View of Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain

South Africa travel tips – Cape Town

The view from Table Mountain
The view from Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town

We visited South Africa in November and had the trip of a lifetime. I’ve been recommending it to virtually everyone so thought it was high time I write up some recommendations for anyone who’s thinking of visiting. I’ve outlined what we did below and over the next few posts I will cover Cape Town, Franschhoek, Hermanus, Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, and our safari.

I’ll include descriptions of what we got up to and where we stayed along with our favourite spots for food and drink. South Africa absolutely spoils its visitors with its amazing wine and gorgeous fresh foods. And for tourists coming in from Western countries, dining out will seem very cheap indeed! Most of our meals (with wine) barely came to £20 or £30.

Hope these posts are handy – do let me know if you have any other recommendations to add in! And do check out Gavin Explores and Cake Eat for more tips – we found their blogs really helpful when planning out our trip!

Brunch at Hemelhuijs
Brunch at Hemelhuijs

Summary of our trip

  • Flew direct to Cape Town from Heathrow (11 ½ hours).
  • Car hire for two weeks (£300 ish).
  • Three days in Cape Town, staying in a brilliant Airbnb.
  • Two days in Franschhoek, exploring the winelands.
  • Two days in Hermanus, whale watching one day, shark diving the next day.
  • One day in Wilderness.
  • One day in Knysna.
  • Three days in Plettenberg Bay.
  • Two days on safari at a reserve in the Eastern Cape (where there is no malaria).
  • Flight from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg (1 ½ hours) then flight from Jo’burg to London (11 ½ hours).
The Bunny Chow at Honest Chocolate
The Bunny Chow at Honest Chocolate
View of Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain
View of Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain

Cape Town

I absolutely loved Cape Town. It’s a vibrant, buzzy place with great food, fantastic scenery, and real character. It’s hard not to be impressed by Table Mountain, standing majestically in the backdrop of every photo. It’s worth reading up on Cape Town’s backstory to understand its personality and rich history – from Nelson Mandela to the first heart transplant, it’s a city with lots of stories to tell.

We spent three days in the city but I wish we’d had another. We spent our time exploring the city, eating our way around some fantastic brunch spots, seeing beautiful sights, and drinking fabulous South African wine. Highlights include:

  • Bo-kaap – is a beautiful neighbourhood full of colourful houses. Worth going early morning to catch good light.
  • The V&A waterfront – is a massive metropolis of shopping and food (both Westfield style malls and massive barns full of artisan crafts and independents). It’s also a great area to explore and potter around.
  • Table mountain – is stunning. Whether you climb up or get the cable car, the views are incredible and it’s lovely to be able to walk around the top. It’s worth booking tickets in advance if you’re planning to get the cable car.
  • Camps Bay – is a neighbourhood round the bay from the main city. It’s great fun for an evening drink.
  • Robben Island – we had booked tickets to this but the weather was too choppy and it was cancelled. We spent a couple of hours at the Aquarium instead, which was pretty good!

We also spent a day driving down the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. The drive to Cape Point goes via lots of beautiful spots on the eastern coast, and I’d recommend stopping at Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town. Kalk Bay has gorgeous little artsy shops and a few nice bookshops and Simon’s Town is home to a very famous penguin colony. Definitely worth a visit! The Cape itself is quite breathtaking – it’s quite something to stand on the edge of the continent, where two oceans collide. Watch out for the baboons though – don’t touch or feed them, and try and avoid letting them anywhere near your car…! We drove back along the west coast along Chapman’s Peak, one of the most stunning drives in the world. It’s a toll road but it’s not expensive and it’s unforgettably beautiful.

Cape Point
Cape Point

Restaurants and bars we loved

  • Hemelhuijs – we had brunch here on our first day and it was divine! I had potato rosti, soft poached eggs, herbed cream cheese, and crispy roasted bacon. I honestly still think about it.
  • Arnold’s – this is a great spot near the Airbnb we stayed in, sort of on the way to Table Mountain. We went for breakfast and I had the flapjack stack. Recommended!
  • Tasha’s – we went to Tasha’s at the Waterfront for a spot of lunch and a slice of cake. It’s a really lovely spot with great wine. Perfect if you can get a table outside!
  • Honest Chocolate – oh my GOD get yourself to Honest and have the Bunny Chow. It’s a warm banana bread with the top lopped off, filled with ice cream, and covered in chocolate sauce. Have it with a hot chocolate (or the iced equivalent). It’s delicious. They also sell lovely, beautifully designed artisan chocolate.
  • Jason Bakery – this was a memorable breakfast to say the least! I had pain au chocolat French toast and a croissant cup and almost fell into a sugar coma. I follow the bakery on Instagram and their gorgeous posts make my mouth water every damn day. I’d rush straight back to Jason Bakery in a heartbeat. It’s almost worth the cost of the flight to Cape Town alone.
  • Manna Epicure – this was another beloved breakfast spot. We visited on our last day before driving out of Cape Town. I had waffles with bacon and bananas – dreamy!
  • Bocca – this is a lovely pizza place!
  • The Orphanage – this is a really fab little cocktail bar. Would definitely go back!
Wine at Tasha's
Wine at Tasha’s

Other useful info

Accommodation – we stayed at this Airbnb (would recommend – great location, free parking, security guard on site). Even if you don’t stay there, the area makes it very walkable to most bits of Cape Town so I’d recommend looking around that area.

Travel – Uber is dead cheap – literally a couple of quid to get some one side of the city to the other.

Shopping – the V&A Waterfront has an enormous shopping centre. My favourite shop was called Poetry – they do lovely floaty dresses etc. There is also fantastic local craft market called the Watershed in the same area. We didn’t spend much time there as we assumed there would be loads of similar places around our trip. Reader, we were wrong. Stock up on beautiful local crafts while you can.

Drive to Franschhoek – 1 ½ hours ish

Drive to Cape Point – 1 1/2 hours ish

Next up – I’ll be writing about our stays in Franschhoek and Hermanus :)

Waffles at Manna Epicure
Waffles at Manna Epicure