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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Western Cape
Western Cape - TravelPuppy.com
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.

Cape Town

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 were imprisoned.

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.

Excursions

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.

The Winelands

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 Village Museum.

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 West Coast

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.
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