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December 05, 2011

A day outdoors in Cape Town

Hiking up Lion's Head. Photo courtesy Mallix

Cape Town is an outdoor lover’s dream with its temperate climate, long stretches of beaches, mountains and winelands to enjoy. There are also a host of walking tours to choose from in the city and the townships.

So get off the couch and head out into the open to enjoy an alfresco day in Cape Town.

Morning Meanders

For a gentle start to the day, the new City Sightseeing Hop on-Hop off Canal Cruise is a winner. You can hop on at the Cape Town International Conference Centre if you’ve just finished a conference, trundle along the canal, past the apartments of the Waterfront Marina, through South Africa’s only lock, and on to the Two Oceans Aquarium, or the other way round. There are five stops along the way, one of them being the landmark luxury hotel the One&Only, while the others are at the City Lodge and Harbour Bridge hotels.

Find out about the significance of connecting our harbour with the central city district. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to start the day and to discover this working harbour with its bustling dry docks, busy tugs and everything from luxury yachts to cruise ships docking at any given time. A number of boats and catamarans take visitors around the harbour daily or for trips out to sea, but one that requires advance booking is the ferry ride to Robben Island.

The irresistible beauty of the Table Mountain National Park is that a visitor with just a few hours to spare can take the Table Mountain Cableway and be transported to the top of the mountain in 20 minutes to do a variety of easy, one-hour, circular walks on the flat top before coming down again. Tip: buy your tickets online and skip the queue (tablemountain.net) and try the well priced buffet breakfast at the café. Take warm clothes as it can get very cold up there.

A walk to the highest point, Maclear’s Beacon, takes about three hours, while the quickest way to hike up the front face of the mountain is up Platteklip Gorge – a breathtaking way to start the day.

Walkers with a few days to spare can book the Hoerikwaggo Trail that spans the entire length of the Table Mountain National Park from the city to the tip of the Peninsula. The guided trail takes five days and includes staying in eco-friendly overnight camps with unforgettable scenery inbetween. This is slackpacking at its best – your rucksacks can be transported for you.

Afternoon Ambulations

The Rumbullion terrace at The Roundhouse Restaurant in the Camps Bay Glen (+27 (0)21 438 4347) does tapas and deli food with views of the coastline and the mountain. It’s perfect if you want to do a late afternoon walk on Camps Bay beach when the light is particularly beautiful. You can walk from the Rumbullion to one of the lower paths below Lion’s Head, but it’s better to drive up Signal Hill road and park for a more energetic walk up Lion’s Head and for views that simply get better with every step. A tandem paraglide off the slopes is the best way to get down. Clifton’s world-renowned beaches give shelter on windy days. Fourth Beach is the largest and closest to Camps Bay and is a magnet for trendy beachgoers, while Third Beach is gay-friendly. Do as the locals do – bring a blanket and stay for a picnic supper. Or take a drive out towards Blouberg for the classic postcard view of Robben Island, the city and Table Mountain from the endless white sands of Blouberg Beach, where you can also go kitesurfing or head for a beer on the lawns at the Blue Peter (+27 (0)21 554 1956).

If you’re staying in the South Peninsula, take the boardwalk from the Kommetjie lighthouse and continue to the main beach for spectacular view of Chapman’s Peak, Hout Bay and the “back” of Table Mountain.
A little further along is the wreck of the Kakapoon the beach. Or take a drive up to Silvermine Dam and do the circular boardwalk (great with kids), or follow the trails to the lookout spots over Noordhoek and down to the point.


Wear a warm jacket and scarf, take a sunset cruise from the waterfront and feel like a millionaire on the 47 foot iQ2010 cruise liner with Cruise IQ (+27 (0)21 421 5565). Alternatively go on a sail boat from the Waterfront Boat Company (+27 (0)21 418 5806). But don’t despair if you don’t have sea legs… instead, book a meal at the most romantic seaside setting on the Peninsula at Tintswalo Atlantic, a private lodge nestled in the melkhout trees along the shoreline. Arrange to arrive at 17h00 and you will be transported from the parking area on Chapman’s Peak down the mountainside to the sea. Watch the sun go down from the deck overlooking Hout Bay, across to the Sentinel, with the towering peaks of Chapman’s Peak behind you (087 754 9300). You might even want to stay the night in this spectacular lodge so that you don’t need to drive home.


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