Cape Town Information
Affixed to the tip of Africa as it is, the Western Cape lies bordered by two oceans – the Indian Ocean to the south and the Atlantic to the west – which goes a long way to clarify its allure. The wild Cape Agulhas coast, the extraordinary magnificence of the Garden Route, the sparse, sweeping stretches of sand, punctuated only by rocky outcrops and fishing villages, of the West Coast notwithstanding, it is not the coastline alone that draws the crowds. The constant reassuring presence of immense peaks form the backdrop to a land so lovely in parts that the emerald lakes and indigenous forests of the Wilderness, the sun-drenched vineyards of the Cape Winelands, the magnificent passes to reach the interior and the wide, windswept arid spaces of the Klein Karoo seem part of a fantasy landscape that often defies description.
The heart of the Western Cape is without doubt the city of Cape Town. With a distinct flavour of its own, affected in no small part by the cultural melting pot of Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers who each indelibly stamped their mark upon the foundations of the city, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world today.
The inner city is an eclectic mix of architectural styles that combine the past with the present in a mishmash of high-rise office blocks, Edwardian and Victorian buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets that give rise to fine examples of Cape Dutch design. It is also home to a blend of corporate and independent business that lends it a striking aliveness, particularly at lunch time when the streets spill over with a combination of lunch time diners and consequent entertainers and market stalls.
Constantly engulfed by the vast maternal presence of Table Mountain, the inner city combines with an effortless choice of white sandy beaches, must-visits like Robben Island, Cape Point and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, magnificent green areas with rivers, vleis and dams, a floral kingdom that is wholly unique to the Cape and an effortlessly warm climate that makes the Western Cape a logical destination throughout the year.
The vibrant coastline that stretches from Lambert’s Bay on the West Coast all the way around to Witsand, offers an incredible diversity. From sweeping sandy beaches that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing, where children get to splash in the shallows, to stormy narrow shores with crashing waves that threaten your very mettle but provide awe-inspiring views from surrounding cliffs, along which some of the country’s greatest hikes like the Otter Trail pass, you will not be disappointed.
The Cape Whale Coast in particular creates quite a stir and draws to our shores a uniquely intelligent and remarkable creature that never fails to ignite in those who come to see them a sense of well-being and incredible pleasure at having viewed them from so close. Whales, including the Southern Right Whale and less commonly the Bryde’s (pronounced ‘broodess’) and the Humpback Whale, are frequently sited along the Cape Overberg Coast from Stony Point near Betty’s Bay, along the cliff paths of Hermanus, Kleinmond, Onrus, Walker Bay, the De Hoop Nature Reserve and Witsand. These gentle giants spend summer feeding around Antarctica and then migrate thousands of miles to our waters where the sheltered bays of the South African coast provide perfect refuge to mate and calve.
The Cape Winelands of the Western Cape are another of the huge draw cards to South Africa that manage to effortlessly combine the beauty of ripening vineyards, Cape Dutch manor homes and excellent cuisine in valleys surrounded by indigo mountains to such effect that visitors return to fully appreciate the many wine routes and estates on offer. Many of these are within easy reach of Cape Town, particularly those in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Wellington, but there are those slightly further afield in other wine-producing valleys – the Breede River Valley, the Swartland and the Olifants River Valley, to name but a few – that are equally inviting.