Cape Town is one of those cities that I have been wanting to visit for quite some time. Every time I saw photos of it, I longed to be there and enjoy those incredible views in person. So once we booked our tickets, I was absolutely thrilled that we were finally going to visit this beautiful city.
A stressful start to Cape Town!
However, on our arrival into Cape Town, everything did not go according to plan. At immigration, we were told off for not having a return flight to Australia. Even though we could show them our tickets to Namibia in two weeks as proof of exit, this was apparently not sufficient and we were told that in order to gain entry to South Africa we would need to book flights back to Australia straight away.
This was really stressful and we sat there discussing what to do for a while, our hearts racing. Eventually, another immigration officer came over and said that he’d given us visas to enter but that we should have read the rules before arriving.
I was sure that proof of exit was all that was needed but I decided not to argue. As soon as we had internet access we re-read the rules and of course, an onward flight was all that we needed. The immigration officers at customs were clearly on a power trip. It certainly wasn’t a great welcome to South Africa.
After this stressful incident at the airport, I was looking forward to checking in to our Airbnb apartment and relaxing. But when we met our Airbnb host she spent a lot of time telling about just how dangerous Cape Town was, where to avoid going (it didn’t sound like anywhere was safe) and how we were probably going to get mugged. It put us on edge so much that I instantly began to dislike Cape Town. Although I’m normally not worried about places that are slightly dodgy, this had me really stressed out. I was freaking out about everyone around me who looked slightly suspicious.
But after twenty-four hours of feeling constantly on edge, I decided enough was enough. This is insane, you cannot enjoy a place while stressing out about everything and everyone. Cape Town looked incredible and it was such a shame not to be able to enjoy it. We decided to relax and just go with the flow. We would visit everywhere we wanted to visit, we would drive ourselves (even though we had hired a car our entire stay, our host recommended we take Uber everywhere) and we would not stress out every time someone walked past us!
Once we made that decision we ended up falling in love with Cape Town. Here’s why:
1- The views
Wherever you are in Cape Town, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Table Mountain National Park and Lions Head. They tower over pretty much every part of the city. Make sure you drive up to Chapmans Peak for some amazing coastal scenery and head to the Kirstenbosh National Botanical Gardens which feature Table Mountain as a spectacular backdrop.
2- It felt a lot like home
Cape Town was the first place we’d visited since we’d started travelling full time where we actually felt homesick. The scenery on our drive to the Cape of Good Hope was scarily similar to that of the Victorian coastline back home. It was home but in Africa! This probably has a lot to do with Victoria and Cape Town being at similar latitudes.
3- The wine!
After three months in South East Asia (where the wine was pretty awful), we were looking forward to tasting some South African wine. Cape Town has several amazing wine regions close to the city. In under an hour you can be sitting in a beautiful winery, sipping a glass of Chenin Blanc or Pinotage.
Read more about our wine tasting experiences here.
4- It’s colourful
Cape Town is a very colourful city. It’s not just the blue sky and the blue sea. There are bright colours everywhere. For your first burst of colour, head to Bo-Kaap, the most colourful neighbourhood in town. You can take a guided tour there if you’d like to learn more about the area.
Then, for more bright colours, check out the Instagram famous beach boxes on Muizenberg Beach.
5- The history
Cape Town is full of history and of course, much of it is quite harrowing because of the long period of forced segregation. You can learn a lot about the Apartheid regime by visiting the famous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for over 20 years of his life. There, you will also get a guided walk around the penitentiary with a gentleman who spent time there as an inmate.
Follow up your visit to Robben Island with a guided tour of the District six museum to learn even more about the divide between the races and how non-white South Africans were evicted from their homes in District 6.
Another great place to visit is the Langa Township. However, do not go there alone. Instead, take an organised tour. We used Siviwe Township Tours and they were excellent. The tour was totally ethical. Our guide was a local and she explained so much about the history of the township and how life had changed over time for the people living there.
Because we visited on a Sunday, we were taken to visit a Methodist church where we took park in the gospel singing and dancing at their Sunday service. It was so joyous and lots of fun. I am not religious but if our churches were that much fun, I’d probably go every Sunday too!
6- The sunsets
Sunset is always one of my favourite times of the day and Cape Town gave us some amazing ones. Grab some food and a bottle of wine and head to the top of Signal Hill for a sunset picnic. But if you are driving, make sure you arrive early (at least an hour or more before sunset) because parking is a real nightmare. Alternatively, you can also have a beautiful beach sunset at Camps Bay, followed by a lovely dinner at one of the many restaurants on the esplanade.
7- The hiking
We really loved our hike to the top of Table Mountain and we really wish we’d had enough time to try another hike. The mountain has some excellent hiking trails and most of them provide spectacular views over the city. We were also quite keen to do the hike to Lions Head but unfortunately, the trail was closed following a recent bushfire.
Read more about our hike on Table Mountain here.
8- The wildlife
Being Africa you know that you are in for a treat when it comes to wildlife. Cape Town has lots of places very close by where you can enjoy the wildlife. Be sure to visit the penguins at Boulders Beach. This colony began with only two penguins and now there are thousands of them waddling on shore. They didn’t look too inbred!
Houts Bay is not only home to the best fish and chips in town but also to some pretty tame seals. They don’t seem to care about the hordes of tourists who photograph them constantly.
Last but definitely not least, you are never too far away from a game drive in South Africa.
9- The beautiful beaches
There are so many beautiful beaches in and around Cape Town. Of course, just like back home, the water is pretty cold and hard to enter. But the beaches are perfect for walking or surfing. Camps Bay was our favourite. We loved it there and we very envious of the people who lived in the beautiful houses nearby. How we’d love to own one of those houses and be so close to the mountain and the beach every day.
10- It’s a good starting point for the Garden Route
If you’re planning on doing the Garden Route (a stunning drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth), you can start or end your trip in Cape Town. The Garden Route is a beautiful drive and we’d recommend staying a few nights in Knysna, Wilderness or Plettenberg Bay along the way.
Accommodation in Cape Town
Use the search box below to find your accommodation in Cape Town:
While in you’re in South Africa …
Of course, while you’re in South Africa, why not go on a safari. There are so many options to choose from but you can use SafariBookings to discover some great tours. We used it to find and contact tour operators when planning our African itinerary and it was really helpful.