Are you planning to visit Cape Town? Don’t forget to hire a car and explore the Cape as well! Here we share with you 7 day trips from Cape Town, all within easy reach from the Mother City!
Would you like to know more about nature in South Africa? Take a look at our 10 best hikes in Cape Town post!
Cape Town was the first stop of our Southern Africa trip. We’d only ever heard good things about the ‘Mother City’, and some of our good friends happened to be in town at the same time, so it made sense to choose it as our first stop – and what a stop it was.
Cape Town is one of those cities that look too beautiful to be true. Kind of like Istanbul, Venice or Rio de Janeiro, where nature and mankind have come together to create breathtaking sights around every other corner. However, if I were to pick a city that reminds me of Cape Town, I would say Sydney – both cities are vast and spread out, with many sights and activities located in the ‘suburbs’ as well as the city centre. Both cities also share a cracking food scene and a chilled beach vibe.
Our 5 days exploring Cape Town were organized in a completely different manner from our usual city breaks. We only spent one day exploring the sights in the city centre like Bo Kaap, the Waterfront and Table Mountain – instead, the bulk of our time was spent road-tripping up and down the Cape.
Cape Town Day Trips & Road Trips
And wait – did I say road tripping? Those who know us well will be well aware of our dislike for cars and driving – but really, having a car in Cape Town will really save you from a whole lot of hassle. True, there’s an efficient public transport system and Uber is widely used, but with so many sights and activities away from the centre of town (not to mention two truly stunning coastal drives), making for wonderful Cape Town day trips, a car is the way to go.
Our base in Cape Town was the coastal suburb of Scarborough, where we stayed in a great Airbnb. Scarborough was home to a cool surfer community and a couple of hipster cafes/food shops, and is perfectly located to see the sights listed below. We’ll be back in Cape Town in July, and we plan to stay in town this time – if you have any tips for cool and unusual things to do, feel free to let us know below!
Meanwhile, here are our 7 favourite Cape Town day trips!
1) Surf Lesson in Muizenberg
Part of the reason why our stay in Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula was so special is because of Lauren, an awesome local travel blogger who is launching a series of ‘Insider Experiences’, to share her favourite Cape hangouts with visitors. We joined one of Lauren’s experiences – a full day adventure which began with a 2 hour surf lesson in Muizenberg.
Muizenberg is famous for two reasons – it’s home to the best waves in the Cape and it’s one of the most Instagrammed locations in town, a row of colourful ‘beach huts’ that locals rent to store their surf boards and belongings. The beach huts were reason enough to visit, but the surfing was simply out of this world.
Now, we are far from being proficient surfers – to be honest with you, in Muizenberg we surfed for the first time ever, but after having surfed a couple more times around South Africa I can definitely say that the conditions and equipment in Muizenberg were great.
Surfing is hard work, but it’s awesome fun – when you manage to stand on the board for the first time, even just for a few fleeting seconds, is one of those ‘yes! I did it!’ moments. I guess it won’t be the last time you’ll read about surfing on these pages… but let’s see.
2) Kalk Bay
After surfing Lauren took us to Kalk Bay, a cute beach town a short drive from Muizenberg, home to some really cool vintage shops and beach cafes and – according to Lauren – the best fish and chips in the Cape Peninsula.
We walked down to Kalk Bay harbour, past a fresh fish market and Cape fur seals diving in the ocean. There are two fish and chips huts in the harbour – Kalky’s, the self-proclaimed ‘original’ one which was packed and with a line snaking around the block, and Lucky’s just across the road, where we managed to snatch a free table. We had delicious fried hake and chips and the softest, most delicious calamari of my life – just what we needed after the surf lesson.
3) Hike and Swim at Kleinplaas Dam
After lunch, Lauren took us to one of her ‘secret’ Cape Peninsula spots – a 20 minute hike through fynbos bushes and shrubs, the iconic Cape vegetation, until we reached Kleinplaas Dam, a secluded spot on the top of a hill.
It was a sunny day, and one of the busiest weekends in South Africa – Muizenberg and Kalk Bay had been completely packed, yet there wasn’t a single soul at Kleinplaas Dam. I was the only one brave enough to jump into the dark waters of the dam for a refreshing dip, while the others watched the sunset from the rocks.
4) Chapman’s Peak Drive
Part of the reason why renting a car in Cape Town is a brilliant idea is driving the city’s awesome coastal roads – first and foremost Chapman’s Peak Drive, a scenic 9 km road linking the suburbs of Hout Bay and Noordhoek.
The road hugs the coast, following the base of Chapman’s Peak, one of the mountains in the Cape Peninsula. It’s far from being the quickest way to reach the Cape Peninsula from Cape Town, but it’s definitely the most scenic, especially at sunset. For the best scenic views, it’s recommended to drive Chapman’s Peak from south to north – however, we did it in the opposite direction and it was still a wonderful sight.
You can also take open top buses around Chapman’s Peak, but having your own wheels will give you the freedom to stop and look for the best viewpoints at will – just don’t forget to have 42 rand for the toll!
5) Sunset at Misty Cliffs
Sunsets are a big deal in Cape Town. There are so many vantage viewpoints, that you could spend months in Cape Town and see a different sunset every day. We spent 5 days day-tripping from Cape Town and saw 5 different sunsets – my favourite was the one from Misty Cliffs, a small beach community not far from Scarborough.
Misty Cliffs is a popular surf beach and the big, barrelling waves crashing on the shore create a ‘misty’ atmosphere – sunset is a special time to visit, to catch a glimpse of surfers chasing the last waves of the day under an ever-changing sky.
6) See the Penguins at Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town
Visiting the Simon’s Town colony of African Penguins is another awesome Cape Town day trip – these cute critters congregate in 27 spots along the South African coast, and Boulders Beach is one of the easiest to visit. A 70 rand conservation fee will allow you to access a boardwalk over the beach, where you’ll see dozens of black and white penguins waddle in and out of the water, dive from the rocks or simply hang about.
After getting to the end of the ‘main’ boardwalk just behind the ticket counter, don’t forget to also follow the one you’ll see on the right hand side of the info center – this one leads you to the opposite side of Boulders Beach, where swimming is allowed! There are fewer penguins on this side but the water is clear and pristine – the perfect place for a dip, especially if a penguin decides to join you!
7) Drive the Whale Coast Route
Strictly speaking, this amazing coastal drive isn’t in the Cape Peninsula – the Whale Coast Route begins in Gordon’s Bay, the easternmost Cape Town suburb, and ends in Betty’s Bay, home to a similar penguin colony to the one in Boulder’s Beach (but entrance will only cost you 20 rand, in case you’re strapped for cash!)
It’s the most scenic gateway to the Overberg region, where you’ll find Hermanus (the place we visited for the Walker Bay Xtreme challenge), Gansbaai and several other cool places. Driving the Whale Coast Route is truly a spectacular experience – on one side, you have the wild ocean, and on the other you’ll see fynbos-covered mountains. To make matters even better, between June and October the entire coast becomes one of the breeding hotspots for Southern Right Whales, and land-based whale watching is said to be the best in the world.
Now, picture this scenery, and now imagine it with whales breeching. If this didn’t convince you to explore the Cape, I don’t know what will!
Renting a car in Cape Town
We arranged our rental vehicle with Around About Cars, and they were simply amazing! Their main office is in downtown Cape Town, close to Long Street and many of the hotels – from there we picked up a shiny Hyundai i10, perfect for out Cape Town day trips.
When we left Cape Town we switched the i10 for a Kia Picanto, a slightly larger car that will take us all the way to Lesotho and Johannesburg. Around About Cars has very competitive prices and a variety of vehicles to choose from, and they allow you to take their vehicles as far afield as Mozambique and Namibia. Customer service at Around About Cars is beyond excellent – we changed our booking half a dozen times and even asked for some extra documents last minute to get into Lesotho, and everything was arranged with no hassle. Highly recommended!
Where to Stay in the Cape Peninsula
If you’re travelling in a group or with friends, we highly recommend the awesome Airbnb villa we stayed at in Scarborough – if you’ve never used Airbnb before, click on this link to get €35 off your first booking!
Alternatively, if Airbnb is not your thing, don’t forget that there are many Airbnb alternatives out there – check this post to know more!
The Scarborough villa has 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, an amazing back garden with swimming pool and view over the Cape National park – meaning you may be able to spot ostrich and springbok while you have breakfast. It’s located about 45 minutes drive from central Cape Town and less than half an hour to the attractions mentioned in this article – ideal to be close to the city, but away from the madness.
Many thanks to Monika from Around About Cars for providing us with a vehicle in Cape Town, and to Lauren Manuel for inviting us to join her Insider Experiences.