straight to Cape Point. Before you get out your vehicle, beware of any baboon that might be hanging around, more especially if you have any food inside. These guys have become accustomed to visitors, and they are fearless. Despite the presence of parking marshallers, they will be in your car before you know, leaving you with no other option than waiting for them to take what they want and leave. Don't try to chase them out as they are strong, swift and can bite dangerously. Make no mistake, they also know how to open most car doors. Once you're out, and your car is safely locked, get to the lighthouse, either with the funicular or on foot. Needless to tell you how stunning the ocean view is.
Then you'd want to either drive or walk to the Cape of Good Hope just for sake of saying that you've been there. If you a bit more time and like to get off the beaten tracks, I would recommend taking any of the many side roads. There are fewer to no people at all and a better chance to spot some of the antelopes such as the bontebok, the kudu, Cape eland, not to mention the ostriches, tortoises, and many birds of prey. Unsurprisingly the few baboon colonies outside the Cape Point parking are more oblivious to humankind and if they'd occasionally hop onto your car, it's probably to get a short ride. They don't even need an app' for this. Don't worry, they'll jump off with agility and totally safely.
Go left as you drive out the park. If you haven't yet been to Oudsthoorn, you can go to the small ostrich farm right there. Beside the souvenir shop with upmarket leather goodies, they organise guided tours to their ostrich hatchery, and it's rather informative. On your way out, you can feed the ostriches by hand. No, they won't swallow any finger, but they will most likely try to nip any shiny ring you might be wearing. Since they have a very slow digestive system, you can leave your address and they'll send it back home (lol).
From there on you'll head towards Kommetjie (pronounce kom-a-key), enjoying the unspoilt scenery, driving through Scarborough. You may see some kite surfers at Witsand or just simply enjoy the ocean waves crashing on the beach.
Here comes another master peace of this day-tour: the Chapman's Peak Drive! After Kommetjie and till you get to the turnoff to the Drive, let's admit that it's not the greatest sight, with informal settlements along the way, but before long, you'll slowly drive up the flanks of the Chapman's. As much as this is a toll gate access road, it's worth every penny and more. Drive slowly. No, even slower... Take your sweet time, stop at every possible viewpoint and take the time to look, breathe deeply and smile. If the ocean is always an awesome sight, don't neglect turning around and looking towards the mountain, not only you'll get to appreciate the magnificent escarpments and the endemic fynbos, who knows, you might be the lucky one to spot a duiker or even a caracal.
You'll end up in Hout Bay, a small fisherman's village (well at least it used to be small). Its name come from the wood that was harvested for building of houses or boats: the bay of wood. It's nested between the Chapman's & the Sentinel, a thumb shaped peak that is at the edge of the bay. We like to recommend Dunes restaurant as it's right on the beach front with an awesome view of the small bay. Time to enjoy a refreshing draft or have a small bite. Nothing fancy, just a simple SA fish & chips restaurant but a great spot.
Depending on the time of the day, you can decide whether you want to head back to Carmichael House the quick way to have a shower and go out dining, or if you still want to push it via the coastline towards Camps Bay, Sea Point and the V&A Waterfront to finally head back home via the N2. Just be aware that weekdays, between 15h & 18h, the traffic going out of the City Bowl is disastrous. So, if you happened to be in or around the city centre between those hours, sit down, have a cuppa and relax. There's no point in wasting time in peak hour traffic.
Now I guess you understand better why it takes at least a full day!