Cape Town: Mountains
Table Mountain National Park bisects the long Cape Peninsula, rising up from miles of beaches and dividing warm waters from cold. It's covered with animals and bushy indigenous plants called fynbos.
SEE Cape Point
Often called the southern tip of Africa (actually, that would be Cape Agulhas), this is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge. But the reserve also has mountains that beg to be explored, as well as untouched beaches. Watch for mountain zebras, antelope, and wandering troops of baboons. $7.50. Drive time: one hour.
SEE Chapman's Peak Drive
Recently rebuilt after severe rockfalls, this white-knuckler of a road from Hout Bay to Noordhoek hugs sheer cliffs overlooking rough Atlantic waters. After five and a half miles and 114 curves, you'll need a drink, and the pub at Chapman's Peak Hotel (Main Rd., Hout Bay, 011-27/21-790-1036) is a good choice. Tip: The best views are on the return trip. Outbound toll $3.60.
SEE Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Rhodes Dr., Newlands, 011-27/21-799-8783, nbi.ac.za
As one of the world's six Floral Kingdoms, the Cape Peninsula has thousands of plant species that aren't found anywhere else on the planet. A favorite local picnic spot. Tours depart 10 a.m. on Tues. and Sat. Admission $4. Buses run three times a day in both directions, weekdays only, from Golden Acre Terminus in Cape Town, $1 each way. Call for timetable (011-27/21-507-8800, gabs.co.za), or take Hop On--Hop Off bus. Drive time: 15 min.
SEE Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Lower Cable Station, Tafelberg Rd., 011-27/21-424-8181, tablemountain.net
Ascend or descend Table Mountain by an aerial cable car that slowly spins around. It only operates in good weather. Prepare to stand on line, and bring a sweater, as you'll climb above the clouds. Departs every 15 minutes. $10 one way, $19 round trip. Check the website for seasonal discounts.
EAT Lister's Place
Tokai Arboretum, 011-27/21-715-4512
Before you set out on a walk through Tokai Forest or hit one of the peninsula's few mountain-biking trails (based here), fortify yourself with a homemade chicken pie or toasted sandwich at the simple yet sweet restaurant housed in a stone cottage shaded by centuries-old trees at the trailhead. Closed Mon. Drive time: 30 min.
SHOP Open-Air Sculpture Market
M65, between Scarborough and Cape Point Reserve
Shortly after Atlantic Road to Cape Point curves inland, in the middle of nowhere, you'll come face-to-face with an entire army of Shona sculptures--an art form perfected by the Shona tribe from neighboring Zimbabwe. The smooth sculptures are carved from local stone into animal, human, and spiritually significant shapes. Pull over and bargain.
PLAY Lion's Head
A short yet steep climb above the city is well worth the effort. Even beginners can do it, and the reward is the bird's-eye view of the city and Atlantic seaboard. Some ardent hikers do it by moonlight. The climb takes about an hour and a half.
Ou Kaapse Weg, between Noordhoek and Tokai, 011-27/21-780-9002, tmnp.co.za
One of the highest points in vast Table Mountain National Park, and accessible by car. Some parts resemble moonscapes; others are covered with proteas. Picnic by the dam close to parking, or climb up to the lookout on the Noordhoek Circuit for views of endless Long Beach surf. Admission $1.50. Drive time: 45 min.
PLAY Solole Game Reserve
6 Wood Rd., Sunnydale, Noordhoek Valley, 011-27/21-785-3248, solole.co.za
Urban conservation reserve located a half hour's drive from the city center. Cape buffalo and nine antelope species roam freely on mountainous terrain. Learn about indigenous animal and plant life on game drives and guided walks. Closed Mon. Walks $16, game drives $5.
SPLURGE Para-Pax Tandem Paragliding
Tandem paragliding with licensed pilots. Jump from Lion's Head or Signal Hill. No experience required. $123 for 50-minute flight, add $16.50 for midair pics of screams and grimaces and $16.50 for round-trip shuttle to/from Cape Town.