It’s not surprising that the iconic landscape of the Cape Peninsula draws visitors time and again to the seaboard route from Muizenberg on the False Bay side, around the Cape of Good Hope and up to Hout Bay in the west. Here’s your ultimate guide to everything from swimming and shopping to dining and diving along the way.
A for Artvark
The Artvark Gallery in Kalk Bay features a wide range of folk art, from paintings to ceramics. Artvark pieces feature in the collections of Sir Richard Branson, Donna Karan and
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), New York. 021 788 5584
B for beaches
Favourites with surfers are Muizenberg and Kommetjie, while Fish Hoek, celebrating its centenary this year, is a favourite with families.
You might also like: Sun, Sand and Sea – The Best Beaches to Visit
C for Chapman’s Peak drive
Aka Chappies, it’s the spectacular road they said couldn’t be built. It’s named for a captain’s mate, John Chapman, who sailed here aboard an English ship, the Consent, which was stranded in Hout Bay. The coastal drive was built between Hout Bay and Noordhoek over a seven-year period by convict labour, and completed in 1922.
D for dining
Who wouldn’t want to eat out Mediterranean style while travelling the wild and wonderful False Bay coastline? There’s a touch of fusion to the menu at Mangata, a French-style bistro with a large balcony and great sea views from its spot above the Meeting Place in St. George’s Street (021 786 1635). Also in Simon’s Town, on the Historic Mile opposite the naval yard gates, The Lighthouse Café is an old favourite for breakfast and lunch every day, but is a just the spot for a special occasion on a Saturday night (021 786 9000).
E for Ethno Bongo
This emporium of the original, on Main Road, Hout Bay, has exotic jewellery, soft sculptures and homeware designed by Mijou Beller. 021 790 0802
F for fish and chips
The very best of this seaside favourite is found at Kalkie’s in Kalk Bay (021 788 1726), Mariner’s Wharf at Hout Bay Harbour (021 790 1100) and the Salty Sea Dog in Simon’s Town. (021 786 1918)
G is for glamour galore…
at boutiques with original fashion designs like Catacombes Clothing (021 790 2730), Mystic Rose (021 788 9364), both in Kalk Bay, and Nostalgie (021 786 5767) for vintage clothing, in St George’s Street, Simon’s Town.
H for Hout Bay
With its stunning scenery, this fishing village is a favourite, and is known affectionately as the Republic of Hout Bay. Try the unique World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park, where there are 3 000 species of animals and birds, from Cassowaries to Lesser Flamingos. 021 788 1726
I for ice cream
Ice creamholics, do not miss the old-fashioned parlour, the Ice Café, on Main Road, Kalk Bay (021 788 4816), and the Ice Dream Gelateria (021 790 2496) in Hout Bay’s Main Road, where Italian ice cream flavours run from ginger to Zanzibar vanilla.
J for Just Nuisance
The only dog to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy, and ranked Able Seaman (1937-44) in Simon’s Town, Just Nuisance is part of the fabric of Simon’s Town’s history. This Great Dane was legendary for guiding drunken sailors home on the train from Cape Town. Find out more about him at the Simon’s Town Museum, visit his statue in Jubilee Square, and climb the steep steps of Ariel Ropeway to his grave on Red Hill.
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K for Kronendal
Built in 1793 on land first granted in 1681, this fine H-plan homestead in Hout Bay is said to be haunted by the ghost of unwed Elsa Cloete. Elsa to this day mourns her soldier suitor, who hanged himself when their match was forbidden. It is also the home of Katima Thai restaurant that celebrates the Cape’s long links with the East. 021 790 2730
L for Labia
Casa Labia on Main Road, Muizenberg, formerly the home of Count and Countess Natale Labia, was built in 1929 to resemble a Venetian Palazzo. The splendid interior is home to the restaurant Cucina Labia, which offers seriously good Italian food with a South African twist (think of dishes like beef rib with bone marrow jus, and cherry-smoked ox tongue). 021 788 6068
M for museums
Simon’s Town alone has four – the Simon’s Town Museum (021 786 3046), the Toy Warrior Museum (021 786 3046), the Heritage Museum (021 786 2302) and the Naval Museum (021 787 4686). Hout Bay Museum in Andrew Street (021 790 3270) celebrates local activities like fishing and forestry, and the Police Museum in Muizenberg (021 788 5707) will have you imagining the horror of being carted off into one of the grim holding cells. Rhodes Cottage Museum is also in Muizenberg (021 788 1816).
N for Noordhoek
Here you’ll find the spectacular beach loved by dogs, horses and humans (and by the producers of the movie Ryan’s Daughter). Just before the start of Chapman’s Peak Drive, you’ll also find Noordhoek Village, home of Franck Dangereux’s The Foodbarn, famous for its fine dining and its Bakery and Deli. The evening tapas are to die for. 021 789 1966
O for Olympia Café
A must-try experience on Main Road in Kalk Bay. Try mussels in cream, wine and garlic, as well as the duck-liver pâté, fish straight from the harbour, and the crème brûlée.
P for penguins and the Point
At Boulders Beach just outside Simon’s Town, the colony of Jackass Penguins, so called for their braying, is a major drawcard as they strut and swim among the 540-million-year-old, giant, granite boulders. At Cape Point, where the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve was first declared in 1939, and completed about 20 years ago as additional parcels of land were added, you’ll be amazed by the views of this wild, unique landscape. Climb to the Cape Point Lighthouse for even better views. 021 786 2329
Q for Quagga Rare Books & Art
In this antiquarian bookshop in Kalk Bay – look out for the wild brown-striped version of the zebra, originally thought to be extinct – are volumes on anything from Boer War Battles to the Strange Story of False Teeth, plus prints, maps and memorabilia. 021 788 2752
R for reserve
Start at Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre in the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, to learn about shipwrecks here, and vessels like the Nolloth (1965), wrecked with a cargo of liquor (there might be a few buried bottles left), then take the Flying Dutchman funicular up to the old 1859 lighthouse. Visit the Venus Pool, a favourite spot for romance, and the Dias and Da Gama crosses.
S for seal
The Cape fur seal is one of the Marine Big Five, together with great white sharks, southern right whales, dolphins and African Penguins. To get up close to the seals, take a one-hour trip to Duiker Island fur seal colony, with Hout Bay Seal Island Charters. 021 791 4441
T for tribal art
Red Rock Tribal Gallery and Museum sources a wide range of artwork from rural communities. You’ll find it behind Camel Rock in Scarborough. 021 780 1823, 082 269 1020
U for underwater
Simon’s Town is internationally celebrated for its deep-sea divers, who are immortalised in the statue of the standby diver on Wharf Street Pier in St George’s Street. Try Scuba diving at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors-registered outfit called Pisces Divers on Main Street. 021 786 3799
V for vineyard
The Cape Point Vineyards at Noordhoek is home to a delicious Sauvignon Blanc, picnics on the lawn, and a hugely popular Thursday Food Market. It’s a great place to meet, greet, and eat anything from lasagne to pizza over a bottle of wine. 021 789 0900
W for whales
In the peak season for whale spotting, from about mid-August to mid-October, southern right whales up to 14 metres in length can be spotted from many roadside viewing points around the Peninsula.
You might also like: Whale Watching at De Hoop
X for Xpressions
This surf and SUP (Stand Up Paddling) shop in Muizenberg was the first to spot the trend that would see SUP become the fastest-growing water sport. Lessons and gear rentals are available and there are paddle trips from Seaforth to see the penguins at Boulders. 021 709 0596
Y for Yokohama
In 1906, this historical house was constructed in Muizenberg using papier mâché imported from Japan. Find it on Main Road, not far from the site of the 1795 Battle of Muizenberg.
Z for zeal
You’ll find plenty of this among cyclists in, for example, the Cape Cycle Tour – the largest timed cycle race in the world and now in its 40th year. If you don’t have your own bicycle, zoom off with Downhill Adventures for a Cape Point and Wineland tour. 021 422 0388
Words Marianne Heron
Pictures David Morgan
A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.