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FFrom beautiful beaches to exquisite scenery and exploring the ways of the early Khoisan, the Western Cape has a lot more to offer incentive tourists than just Cape Town and the winelands. The Garden Route offers beaches, lakes, lagoons and forests, golf estates, sea sports and cultural attractions.
Cape Town’s Table Mountain is the dramatic backdrop to one of the world’s top destinations. A sunset dinner on the top of Table Mountain is hard to beat, with a panoramic 360-degree view of the city and the rugged Cape Peninsula.
Table Mountain also provides numerous trails for walking and hiking and, for the more adventurous, there is rock climbing or paragliding.
The mountain is accessible via a high-tech rotating cable car or by various hiking routes. Along the way you can enjoy the species of plant life and the scenery which makes the Table Mountain National Park part of the Western Cape’s Floral Kingdom – 1 of South Africa’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Robben Island and Historic Attractions
Situated some 12 km from Cape Town harbour, Robben Island is the notorious prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years in jail. You can visit the prison and tour the island and pay homage to the great struggle heroes of the past.
Other notable historic attractions in Cape Town include the District Six Museum, which highlights forced removals under the apartheid regime; the Bo-Kaap Museum – a tribute to the Cape Malay culture; and the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving colonial building in Africa.
The Whale Coast
The Sensational Whale Coast stretches from the hamlet of Rooiels in the west to Quoin Point in the east and is flanked by ocean and mountain views. A major highlight is the sighting of the southern right whales that takes place between June and November. If you’re visiting us at the end of September, don’t miss the Whale Festival that takes place annually in Hermanus.
The Cape Winelands
While the verdant valleys of the Cape Winelands can be reached on a day-trip from Cape Town, they are also a wonderful location for a longer getaway.
This is an area of majestic mountains, spectacular passes, the historic towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschoek, and gracious Cape Dutch wine estates dating back to the 17th century.
There are 13 wine routes in the Western Cape with over 2 000 varieties of wine to taste. Enjoy one of the many superb restaurants located at some of the country’s finest estates and, if you’re in the mood for something different, you can tread grapes and blend your own wine (great for team-building).
The Klein Karoo and Central Karoo
Don’t be fooled by the dryness of the Klein Karoo and Central Karoo – under these infinite skies there’s much archaeology, wildlife, architecture and some of the most impressive mountain passes. The Cango Caves outside Oudtshoorn drip with stalagtites and stalagmites, while the ostrich palaces located on farms have retained their yesteryear elegance.
Vin de Constance
In the early 19th century the wine of Constantia reached the height of its fame. Kings vied for possession of it; Louis Philippe sent emissaries from France to fetch it; and Napoleon drank it on the island of St Helena, finding solace in his lonely exile.
Make sure to visit Groot Constantia, the oldest wine-producing farm in South Africa and one of the prettiest.
The Garden Route
Up the south-east coast runs the aptly named Garden Route, incorporating Mossel Bay, Sedgefield, George, Wilderness, Plettenberg Bay and Knysna.
It’s a veritable Eden, edge-to edge in beaches, lakes, lagoons and forests, mixed with magnificent golf estates and cultural attractions and sprinkled liberally with thrills like bungee jumping, deep-sea fishing and sea kayaking.
You’ll find the Outeniqua Hiking Trail, The Otter Trail and the Dolphin Trail in the lush Garden Route National Park and, if you’re in the mood for adventure, why not jump off the highest commercial bungee jump in the world?
You can enjoy ocean encounters and ecological adventures at Plettenberg Bay with miles of sparkling beaches set next to the green swathes of polo fields. Here you can view bottlenose and the rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, as well as some shark species.
From Arch Rock you head into the middle of the Bay where pelagic seabirds are normally to be found some 7km from the shore. Out there our resident Bryde's whales may be seen, as well as common dolphins, or southern right and humpback whales in season.
The West Coast
On the West Coast, walk the pathways of the early Khoisan, who left their signatures in hundreds of rock paintings, particularly in the rugged Cederberg mountain range. At the West Coast Fossil Park (a 90-minute drive from Cape Town) there’s a rich find of animal fossils.
About mid-year, depending on the rains, the region breaks into a field of daisies, proteas and shrubs as the flower season starts. Also remember, the West Coast is renowned for exquisite seafood including prawns, crayfish and calamari.
Western Cape highlights at a glance:
- Cape Town’s Long Street for after-hours fun
- Table Mountain (either by aerial cableway or on foot)
- Superb beaches – Clifton, Camps Bay, Muizenberg, Boulders
- Robben Island – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The Cape winelands for a wine-tasting safari
- Whale watching in the Overberg
- The West Coast National Park
- The Garden Route – spectacular natural beauty
- The V&A Waterfront – shop until you drop
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Town & Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)21 487 8600
- Garden Route
- Garden Route and Klein Karoo Tourism
- West Coast Tourism
- Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
- Table Mountain National Park
- Cape Town Tourism
- Cape Town & Western Cape Tourism
- V&A Waterfront
- Cape Winelands Info
- South African National Parks
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