South Africa Travel Diary: Cape Town
Our trip to South Africa, as I’m sure you saw if you followed along on social media, was nothing short of amazing. In fact, it’s hard to put into words, but I’m going to do my best, while also sharing some of my favourite experiences: where to stay, what to do and where to eat.
First up, Cape Town.
Where To Stay:
Corey and I did a lot of research leading up to this trip (we started planning this trip back in 2016 following our whirlwind honeymoon through Thailand and Cambodia), and we decided on the One & Only Resorts, nestled between Table Mountain and the Waterfront. It was the perfect location to access all of the exciting attractions, restaurants and only 30 minutes from the airport.
After 18 hours of flying, we immediately booked massages at the One & Only spa, which was recommended by their concierge team, and MY GOD was it brilliant. I’ve done some long flights before, and never thought to do this, but now I’m hooked. Not only was it relaxing, it also helped with the jet lag, not to mention back pain and stiffness from sitting all that time!
The hotel is equipped with a spectacular pool, and lucky for us, the weather was beautiful (May is their autumn so sometimes it can be a bit cooler but it was high 20’s during our stay) so we hit up the pool for a couple of hours and enjoyed some of their custom cocktails.
Where to Eat:
There are so many incredible restaurants in the city it was impossible to try them all, but here are some of the ones we did, along with the ones recommended to us!
Kloof Street House – In the heart of the city, this quaint twentieth century home, was recommended to us by a colleague of mine who had gone to Cape Town the year before. We had dinner here the first night we arrived and it was the perfect setting for a low-key evening. I would highly recommend booking a reservation because it was a Wednesday night when we went, and it was PACKED. I had made a reso about a week before and we were fine. It’s hidden in this lush greenery that has no doubt been growing around this home for over 100 years. The food was nothing special per se, but the ambiance was magnificent.
The Azure Restaurant – We ate here on our second night in Cape Town. Located in Camps Bay, this restaurant specializes in seafood and is on the cliff side of Cape Town. The views are extraordinary and I’d recommend booking your reso early so you can watch the sunset – pure magic. Azure is in the 12 Apostles hotel, which is rich in history and is uniquely eclectic. After dinner, I’d recommend heading one level up to the Leopard Bar, great cocktails and great vibes.
The Test Kitchen – This is a family of restaurants, all famous for their unique cuisine. Full disclosure, you have to book like 3 months in advance for all three of their restaurants. Unfortunately we didn’t even know about them until about a month out, and they were fully booked. We met a fun couple from Florida who were there on their honeymoon and they said it was INCREDIBLE. When we go back, we’ll be smarter this time and book far in advance.
Reubens – Lucky for us, the One & Only Resorts is home to Chef Reuben Riffel’s first urban restaurant. The menu reflects a celebration of the Cape’s rich culinary heritage, influenced by South African modern cuisine and the fresh produce found along the shores and in the waters of the two oceans. Not only that, but they have an EXTENSIVE wine collection (5,000 bottles worth), that’s housed in their wine loft, located just above the restaurant. We were given a tour and a wine tasting with their in-house sommelier before dinner, and it’s something I would HIGHLY recommend. The South African wines we had were some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. I wanted to smuggle them all home with me… but all I had was a duffle bag UGH.
What To Do:
Much like any big city, there’s so much to discover in Cape Town – here’s what we did, and what I’d recommend.
Table Top Mountain – You can hike or take the famous cableway up and down this beautiful landmark. Because we only spent 4 days in Cape Town, we did the cableway – but if I had more time, hiking would’ve been amazing. When you visit the mountain, be sure to do it in the morning before it gets too hot and full of tourists. I’d also recommend buying your tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in any lines. The views are basically 360 degrees and are quite frankly, breathtaking.
City Tour – I would also recommend doing a half-day tour of central Cape Town. It has such a fascinating and rich history, and overall, it’s a very beautiful and colourful place. We hired a guide who was born and raised there, giving it a really unique and intimate experience. They also have tons of coffee shops all over the city, but you MUST visit Charly’s Bakery – it’s a world famous premier cake bakery that has delicious cookies and cupcakes to go!
Robben Island – You can’t visit Cape Town without visiting Robben Island, where former South African President Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 of his 27 years. I would recommend buying your tickets ahead of time, and also arriving 30 minutes prior to the ferry boarding, as it’s quite packed. Corey and I made an afternoon of it as the waterfront is lovely with lots to do and see. We grabbed a quick bite and cocktail at the Silo Hotel’s rooftop bar, that has 360 degree views of both the VA Waterfront and the mountains.
Shark Diving – Ok so here’s the thing about the shark diving – it’s a full day. So if you’re only travelling to Cape Town for a couple of days, I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s of course no guarantee that you’ll see sharks, and sadly, Corey and I didn’t. We were disappointed more-so because it was 12 hours of our time total (4-5 hours on the boat, orientation, and a 2.5 hour drive one way to get there) and we felt that it was a silly risk to take with our limited time in such a special place. That said, if we had seen even ONE shark it would’ve been worth it!!! HA!
Paragliding Off Signal Hill – Corey and I did this on our last morning in Cape Town and it was SO MUCH FUN! Only an hour of your time, and at a great price, this was a magical and adventurous way to see where the city meets the ocean. If you’re afraid of heights, you may want to avoid, but it was super safe and a great experience!
Cape Point & Cape Town Drive – One of the other things Corey and I did on our last day was hire a private driver and tour all around Cape Town’s coast including the penguin colony at Cape Point. The drive itself in some ways reminded me of the Amalfi Coast, while at other times looked like the landscape of Ireland or Scotland. Driving was a great way to see the city and also maximize the time we had. We stopped when we wanted, and drove when we wanted – it was the perfect way to finish off our adventures through the most Southern tip of SA.
One place we did miss out on was travelling up to South Africa’s wine country. Because we only had 4 days in Cape Town, there just wasn’t enough time. If you’re planning a trip to SA – I would HIGHLY recommend adding this on, and even staying overnight in either Franschhoek or Stellenbosch. It’s like Napa Valley’s hotter, older sister.
I hope I haven’t overloaded you with information, I just really LOVED my experience so much, and I know how tough it can be to invest your time and money into something without necessarily knowing the outcome. SO if Cape Town is already on your list, or perhaps it is now after reading this, I hope I’ve helped you out in some small way.
Up next, the Kalahari Desert.