13 Amazing Reasons to Visit the Cape of South Africa

The Cape of many colours.

Hands up who loves South Africa? What about The Cape Province? Beautiful, isn’t it?

If South Africa is, as the cliché goes, ‘a world in one country’ then The Cape at Africa’s southernmost tip, could be termed, ‘a world in one Province. I spent 6 years living near Cape Town and as our children grew older we were able to explore the Cape in all it’s diversity.

Why not come with me on a little trip down memory lane … let me take you by the hand … oh and I’d love to know, which of these ‘colourful’ places you’ve been to or would like to visit.

The Cape, South Africa by Jo Castro
From top left. The Cape Malay quarter in Cape Town. Watsonias on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, Somerset West. The pool area at Celtic Manor Guest House and Spa. Cape Town’s harbour and waterfront.

13 amazing reasons to visit the Cape of South Africa 

  • Enjoy cocktails, crustaceans and antique shops– Kalk Bay
  • Attend the new year minstrel carnival, Kaapse Klopse – Cape Town www.sa-venues.com
  • Walk around The Malay Quarter – Cape Town
  • Be amazed at Dassiesfontein Farm Stall, an emporium – N2 leading to Swellendam
  • Get windswept at the Cape Point Nature Reserve – Cape Town
  • Commune with wildlife at the Garden Route Game Lodge  – Garden Route
  • Go Shark Diving and see the Big 5 of the ocean – Franskraal
  • Luxuriate at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve – Gansbaai
  • Walk up Lions Head at sunset – Cape Town
  • Have a picnic at an outdoor summer concert – Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens,  and Paul Cluver amphitheatre, www.cluver.com
  • Visit Aquila Game Reserve, www.aquilasafari.com
  • Wine and dine – pick out some of the best wine estates around Franschoek, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, and Groot Constantia.
  • Stay at Celtic Manor Guest Lodge and Wellness Spa in Gordons Bay, www.celticmanor.co.za
The Kaapse Klopse carnival in Cape Town by Jo Castro
The Cape Coloured Carnival (Kaapse Klopse) takes place in Cape Town at the very beginning of each year.

We  lived in Somerset West, a leafy town underneath the brooding Helderberg Mountain. Our house was right bang slap in the middle of the Cape’s golden triangle which is peppered with wine farms, surrounded by mountains and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. Divine. Almost utopian. One day I’ll post some pictures of it, but remembering the amazing views makes me a little sad right now.

The Cape, South Africa, by Jo Castro
The view from golfer Ernie Else’s, wine farm. Dutch Reformed church in Franschhoek. Fields of lavender. Bread and Wine restaurant, Franschhoek.

A little history … When Willem Adriaan van der Stel became Governor of the Cape in South Africa, he probably thought he’d found his Shangri-La when in 1699 he acquired a huge expanse of Land along the Lourens River, close to present day Somerset West, on which he planted vines, orchards and corn fields. He named his farm Vergelegen.

The whitewashed, gabled buildings of Vergelegen Wine Estate are wickedly photogenic, especially when  silhouetted against  the vast Helderberg and Hottentots Holland Mountains. Think cloudless blue skies and perhaps a sea of lilac Agapanthus like this scene at the nearby Lourensford Wine Estate where my daughter once used to go riding.

Lourensford, Somerset West, South Africa by Jo Castro
Lourensford, Somerset West.

In Stellenbosch (South Africa’s second oldest town) you can wander down shady avenues lined by oak trees, alongside old Cape Dutch houses, and ornate Victorian cottages. It’s lovely having a coffee and watching the world go by surrounded by old whitewashed buildings in the town centre, and the suburban gardens are generally filled with flowers in spring and summer.

Cape flowers, south africa by jo castro
Cape Flowers. Poppies, Clivia, Proteas.

Twenty minutes from Stellenbosch lies Franschhoek, in a tranquil valley surrounded by mountains and vineyards. Franschhoek means “French Corner” because approximately 200 Huguenot families (French protestents) fled persecution in France in 1688 during the reign of King Louis XIV.  They were given grants to farm the land along the Berg River and the Drakenstein valley, now Franschoek, became their domain.

They brought with them their French traditions, culture, and wine making skills, and very soon it was found that this fertile area was more suited to viticulture than for grain farming.

Dombeya wine farm, the cape, south africa by jo castro
Dombeya Wine Estate near Stellenbosch

The village has become known for its wine and its gastronomic cuisine, as well as its art galleries, antique shops, curio shops and quaint streets nestling beneath the magnificent mountain backdrop. I’ve yet to do one of the wine tours on horseback, but with so many wineries in the area to choose from, it seems like a good solution to driving!

When you’ve wined and dined, you might want to head for the Cape’s long, sandy, beaches where surfers can be seen bobbing in the waves like seals. Kogel Bay is a favourite amongst accomplished surfers, although there are calmer spots to swim like The Strand beach or Main Beach and Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay.

Gordon's Bay, South Africa by Jo Castro
Gordon’s Bay, main beach with the town behind.

Gordon’s Bay was once a small fishing harbour, but it’s grown into a resort with Mediterranean overtones. There are al fresco restaurants along Beach Road as well as a yacht and fishing harbour.

Behind the busy waterfront is the quaint olde worlde village with its narrow streets and gabled houses. It was named after Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon, a Dutch military officer and commander of the Cape garrison during the late 1700’s. By the late 19th Century it had apparently established a reputation as the future Brighton of South Africa.

The CApe, South Africa by jo castro
Kalk Bay, Simonstown, the Drakenstein Mountains and Cape Point all all wonderful places to visit if you’re staying in Cape Town.

During the Cape winters from July to November, Gordon’s Bay is transformed into a whale watcher’s paradise. Southern Right Whales are attracted to the warmer waters to feed in False Bay where they give birth to their calves and nurse them until they’re capable of travelling.

Clarens Drive, the coastal road on which there are land-based viewing spots is a heartbreaking lovely ocean front drive. It winds its way along the eastern shores of False Bay to Rooi Els, Pringle Bay and then inland to Hermanus.

The Cape, South Africa by Jo Castro
Hermanus for whales, top left and right. Montagu is a picture perfect town in the Cape circumferences by mountains, bottom right and left.

For a romantic, leisurely walk in Gordon’s Bay you might stroll to the harbour along the beach promenade under the Milkwood trees, and then walk to the waterfront development at Harbour Island and maybe have Kinglkip and chips with a beer at Bertie’s Moorings, a marina front restaurant.

Bertie’s Moorings was started up by South Africa’s most famous single-handed yachtsman “Biltong Bertie Reed” who sailed solo around the world three times before choosing Gordon’s Bay as his place to rest.

Of course it’s the African Wildlife that attracts most people to South Africa, and there are a couple of game reserves within reach of Cape Town.

The Cape, wildlife, south africa by jo castro
Still more to do … visit the Garden Route Game Lodge on the N2 highway, and don’t forget to celebrate with a beer at sunset when you’ve walked to the top of Lion’s Head in Cape Town.

I admit to loving this beautiful, crazy country, this rainbow nation with its wonderful, confusing, inspiring, and sometimes despairing beat. Truly cloaked with a coat of many colours, I have to agree, at all levels of the cliché, it really is ‘a world in one country,’ and  The Cape itself is a ‘world in one province’.

The Cape South Africa, reasons to visit south africa by jo castro
Clarens Drive leading to Hermanus and Delvera Wine Estate.

Want to read more? I wrote about the Cape of Many Colours in The West Australian Newspaper’s Travel Magazine.

You might also like: What to do in Cape Town by fellow travel bloggers Tiago and Fernanda.

This post today is linked to Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveller’s Sandbox.

What’s on your Bucket List when it comes to visiting South Africa or where do you love in The Cape?

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  1. Thanks Jo. I loved the trip back to Cape Town and the memories you have rekindled. We spend a glorious week exploring all this area has to offer. The scenery along the coast and into the wine area is breathtaking.It was a stunning holiday and one that I would love to do again.

  2. Thanks Jenny. Great to hear that the post brought back good memories for you, and rekindled a desire to go back again. The scenery is so stunning.

  3. Hi Jo, thank you for taking me back to Africa. We travelled there in 2005 – and stayed at Jackalberry Lodge in the Thornybush Game Reserve – and had an absolutely amazing experience. I have always wanted to go back to Africa. You are right – there is something about Africa. Unfortunately we didn’t get to the Cape, so thank you for taking me there with your travelogue and wonderful images.

  4. You’ll have to get to the Cape one day, Jill, because it is so beautiful. I can only imagine the pictures you’d come back with 🙂 I’ve never been to Thornybush Game Reserve, where is that? I love the bush too, it gets under your skin for sure.

  5. So funny that South Africa is my second fave place after Thailand!! The planets did align with our 13 today. I don’t think it is an unlucky number at all.
    Your photos are just gorgeous and have me pining for Cape Town now. It is such a beautiful country and reminded me of Australia in many ways. I’ve heard how beautiful Somerset is. I have very good friends who live near there.

  6. I think that coincidences like we’ve experienced are the little beams of sunshine that the universe throws our way 🙂 I’m the same about numbers – I don’t think 13 is unlucky because it’s my Birthday Day! Yep, Thailand and South Africa are places that my soul is drawn too more frequently than I care to admit (although I absolutely love living in Australia). Somerset West, nestled under the Helderberg Mountain, surrounded by vineyards, faced by the sea and set amongst leafy roads that often teem with wild Guinea Fowl is just ‘one of those places’. It would be so funny if I knew of your friends there – but that really is a long shot :)!

  7. These are absolutely beautiful pictures and scenery! Love all the colors and the variety it has to offer! I have never been to South Africa but always found it intriguing. Your pictures just proved that this has to be the first country I would visit if I set foot on the continent.

  8. Thanks Mary! So glad it inspired you. Once you’ve visited, you’ll find so many things to stay for and return for too 🙂

  9. Oh, that’s interesting Lenka. I’ll pop over and have a look. Thanks for your compliments.

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