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Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
327 posts
241 reviews
Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

AIRPORT & GETTING INTO THE CITY

Airport

- About 12 miles from downtown, takes about 20 minutes in taxi, metered rate about $20-$25.

Getting Around the City

- Taxis are all over with metered fares about 100ZAR ($11) from Camps Bay to city center or VA Waterfront. Slightly less to Table Mountain cable car. Should be careful which taxis you take as there are known to be safety issues and scams. To be safe, order taxi from your hotel or take taxi that looks legit. Elite taxis are some of the most reputable and were recommended by most.

- If you are daring like me, you can take the South African version of a collectivo which is a van/bus that does a defined route and you pay like 12ZAR. I took one from Camps Bay to downtown as I like the adventure plus like to see the city. If interested, look for white vans/mini buses with yellow stripe and a guy yelling out the side noting where it is going.

- Not a good city for walking given safety issues. Completely safe walking around VA Waterfront or on main drag in Camps Bay. Somewhat safe to walk along Long Street as long as you’re ok with drunks and hookers about. Shouldn’t walk from Long Street to Waterfront at night and be cautious during day. It’s ok to walk around Greenpoint area a couple of blocks from one bar to the next but be careful.

- Nothing much to really see in downtown Cape Town, don't even bother, spend time in VA Waterfront, Camps Bay, wine region, western cape drive

CAMPS BAY

- Idyllic setting, 10 min drive from Cape Town, 100ZAR to waterfront or Long Street by metered taxi

- ¼ mile beach with stunning views of Table Mountain and Lions Head.

- Main drag has about 10 restaurants, each with a few tables along sidewalk. Zen Zero is a nice spot with very good food. Great place to have lunch and enjoy the view. Area is popular at sunset then town dies down a bit after dark so not a lot of nightlife options, better to go to VA Waterfront or Long Street. Caprese at end of the stretch is a hot spot on weekend nights and Sunday. Young crowd heavily libated.

- Good beach to walk or relax in sun but not conducive to swimming since strong currents and bone chilling cold water. The coldest sea water I’ve ever felt.

- What’s nice about the beaches in Cape Town is there are no hawkers bothering you so you can have a nice relaxing time. However, there is no infrastructure on beach for drinks, bathrooms, etc.

- Bay Hotel is a magnificent hotel located right across from the beach and smack dab in the middle of the main drag in Camps Bay. Beautiful hotel with well appointed, modern rooms. Elevated pool and lounge chair area is great spot with excellent view of the beautiful bay. Front facing rooms have view of ocean while those in back have view of Table Mountain. So you can't go wrong. They also have both an Audi and a Porsche Panamera to transport you wherever you want. Trips to waterfront or Long Street cost about 150ZAR. Good price considering taxi costs 100-120ZAR.

THE SITES & SIDETRIPS

- Table Mountain - Spectacular view, about ten bucks for round trip funicular, trip takes about 5 minutes to ascend to top in this modern funicular which actually rotates throughout the journey so everyone gets a good view. Spend an hour poking around and enjoying the magnificent views of city, coast, etc. Great place to visit during day or at sunset. There’s a restaurant on grounds with decent food and drinks. Good place to relax and enjoy the views! I recommend bringing sunscreen in summer as sun is very strong.

- Robben Island – A must do in Cape Town. Boats leave at the Clock Tower in VA Waterfront, best to book in advance as they are known to fill up days in advance during the summer. Tickets cost 180ZAR ($20) for the boat to/from and the tour of the facility. Boat ride is about 30 minutes and seas can be rough. Upon arrival you will get on a bus where a guide will take you around the island for about 45 mins telling you the history of the island. About ½ way, you’ll stop and get out for great views and pictures of Cape Town and Table Mountain in the distance. After the bus tour, you will be guided throughout the prison by an ex-prisoner. Certainly interesting to hear his views of the prison since he was incarcerated there. You’ll see all the sites of the prison including the general population facilities, Mandela’s cell and the prison yard. Whole trip takes about half a day.

- Cape Point – A must see, easy & scenic drive an hour or two from Cape Town, depending on which way you go and how many times you stop for pics. I rented a car and drove on my own which is the way I roll but many contract a driver for the day which costs about $100. Last stretch is a national park so need to pay about ten bucks (90ZAR) to drive in. Once there, park and walk to the funicular to avoid the half hour uphill walk to the point. Ticket only costs 49ZAR ($5) return. Explore around for an hour. Can eat alongside parking lot at Two Oceans Restaurant on terrace with view of the Indian Ocean. Funny that it's called Two Oceans but can only see one from the restaurant. After meal and your departure, make sure you take your first left when you drive out so you can have a walk around Cape of Good Hope. Walk along rocks, take pic in front of sign that says southernmost point in Africa, keep walking to end for spectacular views of the sea.

- Boulders Beach Penguin Colony - $10 to get in. Nice to see penguins for 5 mins but I wouldn't go out of my way to do it. Kind of disappointing. Just stand on a deck and look at them hanging on the beach.

- Western Cape Drive – Amazing drive and a must do. Tie it in with a trip to Cape Point. Start downtown, head over to VA Waterfront and follow that road along coast through Green Point, Moulle Point, Sea Point and Clifton. Right after Clifton, take left onto Kloof Road and head up to top of Signal Hill for a great view of the city and Table Mountain. After, descend hill and follow signs for Camps Bay. Drive down to Camps Bay then hang a left, following that road to Hout Bay, stopping along the way for pictures when you have the urge. Hout Bay is a good stopping point to stroll along the beach then grab some fish n chips at Fisherman’s Wharf. From here take the road to Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Scarborough, again stopping along the way to enjoy the views. One of the best stretches is the Chapmans Peak Coastal Road where you will drive through a cut out in the mountain. Well worth the small road toll. After Scarborough, follow signs for Cape Point. You’ll enter the park where you’ll need to stop and pay 90ZAR entrance. After driving about 20 minutes through the park, you’ll arrive at Cape Point where there is plenty of parking. When exiting, be sure to veer off to left as described above to enjoy Cape of Good Hope. Follow signs to Simon Town, stopping at Boulders Beach if you want to check out the penguins as listed above. Continue onwards to Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay, Muizenberg then head inland towards Constantia on the M3. At Constantia / Bishopscourt, turn left to go over Constantia neck to head back down to Hout Bay then Camps Bay. Will likely take you a full day but time well spent!

- Stellenbosch – best area of wine region. Easy day trip from Cape Town, only about an hour via N1. Exit 47 and hang a right towards Stellenbosch. Here are a couple of my favorite wineries to visit:

o Kannonkop - Simple place with exquisite wines. Entire facility is indoors but you’re not here for a view, you’re here for great wines. Tasting is free with plenty of wines for purchase. Very friendly staff. Small art exhibit is in adjoining room. Easily found. Heading down main road from exit 47, look for large cannon on left side.

o Thelema – Beautiful modern, open aired place with stunning view. Wines very good and tasting costs 25ZAR. Small outside deck overlooks mountains and vineyards. When you exit Kannonkop, keep heading down road a couple of miles taking a left onto Hellshodge (the road leading to Franschoek). Located a couple miles up that road on left side behind Tokara.

o Delare Graff - Magnificent place architecturally speaking, beautiful patio with decent view and incredible art throughout. Wines far from inspiring so just go there for a look. Tasting is 20ZAR. Adjoining restaurant is supposed to be very nice but requires reservations. I tried to squeeze in while no one seated and was told is completely booked, likely tour buses on way, staff not very nice. Easily found nearly directly across main road from Thelema entrance.

o Ernie Els - Spectacular views and well worth a visit. Wines very good and can enjoy your tasting out on tables perched over the valley. 30ZAR for tastings of 4 wines and believe a bit more if you want to sample all, very nice staff. A bit tricky to find but from the Delare Graff, go back to the original main road you took from exit 47. Continue down the road, for several miles, taking a left onto Annandale. From here, you’ll wind around onto some small roads, following the signs for Ernie Els. Well signed.

- Franschhoek - Cute little town in center of wine region and nice place to stroll looking in several blocks of boutiques and restaurants. Reuben's is ward winning restaurant with renowned chef. Nice place for lunch or dinner, best to sit in courtyard in back. While Reuben’s came highly recommended to me, I think I’d prefer to sit at a cafe on the sidewalk in town to enjoy watching people pass by while basking in the sun. That said, squid salad was great and karoo lamb rack was awesome.

NIGHTLIFE

- Not a lot of nightlife options in Camps Bay, outside of Caprese mentioned above so best to head to the VA Waterfront where it is safe and there are plenty of spots for a drink. Mitchell's on corner in VA Waterfront is best for a pint of beer and to listen to nightly live band on patio,

- Long Street in town center is a bit rough and reminds me of Beale Street in Memphis or Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Gritty scene with lots of rowdy drunks, homeless, hookers and plenty of suspicious looking people. If this is your thing, check out Dubliner in the center of Long Street for cold beers and live band. Also, Fiction is few doors down and across the street, great spot for dj electronica music. Just be careful in picking a taxi to drive you home....

- Deco Dance in Sea Point is awful, 50ZAR cover, bar is in basement, smoky, dj old and plays 80s, crowd is full of 40 and 50 cheesy people and hen parties

- Jade in Green Point very nice, small second floor joint, entrance on side street with no sign, very small, loungy and hip

- Radisson Blu has nice lounge with open view of the ocean. Fancy, white table cloths with sophisticated older crowd. Good for sun down.

- Cape Grace Hotel has nice bar with boating theme and outdoor patio on marina. Good place to sit at a table with your date and have a nice glass of wine or whiskey which is their specialty.

RESTAURANTS

- Countless restaurant options are in the waterfront. Baia on top floor at far end has very good seafood. City Grill on ground floor has great traditional African sausage, ostrich and other meats.

- Bukara in city center is excellent spot for Indian food. Well appointed location with beautiful décor and impressive open kitchen. Located at 33 Church St, not far off Long Street. A bit difficult to find as entrance is around corner and need to go up steps to restaurant situated on 2nd floor.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
30 posts
10 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Great info, most informative. Thanks so much World Guru. We are heading to Capetown Jan 4 for 11 days. We will be coming in from Kruger. We have booked 5 nights at Camps Bay, have a friend in Capetown who will show us the town. Wanted to stay at beach and chill.

My question to you is should we bother going to Plettenberg or Kynsa? Do the Garden Route? We will definately he heading to the wine region for a night. Thanks

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
327 posts
241 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Thanks. You'll have a great time. Sorry I don't have any info about the other places you mentioned. I am not familiar with them.

Thanks again and all the best.

Fordingbridge...
Level Contributor
2,086 posts
185 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Thanks for your detailed report & no surprise that you enjoyed your trip to this wonderful country. That sign at Cape Point is rather misleading as the most southerly point in Africa is actually Cape Agulhas, some 95 miles to the ESE.

007, a trip to Knysna is definitely worthwhile. However, it's high season so make sure that you have your accommodation sorted out in advance.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
30 posts
10 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Thanks Nicmeljones ..

Harare, Zimbabwe
Level Contributor
813 posts
248 reviews
5. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Hi,

I wouldn't miss the Garden Route. The scenery is spectacular along the coast.

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
26,327 posts
38 reviews
6. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Interesting style of writing a trip report. It reads more like a travel guide than what you actually did. Unhelpful to have prices quoted both in US$ and ZAR. For those not from the USA, ZAR would be more useful, and would allow for any currency fluctuations - or did you actual pay for taxis in US$?

I'm amused that in one point you suggest, if you are brave, to use the 'colectivos' - combis, I think you mean, to get around, yet also say it's not a good city to walk around for safety issues. I walked around, mostly with my DH, in lots of different areas within inner Cape Town, but never after dark, without concerns. The combis running in and out of Camps Bay may be fine, but I'd be very wary of suggesting them to first time visitors as a means of getting around outside of those area, certainly not in most parts of South Africa. You'd need to know the area and where exactly you are going.

SWT

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
327 posts
241 reviews
7. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Thanks for the feedback Sussex. Sorry you don't like my writing style. Hopefully there are other trip reports that better meet your needs. Meanwhile, for others, I hope that my contribution helps them make the most out of their trip.

I did in fact use ZAR which is a necessity in SA. Any references I made in USD made can be easily converted to ZAR equivalent at about 8.6ZAR to 1USD.

And yes, safety is a concern in SA thus it is important that you remain alert of your surroundings and be careful in choosing a good mode of transportation. In my opinion, there is little to see in Cape Town center worthy of taking the time and energy for extensive walks. Therefore, I suggest that you take a taxi to where you want to go, being careful of the taxi chosen as noted above. Walking around in daytime is obviously more safe than night but I advise that folks be cautious at any hour. I felt safe walking in Camps Bay and VA Waterfront at all hours.

As for the colectivos, as I call them, they are quite common in many developing countries. Definitely not the safest option but an adventurous option for those wishing to experience public transportation as locals do and possibly see some interesting off the beat and path areas not normally explored in the regular tourist routes. Anyone choosing this option should be extra careful given the added risk of this mode of transportation.

Thanks again.

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
26,327 posts
38 reviews
8. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

I wasn't complaining about your writing style - I appreciated it's difference - but was merely observing that, to me, it read more as a guide for others, rather than a report of what you did. I do agree, it may well be helpful to other travellers, the way you reported on places of interest, but you wrote it authoritatively yet it seems this was your first and only trip to those parts. I also wasn't looking for tips or advice, just making comments. My observations on safety etc are based on the fact that I too have just returned from South Africa, where we spent 5 days out of a month in the country in Cape Town exploring similar areas to you, but it seems we also explored other areas of the city as well.

My comments on the advisability of suggesting as a general remark to brave travellers to try and use the combis is based on my feeling that it could be totally inadvisable to use them in a few of the parts of South Africa that my adventure got me to, some parts which are poorly documented in guide books, on maps and rarely get mentioned on these forums.

However, it seems you had an enjoyable time in and around Cape Town, as we did.

SWT

Stockholm, Sweden
7 posts
9. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

If you are motorbike fan, this region can be very well explored on motorcycle. There are several rentals companies in the region like Thebikebusiness, Cape Bike Travel, Motorrad, CapeBike, GS Africa etc. Be careful with GV Motorcycle Rentals - they like to charge your deposit guarantee for alleged scratches and casual maintance costs.

Wilmington, NC
Level Contributor
299 posts
6 reviews
10. Re: Trip Report: Cape Town, Western Cape & Wine Region

Thank you for your report! I copied several parts of it into my travel research for our trip in September.