Things to Do in Western Cape
The Delaire Graff Wine Estate, near Stellenbosch, is a beautiful winery destination in the Cape Winelands region
Laurence Graff, a diamond dealer of many years, bought the Delaire Estate in the early 2000s. The estate was re-opened as Delaire Graff in 2009, and now features not only the winery but also world-class dining, luxury lodges, a spa, an excellent art collection, a diamond boutique, and picturesque botanic gardens.
Delaire Graff Estate is a luxury destination where you're tempted to stay for a few days, but you can also visit for a day to sample the estate's wines. Sip Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, rose and sparkling wines, and both white and red blends.
Plenty of Cape Town visitors head for the Cape of Good Hope thinking it's the southernmost point of South Africa, but that distinction belongs to Cape Agulhas. It isn't quite as dramatic as the Cape of Good Hope, nor as picturesque, with more of a gently curving coastline rather than a point, but there is a small rocky beach, and a geographical marker in Agulhas National Park indicating its status as South Africa's southern tip.
A shipwreck is still visible on Cape Agulhas, but many ships were lost in the difficult seas off the coast. The lighthouse in the national park was built in 1848 to help cut down on the number of wrecks. In addition to being the country's southern point, it's also off Cape Agulhas that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.
With its huge sea cliffs, bays, and valleys, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve—situated at the very tip of the Cape Peninsula—is one of the most scenic spots in South Africa. A trip to Cape Point and the reserve, part of Table Mountain National Park, is an easy must-do when visiting Cape Town and highlights include animal sightings, scenic drives, and deserted beaches.
Robben Island—where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years—was a place of isolation for nearly three centuries, housing many political prisoners and serving as both an asylum and leprosy colony. Today, the island remains a tangible symbol of political freedom and a reminder of the difficult road to South African democracy.
Because of the climate that’s needed to grow wine, vineyards are often located in areas with exceptional natural beauty. In the case of the famous Cape Winelands, however, the rolling hills and jagged mountains provide an awesome sense of wonder that’s stronger than most other wine regions. Of all the wineries in Stellenbosch, the Jordan Wine Estate is one of the more scenic, luxurious, and storied places, and has been family-owned since 1982 well before the area had become famous.
In addition to the spectacular natural surroundings, Jordan Wine Estate owes much of its success to the area’s mineral-rich soil, which tour guides discuss and explain in depth while strolling the vineyards before heading down to the impressively engineered cellar. As a winery that focuses on blending methods from the New as well as Old worlds, Jordan Winery has stainless steel tanks as well as wooden barrels, which along with the fresh, flavorful grapes and decades of winemaking knowledge, help create the distinctive flavors that Jordan Wine Estate is known for.
With pristine white sands and calm turquoise waters hemmed in by gigantic granite boulders, Boulders Beach is one of the Cape Peninsula’s most magnificent beaches. Located just outside Simon’s Town, the beach is protected as part of the Table Mountain National Park and renowned for its African penguin colony.
On the grounds of the L'Ormarins farm in Franschhoek, home to Antonij Rupert Wines, is the Franschhoek Motor Museum. This collection of more than 200 cars is the personal collection of Johann Rupert, who runs the wine estate. The cars span more than 100 years of car-making history, and the models on display (a selection that rotates periodically) are in impeccable condition.
In addition to the cars, the Franschhoek Motor Museum also showcases some historical motorcycles and bicycles, as well as motoring memorabilia. There are four buildings on the estate which hold cars, each grouped by its make.
Lined with brightly colored houses and lively streets, Bo-Kaap is as vibrant as it is culturally rich. The historic neighborhood, set just outside central Cape Town on the flanks of Signal Hill, is a dynamic melting pot of Malaysian, India, Sri Lankan, and African culture. It was one of the first settlements of freed slaves and Muslim immigrants in South Africa.
Chapman's Peak is a mountain on the Cape Peninsula with a 5.5-mile (8.8 kilometers) road, said to be one of the world’s most scenic drives. The road winds from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, clinging to the side of the steep mountain almost the whole way. Traveling this road’s 114 turns is a must-do in Cape Town.
Panoramic ocean views, towering cliffs, and 100-year-old lighthouses define Cape Point, located at the tip of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula. Set within the Cape Floral Region (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Table Mountain National Park, the reserve is a haven for hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography.
More Things to Do in Western Cape
Table Mountain's distinctive plateau is the backdrop for iconic Cape Town views, but that's just the beginning of its namesake national park. Stretching the length of the Cape Peninsula, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to hiking trails, diverse flora and fauna, and—of course—South Africa’s most famous coastal and mountain vistas.
Twelve Apostles Mountain Range—with its rock buttresses and deep ravines—stretches majestically south from Cape Town along the rugged Atlantic Coast. You can explore the mountains up close on numerous hiking trails, or you can view the scenic formations from the coastal road that runs between the base of the bluffs and ocean.
The farm at Boschendal Wine Estate was established in the 1680s, and it's one of the oldest wineries in South Africa. It is set between the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands region. The main house was built in 1812 in the Cape Dutch style, and it's been converted into a museum showcasing how the family lived on the estate in the 18th and early 19th centuries. There is an assortment of cottages for overnight guests.
The estate grows grapes for wine, the most prevalent being Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Visitors can enjoy walking and biking trails, dining in the restaurants on the property, and visiting the various historic buildings.
As the most accessible of Cape Town’s three peaks, Signal Hill is a prime spot for catching sunset over the city. In addition to its spectacular scenery, Signal Hill also harbors the Noon Guns, two Dutch naval guns, and the last remaining Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation.
Originally called the Green Point Stadium after a structure that previously stood here, this state-of-the-art complex was home to the 2010 World Cup. In addition to the 60,000-plus sports fans that flooded its seats during the big event, the Cape Town Stadium has hosted concerts by performers like Michael Jackson, Metallica, Paul Simon and Robbie Williams.
Today, visitors can catch a local Rugby match or even a live performance if the timing is right. But the stadium also offers daily tours for travelers on a budget—or those whose schedules don’t match up with the local calendar of events.
Before the English, before the Boers and well before the Dutch, indigenous San people roamed the desert plains of Southern Africa. Following herds and living off the land in the ways of their ancestors before them, the San existed as one Africa’s most noble, successful tribes. Centuries of subjugation, however, threatened the culture, leading to its preservation and educational display in South Africa’s Western Cape at the !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Center, which acts as amodern way to empower and educate San, with funds being used to not only foster traditional African culture, but also help young generations of San to prosper and thrive.
At the !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Center, visitors can enjoy a guided tour around an open wilderness preserve, where eland, springbok, antelope, and zebra roam the grass. Learn from San how to track the animals and survive on native plants, and visit a recreated, traditional San village like those they lived in for centuries. Learn some words in the San’s language that’s playfully laden with clicks, and hear the legends, myths, and tales of this mystical ancient culture. To up the adventure, hop on a mountain bike to navigate bush trails looping throughout the preserve, or take a piece of Africa home with authentic, handmade crafts.
This quaint harbor on the western side of the Cape Peninsula has a seaside charm that attracts both travelers and locals to its sheltered shores. Whether it’s sampling ocean-fresh seafood from one of the restaurants lining its harbor or exploring the shelves of world-class antique shops, Hout Bay has proved itself a worthy destination despite its small size. Visitors love wandering along the bustling docks where commercial fishing boats unload their daily catch, and its close proximity to Seal Island and World of Birds makes it a perfect lunch stop on a tour of the Cape.
The exclusive coastal town of Clifton lies on the northwest tip of the Cape Peninsula. Elaborate homes of some of South Africa’s most famous celebrities and wealthiest entrepreneurs line the rocky hills of this affluent suburb. The impressive architecture makes for a uniquely scenic drive, but it’s the beautiful beaches that draw visitors away from Cape Town to the picturesque shores of the Atlantic.
Four distinct beaches make up Clifton, which attracts a ritzier crowd full of scenesters eager to see and be seen. Year-round rigid water temps keep sunbathers firmly on the shores, but rented chairs, multi-million dollar yachts and tasty cafes along the main drag offer plenty of opportunities for people watching, as well as a chance to brush elbows with Cape Town’s most elite.
Tiny Duiker Island—also known as “Seal Island” for its large population of Cape fur seals—sits just off the South African coast at Hout Bay, near Cape Town. It measures just 253 feet by 312 feet (77 meters by 95 meters) and is a seabird sanctuary in addition to sheltering thousands of Cape fur seals.
One of the best-known drives in South Africa is the Swartberg Pass, known for its dramatic scenery. The pass was cut into the Swartberg Mountains in the 1880s. It's part of the R328 road, and it isn't paved, it has some tight hairpins, and is quite steep through the mountains – it climbs nearly 3,300 feet in just under 7.5 miles.
This scenic route is particularly known for the geologic formations of the mountains into which the road was cut. There's a cliff known as the “Wall of Fire” along the route, and quite a bit of colorful quartzite is visible at the northern end of the pass.
Table Mountain is a must-see for all Cape Town visitors. The panoramic views from the top of its 3,563-foot (1,086-meter) peak are well worth the climb—though you won’t have to break a sweat thanks to the mountain’s two cableways, each with a revolving car ferrying passengers to the summit. Once at the top, a series of hiking trails show off Table Mountain National Park’s geographic features, while daredevils can test their mettle by rappelling from the upper cable station.
Step into Cape Town’s dynamic history by visiting the oldest remaining colonial-era building in the country. Built by Dutch colonists at the end of the 1600s, the Castle of Good Hope once served as a maritime resupply point and military hub. Its historic architecture and displays make it a popular attraction on tours of the city.
Originally a jetty built in 1654 to provide fresh water and produce to the sailors of the Dutch East India Company, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is now one of the most-visited attractions in South Africa. The area is a development consisting of two harbors, retail shops and museums, seascapes and mountain views, and plenty of places to bed down, drink up, and eat away.
One of the world’s first botanical gardens, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden hosts more than 7,000 plant species from throughout Southern Africa. Visit to explore the 1,300-acre (528-hectare) gardens spread across the slopes of Table Mountain, including extensive hiking trails, a stone sculpture garden, and sunset summer concerts.
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