Cape Town’s Big “5”
Looming large and welcoming you to Cape Town, whether you are arriving by plane, train, boat or automobile, is the iconic Table Mountain, one of the 7Wonders of Nature. Looking at it from below is one thing, but it is quite another to be atop the mountain, from where one is afforded such wonderful views of Cape Town, Robben Island, the Peninsula and beyond.
One can of course walk up Table Mountain, but getting to the top of Cape Town’s mountain doesn’t have to involve any more exertion than stepping aboard the 85-year-old Table Mountain Cableway which provides one with a gentle, quick and vista-full trip up to the top of the mountain.
Getting up and down
The trip to the top is an outing in itself, as you are safely and gently transported from the lower cable station to the top of the mountain and visa versa. The journey takes a little more than 5 minutes and the high tech rotating cable car offers the best views of the city. There are trips up and down every 10 – 15 minutes and the cableway operates 7 days a week, with the first car heading up at 8h00. The departure time of the last car down depends on the time of the year, and varies between 18h30 and 21h30. Click here for updated operating times. Once at the top, over 3500ft above the city, you will find a vast network of well-marked paths to explore as well as strategically positioned lookout points.
There is a restaurant atop the mountain offering full meals as well as a small shop where you can pick up a snack and a post card. One could also pack a tasty picnic to enjoy at the top, remembering of course that you will be in the Table Mountain National Park, so please make use of refuse bins, or better still take all your waste down with you.
Visitors to Table Mountain can enjoy wonderful views of the Rock Hyrax (Dassie) scuttling along the rocks, lizards sunning themselves, butterflies flitting past and you might even be lucky enough to spot a porcupine digging for bulbs.
The bird life is wonderful too, from the large Verreaux Eagles to the small colourful sunbirds. All these creatures live in the fynbos, and 100’s of these plant species occur no where else on the planet.
Visit the official homepage of the South African National Parks for more information about the indigenous fauna, flora, landscapes and cultural heritage that can be found right on the doorstep of Oceans Echo.
Victoria & Albert Waterfront
Situated at the foot of Table Mountain, within a stone’s throw from the Cape Town Stadium and in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbour, the V&A Waterfront offers the visitor an abundance of unforgettable experiences. Indoor shopping and entertainment venues seamlessly merge with ocean vistas and mountain views and the fresh sea breeze and warm African sun add zest to a cosmopolitan, vibrant atmosphere. More than 80 restaurants bring a fusion of international food, from rustic al fresco fish and chips to starched table-cloth cuisine.
The Cape Winelands region is the source of many legendary Cape wines, the produce of row upon row of grapevines, many of which were first planted hundreds of years ago.
Its classic Cape-Dutch homesteads, mountainous surrounds, grand heritage and sumptuous restaurants have earned the Cape Winelands the right to call itself South Africa’s culinary capital.
Franschhoek‘s excellent restaurants are renowned at home and abroad. Add stunning mountains, galleries and antique stores to paint a picture of the hospitality that characterises this small town.
With its historical charm, culture, architectural heritage, wine and one of the largest solid rocks in the world, Paarl Mountain, Paarl is bursting with breathtaking scenery and offers the fitter tourist a choice of cycling and nature trails.
Wellington is famous for its dried fruit, wine estates, olive tasting and leather factories. Don’t miss out on a scenic drive up Bain’s Kloof Pass.
Robertson – the “Garden Town of the Boland” – is the largest wine-producing area under irrigation in South Africa. Robertson is famed for its superior wines and some of the country’s top racehorse studs have been raised and trained here.
Apart from a wide choice of wine estate cellars lined with top-class wines, visitors will discover a variety of locally produced cheeses, olives, export-quality fruit and organic produce to sample and buy.
The sheer beauty of the Winelands not only lures photographers and artists to capture its magnificence, it regularly plays host to weddings, conferences and special occasions.
The more active tourist has not been forgotten either. World-class golf courses and numerous cycling, walking and hiking routes abound.
The route to the Winelands region is a 40-minute drive along the N1 from Cape Town to Stellenbosch. Alternatively, follow the N2 to Somerset West and the Helderberg region.
The Cape Winelands is extensive, so it is advisable to use a tourism brochure to find each wine region. Brochures and maps are available at all tourism offices in the region.
Named the ‘Cape of Storms’ by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488; the ‘Point’ was treated with respect by sailors for centuries. By day, it was a navigational landmark and by night, and in fog, it was a menace beset by violent storms and dangerous rocks that over the centuries littered shipwrecks around the coastline.
In 1859 the first lighthouse was completed; it still stands at 249 metres above sea-level on the highest section of the peak and is now used as the centralised monitoring point for all the lighthouses on the coast of South Africa. Access to this historical building is by an exhilarating 3 minute ride in the wheelchair accessible Flying Dutchman funicular that transfers visitors from the lower station at 127 metres above sea level, to the upper station at 286 metres above sea level.
Table Mountain National Park forms part of the Cape Floral Region, a World Heritage Site. It includes the majestic Table Mountain chain, which stretches from Signal Hill to Cape Point, and the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula. This narrow stretch of land, dotted with beautiful valleys, bays and beaches, contains a mix of extraordinarily diverse and unique fauna and flora.
Rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 metres above the sea and cutting deep into the ocean provide a spectacular background for the Parks’ rich bio-diversity. Cape Point falls within the southern section of Table Mountain National Park. The natural vegetation of the area, fynbos, comprises the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The scenic beauty of Cape Point is not its sole allure; it is also an international icon of great historical interest with many a visitor drawn to the area because of its rich maritime history…
Cape Town and her surrounding coastline offers the visitor some wonderful beaches, but none are more interesting nor more beautiful than the Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. This beach, with its wind sheltered bays and safe sandy shores, is home to a breeding colony of over 2000 endangered African Penguins.
A National Park
Boulders Beach forms part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area and an entrance fee is required to access these sandy shores that are home to the tuxedoed little bird. Strictly controlled access to this beach by the SANparks authority ensures that it is always clean and tidy and that the facilities are well maintained and spotless. These facilities include toilets and outdoor beach showers. The beach is seldom crowded and is a real hit with little one’s as it offers a very gentle and warm ocean swimming experience.
A safe walk on the wild side
Once through the turnstiles, one can stake your claim on the pristine sand and then freely explore the large 540 million year-old granite boulders, small rock pools and little bays in the close proximity of the flightless little swimming birds.
To view the African Penguins and their nesting and breeding sites, a superb walkway has been established that takes the visitor on an intimate tour of the area these endangered birds call home. African Penguins were previously referred to as the “Jackass” Penguin due to their donkey-like call, but a more diplomatic choice of name saw them re-christened as African Penguins. The area is patrolled by park rangers to ensure both the visitors safety and the safety of the birds.
For the best penguin viewing experience, Foxy Beach is the place to be, just a short stroll from the actual Boulders Beach. The boardwalks are all wheelchair-friendly and will take you to within metres of the birds. There is also a visitors centre accessed on foot using “Willis Walk” from the Bellevue Road/Cape Point side, or via Kleintuin Road from the Seaforth Road/Simon’s Town side.
Boulders Beach has plenty of decent restaurant, café and accommodation offerings close to the gates (although nothing on offer inside the reserve precinct) and is en-route to Cape Point. A beautiful summer’s day spent at Boulders is tough to beat, but don’t get too close to the Penguins as they have a nasty nip on them.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: Kirstenbosch is one of the worlds great botanical Gardens. Founded in 1913 it’s exhibits are all indigenous and represent much of the countries biomes. The new “Boomslang” canopy walkway offers spectacular views from the treetops, over the gardens, to the mountains and the city. With many beautiful, shady walks through the forest and by the by the water, Kirstenbosch is the coolest place to be on those hot summer afternoons. Also look out for the program of summer concerts and enjoy live music in this spectacular open-air arena.
Chapman’s Peak Drive winds its way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast on the south-western tip of South Africa. Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.
The 9km route, with its 114 curves, skirts the rocky coastline of Chapman’s Peak (593m), which is the southerly extension of Constantiaberg and is a great hike for the energetically inclined.
Chapman’s Peak Drive is affectionately known as “Chappies” and is a must for anyone who is passionate about the majestic Cape Town scenery, with sheer drops to the sea below and towering mountains rising above you. The twists and curves in the road seem endless and it is a photographers dream. It is a paradise for motorists, sightseers, picnickers, runners, hikers and bikers (both the motorised and the manual varieties).
The drive offers stunning 180° views with many areas along the route where you can stop and take in the exquisite scenery or sit down for a relaxing picnic.