I’ve seen some beautiful cities in 30 years, but Cape Town really is special. Words cannot describe the sheer presence of Table Mountain towering over the city streets, or the incredible cliff faces that emerge from the coastline of this incredible country. Gosh, I won’t even attempt to discuss the tranquility of the wine lands situated only a short drive from the city centre (more on that soon). But what I will say, is that you have to see it to believe it. My guide to Cape Town (& everything I wish I knew before I arrived), is right here.
BEFORE I GET STARTED…
If you’ve only just joined in, you may be asking yourself “Is South Africa Safe?“. I’ve answered that question here. It will take you 2 minutes to read this first – then come back and join us. If you’ve had a read and are ready to book your trip, then let’s get started!
WHERE WE STAYED IN CAPE TOWN
THE MANNA BAY HOTEL
Situated in “The Gardens”, Manna Bay is an incredible hotel on all fronts. You’re essentially sharing a private house/mansion with guests from 7 other rooms. Grounds are beautiful, staff are amazing, food is incredible (seriously, INCREDIBLE), they never once put a foot wrong.
We managed to lock in an INCREDIBLE rate (we still don’t know how we did it?!), but since checking back, we noticed that their prices are well and truly on the way up. Just know that the nightly rate includes:
- A driver to and from your dinner reservation.
- Access to guest services who will organise everything, including dinner reservations, tours, refunds, drivers etc.
- Breakfast is cooked to order, no buffet style eggs and bacon here! Food is fresh and there are so many options. TIP: We ate later in the morning, skipped lunch and satisfied our stirring hunger at high tea (see below).
- Great coffee made with a real coffee machine (no Nespresso pods here).
- Only the most amazing high tea you have EVER seen! Each day at 3.30pm, they put on one incredible spread. Everything within this spread is made in house each day. The menu forever changes and quite honestly will blow your mind. They also cater for all intolerances.
- All house wine, spirits, mixers, sparkling etc. are included, 24/7
- In-house movies on demand
- One trip to the airport with a private driver.
- Gym, pool, each room even has a view of the city or Table Mountain itself
- Whilst they don’t do a lunch and dinner service, one couple ordered food from a restaurant and the driver bought it back to the hotel for them! The service really is incredible!
WHERE WE ATE
I cannot emphasise this enough – please book your dinner reservations as soon as you book your flights, especially if you’re travelling throughout the busy season (Dec-Feb).
I’d highly recommend Kloof Street in Cape Town for good food and good vibes, or taking a quick drive into the city.
- Chef’s Warehouse – A simply must do! They don’t take reservations, so get there around 5.3pm-6pm to avoid having to wait too long (earlier the better).
- Kloof Street House – Great food (with a whole food focus), great service with a Brunswick Street (Melbourne) vibe.
- Black Sheep – A funky pub style setting with an incredible whole food focus.
- Carne on Keerom – If you like steak, and like it done well, head to the Keerom Street restaurant, beautiful setting!
If you’re staying in Camp’s Bay or surrounds, the waterfront is quite touristy but the most beautiful place to watch the sunset. For a good time, check out:
- The Bungalow – reminds me of a mix between Riva in St Kilda, Icebergs in Bondi and the Cottesloe Hotel in Perth. Young crowd 20-30s, perfect for some sundowners before you head into town for something to eat.
SOME ADDITIONAL NOTES…
- If you’re vegetarian and/or after a real South African experience, we heard wonderful things about Mzansi. We never got there, but we will definitely check it out next time. Think traditional home cooked meal with an SA education and light entertainment.
- I NEVER do this, but I’m only mentioning this because it was a fair drive out of our way – unfortunately Willoughby & Co didn’t live up to our expectations (SORRY!). It’s less “light and fresh” and more on the “saucy” side of sushi. Perhaps we just ordered wrong? I’m sure there are countless others to prove me wrong (there is a massive line, so maybe it is just me!).
- If you like your beer, try a Castle Light (Beer of South Africa). If you a Pinot Noir, sub in a Pinotage, SA’s signature. In my opinion, some of the best wines are from Durbanville – you’ll spot them on the menu!
- If you like Baileys, try an Amarula after dinner. This is a South African liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree. This tree fruits once per year and draws the Elephants from far and wide. They also invest money in Elephant conservation.
- It’s customary in South Africa to tip 10-15% on top of all services offered, even leaving a few ZAR in the rooms for housekeeping each day, won’t go astray. Be wary at hotels though, as some prefer to pool tips and disperse evenly amongst staff, and request this (again not compulsory) at the end of your stay 😉
WHAT TO DO IN CAPE TOWN
Aside from laying by the pool, heading to the beach and enjoying all of the amazing food on offer, we’d recommend:
- Table Mountain Hike
There are a number of paths to the top of Table Mountain, we did the hike that started near (or approximately 1km up from the cable car station – when I find the name of it, I’ll add it here). This is an up-hill climb from the word go (really, there isn’t much flat ground to catch your breath). Early morning hikes are the best (we started at 5.30am), to beat the sun and the crowds. First cable cart down is at 7.30am and costs about $15AUDpp (one way) so it worked perfectly. If you choose this path, allow 1-1.5hrs for the climb and time to take photos, before you return down. Views from the top are incredible (pictured above). Make sure you take lots of water with you!
- Lions Head Hike
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous (and don’t mind a few rock scrambles), tackle Lion’s Head.
- Robben Island
Unfortunately, our scheduled trip to Robben Island was cancelled due to strong winds, however we will travel back to Cape Town to do this. After speaking to a number of South Africans on our trip, the history of this beautiful country and one of it’s greatest leaders is something we all need to understand.
- Cape Town Nature Reserve
Again, something we didn’t do (only because we had spent 6 days driving the coast of South Africa) however, something so many people have recommended.
As mentioned, MannaBay has an in-house driver who picks you up and takes you to and from the restaurant of your choice. Outside of that, we employed the help of Uber and had absolutely no problem and would do it again! So inexpensive and so convenient!
And that’s it! If I have missed anything or you have any recommendations you would love me to try next time we revisit (honestly, we’re thinking about going again this year), please let me know in the comments below.