Winter on the Beach: Cape Town

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's a long way down to the tip of South Africa, but with very little time difference, you can beat jetlag and head straight for the sands. Ian McCurrach offers a guide



The urban scene



De Waterkant Village has become a tourist and rental property favourite with its pretty colourful cottages and tree-lined cobbled streets. It is home to the vibrant trend-setting Cape Quarter shopping and leisure centre, filled with upscale boutiques, cafés and restaurants. The city centre, or City Bowl, is synonymous with grand colonial buildings and public parks. At its heart is Government Avenue, where you'll find the city's museums, including the National Gallery. Visit Constantia in the Garden Suburbs. Tucked away here, behind the far side of Table Mountain, are the pretty wine estates of Constantia Uitsig, Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia. Most have restaurants, the best of which is on the Constantia Uitsig Estate. The Winelands are known for their Cape Dutch estates situated in fertile valleys. The finest are found at Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl. With its late-Victorian architecture and a vineyard at almost the end of every side street, Franschhoek is the prettiest. Its bustling main street is lined with chic cafés, boutiques and art galleries.

The beaches



Hedonism rules on the beaches that stretch along Cape Town's Atlantic coast. Some of the finest and most popular sands sweep around the bottom of Table Mountain, such as Clifton, above, which consists of four white-powder beaches separated by gigantic granite boulders. Each crescent is known by its number and characterised by the groups who favour it. Two is the reserve of locals, Three is favoured by the fashion set and the gay community, and Four is for everybody. Camps Bay is a wide sweep, fringed with palms and backed by a parade of pulsating cafés, bars and restaurants that become lively after sundown. Don't even dream of dipping your toes in the brilliantly blue and white breakers because they are freshly chilled by the Antarctic. If you do want to wallow in the waves, the warm Indian Ocean is only a short drive away at False Bay. The best beaches here include the vast expanse of sands at Muizenberg, a sleepy seaside resort that had its heyday in the 1920s, and Boulders Beach, right, at Simon's Town, where you can also spot penguins and whales.



The restaurants



Pick up a cool box (a must-have accessory here) and bag tasty Italian snacks to take to the beach at Andiamo (andiamo .co.za), a groovy deli-cum-eaterie in the Cape Quarter piazza. Overlooking the ocean at Green Point, Wakame (00 27 21 433 2377), left, serves up seriously good sushi, seafood and other Pacific Rim fare in chic contemporary surroundings. Favourites on the menu include sesame-crusted tuna served on ponzu-flavoured Asian greens garnished with deep-fried sweet potatoes (£25 for three courses, excluding wine). Get away from the tourists and join the throng of locals who love the Sunday brunch institution at Winchester Mansions (winchester.co.za), right, one of the few restaurants left where you can bring your own (BYO). Dine in typical Cape Dutch surroundings with live jazz playing in the background. Eat as much as you can and enjoy a complimentary glass of bubbly (£16.50, excluding wine).



The sights



For an unbeatable bird's-eye view of the city and its beautiful coastline take the revolving cable car to the top of Table Mountain (tablemountain .net). For a more energetic journey, make for Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (sanbi.org/kirstenbosch/mainpage.htm) on the other side of the mountain and follow the well-marked Skeleton Gorge path leading to the top. Be warned: the route is steep and involves climbing metal ladders over large rocks, so strong footwear is essential. Allow two-and-a-half hours to get to the peak and another half-hour to cross the plateau to the cable car for the descent. Drive south on Chapman's Peak Drive to see Table Mountain's Twelve Apostles, smaller peaks that taper along the coast to the Atlantic. For a sobering experience, visit Robben Island (robben-island.co.za), where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for some of his sentence during the apartheid era. Former political prisoners guide the tours around the maximum security prison, including Mandela's cell. Boats leave four times daily from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.



The accommodation



The five-star One&Only Cape Town (oneand onlycapetown.com), below, is the biggest hotel opening here of late. Occupying a prime position on the V&A Waterfront, the city's largest resort is notable for securing Africa's first outings for the restaurants Nobu and Maze. Big names and high style don't come cheap, so doubles cost around £580 per night, including breakfast. Another addition to the scene is the Dock House Boutique Hotel & Spa (dockhouse.co.za), left. Perched on a ridge above the V&A Waterfront, this mid-19th century building was once the residence of the harbourmaster and the elegant retreat has retained original features such as the ornate ceilings and fireplaces. Doubles cost around £350 per night, with breakfast. For funky design, try The Grand Daddy Hotel (granddaddy.co.za) in the city centre. An eye-catching trailer park sits on the hotel roof, where seven silver Airstream trailers house some accommodation and a bar. Doubles cost around £110 per night, including breakfast.



The activities



Cape Town, with its spectacular geography, is synonymous with outdoor thrills and extreme adventure sports. Adrenalin junkies get their aerial highs paragliding above the beaches and bays on the Atlantic seaboard. Tandem flights for beginners are on offer from Downhill Adventures (downhilladventures.com), taking off from Lion's Head and landing in Camps Bay. If you fancy yourself as a would-be mountaineer and you want to tackle Table Mountain but you don't have the skills, try the easy way down with Abseil Africa (abseilafrica.co.za). Rappel from the top at 1,000m and be wowed by the views beneath your feet, over the ocean to Robben Island and beyond. For another energetic way to enjoy the scenery, hire a mountain bike and follow one the many off-road trails, or you could join a group tour with Day Trippers (daytrippers.co.za).



How to get there



British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) offers return flights from Heathrow to Cape Town from £755 return It can also arrange a five-night B&B break at the five-star One&Only Cape Town from £1,857 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash