5 Unmissable Day Trips You Can Take From Cape Town

Cape Town is a gorgeous city known for incredible hiking trails, breathtaking beaches, and decadent eateries. However, if you’re willing to hit the open roads, there is so much to see further afield.
If you are ready to hit the road, these destinations are for you! Photo: Wade Labert | Unsplash.

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Here we explore five unmissable day trips from Cape Town’s Central Business District (CBD).

1. The West Coast National Park and Darling

The West Coast National Park in all its floral glory. Photo | Tanya Paquet | Unsplash

Distance from Cape Town CBD: 98 km

Travel time: 1 hour 3 minutes

Located in the flora capital of the Western Cape – on both the cultural route and the foodie route – a day trip to the West Coast National Park is a must. The park stretches between the coastal towns of Yzerfontein and Langebaan and offers so much in terms of bird watching, biking, game sighting, and whale spotting. During the Spring months, visitors can delight in the electric bloom of gorgeous wildflowers. The park is characterized by turquoise waters, white sand, and an abundance of phenomenal flora and fauna. There are even barbecue facilities (known as a braai locally) there if you want to make a day of it.

It’s also a stone’s throw from the quaint town of Darling. Enjoy an excellent selection of local beers and tasty treats at the Darling Brewery, or pop into Evita se Perron. This theatrical spot – located in the town’s old railway station – is home to one of South Africa’s top satirical performers. The cabaret extraordinaire is bound to delight anyone passionate about the arts.

Must-do activities:

• West Coast National Park (especially during the wildflower season in August and September)
• Darling brewery
• Tannie Evita se Perron Theatre

2. Hermanus

The coastal town of Hermanus is a must for whale enthusiasts. Photo : Grant Durr | Unsplash

Distance from Cape Town: 121.3 km

Travel time: 1 hour 33 minutes

Hermanus is a delightful seaside town in the Overberg region of South Africa. The drive from Cape Town to Hermanus is sublimely scenic as you travel over the mountainous overpass. Plus, there are plenty of delicious ‘patstals’ (roadside cafes) along the way, so you can stock up on delicious road trip snacks.

Hermanus is perhaps best known for whale-watching opportunities. Every year between June and December, the magnificent Southern Right Whales flock to the coastal region to find their mates or give birth. There is also the opportunity to spot an array of other splendid creatures, including humpback whales, dolphins, and penguins. Visitors can also explore the coastal path or enjoy numerous activities like kayaking.

Lucky visitors can spot whales from the beach or opt for a whaleboat cruise where they can get up close to these remarkable creatures.

The town is also renowned for its ‘Hemel en Arde’ (Heaven and Earth) wine route. Explore an array of incredible wine farms and restaurants or enjoy impeccable tasting menus.

Must-do activities:

• Spot the whales from the seaside walk or on a boat tour
• Enjoy the wonderous wine route. (Top wine farms include Creation and Whalehaven)

3. Franschhoek

The centuries-old valley is home to gorgeous Cape Dutch architecture and splendid wine farms. Photo : Raj S | Unsplash

Distance from Cape Town: 81.4 km

Travel time: 1 hour 8 minutes

If you love the magnificence of sprawling vineyards and have a penchant for world-class wine, the charming historical town of Franschhoek (French Corner) and surrounding Winelands are a must. It was here that the French Huguenots settled in the late 1600s and began practicing the art of viticulture. As experienced farmers, they soon began producing brandy, wine, and vinegar.

There truly is something for everyone in Franschhoek. With its Cape Dutch architecture, array of boutique stalls and quaint roadside cafes, weekend markets, and fine-dining establishments, it truly has it all.

Must-do activities:

• Hop on the wine tram and explore several famous wine farms (some vineyards allow for cycling and picnicking too)
• Visit the French Huguenot Museum and learn all about the fascinating history of these French settlers
• Peruse the perfume museum and sign up for a perfume-making course
• Go beer tasting at Hey Jo Brewery or Tuk tuk Micro Brewery

4. Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town

A romantic seaside stroll. Photo : Pam Ivey | Unsplash

Distance from Cape Town: 41.9 km

Travel time: 52 minutes

A day at Boulders Beach and the naval town of Simon’s Town is a must. Boulders are the world-famous penguin beach where visitors can get up close to the vast colony of African Penguins. Visitors can view the penguins in their natural environment via wooden walkways or enjoy a splash in the crystal waters. If you are lucky enough, you might even see a penguin swimming close by!

The small harbor town of Simon’s Town also offers an exciting selection of activities. Stroll down the street and pop into bespoke second-hand shops and cafes, or visit one of the local museums.

After lunch, you can drive a little further and pop into the scone shack. This shabby chic café is located on the Lalaphanzi Farm and offers visitors a tranquil spot in which to enjoy their wood-fired scones and other treats. Be warned, a chorus of vocal ducks might try and steal your scone! And if you’re super lucky, you might spot one of the teeny piglets running around.

Must-do activities:

• Boulders beach to see the penguins
Simon’s Town and the SA Naval Museum, the Simon’s Town Museum, and the toy Museum
The Scone Shack

5. Robben Island and the V&A Waterfront

The harsh, concrete prison walls juxtapose the surrounding nature. Photo : Grant Durr | Unsplash

Distance from Cape Town: The V&A is in the city centre (The ferry to Robben Island is 11.9 km)

Travel time: 36 minutes on the ferry

Robben Island is one of Cape Town’s most history-laden destinations, and visitors can catch a ferry from the V&A. Located in Table Bay, Robben Island was home to famed South African hero and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. He was imprisoned on the island for 27 years by the apartheid regime and subsequently became the country’s first democratic president.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the island by a former prisoner, explore the Prison Museum, visit Mandela’s iconic Prison no. 7, explore the penguin sanctuary, and view the prisoners’ graves.

You’ll also get astonishing views of the city!

The Waterfront harbour at dusk. Photo: Shashank Kumar | Unsplash

Once back at the V&A Waterfront, there is loads to do. Pick from a huge selection of world-class restaurants (including some beautiful fine-dining spots like Pier), or visit some of the popular attractions, including the Two Oceans Aquarium, the gemstone-filled Scratch Patch, or the incredible Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. The museum boasts the most extensive collection of art from Africa and its diaspora, making it a must-visit for art fundis and creatives.

Must-do activities:

• Robben Island
• Two oceans Aquarium
• Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art
• Fine dining at Pier

The Takeaway

Cape Town is a magical city filled to the brim with exciting experiences. However, there is also so much to see outside of the bustling city hub.
You can hire a car or catch a taxi or Uber and see some of these extraordinary sites, all in a day’s work! If you love Cape Town, why not visit some other incredible cities in South Africa, like Johannesburg?


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