After leaving my job in the beginning of December, I made a point of getting out of Joburg as quickly, and for as long as possible. I didn’t want to immediately feel overwhelmed by my decision.
We ended up heading to Cape Town for a few weeks. Yes, I know. Cape Town Over December (all of the “eeeks”).
The first week of December was pretty relaxed, but as Christmas approached you could feel the overwhelming masses of the upper parts of the country pouring in and it quickly became hard to do the “usual” Cape Town visitors’ activities.
Our saving grace was that we have some Capetonian friends and family and I felt like it was the first time I experienced Cape Town as the locals do, and (if it’s even possible) I fell deeper in love with SA’s ‘Mother City’.
So, I’ve put down some recommendations for those (unfortunate) non-Capetonians like me who want to get a more authentic experience and avoid the “tourist traps”.
Capetonians all seem to have this beautiful, tanned glow that I am convinced has to do with how much they hike. Unfortunately, when it’s crazy busy (Christmas – New Years) you end up waiting in long lines just to start your hike. So we tried some alternatives:
Cecilia Forest is a particularly beautiful and scenic walk-hike. You’ll find yourself awe-struck by the height of the trees and I recommend when going up to take the smaller paths instead of the main road. You will reach a point close to the top where I swear you can see every side and angle of Cape Town. It’s breathtaking.
Side note: After this hike, please go to Chardonnay Deli for breakfast, this will be the perfect day, I promise you.
Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine will be one of the most exquisite hikes you’ll ever do. It starts and / ends in the Kirstenbosch gardens.
This is a little more challenging and can take up to 5 hours to complete (or if you get lost like we did, can take a whole day – so do some research).
It will be worth every minute for the views, the indigenous plants and the workout.
You can also go up Skeleton Gorge and walk to the Table Mountain Cable Way and take the cable car back down, or in the reverse of that.
PICK MUSSELS IN SCARBOROUGH
This was one of the best days I’ve ever had. Partly because as a Joburg girl who buys ready-made food at Woolies, partly because Scarborough is such a beautiful beach, but mostly because my friend Tarryn is an exceptional forager/cook.
- License: Go to a local post office with your SA ID and request a 12-month mussel picking license (if you don’t have an SA ID you can still get a 1 month license). It takes 10 minutes and will cost you around R70. You can pick 30 mussels p/day p/license.
- Tide: Depending on the time of year, look online when it will be low tide at Scarborough beach, this will avoid almost-certain death
- Bring: Shoes you can get wet (so you don’t cut your feet), gardening gloves, a waterproof / plastic bag to take the mussels back with, pliers, sunscreen, hats and your license.
Dos and Don’ts:
- Head to the rocks on the far left or right of the beach, you will need to pick the mussels that are still under water
- Check the size before pulling them out, being responsible is very important when foraging mussels. Make sure you find the biggest mussels and don’t pull out the babies.
- Once you have pulled your mussel, look for the beard (grass-like area where the mussel was attached to the rock) and pull it out as quick as you can with the pliers – the mussel will close and then you wont get the beard out and it will end up in your cooked mussel which you want to avoid
- Some people clean their mussels of the dirt and barnacles while still at the beach, some do it at home. If you want to, find a small rock you can use to scratch your mussels clean.
When home with your mussels, and since you’re in the wine lands, you may as well make them in a white wine sauce. Here’s a recipe on how to prepare and make the sauce
SPEND A FULL DAY IN KALK BAY
Kalk Bay is a total gem. Spend a full day here and you will see what I mean.
I’ve even put together a little itinerary for you;
First, to bring: Bikinis, sunscreen and beach towel, change of clothes and a warm sweater/jersey.
- Start your morning off with a coffee at Bootleggers and then you must visit and get a book at the famous Kalk Bay Bookstore. This book store is really something special, you can find some very rare reads here.
- Take your new book and walk over to Dalesbrooke Tidal Pool, for some morning beaching and swimming, the water here is surprisingly warm. There is a decent public restroom as you go under the railway to the tidal pools where you can change.
- This is a pretty quiet little spot and a lot less pretentious than the mainstream beaches (where people mainly go to take a million selfies).
- When you’re all beached out, go grab lunch at The Brass Bell. The view is magnificent and it’s the perfect place to really just sit back, relax, have a drink and just take it all in.
Kalk Bay can be quite eclectic, many people end up getting their hair braided or buying dream catchers from the locals. But you could also do this;
- Walk the main street and stop by all the local antique, vintage and new stores.
- Emphasis on local (there’s nothing worse than coming all the way to Cape Town and then going to Zara at The V&A Waterfront, I die)
- My favorite is called Kalk Bay Co-op which is a space that holds products (jewelry, art, clothes) by quiet a few different SA designers. https://www.facebook.com/KALK-BAY-CO-OP-395073960585636/
VISIT THE FRIDAY FOOD MARKET IN TOKAI
Before you head out for a big Friday night, go grab dinner at The Range Food Market.
The market is situated in the Tokai forest and has plenty of food stalls, very good craft beer and a nice, relaxing atmosphere.
This is one of the most beautiful ways to spend an afternoon/early evening, sitting under gigantic pine trees surrounded by one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen.
TAKE A CATAMARAN OUT TO SEA FROM THE V&A WATERFRONT
I’m deviating from my “avoid the tourist traps” rule a little bit here, but only for a short time, because once you’re out of the harbor there is so much beauty out on the water.
The funny part is most people avoid this because they think it will be exorbitantly expensive but its actually really affordable. If for example you take a 1 hour trip out on the Caprice catamaran, which you can find close to the Harbor House restaurant, it would be around R120 – R180 per person.
We once went through about 20 dolphin pods on one of these trips and we almost always see seals.
SUNSET IN BIG BAY
This sunset spot will probably ruin you for all others, but it’s worth it believe me.
Visit the Blue Peter for some sundowner drinks in Big Bay and then take a walk on the beach as the sun goes down. The beach looks across the ocean at Table Mountain (as you can see in my pics below).
The perfect way to end off any day in Cape Town.
Obviously there are just so many more things you can do when in Cape Town, I’m going again in a few days and will most likely update a Part 2 version.
Until then, thanks for reading 🙂