I hate to destroy your illusions of us Capetonians but, actually, few of us are so wealthy we can dine at The Test Kitchen twice a week or watch the sun go down over the Atlantic from the roof bar at Radisson RED in the Waterfront whenever the mood takes us.
Those few, those happy few however…
You’ll not see our impecunious arses hanging out on Camps Bay beach when the sun is shining nor playing polo at Val de Vie when a French bubbly company is stroking the withers of the horse-riding fraternity.
Nonetheless, we live here and we make the most of it!
Despite what the rest of South Africa thinks of us, we Capetonians do enjoy spontaneity. Nothing radical like planning an off-the-cuff braai with friends, more the ilk of “nice day … fancy going for a drive?” with your significant other.
Twelve Apostles mountain range. Picture: Jim Freeman
No matter where we come from in South Africa, we love getting into our cars for a day out. Is there any better departure and return point for a Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang outing than Cape Town?
You could come down here for a fortnight and do a dozen trips that will forever thrill your family without torpedoing your bank balance.
Obviously, the time of year you choose to visit Cape Town is generally determined by whether you and your partner have pink-foot appendages. The Mother City is crowded and over-expensive during all domestic school holidays and our silliest season occurs when these coincide with the northern hemisphere winter.
Your best option (if unencumbered by children) is to visit the Mother City any time from now until June. The worst of the summer winds and heat is past and with the exception of Easter and Two Oceans Marathon weekend, finding reasonably priced accommodation is a doddle.
One of the best kept secrets of the southern suburbs is the unpretentious Hotel Glencairn which has been around for more than a century in one guise or another. It’s situated between Fish Hoek and Simonstown – a landmark for salty sea dogs and landlubbers alike.
Long Street in Cape Town. Picture: Jim Freeman
There are only seven rooms (all en-suite) but what I love most about the place is its location. In the first place, it’s just across the road from False Bay and you’ll spot whales close to shore most days during the calving season and, in the second, everywhere you want to go to avoid the madding crowds is easily accessible.
Friends of mine also recommend the Lord Nelson Inn in Simonstown.
Simonstown, Boulders Beach and the Cape Point Nature Reserve are popular tourist spots but, if you’re staying in Glencairn, you can get there either before the influx or stick around after they’ve all trekked back to Sea Point or the City Bowl.
Hire a car if you’re not travelling with your own but leave it at your place of residence and use Uber or other ride-sharing after dark.
The road from Simonstown to Cape Point via Smitswinkel Bay is by far the most underrated coastal drive in the Western Cape in terms of scenic beauty. The outlook is, however, to the east and is best traversed with a mug of takeaway coffee as the sun is coming up over the sea.
Cape Point. Picture: Jim Freeman
Another benefit to staying in “the deep south”, as we call it, is you’re never far from Noordhoek and Chapman’s Peak Drive. With regards to the latter, it makes far more sense to drive it in the opposite direction to most other motorists (from town towards Cape Point) because a)you’re on the side of the sea, rather than the mountain, and b) you get the best views by driving into Hout Bay and not out of it.
There’s a great lookout spot on Chappies not far from Hout Bay. Stop at the Noordhoek Farm Village and buy provisions for a sundowner picnic.
If any of you did military service in the SA Navy, you’ll probably not have the fondest memories of Red Hill Road (the M66) in Simonstown. You’ll still have nightmares of either running up the road with a nasty non-com calling the pace before heading towards Signal School and descending the steep flight of steps back to camp … or even worse, doing it in the opposite direction.
Nonetheless, the 3.5km climb from just before Simonstown railway station is a spectacular one and you can stop off near the top at the old artillery battery that protected False Bay and the naval base during World War Two.
Kalk Bay, False Bay. Picture: Jim Freeman
There are two easy walks, Klein – plaas Dam and Admiral’s Waterfall, and a host of more challenging hikes. Check out the options at Simonstown Walks and Hikes.
Some years ago, an international travel website listed Cape Town as having two of the 10 most scenic coastal drives in the world, Chappies and Clarence Drive between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els.
The accolade is appreciated but strictly speaking they’re part of the same drive and I’m told it exceeds anything else of its kind in the world.
It’s a minimum two-day road trip that starts on the Bakoven end of the Atlantic Seaboard and makes its way along Victoria Drive (Clifton, Camps Bay, Oudekraal and Llandudno) before dipping into Hout Bay. Start in the morning and stop for lunch at Fish on the Rocks for absolutely the best deep-fried hake, snoek or calamari.
Proceed along Chapman’s Peak Drive to Cape Point and along the Smitswinkel Bay road to Simonstown, Glencairn or Fish Hoek for an overnight stop. Eat at Dixie’s in Glencairn or Saveur at the Simonstown waterfront.
Chapman’s Peak. Picture: Jim Freeman
The second day starts with a suburban excursion through Kalk Bay, St James and Muizenberg – each has a fine selection of breakfasting spots – before you hit Baden-Powell Drive. Grit your teeth for the section of the N2 highway through Somerset West but all will be forgiven when you turn off to Gordon’s Bay.
If you skipped breakfast, grab a lasagne at Antonio’s Pizza Place in Harbour Island.
Clarence Drive is a favourite ride for motorcyclists on their Sunday morning runs but it’s spectacular at any time of day with however many wheels you have on your butt.
It takes you past Rooi Els to Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond and Arabella before leaving you at a T-junction with the choice of returning to Cape Town over Sir Lowry’s Pass or proceeding to Hermanus for another overnight break.
Not much of a choice, is it?
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Picture: Jim Freeman
If you absolutely have to go into the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, get there early and park your car for the day.
Do what needs to be done then book yourself on one of the topless bus tours offered by City Sightseeing South Africa.
There are a number of hop-on hop-off routes but the one I’d recommend is the Peninsula excursion that incorporates Long Street, Kirstenbosch, Constantia Nek, Hout Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton and Mouille Point before returning to the Waterfront.
If you haven’t eaten, enjoy a seafood dinner at La Parada.
The buses run at regular intervals, so you can alight at a stop and pick up on your journey whenever you feel like it.
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