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4.5 Days in Cape Town

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Happy New Year!

My husband and I will be in Cape Town late January and are trying to plan some of our time there. We are interested in history, outdoors, and food. I would love some feedback/advice from the Fodors community.

-Day 1: Our flight lands in CPT at 1:55 PM. I was thinking to pick up our rental car and have lunch in the winelands followed by a visit to one or two wineries. Or perhaps visit wineries and then dinner in the winelands might make more sense? Any recommendations for restaurants and winery visits?

-Day 2: We would like to visit Robben Island. We are wondering whether to do a group or private tour there. Anyone have any experience with this?
In the afternoon we are thinking to visit (perhaps hike with a private guide?) Table Mountain. Would there be time for another activity that day or would Robben Island + Table Mountain fill the day? Would the District Six Museum or a walking tour fit here?

-Day 3: We are thinking to drive down to see penguins, Cape of Good Hope, etc. Is there anything we need to do/book in advance? Any recommendations on spots not to miss? Lunch spots?

-Day 4: Possibly shark diving? Is this something you would recommend? I seem to understand in January the sharks are somewhat "out of season." How would this effect us? Where would you recommend and how far from Cape Town is it? Can this be combined with another activity or would it take a full day?

-Day 5: We are looking for activities/sights within walking distance from V&A Waterfront. Any recommendations? Perhaps save District Six Museum and/or a walking tour for this day?

We are also looking for restaurant recommendations. We are on wait lists for Test Kitchen and La Colombe but I'm not holding my breath. (We do not eat meat but do eat fish.)

Thanks in advance and looking forward to hearing from you!

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    I'm not a local, but have been to CT twice, on visits of about a week each, most recently in 2013.
    Hopefully, others will chime in but for now, my thoughts are:

    Day One: You need to see how late lunch extends; I think you would do better planning dinner and an overnight in the Winelands just because with the flight landing close to 2pm, you may arrive too late for lunch. See if you can snag a booking for Le Quartier Francais dinner. (Other option is to head for CT and just visit Winelands on a is very close to the city and that is what we did last time). Look into dining at Babel, if not LQF.

    Day Two: Be sure to book tickets for Robben Island as soon as possible, or risk not getting a ticket. I think that that tour, along with Table MOuntain, will fill the day. There is a lot to see on Table Mountain. If you have time, you can also fit in District Six Museum, which is pretty small, but essential.

    I also enjoyed the Gold Museum.

    Day three: No advance bookings I am aware not know of any fabulous places to eat; we took a picnic last time. If you do not get to District Six Museum the previous day, you might fit it in in the afternoon of this day.

    I know nothing about shark diving. Some drive to Hermanus to see whales, which we did on our first trip. Last time we saw whales on the Cape of Good Hope/Chapman's Peak drives.

    ARe you staying at V&A waterfront? There is a good permanent food market there. Which hotel did you select?

    I have a strong interest in food, and restaurants, and have my thoughts on these in this report from my most recent trip; we ate twice at The Test Kitchen during that week and I would urge you to try to get a booking if possible. It's a great spot, casual, with exciting food. Pot Luck Club is good, too, but less consistent, I think.

    This is an earlier trip report, from my first SA visit: I never did complete the Botswana sections:

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    Day 3, I swear Kalk Bay is the best place for fish in Cape Town, Harbour House, Kalkies or the Brass Bell. Would recommend a drive up Boyes Drive whilst in this area, wonderful views across the bay. You can shark dive out of Simon's Town.

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    In Sept 2013 I spent 7 days in CT and still had things on my to do list.

    Day 1 - I would be inclined to leave the winelands for a more relaxing day trip rather than rushing from the plane. Some of the scenery is worth travelling a bit further to see.

    Day 2 - January is summer in Sth Africa so a hike up Table Mountain would be better in the morning. There are numerous routes of varying difficulties and time required. If you are keen walkers the climb is well worth the effort. If you choose to use the cable-car the 2-3 hr round trip to Maclears Beacon is probably the minimum time I would spend to experience the mountain and its views.

    I did a longer 5hr walk - up Skeleton Gorge from Kirstenbosch to Maclears Beacon to the cable car - and consider this as one of the highlights of my 5 weeks in Africa.

    Robben Island can be done later in the day. In Sept I didn't need to book ahead, but January is probably much busier.

    Day 3 - You cant really go wrong here - Drive Chapman's Peak, go to Cape Point, Boulders Beach and stop and wander around at any town or place that interests you.

    Day 4 - Shark diving did not interest me. I did go to Hermanus for whale watching but this season is finished.

    Day 5 - You could explore the museums and historical sites in Central CT. Personally I would do some of this on Day 1 to get my bearings in a new city. Another spot to consider is Kirstenbosch Gardens.

    I'm not a foodie so wont recommend restaurants, but Seafood is fresh, plentiful and varied in CT. Try some Cape Malay food. Other local dishes tend to feature game meats and large steaks.

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    Robben Island... you need tickets, so get these as soon as.

    Table Mountain .... often covered in a tablecloth of clouds so no guarantee what day during your stay that you'll be able to visit; we were in CPT 4/days and it wasn't till the last day that the clouds cleared, so we rushed out for the cable car. After we drove south to Cape Point... and please do NOT feed those nasty baboons!

    Don't know the season for sharks, but gather as long as there are seals on Seal Isl, there will be sharks waiting on a meal. We scheduled cage diving for our first day as the area is quite a distance from CPT, besides, you can't fly the day after diving if I recall correctly so wouldn't schedule for your last day in CPT area. I didn't dive, BF did and I took the pics.

    Have visited enough vineyards worldwide, so my interest in the area was the architecture, then lunch. Returned from here for a visit to District 6.

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    When driving to the Cape of Good Hope travel via Kalk Bay (lovely town for food and shops) & Simons Town (penguins) to the point and try to schedule your return to CT via Chapman's Peak just as the sun starts to go down.

    The colours of Chapmans Peak at sunset are amazing!

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    Concerning the shark diving, there are 2 places to go Simons Town/Seal Island or Gansbaai. I have gone twice to Simons Town using ASEC ( ) and highly recommend them but for end of January you are going to be too early and I don't think they will be running then. You are going to have to go to Gansbaai which is 2.5 hours from Cape Town instead of about 1 hour to Simons Town. There are no restrictions on flying if you do scuba as you are only just under the surface. And from I understand about the operators in Gansbaai is that they don't use scuba but use breath-hold. I really don't think you will have time to do much else that day if going to Gansbaai.

    I agree with the others about the first day, you arent going to have time to get to the winelands and actually do anything, you should save this for another day. You could take a walk around the Waterfront or if there is enough time (not sure by the time you get the car and check into your hotel/apart) you could take a ride on the Big Red Bus. Or head over to Sea Point and walk the promenade or Camps Bay.

    We did Robben Island for the first tour of the day, came back to the waterfront for lunch and then still had time to go up (with cable car) to Table Mountain and walk around on top. But as others have stated, weather is variable and you should head up as soon as it is clear. If you want a little less strenuous hike, you can try Lion's Head. Not too difficult but at the end there is some scrambling with ladders.

    I hope you get your reservations at Test Kitchen (my favorite restaurant in the world) and La Colombe. You are spoiled for choice in the area though so also consider Bizerca and La Mouette in Cape Town. In the winelands I highly recommend Overture and Jordan, both stunning settings and amazing food.

    Enjoy your trip !

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    I hope I am not too late with my input...I see you leave at the end of the month.

    You will want to spend a full day in the Winelands - the area is about so much more than the wine - beautiful scenery. From Cape Town, one of our favourite day trips to the Winelands is what I believe is called "the Four Passes Route"

    Take the N2 highway (also called Settlers Way) east from Cape Town past the CT international airport.

    Stop first at the Vergenoegd Wine Estate ( telephone 27-21-843-3248. From the N2 highway, turn left/ north onto the R310 highway (exit 33 – also known as Baden Powel Drive) towards Stellenbosch. The wine estate will be on the right shortly after you turn onto the R310 from the N2. Vergenoegd has great reds and a glorious setting.

    From the Vergenoegd estate, head to the Vergelegen Estate ( telephone 27-21-847-1334 – Mandela’s favourite! To reach Vergelegen:

    From Vergenoegd, return to the N2 via the R310 south - do not continue north on the R310 towards Stellenbosch. Continue east on the N2 highway towards Somerset West. Take the left ramp at Broadway Boulevard / Stellenbosch (exit 43). At the lights on top of the ramp turn left towards Somerset West / Helderberg onto the R44. Approximately 500m further, at the next lights turn right to Somerset West (The NH Hotel is on the opposite left corner). Approximately 1.5 km further, at the fourth set of traffic lights, turn left into Lourensford Road (there are signs on poles indicating Vergelegen, Erinvale, Fleur du Cap and Lourensford). Proceed for 3.5 km up Lourensford Road and turn right into the Vergelegen entrance (you will see a large wall with Vergelegen written on it). Proceed along this tarred road and over the small bridge spanning the Lourensford River.

    From Vergenoegd, head to Franschhoek as follows:

    Return to the N2 and continue east over Sir Lowrey's Pass. Be certain to stop at the top of the pass – the views are lovely. At Grabouw (this is the fruit-growing region of SA), stop at the Country Orchard and the Peregrine Farm Stall – if you only have time to stop at one, stop at Peregrine – it has a better selection. Both have wonderful fruit rolls, melktart, biltong (try the kudu), great breads, fabulous jams, pies, muffins, dried fruit, fresh produce, fresh apple juice and so much more.

    At Grabouw, there are two exits to the left/north that lead to the R321 – you can take either exit. The Country Orchard is at the intersection of the first exit – visible on the left (the NE corner) from the N2. Peregrine is between the two exits – beyond the Country Orchard on the right-hand-side of the N2. From Peregrine, you can either backtrack to the exit at the Country Orchard or continue east on the N2 to the second exit.

    From Grabouw, head north on the R321 over Viljoen's Pass towards Villiersdorp. South of Villiersdorp, head northwest on the R45 over the Franschhoek Pass towards Franschhoek. Watch for baboons on the Franschhoek Pass and be certain to stop at the viewpoints – the views from the top of the pass are lovely.

    As you wind your way down through the pass towards the town of Franschhoek, you will pass La Petite Ferme ( on the left – one of the best restaurants in Franschhoek - the tables on the all-weather veranda has the best setting in SA – book in advance! Continuing down the pass from La Petite Ferme, you will come to the Haute Cabriere Estate (on the right) – one of our favourite wineries – absolutely worth a stop. Continue into Franschhoek.

    The main street of Franschhoek is a great place to wander – there are some great shops. There is free parking along the street. Look for a shop called Due South – it is small but has a great selection of quality crafts from all over South Africa. We usually stop for lunch on the main street – there are some great outdoor cafes and the views are lovely from the main street.

    From Franschhoek, head west along the R45 towards Stellenbosch. From the R45, turn left/southwest onto the R310 towards Stellenbosch. Stop at the Boschendal Winery (another of our favourites –, which will be on your left shortly after you turn onto the R310. You sample wines while sitting at tables under a huge oak tree with the mountains towering above you – the estate is known for its whites.

    From Boschendal, continue southwest on the R310 over the Helshoogte Pass to Stellenbosch. Continue on the R310 through Stellenbosch (not much to see in Stellenbosch frankly, although the university campus is quite pretty), and stop at the Spier Estate (, and enjoy dinner in a Christmas-light-decorated treehouse (but reserve a treehouse in advance – they are very popular - you can do this online - the restaurant is called Moyo – if the weather is poor, they will move you inside into one of their massive tents)! The buffet at Moyo is fabulous and the women will paint your faces Xhosa style – a great photo op!

    After dinner, continue south on the R310 to the N2 – you will be back where you started out in the morning. Head west on the N2 towards Cape Town – about 30 minutes from Spier.

    On your first day I would suggest you begin with lunch at Rhodes Memorial. There are lovely views of Cape Town and the food is excellent. Book ahead online - it is very popular with the locals with good reason.

    After lunch, depending on whether or not the top of Table Mtn is hidden in cloud, you could either take the cable car up to the top of Table Mtn or visit Kirstenbosch Gardens, which are lovely. Don't miss the shop at the main (not the north entrance) entrance of the gardens - expensive, but a great selection.

    For the Cape of Good Hope/Penguins/Chapman’s Peak Drive from Cape Town:

    For the Cape of Good Hope, go south from Cape Town along the east coast in the morning - you want to travel clockwise from Cape Town so that you catch the sunset over the Atlantic at the end of the day. Check out the surfers at Muizenberg Beach, the whales at Simsonstown, the penguins at Boulders Beach (take the second entrance, where you can swim amongst the penguins - you don't want the first entrance, where you are restricted to the boardwalk – if you end up at the boardwalk, you are in the wrong place – get back in the car and continue south until you see a sign for the next parking lot) and then Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. There is an excellent short hike between Cape Point (park here) and the Cape of Good Hope - it will you take about an hour return. Be certain to take the side trip to Diaz Beach (it’s the beach you will admire from Cape Point) - very pretty but involves a lot of stairs. If you have a picnic lunch with you, Diaz Beach, Platboom Bay or Buffels Bay (all within the Cape of Good Hope Reserve) are all great picnic sites - just be wary of baboons. Return to Cape Town along the west coast (hopefully Chapman's Peak Drive is open – it is closed frequently due to rock falls) - stop along the coast and enjoy a bottle of wine while watching the sunset over the Atlantic - it is always spectacular!

    One of our favourite restaurants in Cape Town is The Africa Cafe. Book ahead - it is popular. Some claim it is too touristy, but we have visited it many times and have always enjoyed it. For samplings of the local meat (springbok, kudu, gemsbok etc.), try the Hussar Grill.

    When we lived in CT for two years, we sent all of our Canadian visitors to Robben Island. The reviews were mixed - it was either a terrible or wonderful experience and seemed to depend on the time of year. If it is busy, be prepared to be crammed into a bus and to have to share a guide with a gazillion other guests. Even Fodor's (written guide) gives the tours a poor review.

    District Six is an excellent/fascinating museum and is included on many CT tours, especially in combination with a township tour. However, with only 4.5 days, you may wish to give both a miss.

    Regarding shark cage diving...our daughter and three friends went. It was rough - so rough that two never did manage to get in the cage and a third only spent a little time in the cage. If you are inclined to be seasick, the experience can be a challenge. That being said, the view of the sharks from the boat (as opposed to the cage) was still very good.

    Have a wonderful time in CT - one of my favourite cities. CR

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