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Cape Town advise please

(24 Posts)
Sounbelievablydull Fri 02-Oct-15 10:23:56

We are going to Cape town in November for 8 days. It is our first time there.
I am just starting to plan what we are doing but cannot really get a feel for how big the area is.
Ideally we would like to visit stellanbosch, go whale watching,
See the Penguins,
See some wild life
Is this possible? We have already booked accommodation for the whole time in Cape town which now I'm thinking may have been an error as it appears that we should maybe have stayed a night or two in other places.
I could see if this can be changed its a flight and hotel deal with B A.
Any ideas for an itinary would be gratefully received

ImNotChangingMyUsernameAgain Wed 07-Oct-15 19:24:07

It will be amazing and 8 days is plenty of time to cover what you want to.

Cape Town as a City is fairly compact. You can get from the beach, to the central business district and on to the waterfront (the main entertainment centre) in around 20 minutes. The roads are good and driving is easy.

Stellenbosh is around an hour away and it's an easy drive. Spend the afternoon on a wine tour and mooching around the town then find somewhere wonderful for dinner (its a foodie paradise). Neighbouring Franschook is also lovely.

The penguins at Bolders Beach are less than an hour from Cape Town. It's a beautiful drive through Cape Point and the Table Mountain National Park which will give you your wildlife hit. Stop for lunch on the way back in Simons Town.

The best place for whale watching is in Hermanus which is around 90 minutes away and not worth the trek IMO. There may be places closer to CT but I am not aware of any.

Make sure you leave a few days for relaxing on the beaches around Clifton (on the beach road that runs around CT), shopping in the waterfront and nightlife in the waterfront or Camps Bay. You might also consider a tour to Robben Island which is worth booking ahead. The Table Mountain cable car is also not to be missed but beware of long queues and it closes if it gets too windy.

ketchupontoast Sun 11-Oct-15 16:59:15

To get a feel for the size...Simon's Town where the penguins are to V and A will prob take you about an hour. However, being ppl wanting to see the sights and take in the views I would double that for your drive or even triple it.

I agree with PP - book ahead for the Robben Island trip - it gets booked up very quickly. And visit the mountain in the late afternoon when the queues have gone down. It is nice to have a sundowner at the top.

If you are in Simon's town area - grab the train to Kalk Bay which is just a short distance up the bay and then sit and enjoy the view while you have lunch in one of the many restaurants along the front (don't take your car as they have road works going on and its stupidly congested at the moment!).

ketchupontoast Sun 11-Oct-15 17:01:46

Sorry Kalk Bay is congested as is Muizenburg at the moment. Simon's Town isn't!

dukesy68 Wed 21-Oct-15 12:43:29

Also well worth a tour is Constantia. Constantia Glen and the surrounding wine farms are far more accessible and just as good (if not better!) that Stellenbosch imho..IF you want to eat some of the finest food in the world, then the Test Kitchen is brilliant, and due to the weak rand, it is SO affordable.

Think 3* Michelin with paired wines for R825 (£under 40) a head (that was the 6 course lunch. RING IN ADVANCE though, they are usually booked months in advance, but you might get a lunch...

Ooogetyooo Wed 21-Oct-15 13:27:03

We did the whalewatching thing from Hermanus where we stayed for 1 night then drove back to Capetown, but I suppose it's doable in a day if you get up early, we only stayed overnight as we had kids with us. Not sure if any trips run fromCapetown.
We did boulders beach and then carried on down to cape point and back in one day, saw plenty of ostriches and baboons too.
If you are doing the table mountain cable car, get in line early and go on the first clear morning you get.
I would say its a small enough place to base yourself there for the entire trip no need to adjust your itinerary.

BumgrapesofWrath Wed 21-Oct-15 13:37:09

8 days is plenty of time to do what you want to do.

Hire a car and do Boulders Beach and drive around the Cape - you can see lots of Baboons milling about the place.

Definitely worth a trip to Hermanus to whale watch - was amazing. I think it's drivable there and back in a day (but the whale watching is weather dependent so you might want to plan a trip round what the weather is doing.)

8 days is a long time in Cape Town so definitely branch out and travel around and use it as a base.

dukesy68 Wed 21-Oct-15 13:48:38

Oh..Forgot to say. If you have time, you MUST try a Brilliant little tapas restuarant called Fork. Regularly have lunch when I am down there, it is stunning.

On Long street, so in a nice safe "touristy" bit of CBD, set amongst bars/restuarants etc. WELL worth a visit

ketchupontoast Sat 24-Oct-15 18:01:43

I would be wary of long street during the evening/night. Fine during the day but in the evening not so.

Sounbelievablydull Sat 24-Oct-15 19:11:58

Wow thankyou for all the information.
I have emailed test kitchen for dinner reservation so fingers crossed??
Have hired a car
We have booked Robben Island
Have also booked a tour of the wine lands ,as we are both hoping to sample wines!
I really do want to see the whales so will follow bumgrapes tips.
Only three weeks to go can't wait!!!

mayhew Sat 24-Oct-15 19:17:20

There is a free walking tour every day. You give a tip at the end. A morning and afternoon session. Google it, it's really well done and fun, I learnt a lot about Cape Town and I've been going there for years.

villainousbroodmare Sat 24-Oct-15 19:19:10

Hermanus is an hour and a half from CT. Best done on a weekday as it gets jammers on weekends.

EagleRay Sun 25-Oct-15 15:50:07

I've visited the Cape area on my own 3 times now, but not been for nearly 10 years. I saw lots of whales while I was there (and you will be right in the middle of the season for it too). Here's what I recall of my trips:

Lots of whales in Hermanus, but lots of people too. What I did was drive out along the coast east of the town on the main road, then down through the houses to the quieter coastal bit where you can sit on the rocks on your own and have the whales all to yourself (they were really close!) You also get a nice view of them breaching in Walker Bay from there.

Lots of whales too in Simon's Town - in fact I remember they were so close to shore the traffic just stopped to watch them. On the main road south of Simon's Town, there was a couple of laybys where you could pull over and watch the whales surface from the shore.

I stayed in Simon's Town itself for a few days and it was a great location for whale watching, accessing Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and also for Boulders Bay (I stayed in a former convent a short walk away from Boulders).

Regarding the nature reserve, higlights for me were wildlife spotting, sitting in the restaurant and eating lunch and watching a whale and her calf directly below me in the water, and walking between Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. I think a lot of the coach party delegates don't get time to do this, but it's an incredible walk - halfway along is the very dramatic Diaz Beach and there were crowds of huge lizards sat on the fence just above the beach. The east coast of the park is also good for a coastal walk and there's a shipwreck along there too (the Thomas Tucker, I believe)

Don't go near the 'whale watching' boats departing from Cape Town itself - I foolishly got on one and was so seasick that by the time a whale appeared I didn't care (didn't actually care if I lived or died by that point as I felt so ill). The trip on an inflatable out of Simon's Town was much better!

Finally, if you come across a an official shark spotter on Boyes Drive, the road above Muizenberg, they should be able to tell you what's been seen out at sea that day (sharks and whales!)

Apologies if any of this information is out of date at all - it's based on my experiences 10 years ago.

Sigma33 Wed 28-Oct-15 08:33:14

Not only book ahead for Robben Island, book a morning trip. The wind gets up in the afternoon, and if it gets too strong the trip gets cancelled. You get a refund but if they're fully booked for days (and probably will be) then you won't be able to get a ticket for another day.

In fact, bear in mind for anything weather dependent then the wind picks up in the afternoon. Boat rides and the cable car get cancelled regularly, though it is not as bad in November as Dec/Jan.

An alternative to seeing the penguins from land is to take a kayak trip from Simonstown.

Groote Constantia is a good way to combine some of Cape Town's history, do some wine tasting, and eat good food. It is a state owned monument and the main house is Cape Dutch with early colonial furniture, there is a slavery exhibition, cellar tours and wine tasting, and 2 restaurants.

Cape Town Museum itself isn't that interesting - it's very old fashioned and static compared to museums in Europe/North America. Lots of moth eaten stuffed animals and apartheid eras displays about the primitive 'bushman'.

Well worth the trip is the San Cultural Centre: lovely food (!) and a 2-hour tour about the San people's culture and history, including a walk through the veld sampling medicinal plants and lighting a fire by rubbing 2 sticks together. It's an hour and a half to 2 hours from Cape Town.

November is a bit late for the main whale season (when they're easily visible from the shore) but by boat is possible.

ruby1234 Thu 05-Nov-15 15:20:57

We did a day trip round the winelands, went on a mini bus so we could do plenty of wine tasting!

Also went on a day trip to Aquila Game Reserve, about 1.5 hours from Cape Town. Fantastic safari where we saw the big 5, then I went on a horseback safari in the afternoon - was really good. Had a great pool and really nice restaurant.

We spent a day round the shanty towns, probably one of the most interesting days of my life; they were nothing like I imagined - well worth a day out.

Cape Town was lovely round the marina, loads of restaurants and shops. We booked the cable car tickets online before we went - the tickets were valid for 14 days and we just picked a nice day and skipped the queue.

The Codfather in Camps Bay is a really good restaurant, and we enjoyed Mama Africa's in Cape Town.

SquirrelledAway Fri 06-Nov-15 17:32:46

Also, if you're driving anywhere where baboons might be, keep your doors well and truly locked - they know how to try the door handles.

EagleRay Fri 06-Nov-15 21:35:08

ah - the lovely baboons, bless them grin

And never, ever walk in an open space carrying any sort of food if they're within a 10 mile radius - saw endless tourists being robbed of their icecreams in the Cape Point car park...

Sounbelievablydull Sun 08-Nov-15 19:31:53

Thankyou all so much for all the info. Am now officially in a frenzy of excitement just a few more days at work then off we go.
Test kitchen was completely booked up but have got lunch booked at its sister restaurant pot luck kitchen.
Will def look at the safari option.
Any recommendations for shopping? Would like to bring back some arty things for the house and maybe for Xmas presents

SquirrelledAway Mon 09-Nov-15 11:55:07

If you get a chance to go to Franschhoek then there are loads of galleries selling a wide range of arty stuff, but wood and soapstone carvings are plentiful and cheap pretty much everywhere (think rhinos, hippos, birds, figures etc).

plipplops Fri 13-Nov-15 14:21:16

Can i ask a question? We were considering a trip to SA but abandoned it after getting worried about security driving around etc.. There seemed to be a lot of advice which said "you'll be fine as long as you don't have a hire car that's obviously a hire car/don't drive at night/lock all the doors" which didn't seem to add up to a great trip?? On the other hand there's loads there we really really wanted to see? DDs are 7 and 8, and I'm not normally that precious but DH was pretty concerned and the thought of pushing a holiday through and then getting mugged/car-jacked was awful!

Sounbelievablydull Fri 13-Nov-15 16:57:12

Eeek we are about to get on the plane so if we get back ok I'll let you know xxx

SquirrelledAway Sun 15-Nov-15 11:33:41

plipplops you'll be fine driving around. There are bits of Cape Town for instance that you'll want to keep clear of, same as any big city, but it's pretty obvious where it starts getting dodgy. We've done two big sightseeing holidays involving lots of driving, in 1997 and in 2014, and the biggest hazard was minibus drivers and livestock wandering around on the road. If you plan and book ahead you won't need to drive at night, and locking the doors will protect against the wildlife as much as anything (baboons!).

It's a stunning country and our kids had the most amazing time - PM me if you want some ideas.

5oclocksomewhere Mon 16-Nov-15 00:04:04

Keep small notes to "tip" people who help you park etc.... Book a wine guide, they know everyone in the vineyards, can coach you through the tastings, take you to a wide variety of styles of vineyard / wines and do all the driving! One of the best things I've ever done in my life. Cost was about £50 each but didn't pay for anything after that (other than bottles to take home).

5oclocksomewhere Mon 16-Nov-15 00:07:59

Our accommodation may get free tickets for the cable car, just let them know if you are planning to go to table mountain and they'll either get you free or cheaper tickets in advance.

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