David Steele / Shutterstock
Spectacular in each season, these world-famous gardens showcase stunning South African flora in a magnificent setting, extending up the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and overlooking the sprawling city and the distant Hottentots Holland Mountains. No wonder the gardens are photographed from every angle. And now they can be seen from the Tree Canopy Walkway, opened in June.The Gardens aren't just enjoyed by out-of-town visitors; on weekends Capetonians flock here with their families to lie on the lawns and read their newspapers while the kids run riot. Walking trails meander through the gardens, and grassy banks are ideal for a picnic or afternoon nap. The plantings are limited to species indigenous to Southern Africa, including fynbos—hardy, thin-leaved plants that proliferate in the Cape. Among these are proteas, including silver trees and king proteas, ericas, and restios (reeds). Magnificent sculptures from Zimbabwe are displayed around the gardens, too. Garden highlights
include a large cycad garden, the Bird Bath (a beautiful stone pool built around a crystal-clear spring), and the fragrance garden, which is wheelchair-friendly and has a tapping rail and Braille interpretive boards. Free 90 minute guided tours take place daily at 10 (except Sunday). Those who have difficulty walking can enjoy a comprehensive tour lasting one hour (R50, hourly 9–3) in seven-person (excluding the driver) golf carts. Another wheelchair trail leads from the main paths into the wilder section of the park, getting close to the feel of the mountain walks. Concerts featuring the best of South African entertainment—from classical music to township jazz to rock and roll—are held on summer Sundays starting an hour before sunset. But get there early, as the space fills quickly with picnicking music lovers. A visitor center by the conservatory houses a restaurant, bookstore, and coffee shop. Unfortunately, muggings have become increasingly more common in the gardens' isolated areas, and women are advised not to walk alone in the upper reaches of the park far from general activity.
Nov 30, 2009
Not only does Kirstenboch have some of the best views of Table Mountain, it's also a superlative collection of plants, both large and small. The protea, the national flower, is well represented, along with Nelson Mandela gold strelitzia (bird of paradise) and numerous other species. It's a spectacular place for photography, and the gift shop has a wonderful collection of artisanal work. I was fortunate to be there on a gorgeously clear sunny day,
which certainly enhanced the experience, but if you have any interest in horticulture it's definitely a must. An added bonus was seeing the delightful and varied groups of school children in the park.