'An Epic Adventure' - this is the best way to summarise my recent trip to Cape Town and the surrounding areas.
If you want a holiday that's a bit more memorable than your average beach holiday, and you don't have months to travel around South America or South East Asia to do it, then I cannot advise you better than to head to South Africa. It's an amazingly diverse country which offers a huge variety of experiences across a surprisingly small stretch of land.
Sadly, for this trip, I had to leave my travel twin Teddy behind, but instead took with me an equally enthusiastic and energetic travel mate - my boyfriend.
The way i've decided to lay out my trip for you is day by day, as we did our trip exactly, with some added in extra tips for things we didn't quite have time to do. I hope you enjoy it!
DAY 1 - Sunday - Cape Town
Our flight touched down mid-afternoon at Cape Town airport, a perfect time to glimpse your first sight of the city, whilst still light. The one major travel tip I would give, for by far the easiest way to navigate CT, is by Uber. It's about £12 and 25 minutes from the airport to anywhere in the centre of the city. We stayed in the brilliant Stay True on Loop Street, booked easily in advance through AirBnB. At just £70 a night it is a steal for its centrality, awesome interiors and super-cool coffee shop / bar downstairs.
You won't feel like doing a massive amount on your first night, if your flight was anything like ours (London to Dubai then Dubai to CT!), so take a leisurely stroll out towards the V&A Waterfront. Savour - or take numerous photos of - the beautiful sunset against the backdrop of Table Mountain. ANY of the restaurants here have great views and the freshest seafood. We ate in the Life Grand Cafe but one of my best friends who was here just before me would recommend Harbour House too.
DAY 2 - Monday - Cape Town
Jet lag means a very early wake up call, so make the most of it and head out to start enjoying the sunshine and morning warmth. We headed straight for Truth Coffee on Buitenkant Street. This place has been voted best coffee shop in the WORLD by the Daily Telegraph. So naturally, as a coffee-fanatic, I had to try it! Don't be sold on just the coffee here though, the food menu is out of this world. We tried the Steampunk Benedict, their signature breakfast, and i'd have had this every morning of my holiday if I could!
Fully caffeined-up we left the fabulous interiors of the cafe (which would work just as well as a club, such is the low-lighting, music and cool crowd) and headed off in an Uber to check out Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. On a hot sunny day these gardens are perfect for whiling away a couple of hours of wandering - definitely take a picnic and a book. Not to be missed is 'The Boomslang' - a truly magical tree canopy walkway.
After this, like us, you might not have all that much energy left so we headed back into the city to check out the Grand Daddy Hotel rooftop bar. We just stopped by for a quick drink and snoop around the Airstream Trailers (which you can book as awesome hotel rooms) But if you have more time and are there on a Monday, definitely check out their list of screenings at the Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema.
From here we took a very relaxed approach to the early evening going on to check out the very Gap-Year-esque Beerhouse on Long Street - excellent for a sundowner. Before moving on to one of our very favourite finds in CT, Kloof Street House. We were lucky and managed to get a bar table as we went quite late, but I would definitely recommend booking this in advance if there are more than two of you in your group. Amazing atmosphere (quite similar to Soho House, London), huge cocktail menu and absolutely delicious food. It's an incredibly generic choice but the burger is YUM.
DAY 3 - Tuesday - Cape Town
On our final full day in CT we decided to hit the exercise trail pretty hard. We woke up very early to get down to the harbour for a trip to Robben Island but realised this was a rooky error. You must book your tickets a few days in advance for this trip so please don't be disappointed like us and miss out on CT's most famous piece of history!
Never ones to be perturbed, we decided to hotfoot it over to the other side of the city to check out the queue for Table Mountain. We were incredibly lucky and managed to book our tickets online whilst standing outside in the queue, so managed to then skip the queue (definitely do this, they provide free wifi too!) and be up at the top of mountain within 15 minutes of our Uber dropping us off.
The view from the summit is awe-inspiring and an experience in CT which must not be missed. We really got the most out of the excursion by doing the longest unguided hike which took us around the perimeter of the table (a total of about 2.5 hours walking). From here you get to see all the vistas and not to mention work up a full sweat!
Determined to continue our very full on day of strenuous activity we headed back down into the city for a quick pitstop lunch then back out again in search of the beautifully multi-coloured collection of townhouses in BoKaap. It's a tiny collection of streets of brightly painted houses, which used to be a township, but it's definitely worth checking out - and of course a mandatory instagram post!
BoKaap serves as a great pitstop on the road (Kloof Nek Street) up to our final destination - Signal Hill. Don't be tempted to get a taxi up there, the reward is in the walking. The other option is of course hiking up the more popular Lion's Head which is much higher and steeper - but, I am told - a very rewarding hike all the same. The walk up to Signal Hill took a couple of hours but our arrival time was perfect - sundown at the top looking out over to Robben Island is a very memorable sight.
Ravenous after a day of being on our feet, we headed down to Mouille Point to get our first SA fix of steak from the Butcher Shop and Grill. I came across this gem by accident - just a quick google of steak restaurants in CT and this happened to be the closest one at the time. We were rewarded for taking the risk - with South Africa being known for it's incredible steak at incredible prices we had high expectations - and this didn't disappoint! The beauty of this restaurant too is that the service is fabulously friendly and the wine cellar spectacular.
DAY 4 - Wednesday - Stellenbosch
After checking out of our digs and grabbing a quick coffee from Yours Truly cafe, we made our way to the local Hertz to pick-up our travel companion for the next week - a very fetching Nissan Micra.
Not wanting to do a huge amount of driving - this is a holiday after all - we'd planned our route out to Plettenburg Bay with a number of stepping-stone stops. The first and most obvious - NOT TO BE MISSED - is definitely the stunning university town of Stellenbosch. Although we went during holiday time, so it was relatively quiet, I am assured by my boyfriend, who came here during his GY, that when the students are in town this place is pretty wild.
We decided to head to straight for a winery as you have to be careful they close quite early, some about 4pm. The one we'd read a lot about and had recommendations for was Rustenburg. There are SO many wineries to choose from so don't take this as the only option. But it was a fabulously beautiful spot, down a long and pretty hidden driveway to a stunning old-Dutch warehouse where the staff talked us personally through wine-by-wine and outside we sat relaxing in the sun-drenched gardens.
NB these wine tours are ridiculously cheap and you get a lot of wine - leave the car and get a taxi!!!
Later in the afternoon we headed back to the centre of the town to check into Avemore Apartments where we were staying for the night. A super easy and helpful service in a lovely central location - couldn't recommend it more for circa £60 a night for the 'Bachelor' apartment which is a studio with kitchen and washing machine. Unless you want spend a bit more money and stay on one of the wine estates, ours is the budget-friendly option!
For an extra activity, take a stroll around the town out to the jaw-dropping university sports facilities. The backdrop of their rugby stadium is stunning and really quite something to compare to my university experience in Edinburgh. Although a beautiful place too, who wouldn't rather study in 30 degree heat?
For dinner look nowhere other than the Wijnhuis in the centre of Stellenbosch. It has a gorgeous fairy-lit courtyard for pre-dinner drinks and upstairs houses the equally picturesque restaurant. The food - as seemingly everywhere we've been to so far in SA - is delicious. This place is definitely the maturer option, we were the youngest people in the place, but again not to be missed for fine dining on a budget!
DAY 5 - Thursday - Franschhoek
An early check out from Stellenbosch to make the short hop to Franschhoek meant we arrived in time for an early check-in to the very rural Otter's Bend Lodge. Whilst only a short walk from the town, this lodge is absolutely the most fun place to stay if you're travelling or back-packing. Super cheap rooms and a fun forest setting, if we'd had more time there we'd have definitely had a dip in the pool and tried out the BBQ in the communal gardens.
As it was we were desperate to drop our bags and head off to catch a full day on the Wine Tram. This hop-on-hop-off tram is the only way to get round numerous vineyards in a day and is such a quirky way to see more of the area.
By far the best one we stopped at was Boschendal Winery, which is over 300 years old and set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. You must book in advance for one of their amazing picnics and wine tastings in the garden!
We took the Purple line so we also stopped off at Babylonstoren. A very different type of winery, although every bit as old as Boschendal, the architecture here is much more modern, minimalistic and airy. The tasting room is a gorgeous space and the wine isn't so bad either!
After a long and hot day of wine - possibly a little tipsy at the end! - we decided to go for a quiet meal in town at Col'Cacchio Pizza. There are some beautiful dinner options on some of the wine estates if you're looking for some finer dining. La Motte and Haute Cabriere look like stunning options!
DAY 6 - Friday - Garden Route Game Lodge
For my boyfriend's Christmas present I decided to buy him an activity present for us to do together on our January holiday. He is absolutely obsessed with safari and although South Africa is the obvious place to go on one, the Cape Town area in the south of the country does not offer many options. If you're looking to do a serious safari, head to the world famous Kruger National Park, outside Jo'burg.
So we didn't have time (or indeed the budget!) to nip up North but, after a little research, I came across the Garden Route Game Lodge a fabulous overnight option for those wanting to see the Big 5 on the way from Cape Town to Plett. It's super easy to find if you're driving yourself from CT and it's a fabulously spacious, green private reserve.
We had two drives booked, one in the early evening and one early the next morning. We had a lovely treehouse overlooking the reserve and our guide ensured on both drives we saw zebra, giraffe, lions, rhino and elephants. Having never experienced these animals up close, I was astonished at their beauty and to learn how hard the staff have to work to keep them safe from poachers. A truly eye-opening experience.
DAY 7 - Saturday - drive to Plettenburg Bay
After an early game drive followed by breakfast, we checked out of the lodge to drive to the beach part of our trip - Plett. Whilst there are loads of recommended stops on this route (Knysna, George, Mossel Bay) we had had enough of moving around night after to night so were desperate to get to Plett and stay put for a bit.
Well this decision did not disappoint. We completely lucked out by choosing the most amazing self-catering apartment to stay in called Urban Plett hosted by a wonderful newly-married couple.
DAY 8 - Sunday - Plett
The beauty of opting to rest here for a few days is exactly that - RESTFUL. We definitely decided to enjoy chilling in our beautiful studio room and headed down to Robberg Beach everyday. Not before a coffee and croissant from the delicious Le Fournil.
Our hosts very kindly lent us a BBQ / braai so we would suggest heading to the supermarket to grab some meat and salad. The simplest of meals on a warm summer's night!
DAY 9 - Monday - Plett
If you're feeling really adventurous then get out early to the beach and enlist the services of Learn to Surf Plett for an action-filled morning!
After this head to The Lookout for a late breakfast or lunch. As the name might suggest - the view is divine - so take a book and while away a few hours here.
For the evening our recommendation would be Enrico's. Get here nice and early, mainly because the sunset is AMAZING, but also because you often have to queue during peak months. I'm embarrassed to say how many times we went back here... do not miss it!
DAY 10 - Tuesday - Plett
For your final day in Plett, head out to Robberg Nature Reserve for a hike. We had a beautifully hot sunny day (so remember lots of water!). There are three route options - we took the longest - Point Circuit which took around 4 hours at 9.2km. It was such a rewarding hike and one I cannot wait to do again - if you're there the right time of year you may be lucky enough to see the seals!
For your final dinner there is nowhere else to head apart from the restaurant at Emily Moon the food and views are equally jaw-dropping - if I could get married anywhere in the world, this would be it!
DAY 11 - Wednesday - drive to Swellendam
Today is a bit of a long slog if you decide to hotfoot it back to CT, as we did. A circa 4 hour drive, leaving behind the beautiful Garden Route beaches is a bit sad. We just used Swellendam as an overnight pitstop (staying in the lovely Elianthe Guesthouse) but if you want to check out all it has to offer, click here.
DAY 12 - Thursday - drive to Camps Bay
Arriving back in Cape Town is a real treat. Be sure to take the route which brings you back in along Chapman's Peak and down into Hout Bay. Grab a fishy lunch if you're hungry!
What you didn't get to see in your first few days here in CT, you can finally do now. To check out a new area of the city we headed to Camps Bay Village, on the other side of Lion's Head. They have a lovely little pool to chill out by and it is a little oasis right by the busy main road through the bay.
For another beautiful sunset head down to Cafe Caprice for cocktails followed by Paranga for dinner.
DAY 13 - Friday - Camps Bay
Up early the next morning, hopefully refreshed, after a good night's sleep.
Today's suggestion is to head to Boulders Beach to see the infamous penguins. If you still have your car make a bit of a drive of it and head up to Simon's Town and Cape Point, to the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent.
After a busy morning sight-seeing, head back to Camp's Bay, specifically Clifton, for a late lunch at The Bungalow, a slightly expensive but beautifully positioned restaurant on the beach. Last day of the holiday so treat yourself to some rose!
If you have any energy left a walk along the Clifton beaches is well worth it.
DAY 14 - Saturday - Old Biscuit Mill, leave
Check out early from your hotel, we left our bags with the concierge and grab an Uber to The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock for their Saturday morning Neighbourgoods Market. This is without doubt the best market I have been to anywhere in the world - DO NOT MISS!
As sad is it is to have to leave this amazing country after two weeks of non-stop adventure, console yourself, as I did, that you will absolutely be back soon.