A Scenic Drive To Cape Point
“You’re doing what?”
“Is that safe?”
“You should join a tour instead.”
I heard these comments daily before we left for South Africa when I told people we’d be driving ourselves around the Cape Peninsula to Cape Point and along South Africa’s Garden Route.
I’m a pretty anxious person, and I don’t jump into anything potentially iffy without doing my research. I read a lot, talked to other people who’ve done it and decided that driving ourselves to Cape Point gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do.
Eventually, my sweet South African friends gave up lecturing me and started listing things I shouldn’t miss along the Cape Peninsula & Cape Point Drive.
Things to do along the way…
1.Take your time. Enjoy the quaint towns, the lush hillside wildflowers and the miles and miles of white sand beaches. And the photo ops of ostriches on the beach. Can’t miss that!
2. Drive the route in a clockwise direction. There’s less of a risk of getting stuck behind a train of slow-moving tour buses, and you can end your drive watching the sunset in Camp’s Bay. With a sundowner.
3. Do a little land-based whale watching along the coast of False Bay, starting in Muizenberg. The best way to find whales is to look for people with binoculars standing in one of the pullout areas along the road (June to November) or by staking out a spot on a beautiful overlook with a picnic lunch and start scanning the horizon.
4 . Stop at the St James tidal pool for a photo and a paddle. We parked along the road past the entrance and walked back and under the train tunnel to reach the beach. Make sure you stop in this cute little cafe on your walk to the beach.
5. Check out Bohemian Kalk Bay with its jumble of shops and alleyways. It’s a fun place to poke around the shops and stop for lunch. Try Olympia Cafe or, if you’re in a seafood mood, consider The Brass Bell or Harbour House Kalk Bay.
6. Interested in something a little off-beat? Try Simons Town for a submarine tour. Yes, the SAS Assegaai is a Daphne class submarine, decommissioned and ready for tours. It’s a tad complicated to arrange, but worth it if you’re interested in maritime history, submarines or just want to hear some great sea stories from the ex-submariner guides.
7. Boulder’s Beach for penguins (fee)! Hordes of them waddling across the white sand, through the shrubbery, under the boardwalk. Try not to fill your memory card with 967 photos of them in the first 10 minutes like I did. Tip: It gets crowded along the main boardwalk down to the beach. If you make a minor detour onto the unmarked boardwalk just past the ticket window on your right, you’ll walk through a wooded area where you’ll see penguin nesting boxes and penguins playing hide and seek in the shrubbery. At the end of the boardwalk, you’ll enjoy a view over the water without having to wait for the crowds to clear.
8. Stop and take a million pictures on the road between Simon’s Town before the turn off for the Cape Point Drive (part of the Table Mountain Park system, fee).
9. Get really excited about the ostriches running in the fields next to the park entrance and finish off your memory card. Tip: There are more ostriches down the road. On the beach. Also, the ones near the road are part of the ostrich farm nearby. Less exciting, eh?
10. Keep an eye out for baboons. They are hairy, clever little demons. The signs are everywhere…don’t feed them, don’t try and pet them and lock your doors whenever you stop. There are consequences if you don’t.
11. Stop and have a picnic, take a walk and poke around in the tidal pools at Bordjiesrif and Buffels Bay Beach.
12. Walk the Shipwreck Trail and keep watch for The Flying Dutchman.
13. Stop at the Cape Point lighthouse. You can either walk or take the funicular. Trying to park is the most challenging part of visiting the lighthouse, so be prepared to park along the road and walk.
14. Hike the trail from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope for that all important photo. You can drive between the two if you don’t feel like walking or you don’t have proper shoes. Backtrack a bit along the road and follow the signs.
15. Head out of the park and along the M65 towards Kommetjie and enjoy the wildflower-strewn cliffs, the emerald green water and pretty little towns along the coast. If you have time (and it isn’t too windy), you can walk the more populated areas of Noordhoek Beach.
16. Turn onto Chapman’s Peak Drive and prepare yourself for narrow roads hugging the cliff face and absolutely spectacular scenery. Pull off the road and onto every scenic overlook and enjoy the view!
17. Stop at either Hout Bay or Camps Bay for dinner. If you time it just right, you’ll be enjoying a sundowner as the final rays of sunlight drop below the horizon.
Things to Know About Your Drive To Cape Point
Our drive took 9 hours with stops for photos, lunch, and wildlife. If you drove the entire Cape Peninsula/Cape Point Loop without stopping, I estimate it would take 4 hours. Maybe.
Despite my worries about safety and driving on the British side of the road, it was a great experience. We enjoyed the freedom to stop for photos, a beach walk, a shop or lunch/snack whenever we felt like it. We were careful not to leave valuables in the car and did lock it even if we were only walking 10 feet to an overlook (see my baboon note above).
Parking (at least when we went) was easy. We did encounter “parking guys” at almost every lot or along the streets in a town. Some of them wore vests, some just a badge, but it seems their job is to patrol the parking areas and help you park. Handing them a few rand when you return to your car is gratefully accepted. I don’t know what the protocol is, but if you know, please share!
Have you driven the Cape Peninsula to Cape Point? Have I missed anything you recommend? Leave me a note or comment here…