Three Days in Cape Town
It's still buzzing after this year's world cupnow without the crowds and those earsplitting vuvuzelasand there's never been a better time to visit Africa's most exciting city.
DAY 2: THE OUTDOORS
Cape town isn't merely defined by its natural assets—a bounty of beaches, plentiful hikes, exotic wildlife—it thrives because of them. and, of course, its mild climate (average november high: 73°F) certainly sweetens the deal.
Rising more than 3,500 feet above Cape Town, the two-mile-long plateau of Table Mountain can be seen from nearly every street corner in the city, and hiking to its summit is almost a rite of passage. Medium-difficulty trails begin in several places, but the best is in the 89-acre Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which allows you to take in two outdoorsy sites in one go (for maps and information, go to sanparks.org). Most people need about two hours each way for the hike, but time-strapped travelers have another option: a five-minute aerial tram ride from Tafelberg Road, with clear views of Camps Bay, Robben Island, and Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup (tablemountain.net, round-trip tram ride $22).
They may not be as iconic as the continent's big five, but African penguins (once dubbed jackass penguins because of their braying calls) are as much at home here as lions and hippos. At Boulders Penguin Colony, part of Table Mountain National Park about 45 minutes south of downtown, visitors can get up close and personal with 3,000 or so of the frolicking sea birds from boardwalks suspended above their nesting ground. Simon's Town, sanparks.org, entry $4.50.
With its 150-seat terrace overlooking False Bay, Cape Point's Two Oceans Restaurant could easily skate by on location alone—which makes its solid selection of South African wines and its commitment to sourcing sustainable seafood a nice bonus. The menu ranges from à la carte snacks (fresh oysters from neighboring Namibia) to the signature built-for-two platter, a heaping pile of crayfish, prawns, calamari, mussels, fresh fish, and curry. Plateau Rd. (M65), two-oceans.co.za, oysters $2.50 each, built-for-two platter $60.
POINT OF VIEWS
This year, there is a brand-new way to reach one of the country's most-visited sites: the Cape of Good Hope, a rocky peninsula that juts out between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans an hour south of Cape Town. Completed in August after four years of work, the Hoerikwaggo Trail cuts through 60 miles of Table Mountain National Park and connects Cape Town to Cape Point, covering forested, mountainous, and coastal terrain in the process. Tackling the whole route is a four-night affair—made less daunting by the kitchenette-equipped tents at each of four campgrounds along the way—but hikers can also take on shorter segments. It's certainly possible to go it alone, but hiring a guide is recommended. sanparks.org, trail camping from $27 per person per night.
Cape Town's ocean-side community of Clifton is built on some of Africa's most expensive real estate. But while a luxe villa runs about $700 per square foot, the neighboring white-sand beaches are free for all. Each of the stretches of Clifton Beach, numbered 1st through 4th, has a distinct personality—from quieter to busier as the numbers rise. In the evenings, sunbathers migrate to beachfront bars like Café Caprice, in the more down-to-earth district of Camps Bay, for cocktails and people-watching. 37 Victoria Rd., cafecaprice.co.za, cocktails from $4.
Creating a peaceful retreat within a city of 3.5 million is no small feat, but the folks behind the 10-room Derwent House hotel rose to the challenge. The decor is spa-inspired: Teak chaises line the sandstone pool deck, common areas have high ceilings and open floor plans, and in the guest rooms, extra-long beds are an unexpected luxury. Any accent pieces that do appear are judiciously chosen: Pillows sewn from African textiles brighten the lobby couches, and signed lithographs by Nelson Mandela hang in the hallways. 14 Derwent Rd., derwenthouse.co.za, from $163.