OK, I know what you’re thinking…you can’t possibly have done all the things to do in South Africa! And of course, you’re right (more on that in a moment).

When I moved here in July 2017 I started marking things down on a Google Map that I wanted to do, just whenever I stumbled across them. And then, as more trips got planned, more and more things got added to the map. And then I started adding restaurants and bars, and things I wanted to do in and around Cape Town. And then I thought, man, this map has so much info and research put into it, I should probably share it!

So here we are.

All the Things to Do in South Africa Map:

Here’s how it works:

If I find something I want to do or a place I want to eat, it gets added to the map in yellow. Once I do it or eat there or whatever it is, the pin turns purple and I will add it to this post with a little blurb/review/recommendation. Once I write up a full blog post (if it’s deserving of one) I will add a link from this post.

That’s it! Is there something you’re wondering about in SA but can’t find any info on it? Let me know and I will add it to my “To Do” list!

Note on the Rating System: The number of stars given equates to how much I personally liked the place, not how nice or fancy it was. So fancy restaurants can get one star and dive bars can get 5. This is how I roll.

Bars & Restaurants

Literally every restaurant we eat at will be added here. Yes, even fast food.

Around Cape Town

Kloof Street House – City Bowl

Upscale modern restaurant in the heart of the city.

This is possibly the best restaurant I have ever been to. Not just that the food was good, but the experience was spectacular from start to finish. The ambiance, the service, the wine, the starters, the mains, the desserts. It was a magical evening. I will be coming back many, many times. It is the only restaurant on this list that will ever get 6 stars.

Tip: Order as many items on the menu as you can afford/shovel into your face.

kloof street house

Addis in Cape – City Bowl

Superb Ethiopian food in a warm, cozy atmosphere.

This was my first time eating Ethiopian food since living in Washington D.C., which I’m pretty sure is the Ethiopian food capital of the world outside of Ethiopia. Two thumbs up and would definitely come back again.

Tip: The tibs in berebere is the jimmy jam. Also, get the real injera and not that fake stuff!

addis in cape review

Quay Four – V&A Harbour

Traditional seafood restaurant with a large patio overlooking the harbor. Yes I still spell harbor the American way!

The food was good, the service was friendly, the drinks were reasonably priced. There is nothing stand out here, but just a solid place to grab a bite if you’re hanging around the harbor. It’s a super touristy area, so expect to be surrounded by lots of tourists.

Tip: If you’re not sitting on the patio, I don’t know why you’re at this restaurant. Also, the seafood chowder is on point!

Bombay Chili – Plumstead & Muizenberg

A small Indian restaurant that focuses on curries. The Plumstead location is just five minutes from my house so I was reallllly trying to like their takeaway. We tried five different dishes from both locations and there is but one word to describe them all: underwhelming.

Tip: Eat somewhere else.

The Bombay Bicycle Club – Kloof Street

Funky, cool, and eclectic bar & restaurant in the City Bowl. Also claims to be the world’s oldest gentleman’s club?

I didn’t have a chance to eat here, but I definitely plan on coming back. What can I say, I’m a sucker for funky, eclectic decor!

Tip: Don’t eat pizza at the mediocre place across the street.

Bacini’s – Kloof Street

The mediocre pizza place next door.

Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing particularly bad about this place and the pizza was alright. But when you’re just visiting Cape Town and you have limited meals to partake in, don’t waste one here.

Tip: Did I mention Bombay Bicycle Club is right across the street?

Erawan – Wynberg

Upscale Asian restaurant with a mix of Japanese, Thai, and Chinese on the menu.

Tasty food, but definitely overpriced for the portions. If you’re visiting Cape Town there is probably no reason you would spend any time in Wynberg, but they are opening up a City Bowl location soon.

Tip: Eat in rather than takeaway to feel like it’s less of a rip-off

UMI – Camp’s Bay

Upscale sushi / “modern” Japanese restaurant overlooking the beach at Camp’s Bay.

This restaurant was a solid MEH. Everything was good, but everything was missing something. Also a little overpriced unless you’re getting happy hour sushi.

Tip: Perfect deck for sundowners so come have a drink and a sushi app and grab dinner somewhere else once the sun sets.

Cape to Cuba – Kalk Bay

Eclectic Cuban bar & restaurant overlooking Kalk Bay with a decidedly laid back vibe.

This place is a must-see for anyone visiting Cape Town. While the food wasn’t spectacular, it was perfectly respectable and the drinks, decor, and music more than made up for it. Would come back here a million more times. Also, possibly the best mojito I’ve ever had.

Tip: Come on Sunday evenings for live music in the beach bar!

Harbour House – Kalk Bay

Upscale seafood restaurant right on the coast at Kalk Bay.

If you’re looking for a swanky place for a date night (and Kloof Street House is booked), Harbour House is a solid bet. The food is exactly as good as you would think considering the price, and the waves crash against the rocks right outside the window

Tip: Get a seat next to the window and keep your eyes peeled for whales!

The Striped Horse – Muizenberg

Hip bar and microbrewery with a cozy/industrial vibe.

Do they serve food here? I don’t know and I don’t care. Yummy beers, cheap cocktails, nice ambiance, all with views of Muizenberg beach (if you’re sitting outside).

Tip: your server!

Monacle & Mermaid – Simon’s Town

Cozy hipster cafe with good sandwiches, cool decor, and nice dudes.

With a string of unimpressive cafes on the main strip in Simon’s Town, this little gem is easy to miss. But don’t. The sandwiches are delectable and creative and you can tell the guys running the joint are super chill. Bonus points for having custom-made, gigantic, old-school world map wallpaper.

Tip: Get the wild venison burger but go halfsies with someone else because it’s richer than Uncle Scrooge.

Cafe Mojito – Long Street

Vibey, cuban-themed bar in the thick of the action on Long Street.

Popped in here to grab a drink on a Friday night; nothing to write home about, but there’s a place in my heart for any bars you can smoke inside. So all you haters of the smokers can steer clear.

Tip: Pop in for one and header further down the strip!

The Slug & Lettuce – Long Street

I just learned this was a chain, but you wouldn’t know it dropping by long street on a weekend. This pub was packed in a good way with a cool vibe. I’d like to head back on a Tuesday and see how the weeknight crowd looks.

Tip: It’s right in the thick of Long Street, so avoid if crowded bars aren’t your thing.

Bob’s Bar – Long Street

Party bar in the middle of party street.

Visiting Bob’s Bar in the middle of the afternoon was like seeing Bourbon St. in the late morning. You knew there had been a party here, and that another one would be coming soon. There are posters advertising various specials on shooters and I’m sure they blast some terrible music once night falls.

Tip: If you’re in your early twenties, you might be into this.

Crowbar – De Waterkant

Smokey dive bar with rugby on the tele and gambling in the back. I’m pretty sure some shady shit goes down in here.

Tip: Don’t bring a date here. Unless your date is me.

Birkenhead Pub – Plumstead

Local dive bar in a neighborhood you will never visit.

As we moved to the bourgeoisie suburb of Constantia, dive bars are hard to come by. The Birkenhead is a classic Cape Town dive a la Crowbar and all the other smokey gambling centers with bars on the windows. Go in, order a scotch, and chain smoke some ciggies while you chat up the salty bartender.

Tip: You won’t go here anyway so you won’t need a tip.

Casa Nostra Bar – Woodstock

Unassuming burger joint down the street from Old Biscuit Mill.

This laid back restaurant and bar offers a chill patio with giant jenga and reasonably priced burgers and breakfast. Also has live music sometimes on Saturdays.  I’d probably come back here more for a beer or two than the food but it’s got a good vibe.

Tip: If you’re a vegetarian, keep walking.

Louis’ on the Block – Bergvliet

Random bar described as “dodgy” by the randos who brought us there

I didn’t find this bar to be particularly dodgy, more just completely suburban. Which is expected as it’s a bar in a pizza restaurant in the suburbs. But we had a great time!

Tip: Bring cash or the people you just met will be forced to buy your drinks all night.

Ocean Basket – Plumstead

Casual chain seafood place with better-than-expected fish

Ocean Basket is a South African staple and after eating there, I can see why. The fish and chips was on point, the fried prawn and chips was even better, and even their sushi was totally respectable! We got everything for takeaway so it’s close to fast food, but not quite. I’m pretty sure this is South African seafood Applebee’s.

Tip: Get the fried prawns this time.

Banana Jam Cafe – Kenilworth

Jamaican-themed bar & restaurant in chill, residential neighborhood

Once again, Kenilworth is not an area you will be visiting if you’re in Cape Town for a few days. But their patio was great, their tropical cocktails were legit, and the service was extra cold–just like the real Jamaica! I didn’t eat here this time around, but I will definitely be back.

Tip: Even though most people come here and still just order beers, get a pina colada/daquiri mix and live a little!

cape town jamaican bar

The Fat Cactus – Mowbray

Tex-Mex chain with respectable Mexican food just outside the City Bowl

So I heard that the Fat Cactus on Kloof St. was way better, but this location happens to be convenient to some cool vintage stores. The margarita was legit and the food was good, though a little on the sweet-side for Tex-Mex. Also, it wasn’t Tex-Mex, it was just some tacos and fajitas and then a separate Texas burger menu. I love when South Africa misinterprets North American things!

Tip: Ask for extra tortillas with the tacos. I don’t think they know you’re supposed to be able to eat a taco with your hands.

mexican food cape town

Forrester’s Arms (Forries) – Newlands

Locals pub with pizza and classic bar fare

Forries is a great pub for outdoor drinking with their huge patio, and also has a jungle gym area for parents who like pint a two. There is a separate “no kids” side where you’re welcome to chain smoke all the ciggies you want. Food is respectable, nice atmosphere. Great place to stop after a day in Kirstenbosch Botantical Gardens!

Tip: If you order a pizza, ask for no garlic or you will be eating two tablespoons of raw garlic.

best bar near kirstenbosch

The Gin Bar – Wale St.

Hidden cocktail bar serving only gin.

This not-so-well-kept secret is accessed through Honest Chocolate in the CBD. In the back of a charming, brick-walled courtyard is an unmarked gin bar with only five drinks on the menu. I would say it was pretentious if it wasn’t so damn delicious.

Tip: Get there early for a seat, this place is not a secret.

the gin bar cape town

Obi Restaurant – Long St.

Japanese restaurant with sushi, tempura, and ramen

It was surprisingly diffcult to find a ramen place open for brunch in Cape Town. Obi is open from 12pm-2pm on the weekends, so that was good enough. Ramen was legit, but tempura udon came in for the win. I will definitely going back for all of my brunch-time ramen cravings.

Tip: No one has ramen for brunch in Cape Town, you’ll have the place to yourself!

ramen brunch cape town

Redemption Burgers – Woodstock

Gourmet burger joint with in-house microbrew pairings

Tucked into the Old Biscuit Mill, we came to this place on “Wicked Wednesdays,” where the Biscuit Mill stays open late on the last Wednesday of the month and they have free live jazz. The burgers are inspired and the burger/beer pairings are a steal.

Tip: The Mexican burger is legit.

Rumbullion at The Roundhouse – Camps Bay

Outdoor picnic table spot overlooking twelve apostles and Camps Bay Beach

The Roundhouse is apparently the fancy restaurant inside and Rumbullion is the collection of picnic tables with arguably one of the best views in Cape Town. And there are a lot of good views in Cape Town. A great spot for a weekend brunch that goes until 5pm. But then they will stop serving you because for some reason they don’t want you to stay and watch the sunset. Maybe they do winter sundowners here?

Tip: Make a reservation. This place is bumpin’ on a warm day.

best summer brunch cape town

Western Cape

Floris – Clanwilliam

Probably the fanciest restaurant in Clanwilliam, if you spend any amount of time in this town, you’ll probably end up eating everywhere. Food is solid, service was friendly, cocktails were delicious.

Tip: Get the prawn. Always get the prawn.

Isabella’s Restaurant – Lambert’s Bay

Seafood restaurant on the bay

If you’re dropping by Lambert’s Bay for even a few hours, I highly recommend stopping at Isabella’s to eat. The restaurant shares a parking lot with the Bird Island Nature Reserve and the food was all deeeelish.

Tip: Get the prawns. Always get the prawns. Panko is fine, but grilled is the winner.

Traveller’s Rest – Cederberg Wilderness

In-house restaurant for the self-catering spot by the same name

If you want to stay in the Cederbergs, I highly recommend Traveller’s Rest, especially if you’re a climber. But if you’re just stopping through to do the Sevilla Rock Art Trail, grabbing a bite to eat here is also recommended. Just don’t get the bobotie cause it takes  a full 45 minutes to prepare.

Tip: Get the malva pudding.

Moby Dick’s Seafood Grill – Plettenberg Bay

Classic casual seafood restaurant overlooking the beach

We stopped in here after doing the Robberg Nature Reserve hike for a beer and a snack. Food was OK but expect to pay tourist prices in a beachfront spot on the Garden Route. Great spot for people-watching over the beach with a cocktail though!

Tip: Don’t get the prawn avocado appetizer (it’s a pile of mayo). I did hear their curry is good though.

Peregrine Farm Stall – Grabouw

Huge farm stall among the apple orchards along the N2

This farm stall is amazing and has everything: a market full of locally made jams, preserves, and honeys, freshly baked bread, great gifts for people back home and also THE BEST MEAT PIES. If you are driving by, definitely stop. It’s bigger than your average farm stall. You can’t miss it.

Tip: Get the springbok pie and a classic cider from Everson’s.

Gecko Bar  – Hermanus

Chill bar overlooking the eastern cliffs at Hermanus

Good drinks, cheap pizza (and decent for the money), and spectacular views through large glass windows. Will definitely be going back next time we’re in Hermanus. Also, live music sometimes!

Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for whales!

Bientang’s Cave  – Hermanus

Possibly the most spectacular view any restaurant has ever had.

We weren’t able to eat here since they were closing early, but who cares. The views here are insane as the waves crash directly in front of the patio where you are sitting. Also, it’s some of the best land-based whale watching in the world. We had two delightful cocktails and will definitely be coming back for dinner.

Tip: Call first, they have weird hours sometimes.

Lizette’s Kitchen  – Hermanus

Vietnamese/South African fusion with a trendy interior in a gorgeous setting.

I’m a little torn here. The pork belly main was SOOO GOOOOD. All of the appetizers were bland/dry/underwhelming. So, maybe worth checking out, but you’re rolling the dice.

Tip: Get dinner at Bientang’s Cave instead.

Fusion Cafe – Hermanus

Seaside restaurant with large patio and views of the bay

If you want a place to watch the whales while enjoying a cocktail, a meal, or just a snack, this place is perfect. Awesome people-watching too! I didn’t eat anything here, but any place that has blankets outside for your lap gets my vote. Did I mention we saw like five whales?

Tip: Order some food and let me know how it is.

Ye Old Tavern – Montagu

Cozy, upscale restaurant with a charming back patio

We went to Ye Olde Tavern on Thanksgiving pretty much just for the mashed potatoes on the menu. But everything was spectacular. The lamb shank fell right off the bone and the classic bobotie (curry meatloaf with custard topping) was the best I’ve had in SA so far. Great service to boot.

Tip: Get the malva pudding for desert.

ye olde tavern montagu

The Barn on 62 – Montagu

Charming bistro & coffee shop overlooking the Langeberg mountain range

The burger and the lamb pie were both to die for. Lovely little place to stop for lunch. Minus a half star for the judgemental commentary that we were trying to eat lunch at 3pm. Either your kitchen is open or it isn’t!

Tip: Get an Everson’s Pear Cider. So dry and refreshing.

best lunch montagu

Route 62 Brewing Company – Montagu

Micro-brewery and pub in the heart of Montagu

Apparently this little brewery just opened a month ago, but I can see them sticking around for quite a while. The owners were friendly and welcoming, and the beers were delicious (we tried every single one).

Tip: Get the raspberry lime cider. Even more refreshing than the Everson’s Pear. Bonus points for drinking hyper-local.

route62 brewery montagu

Eastern Cape

Marilyn’s 60s Diner – Storms River

This wacky diner is an utter gem tucked into Storms River Village surrounded by African wilderness. Seriously, this place is nuts. Great music, great milkshakes, good food, but the “American” cocktails all seemed like they were made by someone who had never actually tried one of them before. Also, the “chili cheese fries” were french fries with cheese sauce and bacon and chopped red chili peppers. Still delicious, but also hilarious. Not sure anyone there had ever been to America.

Tip: Get a crazy milkshake and live a little.

The Tasty Table – Jeffrey’s Bay

#1 on TripAdvisor for breakfast in J-Bay, they’re not wrong. The food was delicious, the service was friendly, the cafe was cozy and the view was spot-on. Would come back any day.

Tip: Get the classic SA breakfast with borewors and pap

Everywhere Else

OKOK, I’ve only been to two provinces so far. But this will get updated just as soon as we take our next big trip out east!

The Great Outdoors

In case you didn’t know, all of the best things to do in South Africa happen outside.

Hiking & Nature Reserves

Fernkloof Nature Reserve – Hermanus

A few day hikes in a botanists paradise, plus some flower gardens with meandering paths and charming picnic areas.

Tip: The annual flower festival isn’t much to behold, but the park is still lovely.

Bailey’s Kloof – Cape Town

The Bailey’s Kloof hike is an awesome day hike that can be done in just a couple of hours! It stops at Muizenberg Cave, has awesome views over False Bay and isn’t too strenuous except for the very first bit. Highly recommended!

baileys kloof hike

Silvermine Trail – Cape Town

An easy stroll in the silvermine region with views over Cape Town wineries, Noordhoek, Long Beach, and Hout Bay.

The Noordhoek Circuit in Silvermine Nature Reserve is as easy a hike you can do on a wide path shared by cyclists and lots of dogs as well. It takes around two hours and change and is a great introductory hike to get your bearings on the lay of the land. For a slightly more challenging hike in Silvermine, try Elephant’s Eye!

silvermine trail hike

Lion’s Head – Cape Town

One of the most iconic hikes in Cape Town, it’s also the busiest. Only about two hours RT, there is a good amount of rock scrambling and ladders at the top of the hike. Not too difficult, but not for everyone. It’s a great litle hike, but minus a star for being so damn crowded.

Tip: Try to go early in the morning or on a weekday to beat the throngs of other hikers.

lions head summit cape town

Robberg Nature Reserve – Plettenberg Bay

Robberg might possibly be my favorite coastal day hike EVER. It has everything! Cape fur seal colonies, humpback dolphins, epic coastline, varied terrain, gorgeous beaches, and killer waves. And once you get past the second day hike loop, you’ll have the trail mostly to yourself! There is a little bit of rock scrambling and places where using your hands is necessary, but nothing too serious. At a little over 10km RT it took us exactly four hours including stops.

robberg nature reserve hike

The Cliff Path – Hermanus

The Cliff Path is a lovely little stroll along 12km of the coast in Hermanus. It’s some of the best land-based whale watching in the world, so definitely bring your binoculars. It’s most certainly a path and not a hike, but it’s a nice way to experience the coastline and spend the better part of a day.

hermanus cliff path

The Big Tree – Tsitsikamma

Call me spoiled after the redwoods, but this tree wasn’t that big. I’m also personally not as big a fan of wooded nature walks as I am of hikes with a view at the end. But hey, if you’re in Tsitsikamma and you’ve got some time to kill, it’s a nice enough path.

the big tree tsitsikamma

Heuningvlei – Cederberg Wilderness

Heuningvlei is an area in the Cederberg Wilderness that has the world’s best bouldering. Yes, in the world. The paths to the different climbs are demarcated with cairns and just generally the whole area is a beautiful place to explore. Bonus points for lots of off-trail rock hopping on this one.

best cederberg hikes

Kanonkop – Cape Point Nature Reserve

While most people only hit up Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, this easy, 90-minute in-and-out hike offers great views of Buffels Bay and the Point without any of the crazy crowds. You can also do the 5km loop past an old lime kiln, but you won’t pop back out at your car, FYI. Either way, highly recommended!

kanonkop hike cape point

Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope – Cape Point Nature Reserve

Calling this a hike is a bit of a misnomer as it is a paved trail all the way out to the point. There are a lot of stairs and it will definitely wind you if you’re not in great shape. Naturally, the point is swarming with tourists, but there is a reason: it’s pretty fucking cool.

Pro Tip: Don’t just go up to the big lighthouse, there is another trail that goes out further with better views, no one is on it, and it only takes about 30 min RT.

cape point hike

The Waterfall Trail (on the Otter Trail) – Tsitsikamma National Park

The Waterfall Trail is actually just the first 3km of the incredible 5-day Otter Trail that has something like a year long waiting list. The hike is a lot of rock scrambling and the waterfall is stunning, but at 6km RT it’s not quite long enough. To stretch it out, take the Blue Duiker trail where it splits off close to the trail head on your way back!

Pro Tip: Get on the trail by 8am and you’ll have the waterfall to yourself. Any later and it will be jam packed.

waterfall trail tsitsikamma

Skeleton Gorge Trail – Table Mountain National Park

Skeleton Gorge is one of the more well-known, lesser-known trails up Table Mountain, if that makes sense. The trail head starts in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and follows the gorge right up to the top. It’s bordering between high-moderate and light-strenuous and took us about 1h45 from the parking lot to the top. Lovely, shady, and perfect for a hot day. After it rains the gorge turns into a bit of a stream, so be careful!

Pro Tip: Instead of going to MacClear’s Beacon like everyone else, head back down Cecilia Ridge to be taken right back through the botanical garden.

skeleton gorge trail table mountain

Cecelia Ridge Trail – Table Mountain National Park

We only found Cecelia Ridge Trail because it was listed on the Slingsby’s Map. There are no trail markers at the top or bottom or along the trail, though once you find it, it’s very easy to follow. This gorgeous trail is open to the views over Cape Town the whole way down and is easier on the knees than a lot of the other Table Mountain descents. Bonus: it drops you off back in Kirstenbosch, so have a walk through the gardens before returning to your car!

Tip: The upper end of the trail starts at an outcrop right across from DeVilliers Reservoirs near the overseeers cottage. The lower end starts in that photo that looks not at all like a trail.

Tip #2: Buy a Slingsby’s Map of Table Mountain

cecelia ridge trail head

Kogelberg Trail – Kogelberg Nature Reserve

The Kogelberg Trail is 25km (but without significant elevation changes) that winds through the valleys and multiple Fynbos forests of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve.  This biosphere is the most densely populated diversity of plant species in the entire world. Through the first 15km the flora constantly changes around you in spectacular fashion. The last 10k, on the other side of the ridge, follows a Jeep track that is slightly less inspiring, though the views are still gorgeous. This hike would honestly get 5 stars if it wasn’t so long without anywhere to stop.

Tip: There is NO shade nor anywhere proper to sit on this trail. Eat whenever you’re hungry and bring plenty of water. You won’t be able to access the river until the last 5k.

Tip #2: Wear pants or risk a real shin-whipping

kogelberg hiking trail

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – Cape Town

Especially if you aren’t into hiking, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are a must to get a taste of the unique flora in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The Fynbos kingdom covers only 6% of Southern Africa and contains half of all the species found here. Also, they are just super weird and cool.

Tip: Visit the gardens after doing one of the hikes up Table Mountain that start in here.

kirstenbosch botanical gardens

Badskloof Trail – Montagu

Calling this a “trail” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s a 5k walk with zero elevation unless you decide to make the climb up to a very uninspiring cave where teenagers go at night to spraypaint shit and drink and throw their cigarette butts everywhere. BUT, there is apparently some great sport climbing basically on the trail, which is probably what most people are doing here.

Tip: If you want to go in the “hot springs” bring R120–it’s a resort, not a mountain pool.

badskloof cave

Wildlife

African Penguins – Boulders Beach, Cape Town

No trip to Cape Town is complete without seeing the African penguin colony at Boulders Beach in Simons Town. Also known as Jackass Penguins for the donkey-like braying sound they make. They smell terrible, but they’re adorable!

Tip: You can either walk down the street and pay to enter the park, or walk right down to the beach next to the parking lot to see some for free! You won’t see as many, but they still live right there. And it’s free!

where to see penguins in cape town

Bird Island Nature Reserve – Lambert’s Bay

A small island sanctuary that is home to thousands of cape gannets and crownded cormorants. Cheap entry fee and cool to walk around for 15 minutes or so.

Tip: Get some food at Isabella’s after visiting the reserve!

bird island nature reserve

Monkeyland & Birds of Eden – Plettenberg Bay

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are two privately run sanctuaries that house, well, monkeys and birds. They are both free-roaming sanctuaries and no animals are caged which means monkeys will just be jumping all around you at all times. It’s pretty awesome. A little on the pricey side, but worth it in my opinion.

Tip: Get the ticket for both to save $ but be sure to ask at the Birds of Eden desk for the bird guide! If you have to pick just one, I’d go with Monkeyland

monkeyland lemurs

Highgate Ostrich Show Farm – Oudtshoorn

Ostrich are native to the Klein Karoo desert in South Africa, and Outdshoorn is the heart of ostrich country. While the tour itself was, meh, the real reason we went on it was to ride an ostrich. If you’re under 75kg you can ride one too. It was probably the most fun thing I’ve done in years.

Tip: If you’ve ever wondered “Where can I ride an ostrich?” you’ve come to the right place!

where can i ride an ostrich

National Parks

I was a little bit obsessed with visiting all the National Parks in the U.S. and that’s no different in South Africa! Luckily, there are only 19 here, compared with the 59 in the United States!

Table Mountain National Park – Cape Town

There are hundreds of different hikes in Table Mountain National Park, with over 300 hikes just to the top of Table Mountain alone! This is obviously a MUST-SEE when visiting South Africa. Hike to the top if you’re fit, or just take the cable car up if you’re not into strenuous climbs.

Tip: Table Mountain is the oldest mountain in the world at 360 million years old!

table mountain photo credit to warrenski

Agulhas National Park – Overberg Region, Western Cape

L’Agulhas is Portuguese for the needle, because at the southernmost point of the continent, magnetic north coincides with true north. This rocky cape marks the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. While there isn’t much to do in the park, and much of it is under construction, it’s definitely worth stopping.

Tip: People often get confused thinking the Cape Peninsula in Cape Town is where the oceans meet. But those people are incorrect.

lagulhas national park

West Coast National Park – Western Cape

West Coast National Park is most famous for its annual flower blooming in August and September. And OMG was it spectacular. Check out THIS POST for a complete guide to seeing the flowers as well as where to stay and more! Minus half a star since there are no campgrounds in the park, only expensive cottages and the hiking is minimal.

Tip: At just an hour from Cape Town, West Coast is easy to squeeze into a day trip or an overnight!

flower viewing west coast national park

Tsitsikamma National Park – Garden Route, Eastern Cape

Tsitsikamma is actually just one of three different sections in Garden Route National Park along the southern coast of South Africa (the other two are Knysna and Wilderness). It is a gorgeous park that is home to the famous Otter Trail, but sadly I took off half a star due to the lack of good day hikes available here. Everything is either two hours, or five days. Still–absolutely gorgeous.

Tip: Stay at Storms River Mouth Camp, easily one of the most gorgeous campsites I have ever had the pleasure of camping at. Two nights is plenty of time in the area.

tsitsikamma national park storms river mouth camp

Addo Elephant National Park – Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

If you’re only going to safari in one park in SA, make it Kruger (obviously). That being said, Addo still has a wealth of wildlife and of course–elephants. Their campsites, however, are tiny and under equipped. A full day of self-guided game driving should be plenty to see lots of animals.

Tip: Don’t go in wet season (Dec/Jan) or the elephants will never leave the veld. Dry season brings them out the watering holes by the dozens.

addo elephant national park best campsite

Beaches

While I have been to a few beaches so far, they have all been in winter. So I’m going to wait to update this category until I see what shit is like in summer. Cause I’m guessing it’s full-on insanity and every beach is packed.

Scenic Drives

Boy, oh, boy do I LOVE a good scenic drive. Sheer mountainsides rising above twisting highways, vast landscapes opening up on other side, basically any landscape during the golden hour. I love ’em all.

Chapman’s Peak Drive – Cape Town

This winding, cliff-side drive is without question a MUST-DO when visiting Cape Town. From start to finish you’ll be blown away. It’s relatively short but is also a great starting point to explore the peninsula and head down Misty Cliffs and Cape Point Nature Reserve!

Tip: Check to make sure it’s open first: it closes in high winds, storms, and often for repairs.

best scenic drives around cape town

Pakhuis Pass – Cederberg Wilderness

While not a destination in itself, the Pakhuis Pass takes you from the citrus groves of Clanwilliam into the Cederberg Wilderness. The best part of this pass is definitely popping out into the vast expanse on the other side.

Tip: There’s no cell service after the pass, so get your texts in before you go.

pakhuis pass cederberg

Franschhoek Pass – Franschhoek

The best advice I can give you if you’re visiting Franschhoek wine country is to take the R45 north to get out of town and drive back to Cape Town via this pass. Before you enter the jaw-dropping pass, you’re treated to stunning mountain views over the Franschhoek Valley, it adds barely any time to get down to the N2, and is infinitely more enjoyable than the eyesore that is the N1.

Tip: Pop on the R321 south to hit the N2 and head back to Cape Town!

best scenic drives near cape town

Swartberg Pass – Little Karoo

A classic mountain pass heading north from Oudtshoorn, this quick drive is sure not to disappoint. If you’re trying to head east afterwards, be warned: the R407 is a rough gravel road with big sharp rocks and nowhere to stop for 92km until Willowmore.

Tip: Don’t drive on the R407 if you don’t have a spare tire.

best scenic drives south africa

Viljeon’s Pass – Western Cape

Viljeon’s pass follows the R321 which you will take from the R45 leaving Franschhoek.  While Viljeon’s Pass through the apple orchards of the Elginn Valley is lovely, it’s no match for the Franschhoek.

Tip: Stop at Peregrine Farm Stall for a cider and a springbok pie just after you pop out on the N2.

viljoens pass

Kogsmanskloof Pass – Langeberg Mountains, Western Cape

Kogsmanskloof pass is the gateway to the famed Route 62, one of the most scenic and charming parts of South Africa. The pass is stunning and towering, but of course there is one-way construction happening which can mean waits of up to 20 minutes. I am pretty sure all the construction in SA has been going on for more than a decade and never gets finished.

Tip: If you drive the pass at night, you can’t see anything. So don’t do that…

kogsmanskloof pass

Wineries

When most people think of wine country in SA, they think of Stellenbosch. But in reality, Stellenbosch is just one piece of a much larger region that is home to hundreds upon hundreds of wineries. I’ll never be able to get to them all, but I’m sure as hell gonna try.

Constantia

Groot Constantia

Groot Constantia is the oldest wine producing estate in South Afirca (founded in 1865) and is a must-visit in the Constantia wine valley. The wines are delicious, the views are incredible and you don’t really need any more than that.

Tip: I live 10 minutes from here so let me know if you’re going and I’ll pop on over for a tasting 🙂

groot constantia

Constantia Glen

Easily my favorite winery in Constantia, the Glen has it all–spectacular views, my favorite wine so far in the country, a grassy knoll for the perfect picnicing, and gorgeous “magic hour” lighting across the valley. It’s perfect.

Tip: The Glen Three is delectable, but the Glen Five is even better.

best wineries south africa

Eagle’s Nest

Eagle’s Nest is like the secluded version of Constantia Glen. Instead of epic views, you are tucked into a cozy corner of the valley. The wines are still delectable and it is the most perfect picnic spot you possibly imagine.

Tip: Get the cheese and charcuterie platter–it’s one of the best I’ve ever had.

eagles nest winery

Stellenbosch

Slaley Cellar

On the north side of Stellenbosch, Slaley is a lovely estate with some pretty good wines. Nothing extraordinary, but we wanted to go to a winery on a late Sunday afternoon that also served food (not just snacks) and this was the first (only?) place we found that was open. SOLD!

Robertson Valley

Robertson Winery

OK, So Robertson is more like the Budweiser of wineries here. The tastings are in a room right next to their massive wine factory, not overlooking a lovely hillside. BUT, Robertson makes some pretty damn fine box wines if you ask me. Also, the tastings are free (any five of your choosing) so you can’t argue with that.

Tip: Try the Barista Pinotage

Viljoensdrift

Viljoensdrift was lovely, and their pinotage was to die for. But I just kinda felt meh about the whole place. The winery is right on the Breede River, they do little river cruises. I don’t know, maybe I’m spoiled by the likes of Constantia Glen.

Tip: They charge R35 per glass, but it will just say “red” so go ahead and drink the pinotage, and buy a bottle of the Cape Blend for R70.

Somerset West

Coming Dec. 9th

Paarl

Haven’t been to any wineries in Paarl just yet!

Markets & Shops

Market culture is thriving in Cape Town and you could easily visit a different one each weekend for months. Here’s the skinny on all the ones I’ve checked out so far:

Weekend Markets

Bay Harbour Market – Hout Bay

Easily my favorite market so far, Hout Bay has it all. Beautiful scenery, delicious food, live music, a cozy inside, a patio for warmer days, and lots of awesome, locally made stuff to buy.

Hours: Friday Night – 5pm to 9pm, Sat & Sun – 9am to 4pm

Bluebird Garage Food & Goods Market – Muizenberg

Definitely more food than crafts, the Bluebird market is only open on Friday nights. With at least twenty food stalls to choose from along with fresh bread and veggies to take home, this lively market is definitely worth a visit. Also, sometimes they do stand up comedy events!

Hours: Friday Night – 4pm to 10pm

The Old Biscuit Mill – Woodstock

The Old Biscuit Mill has just about everything you could want. While every Saturday you can shop for fresh veggies, cheese, charcuterie, etc, there are also art and craft stalls along with permanent tenants in the space selling fine leather goods, unique fashion, high end art, lower end art, South African souvenir type things, and cheap wine to walk around with while you shop. There are a couple places to eat here as well, but I have yet to check them out. Who needs food when there are $2 glasses of rosé?

Hours: Saturday – 9am to 3pm
**They also do Wicked Wednesdays from 4 to 8pm on the last Wednesday of every month.

Franschhoek Village Market – Franschhoek

A little further out of Cape Town, the Franshhoek Market is exactly what you imagine an outdoor market to be: vendors set up in tents selling arts, crafts, and clothing, food, beer and wine stalls, and some live music. The market is pretty small overall though, so expect to be done seeing everything in about four minutes.

Hours: Saturday – 9am to 3pm (weather permitting)

Bonus: If you’re driving back to Cape Town, take the long way back on the R45 through Franschhoek Pass. One of the best scenic drives I’ve seen!

Shopping

OK, I know, I need to add the shopping places. I’ve found some awesome vintage stores and I will add them soon, I promise! We all know I’m not that much of a shopper though!

Greenmarket Square

If you walk around the City Bowl for any amount of town, you will likely run into Greenmarket Square. A collection of stalls selling mostly touristy African art and curios, this used to be the main market to sell fresh fruits and vegetables (hence the name). Definitely not the most interesting market, but there are usually some kids doing an African dance performance of some kind, which is cool.

Hours: Mon to Sat until around 5pm

History & Culture

I promise I will flesh out this section a little more, but honestly, the history and culture side is not the best that South Africa has to offer. Please see the above section on things that happen outside.

History

The Castle of Good Hope

Definitely worth checking out. Lots of history in a cool old castle/prison/fortress

The District Six Museum

While I appreciated learning about the history of District Six, this museum was poorly curated and failed to tell a very compelling story about the people who were forcibly evacuated from their land during Apartheid. Could have been so much more.

The Slave Lodge

Again, maybe as an American I’m just used to learning a LOT about slavery in history class, but it seemed like they weren’t even sure what the slaves were doing or who they were or where they lived. All I learned the whole time was that Cape Town was part of the VOCs (the Dutch East India Company’s) route to India and Madagascar. But I already knew that. You can do better, Cape Town!

Art & Music

The Labia Theatre

Coming Soon!

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art

This just opened in September and we tried to go but the line was two hours long. Next time!

I know I’m missing a ton of the AMAZING things to do in South Africa…tell me more in the comments below!

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