Cape Town and the neighbouring areas offer visitors an activity packed and fun-filled vacation. Sitting at the very bottom of Africa, it’s a multi-cultural city that has shaken off discrimination and evolved into a destination for diversity and acceptance. It has so many excellent experiences on offer that it’s difficult to narrow them down, so here’s a little guide to some of the best things to squeeze into a short break in Cape Town.

  1. Hop on Hop off Wine Tour in Stellenbosch (full day)

South Africa produces some of the world’s finest wines, predominantly from the coastal region of the Western Cape area, around the pretty old colonial town of Stellenbosch. Discovering the delights of the vineyards is a wonderful way to while away a day, especially when you can sample as much as you wish! The hop on hop off bus from Vinehopper is a perfect service, offering a full tour of the best wineries in the area.

Pairing wine with pate nom nom

We chose to take the Southern Route, which included the Van Ryn brandy cellar, Spier, Alto and Kleine Zalze. The tour does not include the price of tasting at each stop, but does allow you to request a slight detour to another winery if it is close by! Each winery has its own spin on the tasting experience, from pairing wines with pâté to chocolate, so its worth having a little read up of what’s on offer at each one.

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A little taste of brandy to start the day off

For lunch, we chose the platter at Kleine Zalze’s ‘The Terroir’ fine dining restaurant, which has a mighty fine view from the terrace and some very drinkable award-winning wines. On a sunny day, rose in hand, excellent cheeses and an incredible setting, it’s a hard spot to beat!

On the terrace at Kleine Zalze with rose and a platter of meats and cheeses

To get to Stellenbosch you can take the local train service or Vinehopper can pick you up in Cape Town for an extra fee. They also offer bike hire, if you are feeling in the mood for an energetic, pedal-powered wine tasting tour.  Either way, the delicious fermented grape juices won’t disappoint.

2. Cage diving with Great White Sharks (morning activity)

There’s nothing quite like coming face to face with a man-eater. In a safe environment of course! Meeting Great White sharks in a cage diving experience is an intense introduction to these immensely powerful beasts. I chose to book my dive with African Shark Eco-Charters, as they provide an encounter that does not disturb the animal’s natural behaviour. These guys also are the only operators that offer a scuba regulator to divers, (no previous experience necessary), which is much more relaxing than snorkelling, plus you don’t miss any of the action by having to come up for air!

Boats at the pier in Simonstown

It’s an early start from Simonstown pier, from which the boat heads out to the shark’s perfect feeding ground, a rocky seal colony in False Bay. As the sharks are wild creatures, there is no guarantee that you will see one, but as you are hanging around their favourite fast food joint the chances are quite high. Once a predator is spotted, the crew use a piece of carpet shaped like a baby seal to lure the shark over to the boat. The shark then displays its natural hunting behaviour in full force; even just witnessing the raw power of this brute from standing on the deck was quite intense!

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A great white shark is lured to breach the water

The ocean can be quite cold, but you can use a nice thick wetsuit to keep you warm in the water. Then you jump in when a shark is likely to swim past you. As you have an air supply, you have twenty minutes under the surface without interruption, which is plenty of time for watching from inside the cage. The huge, dark, unmistakable shape of jaws is disturbingly close. Even though the bars are there to protect you, it can be quite unnerving, observing the legendary murderer as he stalks his underwater lair. Duuun dun, duuun dun….

It’s a once in a lifetime highlight I’ll never forget!

3. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (afternoon)

One of the greatest botanical gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch is a fabulous floral feast set in a dramatic landscape. Easily accessible by using the local sightseeing bus, you can explore the many different areas, including the medicinal, fragrance and Protea gardens, all overshadowed by the eastern face of Table Mountain. There are free guided tours which give you an excellent low down on the greenery or just take an easy wander through the leafy oasis. You can get an aerial view of the area from the canopy walkway or if you are feeling adventurous there are hikes available, the most popular being Skeleton Gorge. Check the safety guidelines and weather before setting off, it can get cold up there!

brightly coloured bird on a yellow flower

Alternatively, take a picnic blanket and chill out on terra firma. In the summer (November to April) there are open-air concerts and cinema nights, which are super relaxed affairs, suited to the environment. However, you want to enjoy this lovely herbaceous retreat do make time to take in all of its diversity and amazingness. Nature is very rejuvenating for the soul and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens has oodles of it.

Concert in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

4. Victoria and Albert Waterfront (morning)

The Victoria and Albert Waterfront sits in South Africa’s oldest working harbour and offers postcard-perfect views of the infamous Table Mountain. It’s a multi-use area, featuring a premium shopping complex, cinema, aquarium, rugby museum, modern art museum, food market and even a giant Ferris wheel. 

The table cloth of cloud over table mountain

There’s always something going on in this busy and buzzy venue; we managed to catch some local talent at a pop-up music concert after brunching it up at one of the fabulous restaurants. There are plenty of cute crafts to buy and even a historical walk to enjoy, no wonder this area is South Africa’s most visited tourist destination!

Musician playing at the Waterfront, Cape Town

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5. Robben Island (half day)

No visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip to Robben Island. It’s a sobering journey through South Africa’s recent history, where three of its former presidents were incarcerated, most notably Nelson Mandela. The former penal colony is now a museum, only reachable through the daily tours, which last around three and a half hours, including the ferry ride. It can be quite a rough crossing and sometimes the ferries are cancelled due to storms. Buses meet you at the pier to drive you around the small enclave, and you are given information about the different points of interest, including the quarries, officers’ settlements and military residences. There are also opportunities to spot some wildlife, including seals, penguins and tortoises.

Wall mural depicting famous South African activists

The excursion culminates at the prison, where former convicts give you a guided tour of the complex, from the exercise yard to Nelson’s cell. Robben island encapsulates the story of how apartheid was destroyed and democracy won, delivered by those who fought for equality. Their personal anecdotes are both educational and a stark insight to what it was like being a political prisoner, straight from the mouths of those who had to suffer punishment for being civil rights activists.

A former inmate giving the guided tourNelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island

6. Hanging out in Camps Bay (evening)

Camps Bay

Camps Bay is one of the places to see and be seen. This beachy hangout is around the corner from Cape Town itself and is only a short bus or taxi ride away.  The main strip along Victoria road has many bars and restaurants with terraces and open sides so you can take in the terrific view whilst sipping on sundowners. You may want to sample a South African classic – Klipdrift brandy and coke or choose a classy cocktail. Warning – this may result in some table dancing.

sunset from Camps Bay, Cape Town

Cape Town and the areas surrounding the city pretty much has it all: hair-raising and relaxing encounters with nature, fabulous food and wines, cute countryside and insightful cultural experiences. In fact, why aren’t you there now?

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.