I’m finding it difficult to avoid the clichéd introduction of just how beautiful Cape Town is.
You know, the text that you read across all glossy travel magazines, and brochures.
The one’s that speak about how stunning Cape Town is ‘from sea to sky’.
Where superlatives include, ‘golden’, ‘beautiful, ‘picturesque’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘magnificent’.
But yet, we don’t fully understand just how beautifully the rest of the world sees what we have on our doorstep.
“Mother Nature surpassed herself when crafting the Mother City.” By Simon Richmond, Writer
We traveled from Johannesburg to Cape Town for 8 days on a family vacation. I’ve compiled a destination profile which i hope will aid you in planning your own trip to this beautiful city.
If you reside in South Africa, check online for airfare specials. Mango and Kulula usually have competitive rates traveling to Cape Town during Peak and Off-peak times. If you’re fortunate enough, you can get tickets for as low as R500 return in some instances (Sign up to receive their newsletters so you’re always kept up-to-date with airfare specials)!
We traveled with Kulula airline and it took us a little under 2 hours to arrive in Cape Town. Once we arrived, we proceeded to collect the vehicle that we hired for the duration of our stay. Because we were a large group, our requirements for a vehicle included space and comfort. We opted for a large combi.
Wembley Roadhouse (21 Belgravia Road, Athlone, Cape Town) should be your first stop once leaving the airport. Located just 5 minutes from the airport, and en route to the city center, Wembley provides a literal ‘one-stop-shop’ to eat at, stock up on meats, spices, fresh produce and bakery items if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation. If you have younger kids with you, they will definitely enjoy the stop at the roadhouse as it has a play area and the convenience of having your meal on the property (venture further back into the garden for a great spot under the shade of the trees and on the wooden bench). The menu is so extensive and affordably priced.
“This infamous landmark crammed into the tight Southern Suburbs streets has become a destination venue. It’s where the young dudes go to show off their pimped rides and where the white girls go with the coloured boys after clubbing till the wee hours and need to feed the munchies. It’s where your folks took you on weekends for a takeout treat and where you go now when you have that lussie for something specific like a Wembley Whopper or Falooda Crush that can only be delivered in one place.
They’re famous for the Wembley Whopper, a confection of steak, braised onions, sliced potatoes, salad and sauce in a bun. Not my personal favourite. I’m partial to the DOUBLE HOTDOG, yes it’s capitalised on purpose. It’s a sort of comfort food for me. Two very tasty viennas, smothered in chips, seasoning and sauce of your choice on a hotdog roll, always wrapped in foiled paper which means it stays hotter for longer (for that drive home you see). Or if you can’t wait, park and eat in your car. It’s a roadhouse after all. Added extras like the samoosas and potato waras/bites always go down well and will fill the gap before you get to your main. The falooda crush is like drinking dessert. The rose flavoured milk is so thick with ice cream, nuts and jelly pieces that you need a spoon to get through all of it”
If you’ve traveled with 4 kids, you would understand the necessity to have a larger living area with additional bedrooms (and bathrooms). Once you’ve assessed your needs, budget and type of accommodation that you require, the next step is to find somewhere suitable to stay.
Hotel rooms didn’t seem to meet our needs. We weren’t able to get 3 rooms that were inter-leading, nor did they meet our requirements of having a central communal eating area and living area. We managed to come across ‘Waterfront Village’ online via Bookings.com. They offer luxury serviced apartments with a direct view of the Marina.
The check-in process is slightly cumbersome (obviously not expecting a grand Hotel lobby or any amenities that come with staying at a 5-star hotel). You need to proceed to the offices on the side of the units. Once you’ve been ‘checked in’, a representative takes you to the property whilst explaining the services and inclusions as you go along. The porters are most helpful and assist with true Cape hospitality.
Our apartment was approx 180m², 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, open-plan dining-room, lounge and entrance area with a concealed kitchen. Each bedroom had a view of the Marina, with doors that open onto the deck with separate seating areas outside for lounging or dining. The apartment was tastefully decorated in neutrals with careful attention to detail and well-appointed finishes.
The bathrooms are large (so large that we managed to fit all FOUR children into the shower at once when we were in a hurry!) with basic amenities provided. I recommend bringing all of your own toiletries as there’s nothing special about the ones that are provided (neither are they enough). The main bedroom is en-suite with a bath and a shower. The second and third bathrooms are fitted with a bath or shower, and both bathrooms are fitted with heated towel rails.
The kitchen features a fully equipped kitchen, including dishwasher, microwave, fridge and freezer combo, kettle and toaster. There is crockery, cutlery and glassware for your usage during the duration of your stay. There is a house-keeper service but note they are not available during public holidays and/or weekends. Please ensure that you clarify this upon booking. Towels are supplied and replaced even if the housekeepers are not on duty for the day. There is a washing machine and tumble dryer fitted in the apartment should you wish to do your own laundry.
The apartment includes a dining table located conveniently next to the kitchen which can seat 8 guests. We found this most helpful especially on the evenings we wanted to stay in and have dinner.
Located in view of the dining area is the lounge. The couches are comfortable with a large tv. There is Dstv and a dvd player in the cabinet.
There is central air conditioning throughout the apartment, but it really wasn’t necessary as the space allows for airflow.
Penrith offers one of the best views of the Marina with direct access to the Waterfront via the Pedestrian walk-way. There are 2 secure parking bays (undercover) with 24 hour security.
The most magnificent part of our stay at Penrith was waking up to the sound of seals on the deck one morning! We all rushed outside to watch them, to the delight of the children. The outdoor dining area is perfect for a lazy morning in with beautiful views of the Waterfront and a great way to soak up the atmosphere of the Marina.
I would recommend booking at least 2 additional days (we were there for 8 days) just to stay in and laze about on the deck overlooking the Marina. Take plenty of reading material, lounge-wear and order in – it might possibly be the best holiday you’ve ever experienced in Cape Town!
Eating Out (or in)!
I decided to bring alot of my own food on holiday. I know that many of you would say that that’s not a proper holiday but we were away abroad before getting into Cape Town and we were already tired of take-outs! We opted to dine in mostly for breakfast and a few dinners, and usually picked up whatever we found along the way (would you believe that I had my first Simply Asia experience in Cape Town!). Because the apartment was fitted with a stove, microwave, fridge and freezer, we could afford ourselves the luxury of eating in and cooking in for younger children who sometimes prefer just a fried egg or cereal for breakfast. For larger families, this is also a more affordable way to travel.
As one does when one visits Cape Town, we headed out to Hout Bay for traditional Cape-style Fish and Chips. Fish on the Rocks is a great spot to enjoy snoek and chips with the Atlantic Ocean just in front of you. Serving traditional fried fish with a few grilled options on the menu, Fish on the Rocks is a great stop-over for a day of tourist-ing in Cape Town. A reader recommended simply ‘enjoying the fish on the rocks and boulders;, however there is proper seating should you require it. Don’t go with any expectations and you will have a great time (some online complaints about the smell – darlings, it’s the Atlantic and the smell that hovers in the area is from Seal island nearby!). Location: No.1, Harbour Road, Hout Bay, Cape Town, Western Cape 7872, South Africa.
After much online fuss about The Creamery, we decided to find it one Sunday morning. What’s better than ice-cream at The Creamery? Ice-cream on dessert! Even at 1130am on a slow-Sunday, one can expect orders of waffles and ice-cream desserts being ordered by the patrons. Expect to see a crowd of friends with laid back clothing, cyclists in gear and families with children. Seating is limited, but that hasn’t deterred anyone from propping themselves onto the stools provided inside and outside on the pavement. My fave part about The Creamery? The relaxed atmosphere with a no-fuss approach to Ice-cream Sundays. And the crisp waffles topped with Bruleed Banana and Peanut butter ice-cream ain’t too bad either! Location: Shop 4, Newlands Quarter Dean Street, Newlands
If you’re in the mood for some really good cake and coffee at the V&A, Myatt offers gourmet sandwiches, light meals and pastries, including macarons. The trendy ambiance perfectly complements the style and presentation of the many popular desserts on offer and it’s Halaal (for Muslim patrons). They also offer a take-away service, so you can enjoy your cake at home too. I’m not a fan of cheesecake, but the Oreo cheesecake at Myatt was superb – go back if only it is to try this! Readers have shared their favourites on my Instagram account; Hawa said that ‘their honey and saffron macaroon are great’ and Nerosha commented that the ‘burgers, especially the chicken ones are delicious’. Location: Shop No. 6244, Upper Level, Victoria Wharf.
The Tasha’s franchise requires very little introduction in South Africa and Dubai. If you’re familiar with the brand, you will know that everything that they make or bake or cook is on another level of fantastic! I couldn’t care less about what the ice-cream tasted like at Tasha’s Waffle House in Constantia. If the pastel decor was anything to go by, I was certain that it would be good. And creamy, as ice-cream should be. I’m still swooning over the pastel tiles, coordinated umbrellas and all the soft hues of Tasha’s branding dotted all over the place. I’ve judged this book by it’s cover and boy was the content soft, and swirly and full of yumminess! I love the range of imported sweeties that’s used as a back-drop, the little glass jars filled with toppings and the old-fashioned parlour-style atmosphere. If you have little kids, consider having them share the waffles and treat yourself to a full one if you’re feeling greedy! Location: Shop 55, Constantia Village, Constantia Main Road and Spaanshemat River Road, Constantia, Cape Town.
The V&A Food Market often tends to get overlooked only because it’s not in direct view of the V&A Waterfront itself. We only managed to find it because we were looking for Woodies – it’s the ONE place that every Joburger insists that you try! (It’s unfortunate for me that I don’t eat beef, so I can’t offer a personal opinion on how great they all say it is.) But can we take a moment to discuss just how fantastic the building looks inside and just how much of Cape Town has been put into how it feels when you walk in! I love that there’s something for everyone and you could make an entire afternoon of it by browsing the numerous delicious artisanal street food stands serving a wonderful array of tastes within an authentic market environment. Location: On the outside of the V&A in a building that looks somewhat like a shed! TheV&A Food Market is located on Dock Road at the V&A Waterfront near Nobel Square
Saajida Akabor lists her top 15 Halaal Spots in Cape Town on her blog Iridescent Lane
Read though some of the comments which offer recommendations from her readers for other places to try out.
If you have kids, what’s there to do?
Cape Town has some of the best indoor and outdoor activities for children across all age groups. Most of the tourist spots cater specifically for kids ensuring that they learn as they play. Here are some of the places that we visited during our stay.
The Two Oceans Aquarium:
Located at Dock Road at the V&A Waterfront, it’s location makes it ideal for an afternoon out with the kids after having lunch at the V&A. Our kids were 2, 4 and 6 years old at the time and there was something for each of them to enjoy. Aside from exploring the exhibits, there is a penguin encounter activity where you can watch the penguins being fed. The twins especially enjoyed the touch pool where they could pick up, touch and feel a variety of marine animals and plants. Tahani enjoyed the activity area where she was able to colour and do a series of arts and crafts which were all related to the ocean. If you buy your tickets online you can qualify for a special rate. This is especially helpful if you are traveling in a large group.
Bugz Play Park
We spent almost an entire day at Bugz Play Park as all the activities were very young-child centered. Located on the property are two large sandpit areas with colourful jungle gyms, slides, swings, play houses, tree houses, a castle and obstacles to crawl under or climb over. Pricing works on a ‘token’ system, but if you buy the VIP pass, it includes the entrance fee as well as unlimited Token Rides. The only exclusion on the VIP pass is the petting zoo (An additional R15) It’s a fun way to let little kids feed and care for tame, delightful animals, like goats, tortoises, bunnies, geese, ducks, guinea pigs and parrots. The play areas are huge and there was hardly any queue for the rides/activities. There’s a garden nursery next door if you have older people with you who would prefer to look through the plants instead. Location: Bugz Playpark
The Table Mountain Cableway
One of the most frequented places in Cape Town for locals, and tourists alike is the Table Mountain Cableway. Guests can enjoy panoramic views and there are activities for visitors of all ages. Here’s a list of things to do:
- Take the five-minute cable car trip to the top of Table Mountain, 1 089 metres above Cape Town, and explore the summit. There’s a passenger limit of 65 people per car.
- There’s a self-service restaurant, Table Mountain Café, offering a range of food and drinks, snacks and desserts.
- This is a great spot to sit and soak up the commanding 360-degree views of Cape Town, Table Bay, the nearby peaks of the surrounding mountains and the rest of the Table Mountain National Park, in which the Cableway is situated.
- Hit one of three hiking trails that start at the Upper Cable Station and explore the summit further.
- Thirty-minute guided tours happen on the hour from 09:00 to 15:00 daily, departing from the Twelve Apostles Terrace (below the Café). These are free, family-friendly walks conducted by our staff, who will share the story of Table Mountain and the Cableway, and provide any assistance you may require.
- Check out the Special Offers and take advantage of the half-price Sunset Special. There’s no better place to watch a beautiful African sunset than from the top of Table Mountain.
- If you are feeling adventurous, you could abseil down a cliff face with Abseil Africa.
Most importantly, check the website before getting there. It is updated daily with news of what the weather is like and whether the services are operational (sometimes cancelled on the day due to bad weather). The mountain is stroller-friendly but I recommend leaving yours behind if possible. The kids were exhausted after some time, so we made our way down after they had enjoyed the view. The mountain is always busy, so expect delays in getting up and down.
The Cape Wheel at the V&A Waterfront
The Cape Wheel is a giant observation wheel that offers a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of Cape Town from the iconic and vibrant V&A Waterfront precinct. From your cabin, you can expect to see Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Town City skyline, Paarl Mountains, and the Cape Town Stadium. The Cape Wheel offers 30 fully enclosed air conditioned cabins that will take you 40 metres above the ground on the 12 – 15 minute, 4 revolution ride. I recommend doing this towards the later part of the day, as its great to watch the sun go down. The kids were very excited to get that high up and it’s recommended as something to do with young children. For additional details and where to locate them click on: The Cape Wheel
If you’re looking for more options, have a look at Cape Town Magazine’s recommendations on 50 Things to do with kids in Cape Town.
The Spa at The One & Only Cape Town
Mohamed and I decided to spend one of the cooler Cape evenings at The Spa at The One & Only Hotel. The Spa offers the most indulgent menu of pampering therapies ranging from traditional massage to individualised curated spa journeys. With the correct combination of treatments, the Spa can leave you relaxed, rivitalised or both! I especially appreciated their selection of tea and canapes which were complimentary to all guests. The relaxation area was also very comforting after a Spa treatment. Contact them for bookings or to request a brochure: The Spa at The One&Only Cape Town
Here are a few sites that I recommend for additional information on touring Cape Town Trust me, do them ALL!
Be sure to get ice-cream, a change of clothes and watch the sunset in Camp’s Bay before you head home. And when you board the plane, make a list of all the words that make Cape Town special to you.