It’s no secret that Cape Town is a great city to visit. Once again it was voted the top travel destination in the world by TripAdvisor. It’s been named the World Design Capital for 2014 and its centerpiece, Table Mountain, has officially become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. There’s a lot going on here.
But while travel blogs and travel guides may sing their hymns of Camps Bay, Long Street and the V & A Waterfront, there are far more things to do in Cape Town that seem to slip under the radar. Here are ten of the best, most underrated things to do on your next trip to the Mother City.
Skip the high prices of Camps Bay beach and head west to Blouberg. It’s all of a 15 minute drive from the city centre and, once you’re there, you’ll have one of the longest beaches in the country to yourself. Blouberg Beach not only runs uninterrupted for miles, it’s also got that quintessential postcard view of Table Mountain. There’s a paved path that runs most of the way along it that’s perfect for biking, rollerblading or skateboarding. Forget the crowds of Clifton beach, Blouberg is a laid back beach where it’s not uncommon to walk for twenty minutes without seeing anyone else. Small bakeries, restaurants and bars are tucked in here and there and charge half the price of places on the other side of town.
Ok, the wine farms of Cape Town are not exactly a secret. In fact, they’re a major draw for tourists from around the world. But the secret is that visiting a wine farm does not have to be an expensive, tour bus affair. The roads in and around Cape Town are well maintained and renting a car is easy. Once you’re away from the tour guide inflated prices, you’ll find that Cape Town wine farms are cheap to visit. In fact, many of them, especially on your way to Hermanus, are completely free. Others, like Alluvia in Franschhoek subtract the cost of the tasting from any wine bottles that you choose to buy. And you don’t need a guide to show you around. Most wine farms offer complimentary maps of the surrounding farms and will give you honest recommendations on which to visit.
No, not the one in Pennsylvania. In fact, this Philadelphia couldn’t be more different. The tiny farming town of Philadelphia lies just outside of Cape Town – about a half hour’s drive from the center of town. It’s a picture perfect place, surrounded by green rolling hills (that are covered in wild flowers in the spring). It’s also a Mecca for art lovers. The two streets that make up the town are loaded with the work of local artists. The few quirky restaurants serve homemade pancakes and delicious tea. This is the perfect place to spend a weekend morning.
Melkbos is the place to be for seafood lovers, surfers and visitors who want to break from the norm. Melkbos is a small town just west of Cape Town that remains true to its (largely Afrikaanse) South African roots. Instead of hotels and fancy bars, you find seaside-cottages-turned- restaurants. The hugely long beach offers one of the best surf spots in the area. And, it seems impossible to leave without meeting at least half the locals.
Most travel guides will mention Simon’s Town as a great place for lunch after you visit Cape Point. However Simon’s Town is more than just a pass-through spot. Aside from its famous African penguins (which are hot on the tourist map), Simon’s Town is a real, traditional South African town that’s worth visiting for a few days. The little cafes are more than just cute – they’re filled with patrons who have lived in town their whole lives. This is an area of Cape Town that forces you to slow down.
For a city that’s surrounded by the ocean, there aren’t many tourists who come here for the water. That’s because the water in Cape Town is sent up straight from the Arctic. It’s cold. Really cold. But if you can find a wetsuit and brave the waves, you’ll find that Cape Town waters are some of the best in the world for surfing, diving and kite boarding. In fact, Blouberg Beach is considered the world’s best kite boarding spot.
Woodstock is an area in a constant state of change. What was recently a don’t-go-there zone has quickly become a popular place for artists, collectors and coffee drinkers. Aside from the acclaimed Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock can easily keep you entertained with its array of small sandwich shops and espresso bars. It’s also the place to find designer chairs made from old suitcases, lamps made from old typewriters and paper machete sculptures of lion. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Camps Bay in Winter
Camps Bay is a must-see in all travel guides about Cape Town. Problem is, it knows it’s cool. Prices are high, beaches are crowded and there’s an unofficial fancy dress code. But in winter, after most tourists have headed home, a different sort of Camps Bay emerges. This less congested Camps Bay allows you to take in the stunning scenery – the backdrop of the Twelve Apostles Mountains and the front view of the gorgeous sea. It’s a place where the locals come out of hiding (in more casual clothing) and where most of the restaurants along the strip change over to their much less expensive winter menus.
Right in the center of town, conveniently next to a public bus stop, is the Artscape Theatre. From the outside it’s not the most impressive building, but inside you’ll find internationally renowned theatre for next to nothing. You can watch big names like Jesus Christ Superstar and Phantom of the Opera for about R150 (that’s less than $20!). Sure, you could see them at home, but for less than that?
This one’s cheating. Melkbos and Philadelphia might be just outside of Cape Town, but the Cederberg Mountains are a little drive. Still, if you have an extra day, they’re worth it. The Cederberg Mountains begin about an hour outside of Cape Town. They’re a beautiful place to hike, explore and discover real Bushmen paintings. The only other tourists you’ll find there are South Africans, since most international tourists flock to the Drakensberg. This means you will pretty much have the whole place to yourself. There are plenty of places to camp, cottage and even a few luxury resorts scattered around that are just tempting to you to go visit.
Make your next trip to Cape Town one that strays from the beaten path.