Cape Town: Beaches
Beaches run the length of the Peninsula on both sides. Atlantic beaches are tonier with colder water, False Bay beaches more family-oriented and warmer, and many in between are still wild and often deserted.
SEE The Boulders
M4 south of Simon's Town, 011-27/21-786-2329, tmnp.co.za
About 4,000, once nearly extinct, African penguins live in this reserve of massive boulders and sheltered beaches. Elevated walkways allow you to see the birds, up close. You can also swim (with penguins) in the warmish calm waters. If the penguins don't tempt you to visit, the panoramic views of False Bay might. Admission $2.50. Drive time: 60 min.
EAT Biggsy's Coach & Wine Bar
Cork Bay, 011-27/21-788-7760
A restaurant train that travels two and a half hours from the city to Simon's Town, hugging the False Bay coast along the way. A fun outing any time of day, it's best in the morning, when it serves full English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, sautéed tomato, and hearty toast. Reservations a must. Round-trip Cape Town--Simon's Town $4. Breakfast Tues.--Fri. $6, champagne breakfast Sat.--Sun. $8. Lunch and late afternoon trains also available.
EAT Olympia Café & Deli
134 Main Rd., Kalk Bay, 011-27/21-788-6396
Offbeat, artsy café with unbeatable omelets and sandwiches on potato focaccia that burst with fresh fillings like goat cheese and arugula. Its cinnamon twists are also excellent. Drive time: 30 min.
SPLURGE Azure Restaurant
The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Victoria Rd., Camps Bay, 011-27/21-437-9000, 12apostleshotel.com
Cape Town's best-positioned hotel is sandwiched between the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range and the pounding surf of the Atlantic just outside Camps Bay. Its innovative chef uses a rosemary-like indigenous herb called fynbos to create truly South African dishes such as fynbos springbok loin. Drive time: 15 min.
DRINK Café Caprice
37 Victoria Rd., Camps Bay, 011-27/21-438-8315
Cape Town's young and bronzed compare tan lines and exchange text messages over icy mojitos on an overflowing patio facing Camps Bay Promenade on the Atlantic coastline. It also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Drive time: 10 min.
SHOP Main Road, Kalk Bay
Funky shops, galleries, and cafés line the main artery of Kalk Bay, a bohemian beach town. You can pick up anything from odd culinary utensils to vintage Cape mementos at the antique and secondhand shops. Try Clementina Ceramics (20 Main Rd., 011-27/21-788-8718, clementina.co.za, closed Mon.) for handmade treasures. Drive time: 30 min., or take the train from Cape Town Central Station.
PLAY Clifton and Camps Bay Beaches
Cape Town's Atlantic coastline is also its platinum strip. Bungalows once given to returning servicemen have been replaced with millionaire's apartments. Clifton's four beaches attract a more upmarket and single crowd; Camps Bay is more for families and commoners. Both beaches are beautiful, but the water's almost always cold. Drive time: 15 min.
PLAY Gary's Surf School
Surfer's Corner, Muizenberg, 011-27/21-788-9839, garysurf.com
Most locals ride their first waves at the beach, known for its easy swells. For lessons or equipment rental, Gary's the man. He and five other instructors give two-hour lessons. After, they let you keep your board and wet suit for the rest of the day. Reservations recommended. $62, includes equipment rental. Drive time: 30 min.
PLAY Imhoff Equestrian Center
Imhoff Farm, M65, Kommetjie, 011-27/82-774-1191, horseriding.co.za
Good for picture-perfect guided horse rides across endless Noordhoek Beach, between Kommetjie and Noordhoek. Rides last two hours. $28 for 9 a.m. and noon rides; $36 for 4 p.m. Sunset Ride in winter, 5 p.m. in summer. Drive time: 30 min.
PLAY Llandudno Beach
South of Camps Bay, at the base of a steep, noncommercial enclave of upmarket homes, is a smaller beach with a long Welsh name. Utterly romantic, with bleached white sands that abut rocky outcrops, and ideal for body boarding and summer sundowners. Drive time: 30 min.
BEATING THE SOUTH AFRICAN TAXMAN
Save your receipts! In S.A., the 14% Value-Added Tax (VAT) is added to nearly all goods and services, and is almost always included in advertised prices. Visitors can reclaim VAT paid on goods only (minus an administration fee of 1.5%), provided total value is 250 Rand ($41) or more. This excludes meals, hotels, and services. If you wish to claim, you must request a tax invoice whenever you purchase goods. Upon departure, submit to an inspection of all goods you are claiming at the VAT refund office at Cape Town International Airport before you check your bags, unless you plan to repack the goods in your carry-on bag. Allow a minimum of 30 minutes extra for this process. If approved, the inspector will give you a rand check, which you can cash in the desired currency at an airport banking facility. Depending on how many souvenirs you're lugging back, it can be worthwhile. Tip: Don't bother filing your claim at the tax refund office at the V&A Waterfront. You're still required to submit to an inspection at the airport. In addition to VAT, all hotels charge a nonrefundable 1% tourism levy. For more info and downloadable forms, go to taxrefunds.co.za.