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Pick Your Own Adventure: The Essential 4 Day Trips from Cape Town

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3 weeks ago

With so many incredible things to do in Cape Town, it’s tough to see where you would find time for days trips from Cape Town. But there are even more wonderful places to explore and experiences to be had within a 90-minute drive from Cape Town which makes Cape Town an excellent base for exploring the (coastal) Western Cape.

You can’t do all of these day trips from Cape Town, but you should try to fit in one or two during your time in the area. We’ve given you all the information you need to decide which of these day trips from Cape Town is for you (including the seasons where appropriate), so hopefully we’ve made the decision easier – though you’ll probably want to do all of them.

1. Cape Peninsula Loop

If this is the list of essential day trips from Cape Town, then the Cape Peninsula loop is the quintessential day trip from Cape Town, and it is an experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

We’ve written an extensive guide on the ultimate Cape Peninsula road trip, but if you need some convincing then I’ve got three nouns and three adjectives for you: pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery, and adorable penguins.

No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a drive down to Boulder’s Beach to see the penguin colony. But the magic doesn’t stop there.

You will pass Simon’s Town on your day trip which is home to Water’s Edge Beach, the secluded and pristine cove perfect for an early morning swim. And if you get to Water’s Edge Beach early enough, you might just be able to swim with the penguins or at least watch them hanging out on the rocks.

And if penguins weren’t enough for you, the scenery at Cape Point Nature Reserve is truly awe-inspiring.

Just before you get to the bottom of your Cape Peninsula driving loop, you’ll pass by Smitswinkel Bay which is a beautiful places for so many reasons but not least the sheer volume of wildlife that you’ll see when snorkeling. Pack your snorkeling gear (or rent it from Pisces Divers on the way) to make the most of your time there.

There is so much more to experience on your road trip through Cape Peninsula but it is crucial that you pick the right day, start early and stop at the right places.

Stay overnight in Cape Peninsula

Although you can absolutely drive the whole of the Cape Peninsula in a day if you start early and be back in time for dinner, there are so many stunning locations on the way that are best appreciated by taking the time to stay over and relax.

If you do choose to stay the night, we recommend staying at Penguin’s View Guesthouse in Simon’s Town or a short-let in Scarborough.

2. Langebaan

The town of Langebaan started life as a whaling station, but nowadays Langebaan is basically a byword for kitesurfing. Excellent wind conditions have made Langebaan into a kitesurfing hotspot, attracting world-class kite surfers from around the globe. It’s the perfect day trip from Cape Town in the windy months, being from November to February.

You’ll be driving 1.5 hours from Cape Town through a few sketchy areas on your way to Langebaan so make sure your car has a full tank of gas before you set off.

If you haven’t seen it before, it is simply mesmerizing to sit on the beach and watch hundreds of kites moving through the sky, escaping being clipped by a passing sailboat and somehow not getting trapped in each other.

The beating heart of Langebaan are the streets surrounding Langebaan Beach, specifically Bree Street and the boardwalk where you’ll find great cafes and restaurants and, of course, plenty of shops selling kitesurfing equipment. The whole town permeates a wonderfully calm and welcoming vibe, and you’ll want to sit at one of the beachside restaurants like Pearly’s to take in the sights and sounds of the kite surfers.

Lunch at Die Strandloper

If the kitesurfing and calm, coastal life wasn’t enough, Langebaan is home to Die Strandloper, a restaurant famous among locals for its ten-course menu cooked over open hearths. This is the type of restaurant where you go to spend a lazy afternoon. And don’t expect anything fancy; Die Strandloper won’t even give you cutlery. You’ll be using mussel shells as your fork and knife.

Lunch at Die Strandloper is an intensely Afrikaans experience and is a great way to experience the life of Western Cape’s locals. Make sure to pack a boardgame with you to enjoy in between being called up for your next course.

A quick detour to Paternoster

You likely won’t have time to drive further north (particularly if you’re going to enjoy a lazy afternoon at Die Strandloper), but if you do find a spare two hours, drive further up to Paternoster, probably the most adorable town in South Africa’s Western Cape. The town itself has beautiful white buildings, but it’s the Waterfront that steals the show.

At the Waterfront, you’ll find unique art at incredibly reasonable prices that you simply won’t find elsewhere, public art exhibitions and unique landscapes. And you might very well be tempted to try the fresh crayfish being sold by locals. You may very well find yourself wanting to stay the night in Paternoster when you get there and start exploring the town.

Paternoster is a little piece of coastal paradise that rejuvenates the soul with its vibrant local culture and coastal beach charm.

3. Kogelberg Nature Reserve

Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town. Expect stunning mountain views, waterfalls, streams and spring flowers that make the whole landscape colorful and picture-perfect.

There are a number of great tails, but the most scenic (though not necessarily the easiest) is along the Palmiet River. There are even pools that you can swim in along the way.

The trails are very long but you should be able to do the Palmiet River trail in about 3 hours.

Whether you’re there during springtime to see the spring flowers bloom or during summer to see the waterfalls in action, the open arms of nature are ready to embrace you and dazzle you.

Palmiet River in Kogelberg

For the daredevils among us, there are some great cliff jumps of varying heights at the Palmiet Rock Pools. It’s a great day out in the sun, and a hike through the area is one of the best ways to reconnect with nature. And when you’ve enjoyed the day in the Reserve, drive ten or so minutes to Kleinmond to enjoy some tasty food for the late afternoon.

Clarence Drive

By far and away the most spectacular part of the journey will be the final 20-minute stretch of road around Betty’s Bay along the water known as Clarence Drive, one of the most scenic drives in the world. The drive is simply spectacular with cliff edges, water crashing on the rocks, grasslands and towering mountains.

If you didn’t get the chance to see the penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach, count yourself lucky because there is a penguin colony at Betty’s Bay which is on the way to Kogelberg Nature Reserve – it’s basically two day trips from Cape Town in one.

It might even be the better place to see the penguins because you can swim with them more easily (I say more easily because you can swim with them around Water’s Edge Beach but you have to go very early in the morning).

4. Hermanus

Just 1.5 hours from Cape Town (and only 40 minutes from Kogelberg National Reserve), Hermanus is one of our essential day trips from Cape Town because you’re virtually guaranteed to see whales (if you’re in the right season). And if you don’t see whales in the water, you can always go to the Whale Museum for a full skeleton of a southern right whale.

The best time to see the whales is September and October, though if you want to make sure you see the whales, go with a tour to Hermanus. If you’re doing it DIY, there are a number of places you can go to see the whales, though we would recommend Sievers Point and Kraal Rock. You’ll be able to see whales with the naked eye, but you might want to bring a pair of binoculars.

This is a town that has pinned its fortunes almost entirely on whale watching, so it will come as no surprise that the Hermanus Whale Festival is the most important three days of the Hermanus calendar. It will be held between September 27-29, 2024, during the peak of whale activity in the region, but you don’t need to wait for then to go.

The best of Hermanus is on its waterfront, so make sure to explore the town and enjoy lunch or dinner with ocean views at Fick’s Pool or Bientang’s Cave where you can sit for lunch and watch the whales (if you’re lucky enough to get a seat facing the bay).

Special Mention: Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

Cape Town is fortunate enough to have Constantia, a wine-growing area within Cape Town itself, but for the ultimate winelands getaway that is only 45 minutes from Cape Town, you simply must spare a day (but ideally a few days) to explore Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

There is nothing quite like driving through the winding roads of the winelands, taking in the scenery and the best of the local produce (read: amazing wine).

Being so close to Cape Town, you could absolutely drive into Stellenbosh or Franschhoek for a day and return to Cape Town at night, but the best experience is to be had by staying one or two nights in either (or both) of the towns. The wine estates are all incredibly inviting, and the standard of accommodation is, overall, very high.

Make sure to carve out some time for Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in addition to your week (minimum!) in Cape Town.

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