Often regarded as one of the top tourist destinations globally, Cape Town is a place of exceptional beauty. The city is known for Table Mountain, one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and its gorgeous coastlines, Winelands, and wildlife. During Cape Town’s peak summer season, December through February, popular sites like Boulders Beach and the V & A Waterfront can be filled to the brim with eager domestic and international travelers. Locals tend to stay away from these tourist traps during peak season, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on any of the good stuff. There are many lovely scenic spots that are equally beautiful but offer a little more peace and quiet away from the crowds. From beaches and vineyards to garden viewpoints, here are some local favorites in and around Cape Town.
For a slice of seaside living, take a trip to the coastal town of Melkbosstrand. Situated around 30-40 minutes from Cape Town center, the quaint area known colloquially as Melkbos is home to many local celebrities, such as retired rugby players, actors, writers, and even visiting members from the House of Lords.
Melkbos displays one of the finest coastlines in the country, with its Table Mountain views and four-mile stretch of white-sand beach. The beach is popular with surfers and swimmers who are willing to brave the chilly Atlantic Ocean. History buffs are sure to take an interest in the numerous shipwrecks along the coast and the old town, which features stunning examples of Dutch colonial architecture.
Melkbos is home to many inviting cafes and restaurants that showcase glorious sea views, including the Damhuis restaurant, which was transformed from a late 18th-century fisherman house. While fishing is strictly regulated, Melkbos’ waters are full of crawfish, Cape lobster and more. As a result, many of the surrounding restaurants offer fresh and affordable seafood menus.
A little way down the road from the busy main beach of Camp’s Bay lies the picturesque and peaceful Bakoven beach. This little strip of sand is the ideal spot for sunbathers as its signature giant granite boulders resemble Dutch ovens (hence the area’s name), radiating heat and providing shelter from the wind. It’s also a gorgeous spot to watch the sunset and to stargaze. While the exclusivity of this beach is dreamy, this does mean that there are no public amenities, so be sure to pack ahead.
If you travel around a mile past the beach, you’ll find a spectacular viewing point and a friendly little coffee cart named simply Street Café Food Truck. On a good day, you can enjoy a coffee while viewing schools of dolphins happily swimming in the ocean below.
At about an hour’s drive on the West Coast from Cape Town, Yzerfontein is a little farther away, but it features plenty of scenery along the way, with sea views on the left and long stretches of untouched fynbos on the right. First, you’ll reach the tiny harbor town, where you’ll find some quirky shops to stop off at before you get to the beach.
The 16-mile Yzerfontein beach is the longest uninterrupted beach on the South African coastline. This far-reaching beach is the perfect spot for water sports such as kayaking, surfing and water-skiing. Nature lovers will be in their element, not only because of the spectacular seascapes but also because of the variety of wild fynbos, wildflowers and birds, as well as dolphin and whale sightings. With plenty to do, staying overnight at one of the many self-catering guesthouses is highly recommended.
For penguin sightings, most tourists will head over to the famous Boulder’s Beach. While beloved by locals and tourists alike, Boulder’s can become extremely crowded, especially with families during peak season. For a quieter spot where you can observe colonies of African penguins in their natural habitat, head to Stony Point Nature Reserve in the small holiday town of Betty’s Bay. Stony Point is also home to three species of cormorant and plenty of adorable Rock Hyrax, commonly known as Dassies. The colony lies on the old Waaygat Whaling Station site, with remnants of the site still seen today.
It takes about one hour on a scenic ocean path to reach Betty’s Bay, and on your way, you can stop off at the beautiful harbor town of Gordon’s Bay and the quaint coastal village of Pringle Bay.
Chart Rose Farm
If you’d like to spend a day feeling like Alice in Wonderland, look no farther than the fairy-tale rose garden of Chart Rose Farm. Conveniently located in the Southern Suburbs, just a 15-minute drive from the city center and a few minutes away from the Constantia Winelands, Chart Rose Farm is the only place in the Cape Peninsula where you can pick your own roses.
The historic farm, purchased in 1934, offers sweeping views of the mountainous Constantia Valley and is home to grapevines, lemon trees, a farmstall, a charming coffee shop, and the English-style rose garden. The roses bloom from mid-October right up until the end of May, but it’s still a delightful location to visit even out of season. If you wish to take some roses home, the farm will lend you a pair of secateurs and a bucket to use for picking, and the roses can be bought for around 50 cents each.
Another incredible place in the Southern Suburbs to get lost in nature is Newlands Forest, a natural pine forest on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Newlands Forest is frequented by avid hikers and joggers who can enjoy four different trails ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty. Each trail offers stunning viewpoints and a wide variety of indigenous plants and tranquil streams to admire along the way. From October to May, there is a designated picnic and braai (barbecue) area covered by a canopy of trees offering plenty of shade for a pleasant stream-side lunch outdoors.
Tourists must take note of safety precautions when exploring secluded areas as crime and accidents do happen. It is advised to travel in groups and to always have the necessary emergency numbers on hand.
Tours through the Winelands usually focus on wine farms in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. While the exceptional wine farms in these areas are not to be missed, many other lesser-known farms deserve just as much love. One of the most unique farms is Fairview, located in Paarl, the largest town in the Cape Winelands and third oldest city and European settlement in South Africa.
Fairview was founded in 1693 and produces artisanal, sustainable produce with a strong focus on wine and cheese. What makes Fairview stand out above the rest? Its goat tower, of course! Believe it or not, this is exactly what it sounds like — a tower inhabited by goats. The goats live comfortably on the land and act as Fairview’s furry mascots, providing plenty of milk and cheese for sale and consumption. When at Fairview, you can admire the goats and their infrastructure, dine at the casual, farm-style Goatshed Restaurant, shop the wide range of artisanal products at the deli, and enjoy a tasting of unique wines and cheeses at the incredible starting price of just a little over $1.
If you seek some fine wines closer to the city, the Durbanville wine valley is just a 40-minute drive away. Durbanville is home to many of Cape Town’s most respected wineries, such as Durbanville Estate, D’Aria, and De Grendel. A true hidden gem amongst these popular wineries is Klein Roosboom, a boutique winery that offers a truly unique wine tasting experience.
Klein Roosboom oozes rustic charm exemplified by its “caves” — old concrete wine tanks that have been converted into cozy yet opulent tasting rooms. Its restaurant, Jéan Deli, is set amongst the vineyards with tables on the deep verandah and between the vines. If the restaurant is full, guests are welcome to grab takeout and picnic around the estate.
Silvermine Nature Reserve
Forming part of Table Mountain National Park, Silvermine Nature Reserve is an impressive conversation area that offers spectacular views as well as a reservoir, river, and waterfall. It is also home to over 900 species of fynbos. On a clear day, your drive to the reserve along Ou Kaapse Weg will reward you with breathtaking views of most of the greater Cape Town area.
Silvermine is popular with mountain bikers and adrenaline-seeking rock climbers. The less adventurous might enjoy some of the easy hiking trails around the area, all of which are well-marked with clear maps at the start. From lazy strolls around the reservoir or longer treks up to panoramic viewing points, Silvermine displays natural beauty everywhere you look. Depending on the trail you choose, the views vary from caves and waterfalls, to Noordhoek Valley, Long Beach, Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay.
The Silvermine Reservoir was built in 1898 to supply water to the growing city of Cape Town and now acts as a lovely swimming spot (for both humans and fish) during warmer months. For a tranquil break from city life, spend a night in one of the tented camps, which are built from timber that has been felled in the Table Mountain National Park. There are designated picnic and braai spots around the reserve, but it is advised that braais occur during winter to prevent fires.
The Rhodes Memorial has been a point of controversy in recent years due to the Rhodes Must Fall student movement, which has since become synonymous with protesting against institutional racism at universities and advocating for access to tertiary education for all. Rhodes Must Fall began when students protested Cecil John Rhodes statues at the University of Cape Town. The memorial in question was set up to commemorate the very same colonial politician. Certain parts of the memorial were repeatedly vandalized but have since been restored. However, these archaic statues are the last reason you should visit the memorial — it is one of the best panoramic viewing points in the city.
Situated on Devil’s Peak mountain and close to the University of Cape Town, from the Rhodes Memorial, you can see the Cape Flats and the Helderberg and Hottentots Holland Mountain ranges. It is also one of the few vantage points from which you can see both the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Just behind the memorial on the slopes of Table Mountain lies the friendly Rhodes Memorial Restaurant and Tea Garden. The friendly cottage-style dining spot is a must-visit not only for its incredible views but also to sample its seasonal specials, traditional Cape Malay specialties and the city’s best milk tart.
Signal Hill at sunset
Signal Hill is a well-known fixture of the Cape Town skyline. The flat-topped hill is an ideal spot to watch the sunset over Table Mountain, yet a hike to the top can be challenging and will take at least a few hours. For an effortless way to get the exact same view without any of the work, simply take a drive-up or catch an Uber to the top.
Bring a picnic blanket, find a perfect patch to sit, and take in the view. This “best-kept secret” is known among locals, especially couples who love the romance of the twinkling Cape Town lights. Getting there about 45 minutes before sunset is advised so that you can find a good spot.