cape town and garden route--looking for guidance

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Jan 18th, 2005, 06:53 AM
  #1
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cape town and garden route--looking for guidance

Hello all--

My boyfriend's longstanding dream of visiting Cape Town is coming true this March!! I'm in charge of the planning and want to make it the best possible experience for him. I've been lurking here for a while and read many, many helpful postings, as well as done some research in guidebooks but would still appreciate some new feedback. Our plan is to fly into Cape Town on March 13 and fly out of Port Eliz on the 20th.

We are in our (very!) late 20s and are looking for adventure, sun, romance and relaxtion. At this point, I am debating 3 or 4 nights in Cape Town. I have an email into Whale Bay Cottage in Camps Bay, but I am open to suggestions. We definitely want a mid-range place ($200 or under) with a pool that offers easy access to great restaurants and bars, as well as short travel time to other areas of the city.


As for the drive for the garden route, this is where I need the most advice. Knysna and Storms River sound like "musts" along the way...But I do not want to spend more than 3 hours in the car in one day. On the first day of driving, about how far could we get in three hours? Should we stop for the night near Moosel Bay (Selwyn, I liked the look of the Sandpiper cottages you posted in a previous message) before moving on to Knysna? If our last night is in Storms Bay, is that too far of a drive to Port Elizabeth to catch out flight back to London?

Essentially, I am looking for suggestions about how to best divide this trip and if it's better the extra night in Cape Town or on the Garden Route. Lodging suggestions (again mid-range, ideally with a pool or swimming beach nearby) are welcome.
Along the garden route, we are definitely wanting to do the Tree Tops Canopy tour and possibly an excursion with Seal Adventures in Knysna.

Also, my boyfriend is a huge rugby fan. Is there a website where I could check the schedules for matches in Cape Town and purchase tickets?

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful responses!!

Victoria
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:52 AM
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Victoria
Sounds like a great trip you're planning, though quite short. Only 7 days in total?
My first advice would be to see if you can find another couple of days to spend there, it will give you a lot more flexibility, especially given your preference not to drive for more than 3 hours on any one day.
The distances don't look huge but some parts of the route are through twisting mountain pass roads and take longer than you might expect.
If you type "long report" into the search engine above you should find a report I wrote about my trip last year which might have some helpful information for you, though we had a luxurious 17 days from landing in Cape Town to flying out of PE, so you won't be able to use it as an itinerary guide.
Kind Regards
Kavey
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Jan 18th, 2005, 08:15 AM
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Unfortunately, seven is all we can manage with work commitments. Is this trip really not manageable in 7 days? We certainly don't want to spend all of our time in the car!
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Jan 18th, 2005, 08:30 AM
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It's manageable but I don't know that you'd get the most out of 7 days by trying to do the entire stretch from Cape Town to PE.

It would be so easy to spend an entire week in Cape Town and the Winelands alone.

Our route, which we felt was sufficient driving but not too much, per day was:

Cape Town 6 nights
Franschhoek 3 nights
Swellendam 1 night
Oudtshoorn 2 nights
Knysna 2 nights
Storms River 1 night
Addo 2 nights
Port Elizabeth no overnight
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Jan 18th, 2005, 12:31 PM
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Hello Victoria,

In my opinion it would be better to spend the week in the SW Cape (Cape Town, winelands, Hermanus) and skip the Garden Route.

If you insist on including the Garden Route, you could shave a bit of travel time on the ground by flying from George instead of Port Elizabeth.

Also, if you insist on including the Garden Route, consider doing the GR first and Cape Town second. Save the icing on the cake till last, so to speak.

In that case you could consider something like this:

March 13 - Fly into George. Drive 2 hours to Knysna. Will this be pushing it after your flight? You're British, right? So you're used to driving on the left hand side of the road. Also, you'll only be 2 hours out of whack with your home time zone. So you'll probably be okay to drive. Overnight (O/N) Knysna.

14 - Visit Storms River Bridge from Knysna.

15 - Seal Adventures and other Knysna explorations.

16 - Drive to Hermanus. This will be a long drive, around 7 hours. The distance is about 560 km. I know you said you didn't want to drive more than 3 hours per day. If you're not prepared to bite the bullet and do the longer drive on this day, I just don't see how an itinerary that combines the Garden Route with Cape Town in 7 days is feasible.

17 - Drive to Camps Bay via Kleinmond, Betty's Bay, Hang Klip, Gordon's Bay, Strand, Somerset West, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, Simon's Town, Cape Point, Scarborough, Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Chapman's Peak Drive, Hout Bay, and Llundudno. I don't know how long this will keep you in your car, but I'm sure it'll be more than 3 hours. I don't know because I've never done this exact route all in one go as I've described it to you. Also, there are so many things to see that one often stops and gets out of one's car. Essentially it'll be a day-long expedition. Again, if you aren't willing to do this, then you have an unrealistic idea of the distances involved. Cape Point is beautiful. It easily qualifies as one of the "musts" in the area, and it would involve a bit of a drive even if you were to do it from your base in Camps Bay or another part of Cape Town. Overnight in Camps Bay or whichever part of CT you've chosen as your base.

18 - Cape Town city centre, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, visit to Robben Island, finishing off with cable car ride in time to catch sunset from the top of Table Mountain.

19 - Day trip to Winelands from Cape Town.

20 - Enjoy the last hours on Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard if that's where you're staying. Fly home.

Hope that helps.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 01:23 PM
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Hi Judy--

Thanks for your reply. I was hoping that you or Selwyn would "bite"! Though I was very excited for lots of adventure along the Garden Route, all of the driving sounds a bit overwhelming. Also, we're Americans living in London and we never drive here, so the lefthand side is something we are not at all accustomed to.

The more I read about Cape Town, the more I realize just how much there is to do there (duh!). Plus, we'll want time just to laze by the pool/beach. So my new thought is 5 nights in Cape Town and then the last two in the Winelands. I'm still leaning toward Whale Bay Cottage in Camps Bay, unless anyone else has any other romantic (and reasonable!) favorites. For the Winelands, I took a past recommendation of Selwyn's and have been checking out Cathbery Country Inn. Is 2 nights in the Winelands one too many?

Another question I have is about swimming beaches in Cape Town...It seems that with every beach I read about there is an issue--either the water is too cold to swim in or there's too much wind for sunbathing. Is there a good beach that we could spend an entire afternoon swimming and sunning ourselves at during that time of the year?

ColinCola--thanks for the rugby link. My boyfriend will be *thrilled* if we can get to a match!
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Jan 18th, 2005, 02:28 PM
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Victoria
If you really can't up your duration and you don't want to drive much I really think you'll find it less stressful to stay within the Cape Town environs.
You'll have an amazing trip.
You could either split your accommodation just between Cape Town central area and the Winelands or split it three ways, Cape Town central area, Winelands plus a night or two down on the peninsula.
I promise you will NOT run out of things to do.
I'd also recommend you try and book Selwyn to give you a tour one at least one day, if not two.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 02:29 PM
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PS 2 nights in the Winelands is not too much - accommodation options there are great for beautiful surroundings, relaxing attractions (both of the surrounding wine estates and country side and the poolside in the guest house itself), amazing dining and lovely hosts.
We spent 3 nights and didn't regret it.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 03:17 PM
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Victoria, the water on the False Bay (east) side of Cape Peninsula is about 5 deg C (or 9 deg F) warmer than the water on the Atlantic (west) side. A beach like St. James, for example, which is about an hour's drive from the centre of Cape Town, is very pleasant.

You can expect the water temperature in False Bay to be something like 18 deg C (64 deg F). On the Atlantic Seaboard, the water temperature will be in the neighbourhood of 13 deg C (55 deg F).

There is no beach within a reasonable radius of Cape Town that is like Durban's beaches. Around Durban the water is more like 23 deg C (73 deg F) at that time of year.

By the Cape's standards, the winds usually are at their most gentle in March and April. Also, the Muizenberg / St. James area is in a sheltered position. That is the best place to swim that I know of.

The average daily high AIR temperature during the period you'll be there is 77 deg F (but history suggests the high could be as low as 68 deg F or as high as 87 deg F). The average daily low is 58 deg F (but actual lows have ranged from 32 deg F to 64 deg F).

Rain is rare at that time of year.

I suggest you stay in 2 places, one in the centre of Cape Town or on the Atlantic Seaboard and another in the winelands. I would not move hotels for the sake of a beach day on the False Bay coastline. I would visit a swimming beach as a day trip from my base in Cape Town.

Two nights in the winelands sounds very nice.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 03:47 PM
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victoria_sw3,

Firstly may I strongly suggest that you stick to your last mail suggestions and that is cut the Garden Route out of your itinerary if you can only muster 7 days of vacation. If you try and do Cape Town and The Garden Route in 7 days you will be spending more time in you car than anywhere else and I can assure you that it wont be a fun ride by the time you reach day 5.

Your latest idea of 5 days in Cape Town followed by two days in the Winelands, especially at Cathbert, is absolutely perfect in my opinion. Btw 2 days in the Winelands is perfect. Stick to this plan as I can assure you that it will be the best one that you will be able to come up with considering your parameters of beaches, sun and relaxation.

As far as rugby is concerned I have to unfortunately tell you that you wont be near any rugby field where you will be able to see a live major game as the local team viz. the Stormers will be in Australia and New Zealand campaigning for the Super 12 while you are in Cape Town. With that said you could always make your way down to the Sportsmans Cafe in the Waterfront on one of your Saturdays in Cape Town and have fun with the locals watching the games that are being televised in the Super12 by joining many local rugby supporters. Furthermore ColinCola’s links to the local and international rugby itinerary is an excellent one.

You asked about the Cape Town beaches. Bear in mind that all the beaches in Table Bay (Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Clifton, Camps Bay, Hout Bay, Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Scarborough will all have icy waters. With that said the beaches are clean and great to sun bathe on. Just depends on whether you can handle 12C (57F). On the False Bay side the waters are much warmer (22C - 75F) and the beaches of Simonstown (Long Beach), Fish Hoek, St.James and Muizenberg are wonderful to frequent. Muizenberg does get a bit windy in the afternoon but overall it remains a great beach. There recently was a shark care (and attack) on these beaches but as far as I am concerned there was a lot of media frenzy in this regard and if you wade in to waist height you wont be in trouble at any stage in this regard. All in all the beaches on the False Bay side are great to frequent but with that said if you are going to stay in the Camps Bay region I must add that you will be quite far away from these swimming places and beaching spots. (45 Minutes away by car. It all will eventually depend on your own beach needs.

I assume that when you talk of Whale Bay Cottage you are talking of Whale Cottage in Camps Bay or to be more precise Bakoven. If so I can virtually guarantee you that this will be a great choice relative to your needs for a recreational break. As far as Cathbert in the Winelands is concerned, well you know my feelings as far this establishment is concerned already.

Kavey thanks for the punt to possibly help out with tours but I have to mention that I wont be able to as I am already fully booked right for the first 4 months of the year. With that said victoria_sw3 please feel free to phone me when you arrive in Cape Town or even write to me per email and I will do whatever I possibly can to help you make your stay in Cape Town a great one with all the advice that your require. When it comes to writing to each other I much prefer to do this through the Fodors forum so as to have not one but many Fodorites gain from the advice too.

I have to mention something that ColinCola advised you to do when he truly tried to help you by suggesting that you go to the SAvenues.com site claiming this to be a non commission site. I believe that ColinCola is 90% correct in making this statement because all that this site (and all similar to it) represents is an internet travel agent who generally charges the same rack rate as the venue would charge you anyway and for the services of using their site they attain a commission from the guesthouse or accommodation owners. I fully believe that they are entitled to this commission however I am reasonably sure that if you spoke to the guesthouse owner wheeled and dealed and paid them in cash then you could call for the commission discount that the SA Venues.com site calls for thus obtaining a better deal overall ON YOUR OWN. Just as a matter of interest in this type of manner if you leave it to me I will definitely be able to attain this type of discount for you at Cathbert. Just write to me and I will help you accordingly. The only problem in this regard is that I hope that you can still attain accommodation at Cathbert in March as this is a very busy time for the guesthouse.

OK victoria_sw3 I hope that the above helps. Please feel free to call for as much advice as you want to by writing to this Forum as there are many, inclusive of me, who will gladly and very wisely help you.

Enjoy all your planning to visit our great city.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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Jan 19th, 2005, 03:46 AM
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thanks selwyn, judy, and kavey for your replies. your feedback on the beaches is esp appreciated!

i am so disappointed that you are booked up, selwyn. i was hoping that we might enjoy a day touring the city and Kayamandi with you. in the event you have a cancellation (doubtful, i am sure) on any of the days that week, could you pencil us in? i will email you directly to give you our details. once i get the go-ahead from the boyfriend on cathbert, i may ask you to help us in booking. i realize that we might be out of luck though.

yes, i meant whale cottage...and i have been looking at their camps bay location; they have availability there for the nights we're interesed in too. do you feel that their bakoven location is preferable? given our age and interest in great restaurants and fun bars, i thought camps bay would be the best fit for us.

thanks also for the additional rugby info. it would have been nice to catch a match but hardly the ruin of our trip!!!
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Jan 19th, 2005, 05:45 AM
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You may want to take a look at Blue Waters in Camps Bay, not far from Whale Cottage. I have stayed there and thought (at the time) it was a better option than Whale Cottage. (I did take a look at the latter, but haven't stayed there.)

That was several years ago, I organised the two best sea-facing rooms for overseas business visitors/friends, and I slummed it (relatively!) in the back mountain-facing room. I think I managed to squeeze good rates because we booked three rooms. (And because I like to think that I'm a good negotiator?!) I can't remember how the price compared with Whale Cottage. And Selwyn will probably have more up-to-date advice. But at the time I thought it a very good choice. A great location. But then aren't many places in Cape Town?!

Their website is www.bluewaters.co.za. They are also featured on the "Portfolio Collection" site, at www.portfoliocollection.co.za/go/BlueWaters.
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Sep 13th, 2005, 11:15 PM
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I want to comment on something that I advised in this thread which I have now found out is incorrect.

I advised that if one goes to the SA-Venues site then one pays a fee which contained a commission that was built in for SA-Venues thus making them a commission based website. Today I received a mail from a reader by name of Candy who is an accommodation owner who uses SA-Venues(she never identified herself in terms of her establishment) pointing out that this was incorrect and that SA-Venues was a 100% advertising ONLY revenue based organisation and that they do not gain commissions from accommodation establishments at all. I checked this with two other guesthouses whom I know and they confirmed this fact. As a matter of fact they raved about the service and relative to what they have to pay, the service is a very reasonable one. SA-Venues are seemingly one of the few website based advertising websites in SA that do not take commissions and publish rack rates where you the visitor pay the normal rack rate and they gain nothing off your using their site. At the end of the day it makes no difference to you as the visitor in that you still pay the rack rate however if you wanted to then you could in later communications with the place of accommodation (the form you fill in from SA-Venues does not allow this) discuss the possibility of a better rate for reasons such as early payments etc.

In effect I have made a technical error in my advice as the visitor is still in the same boat however why it is important to know that I have erred is because in my own travel planning I always avoid websites that advertise places of stay like the plague purely because I prefer dealing directly with the establishment. SA-Venues seemingly do not publish the website address of the establishment thus forcing one to contact the establishment via their site. I surmise that they do this so as to maintain stats as to how successful their advertising has been for the advertiser. This unfortunately gives one the impression that they are commission grabbers hence my original wrong assumption.

The writer of the mail to me today(Candy)did not insist that I correct the error on this page in that her mail was a purely advisory function. I however like to feel that what I suggest to Fodorites is always correct and thus in my own right felt that I would write this mail just to put the record straight for those who use the SA-Venues site in the future.

My thanks go to Candy for informing me of the error.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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