15 Best Sights in Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Boulders Beach

Fodor's choice
Boulders Beach
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This series of small coves lies among giant granite boulders on the southern outskirts of Simon's Town. Part of Table Mountain National Park, the beach is best known for its resident colony of African penguins. You must stay out of the fenced-off breeding beach, but don't be surprised if a wandering bird comes waddling up to your beach blanket to take a look. Penguin-viewing platforms, accessible from either the Boulders Beach or Seaforth side, provide close-up looks at these comical birds. When you've had enough penguin peering, you can stroll back to Boulders Beach for some excellent swimming in the quiet sheltered coves. This beach is great for children because it is so protected, and the sea is warm(ish) and calm. It can get crowded in summer, though, so go early. Without traffic, it takes about 45 minutes to get here from town, less from the Southern Suburbs. Amenities: none. Best for: walking, swimming.

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Cape Point

Fodor's choice
Cape Point
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Cape Point is a dramatic knife's edge of rock that slices into the Atlantic. Looking out to sea from the viewing platform, you feel you're at the tip of Africa, even though that honor officially belongs to another dramatic point at Cape Agulhas, about 160 km (100 miles) to the southeast. From Cape Point the views of False Bay and the Hottentots Holland Mountains are astonishing. The walk up to the viewing platform and the old lighthouse is very steep; a funicular makes the run every three or four minutes. Take a jacket or sweater—the wind can be fierce. It took six years, from 1913 to 1919, to build the old lighthouse, 816 feet above the high-water mark. On a clear day the old lighthouse was a great navigational mark, but when the mists rolled in it was useless, so a new and much lower lighthouse (286 feet) was built at Dias Lookout Point. The newer, revolving lighthouse, the most powerful on the South African coast, emits a group of three flashes every 30 seconds. It has prevented a number of ships from ending up on Bellows or Albatross Rock below. You can't go into the lighthouses, but the views from their bases are spectacular.

Stark reminders of the ships that didn't make it are dotted around the Cape. You'll see their rusty remains on some of the beaches. One of the more famous wrecks is the Thomas T. Tucker, one of hundreds of Liberty Ships produced by the United States to enable the Allies to move vast amounts of supplies during World War II. It wasn't the German U-boats patrolling the coastline that did the ship in. Rather the fog closed in, and on her maiden voyage in 1942, it ended up on Olifantsbos Point. Fortunately, all on board were saved, but the wreck soon broke up in the rough seas that pound the coast.

The mast you see on the western slopes of Cape Point near the lighthouse belongs to the Global Atmosphere Watch Station (GAW). The South African Weather Bureau, together with the Fraunhofer Institute in Garmisch, Germany, maintains a research laboratory here to monitor long-term changes in the chemistry of the earth's atmosphere, which may impact climate. This is one of 20 GAWs throughout the world, chosen because the air at Cape Point is considered particularly pure most of the time.

During peak season (December–January), visit Cape Point as early in the day as possible to avoid being swamped by an armada of tour buses. There are a few shops and snack kiosks.

The best way to experience the park is to hike on one of the numerous walking trails (favorites include the boardwalk trail to Diaz Beach and the shipwreck trail) and/or enjoy a picnic and dip at the Bordjiesrif or Buffels Bay tidal pools, or on Platboom or Oliphantsbos beaches. A fantastic alternative is to stay overnight in the comfortable basic accommodations, booked through South African National Parks.  Do not feed the indigenous resident chacma baboons, which are increasingly under threat.

Despite the peninsula's population being estimated at only 450 individuals, baboons continue to be shot for raiding homes and stealing food; baboon-feeding tourists are largely responsible for this serious situation, and you should always be wary of them; they can be dangerous if provoked or if they think you have food.

Café Roux


Nestled behind Chapman's Peak—and minutes away from Noordhoek Beach—Café Roux is an unpretentious outdoor café with great homemade food and fabulous South African wines at competitive prices. You can get a taste of rural Cape Town life in "paddock" country here.

Chapman's Peak Dr., Cape Town, 7979, South Africa

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Chapman's Peak Drive

Rock slides and unstable cliff faces mean this fantastically scenic drive can often be closed for maintenance, as it was for the greater part of 2008–2009. Work began on the drive in 1910, when it was considered an impossibility. Charl Marais, a mining surveyor, wasn't deterred by the task and set about surveying a route by sending a worker ahead of him to chop out footholds and create rudimentary platforms for his theodolite. There are stories of him hanging on to the side of the cliff by ropes and nearly losing his life on a number of occasions. With the help of 700 convicts, a road was chipped and blasted out of the rock. Chapman's Peak Drive officially opened in 1922 with views rivaling those of California's Pacific Route 1 to Big Sur. When open, you can access the drive from both Noordhoek and Hout Bay. The toll-gate installed on the drive has been the source of huge local controversy—but you as a tourist won't notice a thing (apart from the fee). Also, this is part of the route for the Cape Argus, the world's largest timed bicycle race—with about 35,000 entries every year from around the globe.

Hout Bay Beach

Cradled in a lovely bay of the same name and guarded by a 1,000-foot peak known as the Sentinel, Hout Bay is the center of Cape Town's crayfishing industry (legal and otherwise) and operates several fish-processing plants. It also has knockout views of the mountains, gentle surf, and easy access to the restaurants and bars of Mariner's Wharf. The fact that this is a working harbor, added to the raw sewage of the Inzamo Yethu informal settlement a short walk upstream, means this is, unfortunately, a polluted beach, however beautiful it looks. You are advised not to swim here. Amenities: food and drink; parking. Best for: solitude; walking.

Long and Noordhoek Beaches

A vast expanse of white sand stretching 6½ km (4 miles) from the base of Chapman's Peak (Noordhoek Beach starts here) to Kommetjie (where you find Long Beach), this is one of the wildest and least populated stretches of uninterrupted beach, with fluffy white sand and dunes, behind which sit a lagoon and private nature reserve. Because of the wind and the space, these beaches attract horseback riders and walkers rather than sunbathers, and the surfing is excellent (especially off Long Beach). There are no lifeguards and there is no bus service, and, as at some other beaches, at the wrong times and more isolated spots, there are real safety concerns (particularly the lonely stretch of sand right in the middle). Despite patrollers on horseback and the occasional all-terrain vehicle, crime is an issue here, and women, in particular, should be careful. Tourists always do best not to look like tourists. Hang out with other people, just in case, unless you're part of a group. Amenities: parking; toilets (Noordhoek). Best for: solitude; sunset; surfing; walking.

Noordhoek, 7975, South Africa

Noordhoek Farm Village

This lovely collection of great restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques is a great place to spend a few hours or get a quick bite to eat while passing through. Want to stay awhile? The Noordhoek Village Hotel is on the property as is The Burrow pub. 

Olympia Café

The Olympia Café, with a menu of Mediterranean-influenced specialities, is popular and usually packed to capacity, especially on weekends. At the affiliated bakery just around the corner, you can buy take-away cappuccinos and pasties filled with springbok and sometimes even rabbit. The croissants are more bread-like than light French pastry. Grab a stool at the bar by the window and watch the ocean and passing foot-traffic on the pavement in front of you.

Scratch Patch

At Scratch Patch, a gemstone factory about 1 km (½ mile) north of Simon's Town, you can buy and fill a bag (you pay according to the size of the bag) with gemstones that you pick from a garden filled ankle-deep with semiprecious stones, such as tiger’s eye, rose quartz, amethyst, jasper, agates, and crystals. Obviously this is a winner with children, and since 1970, when Scratch Patch opened, the owners claim it has been copied around the world. If you’re lucky, you might find the rare Blue Lace Agate, which has a really interesting story linking it to mineral-rich Namibia and South Africa's little town of Springbok. Attached is Mineral World, a store that sells gemstone jewelry. Another branch of both is found at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Simon's Town Museum

The historical exhibits at this rustic museum can feel like artifacts themselves; however, a section with numerous photographs and memorabilia from former Black residents who were removed to the townships of the Cape Flats in the 1960s makes it worthwhile. The museum is currently by appointment only; email to book. 

Slangkop Point Lighthouse

At 111 feet, this is the tallest cast-iron tower on South Africa's coast, and the views are incredible. Located almost exactly midway between Robben Island and Cape Point, the lighthouse has a 5-million-candlepower light and a range of 30 nautical miles. Since the lamp was officially lit in 1919 it has been capable of producing four flashes every 30 seconds. It’s one of the few lighthouses in the world still to be manned by a keeper—known these days as a "lighthouse officer."  If you're alone or not in a big group, this is a safer place to walk than Long Beach.

45 Lighthouse Rd., Kommetjie, 7975, South Africa
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Rate Includes: Closed Sat. and Sun.

South African Naval Museum

The naval museum is filled with model ships, old navigational equipment, old South African navy divers' equipment, a few real, life-size boats, and, oddly enough, a helicopter. You can also climb to the top of the building's clock tower. The newer "Transformation" section includes a display about the SS Mendi and information about how the navy has changed in democratic South Africa. It's staffed by naval personnel and volunteers.

The Flying Dutchman Funicular

If you’re short on time, the funicular, named after the legendary Flying Dutchman ghost ship, leaves from the lower station at the Cape Point car park, taking passengers to the upper lighthouse every 3 minutes. It’s also known as the Cape Point Funicular.

Off M65 (Plateau Rd.), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
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Rate Includes: R70 one-way, R85 roundtrip

Warrior Toy Museum

Dinky Toys, boats, trains, soldiers, airplanes, some 4,000 model cars, and 500 dolls—what's not to like about this toy museum that is equally enjoyable for both kids and adults? It's packed with hundreds of models of all things locomotive: from cars to trains and tanks, these miniature vehicles date from the 1920s to the present. Some are on sale at the attached collectibles shop.

1067 King George Way, Simon's Town, South Africa
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Rate Includes: R10

World of Birds

Here you can walk through a sanctuary housing more than 400 species of indigenous and exotic birds, including eagles, vultures, penguins, and flamingos. With neither bars nor nets separating you from most of the birds, you can get some pretty good photographs; however, the big raptors are (wisely) kept behind fences. Kids will love the "monkey jungle," where a few dozen highly inquisitive squirrel monkeys roam freely, often lighting on your shoulders or back. There's also a small jungle gym for kids to play on at the end of the park. 

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