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July 16, 2013

Cape Town by train

View of the Brass Bell from a train window

If there’s a single city that deserves train travel, it’s Cape Town. Not only are the trains safe and easily accessible, you have the time to sit back, relax and take in the spectacular views. The journey becomes as much of an adventure as what awaits you at your final destination.

The Metrorail, originally constructed as a commuter train system, has 688 trains operating on a 481km rail track length, servicing 122 stations. But what makes Cape Town train rides unique are the picturesque suburbs and places of interest along any particular trip. The recently launched Bikes on Board initiative, a service available to cyclists during off-peak hours from 09:00 – 15:00 and then from 19:00 till the last train, means you can take your bike with you. This enables you to explore places of interest on the route leisurely by bike.

The popular Southern Line Tourist Route takes you from Cape Town Station all the way to Boulders Beach in Simon's Town. From the station you can stop and experience student culture through the pubs and restaurants in Observatory and Rondebosch. Wind through the leafy suburb of Newlands with its rugby fields and cricket grounds and catch a match on games days.  Or, get off at the Claremont station for mall action at Cavendish Square. A lulling rumble of the tracks and clatter of couplings later and you curve into St James Beach just past Muizenberg. The smell of the ocean, with the backdrop of the mountain and the iconic colourful beach huts lend an old-world charm to the landscape – something you might miss zipping along by car. In the right season, you might spot a whale migrating past the bay! The line ends in the historic suburb of Simonstown, which has been a naval base for over two centuries – first for the Royal Navy and now the South African Navy. From the station you can either walk the 3km to Boulders Beach or take a Riki’s taxi. The beach itself forms part of a protected Penguin colony.

Take the northern line from the CBD and you could traverse inland discovering the Western Cape like never before.  Malmesbury offers town gardens, a museum and the Malmesbury Hisotrical Route – and what better way to start a journey steeped in history than travelling by train? Paarl (the third oldest town in South Africa), Stellenbosh (the heart of the Cape Winelands), and Worcester (the last large town of the Boland before entering the Karoo) need no introduction. These towns are stops on the northern line. Also on the same line are Somerset West and Strand. Somerset West is home to a wide variety of world-class wine estates while Strand offers 5km of pristine white sand beach and beachfront restaurants from which you can watch the sunset.

Pack a basket, gather some friends, family or a loved one and make a day of it. Getting there might take you longer than in a motor vehicle but you can literally pack more of a trip into a single train ride. Check the time schedule and for a minimal fare you could be exploring Cape Town in a not only convenient but also charming way.

For more information about the thrilling railway transport options in Cape Town, please visit www.metrorail.co.za or  follow the conversation on Twitter.

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