I had often heard that Cape Town is the hidden gem of South Africa. It was only until I actually visited did such a statement make sense. A bustling metropolis surrounded by natural beauty and amazing views, Cape Town captures you and never leaves you. You can stand at the top of Table Mountain and get a bird’s-eye view or you could do yourself a favour, hire a car and hit the road.
There’s a wide variety of car rental companies at Cape Town Airport. Be sure to have a valid credit card with you as it will be required when picking up your car. An international drivers licence is not essential, however if you already have one it’s a bonus. Getting used to the roads will be easy for Australians as South Africans also drive on the left-hand side and the road rules are identical.
With so much to see and do in Cape Town, you’ll definitely wish for more time. Here are five spots that should be on any Cape Town road trip.
1. Chapman's Peak
This stunning drive is built into the mountain that divides central Cape Town from the tip of the African continent. A 37-kilometre drive from central Cape Town, Chapman's Peak is easy to access straight along Victoria Road. Be sure to keep your eyes on the road despite the lovely ocean views that run parallel. The Peak is an engineering marvel boasting some stunning built-in tunnels. There are many opportunities to stop over to the side and take in the view, but no trip is ever complete without a visit to The Look-Out Cave. You will need to ask a local for directions, but the view is worth the little trek.
2. Simon's Town
The home of the South African Royal Navy, Simon's Town is a little town steeped in history and offering much to explore. Many of the buildings in this town have been standing for decades and the local council has done a great job ensuring they have been looked after and well maintained. The town’s history has been brilliantly captured in its present day, maintaining its charm and relaxed atmosphere. The main reason for the 44-kilometre trip from central Cape Town to Simon's Town is a visit to Boulders Beach to spend quality time with the most popular natives, the African penguins. The cutest locals in town, the penguins are not shy and you'll be forgiven if you do not want to leave.
3. Cape Point
Don’t be put off by the 63-kilometre drive from Cape Town because lying at the tip of the African coastline is the Natural World Heritage Site of Cape Point. Home to over 250 species of bird, plus bucks, varied flora and fauna, Cape Mountain zebra, and the slightly mischievous baboons, Cape Point is a natural and historical must. Used during the Great Wars as the first port of defence, many of the remnants of those times still exist today. As you ascend the mountain on an elevator cart, be sure to have your cameras at the ready. When you reach the top, you’ll have stunning 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean. Those up to the challenge can take the extra one-hour hike to the new lighthouse.
Welcome to the wine centre of South Africa – only 53 kilometres from central Cape Town. The Stellenbosch region is home to some of the best wineries in the world, and the views are not too bad either. Nestled in the middle of the mountainous ranges of Cape Town, Stellenbosch is brimming with lush greenery and fantastic drives. Take the time to visit one of the wine estates in the region to sample the drops on offer. For those not into wine, Polkadraai Farms offers strawberry picking with the same scenic backdrop.
5. Signal Hill
It would be too cliched to say there’s no better way, but Signal Hill really is the best way to experience a sunset in Cape Town. A short seven-kilometre drive from central Cape Town, make sure to arrive a little early as sunset on Signal Hill is a popular time. With Table Mountain and Lion's Head lying just to your left, enjoy the wine and strawberries you picked up in Stellenbosch as you watch the sun dip in to the ocean just behind Robben Island. It’s a view entrenched in beauty that ends the day in the same beauty with which it started. Before you descend to enjoy the nightlife of Cape Town, be sure to take in the view of the city on the other side of the hill.