|This area of exceptional
natural and floral beauty, in
the southwestern corner of South Africa, stretches from the remote
rocky outcrops beyond Lambert’s Bay in the west to the mountains
of the southern peninsula. The 1st area to be colonised by Europeans,
it is particularly famous for its wines.
South Africa’s legislative capital is located at the foot
of Table Mountain, the well known flat topped mountain
with views out across the peninsula to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
It is possible to walk up, but for the less daring, there is an
brilliant cablecar. The main hub of the city centre is the Victoria
& Alfred Waterfront, the stunningly restored old Victorian
harbour which offers free entertainment, restaurants, taverns, a
wide variety of shops, and museums, including the outstanding Aquarium.
Boat trips leave from here for harbour tours or the well known Robben
Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other nationalist leaders
The relics of early colonial government are centred on Government
Avenue, with several fine old buildings and museums,
including the Parliament Buildings, National Museum, Groote Kerk
(mother church of the Dutch Reformed faith), the Cultural History
Museum, National Gallery, Bertram House and Company’s Garden,
planted in 1652 to provide food for passing sailors.
Close by sights of interest include Bo-Kaap (the
home of the Islamic Cape Malay people, however of mainly Indonesian
origin), the Castle of Good Hope in Darling Street,
built in 1666, the Old Townhouse on Greenmarket
Square, housing a permanent collection of 17th century Dutch and
Flemish paintings, and the early 18th century Koopmans de
Wet House. Those fascinated in learning more about black
and ‘Cape - coloured’ culture should visit the District
Six Museum, Buitenkant Street, and take 1 of the many brilliant
guided tours of the outlying townships of Crossroads, Langa and
Khayelitsha. It is perhaps unsafe for tourists to venture into these
areas on their own.
Cape Town also has brilliant sporting and shopping
facilities. The Baxter Theatre and Artscape Theatre Complex offer
a combination of local and international fare. Nightlife is concentrated
in the V&A Waterfront, Sea Point, and parts of the central business
district, particularly around Long Street. Further out, the Cape-Dutch
homestead of Spier and Ratanga Junction theme park both offer a
wide range of entertainment from classical to jazz concerts.
South of Cape Town, a long peninsula stretches south, lined with
fishing villages and holiday resorts,
including Hout Bay, Fish Hoek, Llandudno, Kommetjie, Muizenberg
and Simonstown, a charming Victorian town with a couple of interesting
museums and the only colony of penguins to live on the African mainland.
Inland, the stunning Cape-Dutch farm, Groot Constantia,
was 1 of the 1st wine farms in the Cape, while the Kirstenbosch
National Botanical Gardens, created by Cecil Rhodes in 1895 on the
lower slopes of Table Mountain, is 1 of the most excellent botanical
gardens in the world. In the summer open air concerts are organised.
Nearby Chapman’s Peak has beautiful views,
but the scenic drive from Hout Bay is currently closed due to landfalls,
and you need to walk the last section to the summit.
About 1 hour’s drive from Cape Town, the Cape of Good Hope
Nature Reserve covers the southern tip of the Cape
peninsula, with a profusion of birds, flowers and animals, finishing
in Cape Point, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic.
North of Cape Town, the winelands are a magnificent region of vineyards,
old Cape Dutch villages and mansions. Several of the vineyards have
brilliant restaurants, most offer tastings and
some provide bed and breakfast. Stellenbosch, a major centre of
wine production, is also 1 of South Africa’s oldest villages
with a great many attractive buildings, including the excellent
The local tourist office offers details for a historic
walking tour. Tiny Franschhoek initially hosted refugee Huguenots
from France, who brought their wine growing skills to South Africa.
It now has a fantastic Huguenot Museum. Paarl is home to numerous
small museums and the KWV Wine Cellars. In the Breede Valley area,
the pretty little towns of Tulbagh, Worcester, Wellington and Ceres
all have fine old buildings, beautiful scenery, interesting small
museums, vineyards and fruit orchards.
The fertility of the southern Cape region gradually gives way to
the rugged and pretty West Coast, which has abundant shellfish,
and several fishing villages, including Lambert’s
Bay, a good surfing spot.
Inland, the sculpted sandstone Cederberg mountains
divide the west coast from the arid Great Karoo Desert, which bursts
into an abundance of flowers every October to November.