Ten reasons to visit the Cape Point Peninsula

My web traffic stats tell me that a lot of people overseas visit this site for information on the area. So I thought I would write an article promoting the area, giving those people an insight into why they cannot visit South Africa without coming and seeing us here.

Reason 1:
Kalk Bay– what better place to start your visit to the deep south than in Kalk Bay, a picturesque fishing village on the main road. Set at the foot of the Steenberg Mountain range Kalk Bay is a great place to spend a few hours browsing through boutiques and antique shops, watch the seals from the harbour wall and take in the hustle and bustle of a working fishing quay. Why not pause a while and have tea in one of the excellent coffee shops or tarry and have lunch.

Reason 2:
Fish Hoek Beach and Jaeger’s Walk– around the corner and into Fish Hoek Bay. The town of Fish Hoek is a thriving, commercial habitation, so the main street is not all that tourist friendly. However, the beach and surround is something else altogether. With one of the most picturesque beaches in the world with rocky headlands on either side Fish Hoek beach has been a favourite with locals for well over a century. If you manage to hit the beach on a day when the South Easter isn’t blowing then you will be on a beach which ranks with any other in the world (and I’ve seen a few).

Fish Hoek Bay on Christmas Day 2010

If the South Easter is blowing then you at least get the benefit of a cooling breeze.
At the Southern end of the beach is Jaeger’s Walk, a concrete path that runs over the rocks. This area is very popular among sun worshippers as it is sheltered from the prevailing winds in the summer, and is north facing. In the late winter/early spring this is an excellent place for observing southern right whales. They get so close to the shore that you can sometimes smell their breath (and that is no exaggeration). In fact, by-laws prevent observer boats getting as close as when you are stood on the walk. At low tide Jaeger’s Walk is a brilliant place for observing rock pool life: you can see some amazingly coloured anemones, sea urchins and little fish. As the tide comes in certain areas become fantastic, natural swimming pools, sheltered from the worst of the waves and shark free (it is a fact that people have been killed by sharks swimming off Fish Hoek beach. There is a very effective shark spotting programme in place and all you have to do is follow the directions and you will be safe enough.) Finish off by having a drink and a bite to eat in the Galley Restaurant, right on the beach.

Reason 3:
Simon’s Town– another 10km down the coast is historic Simon’s Town. Home to the SA navy Simon’s Town oozes history and charm, from the old harbour to the buildings on the main street. There are plenty of shopping opportunities for the tourist and a plethora of excellent watering holes. If the weather is nice (which it is most of the time) there is nothing better than fish and chips from the Salty Dog right on the quay side.
History is everywhere you look. Admiralty house at the north end of town, the Simon’s Town Museum, Quayside, Toy Museum and the Statue of Just Nuisance, probably the town’s most famous former resident (dog lovers among you will love the story, but I am not telling it here as it is too long, you can also visit his grave on the hills above the town). Adding to the charm is the fact that there are still many people milling around in navy uniforms, big frigates and submarines in the dock yard and even the SA navy dive school. Hours will speed by and it is possible to spend a full day enjoying this town so it may be well worth spending the night here. Simons Town has an excellent web site www.simonstown.com which is well worth a browse.

Reason 4:
Boulders Beach Penguin Colony– Just to the south of Simon’s Town is Boulders Beach, the most famous of the African Penguin colonies. Here you can get as close to these amusing birds as you like on two specially constructed walk ways. The penguins use the site to nest and as a launch point for their fishing trips in areas well to the south of Cape Point. Staying at sea for weeks these amazing creatures are perfectly adapted for their aquatic existence, which makes them just as comical on land. Don’t be fooled though, these little creatures can be aggressive, and will bite. They do a comical cocking of the head, this is not what it seems, it is a sign that the birds are not appreciating your presence, any closer and they may have a go.

Reason 5:
Cape Point– What trip to South Africa would be complete without a visit to the spiritual tip of the continent?
Cape Point, or the Cape of Good Hope (actually, there is a Cape Point-where the lighthouse is, and a Cape of Good Hope- a smaller point just up the western side of the headland), is not really the southern most tip of Africa: that accolade belongs to Cape Agulus, a further few hundred kilometers to the East. However, the Cape of Storms definitely has the title in people’s minds.
The other misconception is that this is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, again this is Cape Agulus, but don’t let that take anything away from the drama of the place.
Sheer cliffs plunging straight into the cold, tumulus water, and the old light house clinging precariously to its perch- you cannot help but be awed.
Take a fascinating walk around the point or travel to the summit on the Flying Dutchman Funicular: then sit a while in the café, with surely some of the best views in the world.
If you are lucky enough to be here in late winter/early spring then you will get the added bonus of watching the Southern Right Whales, who laze around in the rollers and shelter in the many bays. For more information visit www.capepoint.co.za.

Reason 6:
Cape Point Nature Reserve– There isn’t just a lump of rock and a lighthouse at the end of Africa. The Cape Point Nature Reserve covers 1000’s of hectares and is home to some pretty unusual wildlife, and more secluded white sandy bays than you can shake an assegai at.
In the confines of the park there are several baboon troops one of which can be found at the parking area at most times of the day. Unfortunately this is because of the irresponsible behavior of visitors who feed the baboons. These are wild animals and can be dangerous. As with all wild animals they need to be treated with respect. Do not touch and do not feed them.
Other regularly seen animals include several species of buck, mongoose, lots of birds and a few snakes. However, the real stars of the show are the ostrich and zebra that can usually be seen at the Cape of Good Hope: it is surely one of the more bizarre sights in Africa to see these savannah creatures feeding on wind-swept beaches.

Reason 7:
Cape Point Ostrich Farm– In 1996 Angelika Coelle began renovating a ramshackle collection of 19th Century Cape Dutch style farm buildings. Her vision and hard work has developed into a 65ha ostrich breeding farm with around 80 birds.
They are happy to take you on a tour of the farm and this is a great place to get ostrich leather products and decorative ostrich eggs, which are locally worked. The farm also has a restaurant that can seat up to 200 people, with an outside area which has beautiful views of the mountain.
The farm is open from 9.30 to 5.30 daily and is located just outside the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Visit www.capepointostrichfarm.com for more details.

Reason 8:
West Coast Drive from Scarborough to Kommetjie– A true gem of the region, and for most merely a way of getting from a to b, however, this is a drive to rival any scenic route in the world, and in many ways even superior to the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive.
The road winds from the Cape Point Nature Reserve through farm and fynbos until it joins the cost just to the south of Scarborough, a small hamlet on the west coast. White sandy beaches to your left disappearing pounded by crashing white surf coming from clear blue water; with dramatic mountains sweeping up to your right. The road sweeps around the coast just above the beach line until it reaches the area around the Slangkop lighthouse (the tallest cast iron light house in southern Africa at 33mm.- it lends itself perfectly to photographs, being bright white against an azure sky), when it rises dramatically, and some what scarily, before dropping down into Kommetjie.

Reason 9:
Cape Point Vineyards– This award winning vineyard is uniquely positioned between two oceans producing wines in small quantities for the true wine lover. They have recently opened tasting rooms at their Chapman’s Peak Estate which are open Mondays – Fridays: 09:00 – 17:00, Saturdays: 10:00 – 17:00, Sundays: 10:00 – 16:00. For more details go to www.capepointvineyards.co.za.
Their next big attraction will be a beautiful picnic site overlooking the Noordhoek valley and Long Beach. This is expected to be completed by March 2011.

Reason 10:
Chapman’s Peak Drive– What trip around the Cape Peninsula would be complete without a sunset drive around Chapman’s Peak Drive.
“Chapman’s Peak Drive was the brain child of Sir Frederic de Waal, the first administrator of the Cape Province. De Waal Drive, in Cape Town, was named after him.
Work on the road began in 1915 after engineers, geologists and surveyors determined the best route along the soft band of shale between the mountain’s granite base and the overlying sandstone. This stretch was blasted into the mountain side and is a masterpiece of road construction. The route was formally opened in 1922.”- extract from the official web site www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za/history.php.
It cuts its way through sheer cliffs, which are in themselves a site of international importance, as they hold clues as to the separation of South America from Africa. The road runs from Noordhoek in the south to Hout Bay in the North and has many look out points from which to enjoy the spectacular vistas.
A word of warning though- the sheer nature of the cliffs makes for a few dangers, chief among them is the seemingly lemming like need for people to step back too far when having their photos taken, resulting in them being several hundred feet lower in the blink of an eye.
Secondly, the cliffs like to fall onto the road once in a while, usually resulting in the road being closed. Adverse weather can also close the road, although this is more likely in the winter months when the Atlantic storms roll in from the west. It is very annoying to drive down to the toll booth at the southern end of the road only to find it is closed, and then having to go all the way back to the main road. So check before you go that the road is open by visiting www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za. (Locals also tend to know whether it is open or closed so ask at any of the other places you visit).

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