Many people consider the Western Cape to be South Africa’s most beautiful region which can be easily explored from Cape Town—offering world-class luxury self-catering holiday rentals with breathtaking sea and sunset views—as the home base for your holiday.
1. Table Mountain
We start our list with a drumroll for this mother of a mountain in Cape Town. It is one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature. Hike up or take the Table Mountain Cableway to enjoy views of the entire Cape Peninsula and beyond.
The most colourful of Cape Town suburbs, the Bo-Kaap is a multicultural area steeped in history and is perched on the eastern side of Signal Hill. Its cobblestoned streets show off brightly coloured houses – some dating back to the seventeenth century. Many beautiful Muslim mosques and Muslim saint shrines can be found here.
3. Lion’s Head
If you fancy reaching great heights, a hike up Lion’s Head in Cape Town is a must. It should take you an hour or two and you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the entire Cape Peninsula and over the Atlantic Ocean. Full moon walks are also very popular and add to the magic of experiencing this amazing mountain, which forms part of the Table Mountain range.
4. V&A Waterfront
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a shopping, entertainment, accommodation, historic and nautical venue all in one and is situated in the heart of the Cape Town harbour. A visit to the Waterfront is a must-do on every visitor’s itinerary.
5. Robben Island
Seen as a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, this tiny island just off the Cape Town coast, which used to house political prisoners, is a South African National Heritage Site as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourists can visit this island where the iconic Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years’ incarceration.
6. Atlantic Seaboard
Enjoy the spoils of Atlantic Seaboard suburbs such as Sea Point, Clifton and Camps Bay where beautiful beaches, the Sea Point Promenade, cocktail bars and restaurants are at the order of the day.
7. Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chappies is a famous coastal road which runs along the Atlantic ocean and connects the Atlantic Seaboard with what is known as the “Republic of Hout Bay”.
8. Hout Bay
This residential area of Hout Bay has one of the most active fishing harbours in South Africa and features beaches, restaurants, and markets for visitors to enjoy.
Experience this interesting rural haven that features a wide, white sandy beach stretching seven kilometres along the coast. Noordhoek is popular spot amongst dog walkers, horse riders, and surfers who enjoy regular whale and dolphin sightings.
10. Cape Point
A Natural World Heritage Site and part of the Table Mountain National Park, Cape Point offers an amazing variety of fauna and flora, along with rugged rocks and sheer cliffs. The meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, you can take the Flying Dutchman Funicular to reach the top, where you can relax in its restaurant with ocean views forever.
11. Boulders Bay
If discovering the habits of the threatened African penguins in their natural habitat is on your list of must do’s, you’d better head to this conservation area to get close and personal with thousands of penguins in this breeding colony.
12. Simon’s Town
South Africa’s first naval town is now a suburb of Cape Town and still houses the South African Navy’s fleet. The nautical museum adds interest to this beautiful and laid-back suburb.
A lovely seaside suburb that is popular amongst visitors thanks to its inviting beach and warmer Indian ocean water.
14. Kalk Bay
If anything quaint and interesting tickles your fancy, a visit to Kalk Bay is a must where you can browse through tiny shops and art galleries and enjoy meals in the friendly harbour setting.
Surfers visiting Cape Town can head directly to Muizenberg to immerse themselves in the big wave vibe.
16. Groot Constantia
Simon van der Stel established South Africa’s very first wine farm after receiving the title deed for this farm back in 1685. The rest, as they say, is history. Visitors are welcome to taste wine, dine and amble around this historical winery.
The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is said to be the most beautiful garden in Africa and is set against the Eastern slope of Table Mountain. The Cape Floristic Region, with Kirstenbosch at its heart, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
18. Century City
This area close to the airport houses office parks, Ratanga Junction theme park that has more than 30 attractions on offer, including 23 rides ranging from Kids Rides to Family Rides and Thrill Rides for the more intrepid adventurers. It is also home to Intaka Island wetland bird sanctuary and educational centre, and a stunning shopping complex, Canal Walk.
For the most iconic view of Cape Town and Table Mountain, a visit to Boubergstrand is a must. This Cape Town suburb is 15km north of the city centre. The name Bloubergstrand literally means “blue mountain beach” and is a popular surf spot and also great for long sunset walks along the beach.
20. Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelands begins within an easy 30-minute drive from Cape Town and comprises a vast area from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek, Paarl and Wellington, Tulbagh, Ceres, Worcester, Robertson, Bonnievale and Montagu. Apart from being able to taste a wide variety of South African wines from boutique wineries to large scale wine producers, visitors can also delight in the varied and exquisite natural beauty, showcasing mountains, vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture.
This picturesque student town is also the wine capital of South Africa. Wine lovers can choose any one or more of a large number of welcoming wine farms to visit for a tasting and lunch – from boutique wineries to large scale producers. Nearby Jonkershoek Nature Reserve offers numerous hiking tracks which give visitors the opportunity to view endemic fauna and flora in the spectacular mountainous environment.
Not only is the town of Franschhoek known as one of the five loveliest in the world, but it has also made it on the Wine Enthusiast’s list of the top 10 wine destinations in the world. It is widely known as the culinary capital of the country and should be on top of the list of food and wine lovers to visit.
The pretty town of Paarl derived its name from large granite rocks which shine in the sun to resemble a huge pearl in the sky. Just outside Paarl is the Drakenstein Prison, where Nelson Mandela spent his last years of captivity and from which he completed his “long walk to freedom”. The Afrikaans Language Monument on Paarl Mountain acknowledges the influence of a variety of languages on the development of Afrikaans, namely Dutch, Malay, Malay-Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, English, and the indigenous Khoi and African languages.
More French Huguenots settled in Wellington than anywhere else in the Cape. Previously known as Val du Charron, this town offers award-winning wines, table grapes, buchu, olives, deciduous fruit and fine brandy. It’s also home to South Africa’s sole (and international award winning) whiskey producer. The historic and beautiful Bain’s Kloof Pass is the perfect spot for hikers and adventure seekers.
26. Riebeek Valley
Within 45 minutes from Cape Town, there is always an event, market or something happening in the trendy Riebeek Valley, home to the quaint villages of Riebeek West, Riebeek Kasteel, Riebeeksrivier, and Hermon. The dramatic Kasteelberg mountain provides the backdrop to these small towns with their wheatfields, vineyards, and olive groves.
When you leave the dreamy green Winelands to head towards the West Coast, not only does the vegetation change but you will also feel a change in the general ambiance. Drive towards Darling where you will find yourself between rolling hills, dusty roads, and windpumps. The little town of Darling is quite a find. It is a place where arts and crafts flourishes and its top export product is Evita Bezuidenhout – the most famous white woman in South Africa. Visit Evita se Perron – a lively cabaret venue and restaurant where you can meet, eat, drink and talk, with humour and enjoyment as the primary aims.
28. West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park is a small, protected coastal park where visitors can get up close to large antelope such as Eland but also view ostriches and large flocks of flamingos fishing in the Langebaan lagoon with its azure waters. Rare fynbos, green wetlands, and unbounded waves are the backdrop against which visitors can make the most of the great outdoors.
The charm of this tiny West Coast fishing village will not escape discerning visitors, who can feast on locally harvested fresh lobster at any of a number of quaint restaurants. It features an icy cold, wave-free Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean vegetation so typical of the West Coast region.
The Cederberg region offers astonishingly beautiful rugged mountains that reveal delicate Bushman rock art and clear rock pools where one can cool down. With its exceptional botanical diversity, the Cederberg also forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and it is here where farmers cultivate the famous and healthy rooibos tea among the twisted rock formations. The towns of Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, missionary villages Wupperthal and Elandskloof situated within these magnificent mountains and coastal towns of Lambertsbaai and Elandsbaai form part of this unique region.
This region, which is bigger than California, stretches alongside the northern parts of the West Coast up to the Namibian border. It is best known for annually creating the world’s largest garden display of billions of flowers that spring up from the otherwise arid landscape, colouring the world in a spectrum of spring hues from the end of July through to the end of September. This should be on every visitor’s wish list to see.
32. Somerset West
The historic village of Somerset West in the Helderberg basin, a mere 45 minutes from Cape Town, is best known for its scenic beauty, combining Indian ocean views with majestic mountains. A wide variety of endemic flora and fauna, award-winning wine, fruit, and food can be found here.
33. Sir Lowry’s pass
If you want to travel across the Hottentots-Holland mountain range on the N2 highway, the road takes you over Sir Lowry’s pass and into the Overberg region. Named after Sir Lowry Cole, the Governor of the Cape Colony in 1830 when the new pass was first opened, it is the gateway to the Garden Route. Once you’ve reached its summit you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and Table Mountain.
34. Orchards of Elgin
The beautiful Elgin valley is where most of South Africa’s apples and pears are grown. Apart from its country pantry status (it’s also a good wine-making region), Elgin also offers amazing terrain for adventure seekers – be it mountain bikers, hikers or trail runners.
This oak-lined and picturesque village is characterised by Cape Vernacular architecture and combines old-world charm with modern conveniences. The village still features its original leiwater (irrigation) system of street furrows, a town kraal and dipping tank (for livestock), a blacksmith’s house and forge, the school’s boarding house and the extensive public commonage. Visit Greyton if you’re looking for a peaceful, artistic retreat.
Head over to the southern coast of the Western Cape to spend time in the whale watching capital, Hermanus. Busting and busy, Hermanus has several great beaches on offer in and around town and lots of shops and restaurants. Hermanus annually hosts the Whale Festival in September, where apart from spotting calving and frolicking Southern Right whales, visitors can also enjoy a whale of a time.
37. Walker Bay
The Walker Bay area towards the east of Hermanus is a great spot for nature lovers, where natural beauty makes day visitors catch their breath along the 17km rocky and sandy coastline of the Walker Bay Nature Reserve. Visitors can enjoy a variety of day hikes, while angling, swimming and picnicking are also on offer here. Walker Bay stretches from the Klein River estuary to De Kelders, where some of the oldest remains of modern man dating back to some 65 000 to 85 000 years ago were found in Klipgat Cave.
This lovely historic village in the Overberg offers magnificent mountain views with the Klein River running through it. The village offers plenty of interesting antique stores, restaurants, vineyards and coffee shops and adventure-seekers will not be disappointed with activities including horse riding, boat cruises, hikes, bird watching and even Great White Shark Cage diving within easy reach. Stanford is a popular wedding destination with its magical wooded glens fringed by trees and canopies, a village green with a rustic old church and lots of interesting photo backdrops.
39. De Hoop
The De Hoop nature reserve and marine protected area is just east of Cape Agullas, a rocky headland which marks the geographic southern tip of Africa and the beginning of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Far away from the city lights, visit De Hoop for stunning outdoor activities (including biking and hiking) and whale watching. This nature reserve with its fynbos vegetation forms part of the world’s smallest and most threatened plant kingdom – the Cape Floral Kingdom.
40. Garden Route
The Overberg area continues along the N2 into the Garden Route – an extraordinary region, blessed with a mild climate, year-round rainfall, and unique vegetation. One of the features of the Garden Route is the Outeniqua Mountain Pass between George and Oudtshoorn, which is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful railway passes. If you cannot do it by rail, the road linking the towns will expose you to some of the scenic beauty of the area. Visitors who travel along the Garden Route will discover many of its gems along the way, including the stunning coastal town of Wilderness on the Kaaiman’s River.
In the heart of the Garden Route, visitors will find the unique town of Knysna. This quaint town was first established by farmers in 1760. An important discovery of a golden nugget in the Karatara River in 1878 market the start of the Millwood Gold Rush and Millwood was declared the first gold field in South Africa. When the mining industry in the area collapsed, Knysna’s timber industry was established, benefitting from the rich ancient forests which mark the area. The town is primarily built on the northern shore of a large warm-water estuary known as the Knysna Lagoon, which is fed by the Knysna River.
42. Plettenberg Bay
Its beautiful bays, white sandy beaches, and reputation of the place to be seen make Plett one of South Africa’s top seaside destinations on the Garden Route. Don’t miss a hike around Robberg, which juts out to sea and offers magnificent sea and land views.
Travelling inland from Plett, visitors will reach the town of Oudtshoorn – where South Africa’s ostrich palaces from a bygone era can still be seen. Today, visitors can still get up close and personal with these extraordinary birds at any of a number of ostrich farms open to the public, or you can treat yourself to garments and accessories made from real ostrich leather. The Cango Caves, 29km from Oudtshoorn, provides a view into the spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo. These caves are situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the well known Swartberg Mountains. Visitors can explore some of the finest dripstone caverns, with their vast halls and towering formations.
44. Prince Albert
From Oudtshoorn, visitors who want to experience the “Klein Karoo” (little Karoo) will not be disappointed when they travel north to visit Prince Albert. This village is a gem and offers art galleries, restaurants, a fantastic Guernsey dairy and even its own theatre. It is the closest town to the famous Swartberg Pass, which is considered as one of the most spectacular and breathtaking passes in Africa.
45. The Hell
Did you know you can literally go to hell without breathing out your last breath? No visit to the ‘Klein Karoo’ is complete without going to The Hell (and back!). The road to Gamkaskloof, known as “The Hell”, is accessed from the peak of the Swartberg Pass. Visitors can experience the unique cultural heritage protected within the Swartberg Nature Reserve.
46. Route 62
Take the famous Route 62 to experience the hospitality and wonderful fruits and wines of areas such as Calitzdorp (South Africa’s fortified wine “Port” capital), Barrydale, Montague and Robertson. Along the route, there is no less than 70 wine farms, of which 11 are specialist brandy cellars.
Ceres is the fruit bowl of the Western Cape, known for delicious deciduous fruits; dried fruit; fruit juice and spring water. This scenic and fertile valley offers adventure lovers an array of outdoor activities. Its Matroosberg mountains transform into a snow-capped winter wonderland which had earned it the local title of “Little Switzerland”. Visit the quaint Prince Alfred Hamlet in the valley before bracing yourself for a trip to the remote Tankwa Karoo and Koue Bokkeveld area.
48. Tankwa Karoo
Take on the dusty roads of the vast Tankwa Karoo, where time and distances are stretched. This area has an ancient heartbeat and was first inhabited by the San and Khoi thousands of years ago. It offers one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Africa. A visit to the Tankwa Karoo National Park will reveal gemsbok and red hartebeest on the arid plains. Once a year in April, the Tankwa Karoo becomes the place to be when the spectacular AfrikaBurn festival creates a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music, and performance.
With its reputation as the coldest town in South Africa, Sutherland has also become famous amongst visitors for its warm hospitality, starlit nights and dramatic landscapes. This small Karoo town has a fascinating history and also has an observatory that houses the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
Step back in time to visit the small Victorian village of Matjiesfontein, an important train stop for weary travellers in the Great Karoo. Steeped in the history of the early Karoo, the Anglo-Boer War and the England of Queen Victoria, a visit to Matjiesfontein is the perfect setting to relax, relish in ghost stories and tales from bygone days.