On my last trip to South Africa I mostly stayed in the city center with a brief period in Sea Point on the Atlantic sea front. I generally like to be close to the ocean. Specifically a beach – my lunch time consists of food and a long walk which is my thinking time. This winter I was pulled back to Cape Town and decided to stay in two new areas. The first month in Blouberg and then the second in Strand on False Bay.
I visited Blouberg previously to visit kite-surfing friends. But I left with mixed feeling about the area. For me it had a “wild west” feeling and I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly. Especially the southern end where it borders Table View is just a main road down to the beach with two malls on the way and then some restaurants bunched together. If you go north it’s just a lot of residential with a number of high rises until you get to around Eden on the Bay which again is a hot spot for people to meet. Maybe staying closer to that and the feeling wouldn’t be as strong.
In addition and to my dismay the co-working space I was hoping to work out of had shut down. It had turned itself into a co-living with integrated co-working. This meant it was not accessible anymore for outsiders. I knew this going in and decided to stick to my plan.
I booked an accommodation in Table View about 30min on foot from the beach. Places closer to the beach are more expensive, especially in high season around Christmas. From Table View you can get to the city center using the MyCitybus or by Uber (20minute ride, about 160ZAR/10EUR).
In the Table View / Blouberg area you can walk up from the south (around Sunrise beach where a lot of kite-surfers are) to Eden on the Bay. It’s a nice walk in the sand and takes about 45 minutes.
Where the main road hits the beach road in Blouberg there are some great places to eat. Among my favorites is News Cafe both for breakfast and lunch. On your way north you will come by the Blue Peter Hotel with it’s large terrace which is a favorite tourist destination to see the sunset. And finally up in Eden on Bay you’ll find all the Cape Town standards including Kauai and Primi.
All in all Blouberg left me with the same feeling as last year. It just feels OK, nothing special, and more often than not I was tempted to go back into the city center. If you rent a car you’re more flexible to visit the surroundings. This is generally true if you stay outside of the city center.
A friend and I drove down to Somerset West one day. This is the east coast of False Bay. We drove through Stand and she mentioned this might be a nice place for the second half of my trip. Oh and she was very right. It’s an all over great spot. Only real negative point is that there no co-working space either (or any kind of digital nomad community). Prices for accommodation are great even within 5-10 minutes away from the beach. I lucked out with my accommodation but there are many places on the usual sites and even just strolling down the promenade you’ll see a number of advertisements for holiday flats. Most of Strand is residential and you connect to the N2 motorway in about 10min. In terms of safety I felt just as safe as in Sea Point – possibly even a bit more.
A lot of things are walking distance and a good selection of restaurants and shops. Granted it’s not the city center, but for a month there is enough variation.
The beach is clean, long and safe. The beginning of the public beach is split into a swimming and water sports area with life guards on duty every day. But the beach extends north for quite a while and it’s a nice 30-45min walk to the end one way.
As with Blouberg a car is not necessary but recommended. I did walk to the Somerset West mall which is 45 minutes along the main road. But it raised an eye brow or two with the locals. Cape Town in general is a driving city. Don’t underestimate the distances, but if like me you’re accustomed to walking and aren’t disuaded walking along some stretches of road without a pathway, then you can explore quite far. In the end I rented a car for two weekends from the local AVIS station (also available at the Airport) for about 10 EUR per day.
Note: I once again mention Car Hire Excess insurance as an invaluable investment. I was a bit unlucky this time. My first rental was probably hit by a shopping cart somewhere in the city and I had to pay the excess. (To be fair AVIS charged a reasonable price for the repair, nothing compare to the ridiculous charges of the rental companies in Malaga). On my second rental the emergency triangle was missing when I brought it back. Here the rental company ended up not charging me after I argued we had never looked into the boot on pickup. Keep in mind: take pictures when you pick up a car, look in the boot for triangle and first aid kit. And let the attendant note down all damages you see. Clarify what “minor” damages are exactly and get it in writing. Have excess insurance just in case. The cost for my yearly worldwide coverage is already worth it based on the shopping cart incident.
Cape Town is a town for foodies. This is especially true for the city center, but there are also some great places around the suburbs. Some of my most visited:
News Cafe, Blouberg: My go-to place in Blouberg for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Secret tip: go upstairs out on the balcony to get the best view of table mountain.
Burger and Lobster, City Center: As the name suggest only two types of food but a large selection of drinks. But great to visit at the beginning of a night out on Bree street.
Surfside Restaurant, Strand: apparently this restaurant has been here for decades and a hotspot for the pensioner’s lunch and sunday roast. The food is average and the interior design needs a revamp, but the view is spectacular. You’re sitting over the waves. Great lunch deals.
Ben’s on the Beach, Strand: Slightly higher prices, but terrific food and service. Get here early or reserve a table. Try the Dutch Bitterbalen as an appetizer. If you’re hungry continue with the Creamy Lemon and Herb chicken which could easily feed two people.
Ciao Bella, Strand: Best Pizza in Strand hands down. Just don’t make the mistake I made on my first visit and order the grande. That’s more like family size in Europe.
Grace Haven, Strand: Can’t get more value for money than here. Full English breakfast for around 50 ZAR and tasty! Also similar priced lunch deals.
Thirsty Scarecrow, Stellenbosch: Stop by in between wine tastings at this establishment for a great lunch. Look over the strawberry fields with unique art pieces everywhere.
Other quick mentions (some of which I’ve covered before):
- The V&A food market, wide selection
- Vovo Telo, best place for breakfast after a Kayaking tour with Atlantic Outlook.
- Mugg and Bean, many locations around Cape Town (best place to grab a quick scone and free refills on some coffees and teas)
- Mitchell’s Brewery, V&A Waterfront: Lunch, Dinner or Drinks at reasonable prices for V&A.
- Yaeli’s Bistro, Somerset Mall: Quick panini lunch
- Ocean Basket, Strand: Fusion Sushi is my favorite.
When in South Africa you can’t leave without doing at least one day of wine tasting. After visiting Constantia last time, this time I was treated to the Stellenbosch wine farms.
Asara: Situated in a beautiful estate in Stellenbosch, this winery has a cabinet full of awards. My favorite wine here was the Avalon. By coincidence I realized it had won the 2018 AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge. Priced at 100 EUR a bottle it’s best saved for special occasions, but you can have a tasting of this award winner for a reasonable price. Also on the estate is one of the best stocked Gin bars I’ve encountered. Take your time getting a recommendation and making your choice.
Hidden Valley Wines: We landed here by accident after intending to visit a winery further up the road. But it turned out to be a great mistake. A great view over the wine lands from the hillside and a wonderful wine/chocolate pairing.
West Coast National Park: A wonderful lagoon in the middle of a national park. Hike or just relax on the sandy beaches that let you stroll far into the water. Favorite spot for Capetonians too, so you might have to wait in line to use the Braii (BBQ) stations.
Cheetah Outreach: Around 30 minutes walk west of Strand you’ll get to Paardevlei. A development area around a lake and nature sanctuary. Walk past the stylish offices and new (and expensive looking) housing developments and you’ll reach the Cheetah center. The entrance fee is negligable if you just want to go in, stroll around and see the animals from behind the fence. You pay a bit more if you want to actually go into the cages and stroke on of the animals (with the keeper obviously). But just seeing them through the mesh fence was a great experience too. The playful creatures just suddenly jumped up and sprinted across the large field, cutting some of the visitor interactions a bit short. Also on site are other species like tortoises, meercats and more. Especially interesting for me where the four large dogs trained to protect cattle from the wild cheetahs. A much less brutal method of protecting livestock compare to what many farmers use as an alternative.
Atlantic Outlook: I can’t be in the mother city without visiting the crew at Atlantic Outlook and getting up close with dolphins. Despite being too early for whale season I was treated with a family of three Southern Right Whales on one of my trips. The baby whale certainly had fun playing with us. My review on trip advisor says it all.
After your tour head to Vovo Telo in V&A or visit the market next door:
Oranjezicht Farmers Market: Now open both on Saturday and Sunday morning you still need to take your time when visiting as it is a hot spot for tourists and local alike. Get fresh produce, sweet snacks or have breakfast and lunch in the large garden area.
Kalk Bay: Often overlooked on the drive down to the Cape National Park the towns on the west side of False Bay are charming. Stop by to visit the rock pools for a swim or any of the cute restaurants and cafes.
Boulders Beach: You’ve most probably heard of this penguin experience long before arriving in Cape Town. But there are actually three places even though most tourist buses only stop at the colony viewing places. Go to the Boulders Beach national park area for up close encounters with the fluffy friends (but please respect them and keep your distance). Entry here is more expensive for tourists (150 ZAR) than the colony, but you can spend the day at the beach too. Beware though the beach is small, but you can crawl through and over some boulders to get to other areas. Last but not least you can actually park there but just turn around and follow the path in the other direction. The parking attendant will show you. There you can enjoy a free experience with penguin encounters if you’re lucky.
Cape Town has a magical pull on me and there is still so much to see and explore. Staying further away from the city center as its advantages and disadvantages. If you stay for more than a month I would seriously recommend staying at least half of the time outside town to experience a quieter Cape Town. Until next time: Baie Dankie!