Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Western Cape
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium celebrates the unique collection of marine life that lives off South Africa's coasts, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. Travelers can get a glimpse of life below the surface of the ocean surrounding southern Africa, including microscopic creatures, magnificent fish, penguins, turtles, sharks, stingrays, rare seahorses, and colorful clownfish.
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.
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.
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.
More Things to Do in Western Cape
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.
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.
The Cape Wheel is a huge observation wheel in Cape Town, opened in 2010 just in time for the South Africa World Cup.
Standing at just over 164 feet tall, the giant observation wheel has 36 fully-enclosed pods (called gondolas), each with room for six adults. A complete revolution of the wheel takes about 2.5 minutes, but during one ride passengers get to go around four times. This gives everyone a chance to see the spectacular views over Cape Town multiple times.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
On the grounds of the L'Ormarins farm in Franschhoek, home to Antonij Rupert Wines, is the Franschhoek Motor Museum. This collection of more than 200 cars is the personal collection of Johann Rupert, who runs the wine estate. The cars span more than 100 years of car-making history, and the models on display (a selection that rotates periodically) are in impeccable condition.
In addition to the cars, the Franschhoek Motor Museum also showcases some historical motorcycles and bicycles, as well as motoring memorabilia. There are four buildings on the estate which hold cars, each grouped by its make.
There’s more to Africa’s wildlife scene than big game, and you don’t have to get far from Cape Town to discover it. Set in Hout Bay, the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park provides dynamic habitats for 400 different species. The largest aviary in Africa, the sanctuary is home to 3000 birds and monkeys living in walk-through enclosures.
An important naval base for more than 200 years, Simon's Town is located on the shores of False Bay, not far from Cape Town, and is a popular tourist destination. The most popular attraction in Simon's Town is the penguin colony at Boulders Beach: one of only three mainland colonies of African penguins in the country.
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.
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