Sun, surf, wine and penguins–that was all I needed to know to be convinced squeezing in a trip to Cape Town was 100% worth it.
With 48 hours to kill before my best friend’s wedding festivities began, I decided there was no time like the present to visit this world-class city that so many people had told me I would instantly fall in love with.
They were not wrong.
It took me less than 48 hours to fall in love with Cape Town (okay, let’s be honest, I fell in love with it as soon as I stumbled upon the V+A Waterfront with a cappuccino in hand the first hour of being in this insanely beautiful city).
I landed at the bottom of the African continent extremely jet-lagged but determined to make the most of every second I had in this dreamy metropolis. While many people said I was crazy for trying to do so much in such a short time, I’m here to say that it is possible to experience Cape Town in under 48 hours. But warning, it will leave you wanting more and tempted to re-arrange the rest of your travel plans.
Driving around Cape Town is definitely the best way to go, as some of the best gems require a bit of a drive.
But driving is not like in other cities–pedestrians and taxi drivers seem to rule the road.
While en-route to the city-centre, a taxi stopped in the middle of a busy highway to let several passengers out, who then proceeded to cross a six lane highway, dodging cars but without the slightest hint of urgency or fear they would be hit! But that’s Africa–they do things a bit differently.
Some people warned me that Cape Town was a dangerous place to drive–especially because it was prone to theft when left unattended. But other than getting side-swiped by a taxi that seemed to follow it’s own set of road rules, a rental car was definitely the best way to go. Just make sure to get no-fault insurance!
Where to eat:
The best part about coming to South Africa on another currency is it’s easy to live like a king for practically nothing!
Cape Town is a foodie’s dream, with a strong cafe scene and so many amazing restaurants lined up along the waterfront. A five course meal cost me less than $25NZD and a barista coffee + delicious croissant wasn’t even $3!
I especially live for a good brunch, so the best find of all was getting to experience the famous Winchester Mansion Sunday Jazz Brunch. Joining all the locals of Cape Town, I was treated to bottomless mimosas, a mouth-watering array of breakfast and lunch foods and the calming background Jazz music performed by locals who have been at the Mansion every Sunday for the past 25 years. Costing less than what I would have paid for a standard brunch in good ole New Zealand, I stuffed myself silly with one of the most beautiful brunch experiences I have ever had!
And to top it off, the scenery couldn’t have been much better. Located in the courtyard of the Mansion, we had views of the waterfront and the famous Table Mountain in the backdrop.
Swim with the African Penguins:
Lots of people go to Cape Town wanting to swim with the Great White Sharks. But I went to Cape Town wanting to swim with the African Penguins! An hour south of the CBD in an old naval town called Simon’s Town, you can find Boulder Beach–a picturesque beach FLOCKED with African Penguins and their baby chicks that are scattered along these perfectly smooth and random boulders!
An obvious tourist attraction, there are two different ways to experience this magical spot. Turn left from the parking lot and for a small fee you can access a viewing platform that lets you experience the magic of hundreds of African Penguins waddling their way in and out of the crashing waves and cuddling their fluffy little chicks.
Or, you can turn right and walk for free along the gorgeous coastline, with hidden golden sand alcoves where you an sunbathe and swim with these adorable little penguins for free! (!!!!!!)
Needless to say, the latter option was my favourite, because why wouldn’t you want to swim with Penguins!?
I ended up spending nearly 4 hours with my new best friends and also maxed out a whole SIM card trying to capture the beauty of this unique natural occurrence.
Surf in Camp Bay:
There’s no denying that the surf in Cape Town is world class. And there’s not better place to give it a go than at Camps Bay–the Santa Monica of Cape Town.
With golden sand going for miles, Camps Bay is made even more magical Table Mountain providing an other-worldly backdrop.
And whether you’re a surfer or not, there’s not denying that Camps Bay is definitely world class and an absolute must to understand the true magic of Cape Town.
Reality check in Bo-Kaap:
Before arriving in Cape Town, I had seen a lot of photos of the colorful streets in Bo-Kaap. Situated only 5 minutes from where we were staying, it was a no-brainer to go and check it out.
I was really excited to photograph the vibrant streets of this suburb and was met with extremely mixed feelings when I arrived.
Bo-Kaap was colorful externally, but it also became clear quite quickly that this area was plagued with poverty as there were children walking barefoot on the streets and residents from inside the colourful homes trying to get privacy from the flocks of tourists that had come to take their self-portraits in front of these instagram-famous homes.
While I did feel uncomfortable taking photos of these colourful homes, I’m really glad I went because it was a really great reminder of two things:
1) While Cape Town is beautiful and luxurious to tourists, poverty in this city is a very real thing.
2) The aftermath of the apartheid is still relevant and real–these houses were painted colorfully after residents were finally allowed to purchase the homes back from the city and free to celebrate their individualism and new-found freedom.
Watch the sunset from Table Mountain:
Part of what makes Cape Town so special is the dramatic landscape that sits around the CBD. Table Mountain is the most famous landmark of this city, in which it provides the most jaw-dropping backdrop and viewing platforms.
Originally I had planned to be one of the first people up at Table Mountain to welcome the sun in the early AM. But when I arrived, it became apparent that almost every other tourist had the same idea!
Not wanting to waste precious time standing in a ridiculously long queue, I decided to come back at sunset, which turned out to be a much better plan.
Arriving with an hour and a half left before the last gondola came down from the top of the mountain, there was no queue and I was able to spend the whole duration admiring the views from above. The landscape resembled that of New Zealand–an indescribable combination of rolling hills and domineering mountains that meet the crashing waves below.