Skip Navigation

Western Cape

Travel Guide Africa South Africa Western Cape

edit

Introduction

Western Cape

Western Cape

© All Rights Reserved SAfrica

The Western Cape is a province in the southwest of South Africa. It is one of the most popular provinces among travellers, not in the last place because of the splendid location of Cape Town and the nearby wine region at Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. To add, it has stunning coastlines and beaches, fantastic mountains and the wide open spaces of the Karoo to the north and the Cape Peninsula in the southwesternmost part. The mix of cities, relaxing and thrilling adventures makes this region a great start to visit South Africa.

Top

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a sheltered sandy beach with large granite boulders that forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. The real pulling point however is the population of penguins that wander the beach and paths. The sea is a bit cool even in summer, but it's worth donning some goggles and jumping in for the opportunity of seeing these graceful swimmers in their natural environment. Access to Boulders Beach is from the town of Simon's Town, about one hour south of Cape Town and costs R45 (price November 2011) per adult. Swimming is an extra R45. The swimming is on Boulders Beach, but the boardwalks leading to most of the penguins is actually on Foxy Beach.

Chapman's Peak Drive

The Chapman's Peak Drive is amongst the most beautiful coastal drives anywhere in the world and certainly can compete with Big Sur in California and the Great Ocean Road in Australia.

Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman's Peak Drive

© All Rights Reserved soupatrvlr


The Chapman's Peak Drive itself is just about 9 kilometres long and is located southwest of Cape Town. It connects the two coastal communities of Hout Bay and Noordhoek. It is part of a much longer and impressive route that winds its way down from Cape Town past the suburbs of Sea Point and Fresnaye to the popular beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay and further down to Llandudno and into Hout Bay. From there the most spectactular part is a 2-3-kilometre-long part past rocky cliffs and beautiful ocean vistas. The road was closed from 1999 to 2003 after a deadly accident and other serious problems. Even nowadays, sometimes the road can be closed, which is signposted well before the drive actually starts and there is an inland detour if you want to avoid paying R31 (about €3 or US$4), which you would spend on fuel instead. The Chapman's Peak Drive is along the M6 which, after Noordhoek, traverses the Cape Peninsula to connect with the M4 south to Simon's Town and the Cape of Good Hope National Park.

Garden Route

Wilderness coastline

Wilderness coastline

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

The Garden Route is a popular scenic drive along a stretch of the southern coastline of South Africa. Although the Garden Route extends into the Western Cape, most of it is actually located in the Eastern Cape: a fantastic drive along the beautiful southern coastline, where ancient forests, surf spots, hiking and bungeejumping can all be combined within days. The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered here and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains are located inland of the coast. The Garden Route is in between the mountains and the Indian Ocean. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma indigenous forests are a unique mixture of Cape fynbos and temperate forest and offer hiking trails and other activities. Nearly 300 species of bird life are to be found in a variety of habitats ranging from fynbos to forest to wetlands and 10 nature reserves protect these biodiverse ecosystems of the area as well as unique marine reserves, home to coral reefs, dolphins, seals and many other forms of aquactic life. Various bays along the Garden Route are breeding grounds of the endangered Southern Right Whale which come there to calve in the winter and spring (July to December).

Robben Island

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island where he spent 17 years.

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island where he spent 17 years.

© All Rights Reserved Yacca

Robben Island, located just off the coast from Cape Town, is famous for being where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during the apartheid period. Some of the tour guides were themselves political prisoners so they have plenty of insight about what went on there. Tours run several times a day, every day, from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (+27 (0)21 413-4200). Tickets can be purchased online as well at the above website. Trips leave at 9:00am, 11:00am and 1:00pm and tours take 3.5 hours including the ferry ride to and from the island. The cost is a rather steep R220.

Route 62/Wine Route

Route 62 is a great alternative to the coastal route (N2) in South Africa's Western Cape. Better known as the Wine Route, it runs partly across some of the best wineries and most fantastic landscapes anywhere in the world. A visit to the wine areas of Wellington, Tulbagh, Worcester, Robertson and the Klein Karoo is possible and it's one of the longest wine routes in the world. Activities along Route 62 include wine tours, safari drives, tribal art, cultural tours, museums, hiking, mountain climbing, 4x4 routes, canoeing, horse riding, ostrich riding, fishing, and caving. The original regional Route 62 runs between Montagu and Humansdorp, but the total route spans a distance of 850 kilometres from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.

Table Mountain National Park

Cape Town

Cape Town

© All Rights Reserved hihoscuba

Table Mountain National Park is located in and near Cape Town, South Africa and was established in 1998, for the purpose of protecting the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain, and in particular the rare fynbos vegetation. The most famous feature of course is the Table Mountain itself: like the 1,000 or so geysers on the world which are named after the Icelandic Geysir, Cape Town's Table Mountain is the grandfather of all table mountains in the world. It towers above the city, while Devil's Peak and Lion's Head tower above the mountain itself. The flat top is about 3 kilometres wide and offers tremendous views over the city and the ocean. There are only small differences in height on this flat, with the cable car station only 19 metres lower than the highest point. Although in 2 to 3 hours you are able to climb (walk) up to the top, the Table Mountain Cableway takes passengers up and down the mountain, ascending over 700 metres from Table Mountain Road.

Other Sights and Activities

  • For travelers wanting to experience what the Western Cape's wine farms have to offer, a visit to Vrede en Lust is a must. This premier wine estate is situated in the lush Cape Winelands and offers wine tours, wine tasting. Visitors can also simply relax in the luxurious and tranquil surroundings.
  • Another activity visitors to the Western Cape can partake in is a Big 5 Game Drive offered at the Aquila Private Game Reserve, allowing them to enjoy a genuine and authentic wildlife experience.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

World Cup 2010

The big upcoming international event on the South African horizon is the FIFA World Cup beginning on the 11th of June 2010. One of the most prestigious and popular world sporting events, the World Cup 2010 promises to bring throngs of passionate supporters from around the globe. Held once every four years, it's a football tournament (called soccer in South Africa) where 32 world nations vie for the famous golden trophy.

Games in Cape Town will be played at the new Green Point Stadium, which will have a capacity of almost 70,000 once building has been completed.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Cape Town International Airport (CPT) is the main gateway by air to the Western Cape.
South African Express flies between Cape Town and Walvisbaai and Windhoek in Namibia, Gaborone in Botswana and Maputo in Mozambique. KLM flies between Amsterdam and Cape Town directly. Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines fly from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Cape Town as well. The latter has flights onwards to Buenos Aires. Cape Town has flights to Istanbul, Düsseldorf and Munich and from June 2008 to New York as well and several African cities, mainly in the south of the continent.
South African Airways, Sout African Airlink andMango all fly to and from Cape Town from a number of South African cities as well, including Bloemfontein, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg.
If you want to excess the Western Cape in the east, the George Airport (GRJ) has domestic flights to/from Johannesburg and Durban.

To/from the airport

  • Car: The airport is accessible from the N2 freeway, with Airport Approach Road providing a direct link between the N2 (at exit 16) and the airport. The airport can also be indirectly accessed from the R300 freeway via the M12, M10 and M22. The airport has about 1,500 parking places in the general parking area, and 1,750 parking places in the multi-storey parkade located near the domestic terminal. Rental cars are widely available at the airport, with both international and local agencies.
  • Bus: The MyCiTi bus rapid transit system provides a shuttle service connecting the airport with the Civic Centre bus station in the city centre. Buses depart every 20 minutes from 04:20am to 10:00pm.
  • Transport is also provided by metered taxis and various private shuttle companies.

By Train

Shosholoza Meyl is the national railway, with services between Cape Town and several major South African cities. Most of the connections are budget, but there is a Premier Class train between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The main routes are:

  • Cape Town - Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad and Ladysmith, 36 hours, tourist and economy class both once weekly
  • Cape Town - East London via Matjiesfontein, De Aar and Queenstown, 28 hours, economy class only, once weekly
  • Cape Town - Port Elizabeth via Oudtshoorn, 24 hours, premier class only, once weekly
  • Cape Town - Johannesburg via Matjiesfontein and Kimberley and Matjiesfontein, 27 hours, premier class twice weekly, tourist 4 weekly and economy daily.

By Car

If you are coming from Johannesburg or Bloemfontein, take the N1 all the way, those coming from Port Elizabeth along the Garden Route will probably be on the N2. If you are coming down from Namibia, you should take the N7 southbound.
Distances (on main N routes) to other cities to/from Cape Town include:

  • Johannesburg - 1402 kilometres
  • Port Elizabeth - 769 kilometres
  • Durban - 1753 kilometres
  • Bloemfontein - 1004 kilometres
  • East London - 1079 kilometres
  • Kimberley - 968 kilometres
  • Springbok - 550 kilometres (border Namibia 700 kilometres)
  • Pretoria - 1460 kilometres

By Bus

There are many companies offering services to and from Cape Town, but the main operators are Greyhound South Africa, Intercape and Translux. They serve both several international as well as many domestic destinations.

The Baz Bus is a bus where you can hop on and of and is mostly used by backpackers travelling on a budget. They are dropped off at hostels. There are three routes. One is running between Cape Town and Durban.

By Boat

The Royal Mail Ship "Saint Helena" travels regularly between Saint Helena and Ascension Island, Walvis Bay and Cape Town. The schedule is primarily designed to meet the needs of locals and cargo for St. Helena, and thus follows a timetable but not a consistent routing. In general terms, the ship leaves Cape Town once a month, before heading to St. Helena, sometimes via Walvis Bay. From St. Helena it will then run 1 or 2 shuttles to Ascension Island, before returning to Cape Town, again sometimes via Walvis Bay. Occasionally, Cape Town is omitted, and the ship returns to St. Helena directly from Walvis Bay.

For travelling directly to Tristan da Cunha, there are only a few boats a year from Cape Town (and sometimes Namibia). If you are lucky enough though, the trip takes 5 or 6 days and will mean you have to spend months on the island. Tickets roughly cost about 1000 to 1200 US dollar for a return trip. It's best to check the Tristan da Cunha website for details.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Plane

The only noteworthy option is between Cape Town and George.

By Car

If you would like to travel around by car, there are numerous car rental companies available from the airports and downtown locations. Just make sure that you have sufficient insurance to cover you if the need arises. Some of them offer the possibility to reduce excess (the amount you pay when involved in an accident) for a daily fee. Car hire companies include Avis, Imperial, CABS, First Car Rental as well as many other international and local ones. Usually, the local ones are cheaper but don't have the same standard as the international ones, which have more branches throughout the country and therefore are able to help you more quickly if needed.

If travelling by car, be sure to plan your routes carefully to insure that there are sufficient places to fill the tank with petrol as some towns are located quite a distance apart with no filling stations in between. It's a good idea to fill up with fuel when you have about half a tank left if possible.

By Boat

Boats go from Cape Town to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 20 years from 1964 to 1984.

Top

edit

Sleep

Contributors

as well as jongrant (3%), vedette (2%), Peter (2%), Sander (1%), Kieran-M (1%)

Help contribute to this article to share the ad revenue.

Western Cape Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Western Cape

This is version 28. Last edited at 6:29 on Oct 16, 13 by Utrecht. 22 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License