Garden Route Roadtrip Part 4: Cape Town New Years Travel Guide

Johnny

Cape Town is the last destination on my Garden Route Trip. I’ve been here many times before and on this specific road trip, I came for New Years Eve celebrations in the city!

To read my comprehensive guide to Cape Town where I put everything together, please read this post as well.

 

Cape Town Over New Years and Christmas


As much as I love Cape Town, I have to say that visiting Cape Town over Christmas and New Years is not the most ideal of times. This is peak season for Cape Town tourism. Not only are there countless tourists, but all the wealthier people from Gauteng flock to the coasts for their Holiday vacation. Expect to pay more for just about everything from hotels, to car rentals, to tours. Restaurants in particular are always packed during this time of year. Be sure to research the restaurants you want to visit and make reservations well in advance! I’m talking at least 2-3 months before, especially when visiting the wine farms. 

Aside from that, the weather is amazing in December, and there will be endless amounts of festivities to participate in during New Years. There are always fireworks at the V&A Waterfront area and countless parties and activities to choose from!

 

Where we stayed in Cape Town


As we drove from our shark dive trip in Gans Baai to Cape Town, we decided to stop at a few wine farms before getting into the city which is all located down below. As we got to Cape Town, it was clear that this place was FULL of energy as New Years Eve was just a few days away. I decided I wanted to stay in Camps Bay again and so I made a booking at a hotel named Place on the Bay. 

This place was located RIGHT on the beach, on the main street running right down the beach. To stand any chance of getting anything in Camps Bay, or anything in Cape Town for that matter during this time of year, bookings have to be made months in advance. I made my booking in October and got incredibly lucky that I even found this place.

Our view of Camps Bay beach from our room.

Our view of Camps Bay beach from our room.

At about 2100R a night for the most basic room, this place was expensive but expect to pay a 50% premium during the holiday season in Cape Town. Compared to what some other spots in Camps Bay were charging (10,000R for the POD Hotel), this place wasn’t all that bad considering it was a stones throw away from the beach. This place is more of an apartment/hotel hybrid as our room was akin to a giant studio. The bed was comfortable, air condition’s available and most importantly, it’s right next to the beach. Great place for a stay in Cape Town!

Our room at the Place on the Bay.

Our room at the Place on the Bay.

 

What to Do in Cape Town


Well it’s Cape Town again, the city with endless things to do. South Africa’s best. Having already checked off a few things off the list when I came here for the first time like wine tasting, lions head, shark diving, cape point etc., it’s time to do some new things, but of course re-do some other things as it was my girlfriend’s first time.

 

Hiking Table Mountain

One of Cape Town’s top attractions, Table Mountain was recently voted as one of the new wonders of the world. It’s easy to see why as the mountain is visible from all of Cape Town and its impossibly flat peak (hence Table Mountain) is something I’ve never seen before. Sandwiched between Devils Peak and Lions Head, Table Mountain stands 1km above sea level. Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world being hundreds of millions of years older than the Himalayas. Then there are the views. Panoramic views of Cape Town, all the way down to Cape Point can be seen from its peak allowing for breathtaking photos.

Table Mountain seen from Lions Head.

Table Mountain seen from Lions Head.

 

The line to get on the cable car. Left and ride sides are both lines!

The line to get on the cable car. Left and ride sides are both lines!

Unlike Lions Head, which can only be hiked, there is the incredibly popular table mountain cable cars that will take people straight to the top. Two cars, holding 60 people a piece go up and down this thing and it’s only a short 7 minute ride. However, during high season on ANY nice day, the line for this place is ridiculous. I came here a month ago, with the intention of using the cable car but the line was 3 hours so we gave up and went to Lions Head instead.

This time, I was determined to use this damn thing to get to the top. We came here at 8am, thinking we’d be early enough to avoid the lines but not a chance. Even at 8am, the line was 2 hours. We had some friends wanting to hike up the mountain which I wasn’t against, and after discovering the long line, I was all for hiking. Also, the hike takes the same amount of time so screw it, hiking up we go. The cost for the cable car if you’re willing to wait is 210R round trip. Tickets can also be purchased ahead of time online, but you still need to wait in line.

Making our way to the top!

Making our way to the top!

The hike up Table Mountain is no joke. It’s physically more demanding than the Lions Head hike and far less fun. It is, to sum it up, just non-stop stair-master. The hiking trail is very structured, and consists of thousands of rocky steps. The hike starts from the Plattekip entrance, about 1km down from the cable car. The signs here say it’ll take 2.5 hours to hike to the top, but if you’re in decent shape, which I’d consider myself to be in, it should take no more than 2 hours.

We did it, with a few breaks in between, in 1.5 hours. They also recommend 2 liters of water for the hike, I think that’s a little ridiculous. 0.5-1 liter should be plenty because you don’t want to weigh yourself down. The hike was taxing, but we took about 5 short breaks (1-2 min), and we were up before we knew it. There were some crazy people that more or less ran up the mountain and did it in an hour. I’d also recommend doing this hike in the morning or before sunset so to avoid the heat.

After 1.5 hours, we’re finally at the top, and what a gratifying feeling it is. The top of the mountain is huge and you have to walk to the edges in order to have a view. There are many viewing points and I’ve yet to find the ultimate picture spot but I’m sure I will be back. There is a restaurant/cafe up here that serves food, and beverages, including alcoholic ones to celebrate the climb! We stayed up here for about 1 hour to have some drinks and take our pictures. We took the cable car down as we had enough to hike for the day. The line was much shorter to get down however.

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Short clip of the climb

 

Hiking Lions Head

Shortly after hiking Table Mountain, we were aiming to go to Cape Point midday but the traffic was so horrible that we turned around and went back to our hotel in Camps Bay. A short nap later, I decided we needed to climb Lions Head as well so to get both mountains in. Climbing both Table Mountain and Lions Head in the same day is not for the feint of heart and most people thought we were pretty crazy to do it. Nevertheless, we started around 6:30pm and were up in 45 minutes. Compared to the first time I climbed this, I was not hungover, and I wore proper shoes. It was so easy to climb this thing. I wasn’t winded at any point and I think this is one of the funnest hikes I’ve ever done. I’m sure I will be climbing this thing many more times! Once again, sunset is the best time to do this.

People in front hiking up Lions Head.

People in front hiking up Lions Head.

 

Lions Head vs Table Mountain, which is better?


A worthwhile debate. If I had time to only see one of these mountains, which one should I go to? Both mountains offer spectacular views of Cape Town and both can offer an adventurous and gratifying hike. Table Mountain is the obvious choice for individuals that have weak knees or just don’t have the physical capacity to hike because of the cable car but I think that’s about it. Here is a comparison of the two:

Table MountainLion’s Head
Peak Height1062m669m
Length of Hike1.5-2hr45min-1hr
Cable Car?YesNo
Type of hike Stair-master Obstacles, Rock Climbing, etc.
 ViewsCentral CT, Camps Bay, Cape Point Camps Bay, Greenpoint, Seapoint, Central CT

 

top of Lions head

Enjoying the views from the top of Lions Head

In my humble opinion, Lions Head is the better choice. Table Mountain is beautiful no question, but if I had to only go up one, it would hands down be Lions Head. The hike is shorter but it is more fun, unlike the endurance based stair-master hike of Table Mountain. When you ascend to the peak, there are far less people on Lions Head and it feels more isolated and special whereas there are SO many people at all times on Table Mountain.

The views from Lions Head are superior. Lions Head is closer to the ocean so views with the city and the ocean in the back are more apparent. Lastly, Lion’s head is the best place in the city to get a picture of yourself. No questions asked, just find the rock from the picture above and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Clifton Beaches


I think the best beaches in Cape Town are in Clifton. Located just up the street from Camps Bay, Clifton is an extremely wealthy area with some of the most ridiculous mansions I’ve ever seen. These places go for tens, some even hundreds of millions of Rand. Not only are these houses so incredibly large and nice, but they all have ridiculous views of the ocean. Nevertheless, there are four beaches in Clifton, and they’re named Clifton First Beach, Clifton Second Beach, Clifton Third Beach, and Clifton Fourth Beach. Each beach is separated by large rocks but it’s easy to walk between the beaches. We ended up at 4th beach on New Years Eve night to just relax and hang out. Wow, bad idea.

We got here around 10am but by noon, this place was so packed, it might as well have been 1 person per square meter. Fourth Beach is the most popular as it is the closest one from the parking lot but the other ones looked less busy. The beach itself is busy for a reason, it is incredibly nice. The water is clear, the sand is so soft, and the views are just overall fantastic. The water is absolutely freezing however, and I could only stand in it for a few minutes before my body turned numb. It was by far the coldest water I experienced throughout my Garden Route trip.

Clifton 4th beach.

Clifton 4th beach. Normally, it’s no where near as packed as hit but new years eve is peak season.

New Years Eve at the V&A Waterfront


After some delicious dinners in Cape Town with our friends at Burrata in the Old Biscuit Mill (voted #1 Italian in SA for 2013), Haiku (About as good of Asian Fusion as you’ll find in Cape Town), we decided to go with our friends to the V&A waterfront for New Years Eve. Coming here for NYE is equivalent to going anywhere in a major city for the fireworks, except there are scores of restaurants and bars in this area making it a much more appealing place to brave the massive crowds waiting for fireworks. The waterfront is an attraction on its own and I could definitely spend the greater part of a day here (which I likely will in the future).

Cape Town's V&A Waterfront area.

Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront area.

We came to the Cape Grace Hotel for our NYE party and what an excellent choice. Cape Town is filled with huge New Years Eve parties but I know better having done so many of those types in NYC. Sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the company of a few good people instead of getting sloshed listening to head pounding music. The only other option that appealed to me was bringing some champagne with us up to Table Mountain but tickets for the cable car were all sold out. Nevertheless, we had a great time at this hotel and got to see Cape Town’s fireworks, albeit not as impressive as most other cities.

Spectacular feast to get the night started at the Cape Grace hotel.

Spectacular feast to get the night started at the Cape Grace hotel.

 

Wine Tasting in Cape Wine Country


Having done a wine tour with a company called wineflies the previous time I visited Cape Town, I enjoyed it so much, I needed to go back to the wine farms. Luckily, there are hundreds of wineries around the Cape Town area so I’ll never run out. This time, I decided I’d drive to the wineries myself. Yes, you’re drinking the entire time but unless you’re specifically trying to get smashed, the amount of alcohol you consume at one tasting isn’t that much. Coupled with the fact, that you’re taking your time (hopefully) and enjoying the scenery, you’re really not consuming it that quickly. Some of the best restaurants in South Africa are located in the wine country at various estates.

View of the Mountains from Morgenster wine farm in Somerset.

View of the Mountains from Morgenster wine farm in Somerset.

Driving yourself requires a little bit of planning, mainly just doing a little research on where you want to go, GPS with Google maps , and starting early. All wine farms open around 9:30 but close at 5pm and time passes by QUICK. A quick summary of what we did at these tastings by ourselves consists of arrive at wine farm, ask for a tasting, choose the wines we wanted, be given a short summary of all the wines by the employees, drink, enjoy, move on.

For a detailed breakdown of all the wine farms I visited, click here.

For my perfect one day wine country itinerary, click here.

 

Vergelegen

Pronounced “Fair-ha-lay-hin”. this wine farm is located in the beautiful city of Somerset West, a town half hour east of Cape Town famous for its many wineries. Vergelegen is one of the older wineries founded in the early 1700s and boasts  award winning wines, a top-10 rated restaurant, and a ridiculously nice estate. We stopped here for a wine tasting, one of many that we would do. In return, for the extremely expensive price of 40R, we received SIX different wine choices. Wow, something like this back in Nappa Valley would be 10x the price. No wonder people go wine tasting all the time in Cape Town without thinking twice.

Vergelegen Estate

Vergelegen Estate

Lourensford

Located right down the street from Vergelegen, this area of Somerset West is condusive to winefarm hopping as it is so close to go from one amazing place to another. We came here immediately after Vergelegen to have yet another 30R wine tasting. All the wine farms we went to were priced between 30-40R per tasting and the pours were all quite generous. This makes me gasp at just how much money those wine tour companies make charging 600R for a day at the wine farms visiting maybe 6! Most of these wine farms give such cheap tastings in hope that you’ll buy a few bottles but that is totally optional.

Lourensford Wine Estate.

Lourensford Wine Estate.

 

Morgenster

Located still in Somerset West, this place is located even closer to Vergelegen than Lourensford making it an easy decision on what to do after Vergelegen. This place is famous for its Olives and olive oil. For 45R, we did a wine tasting paired with olives. We were served bread with olive paste, olives, and olive oil. Anyone that’s a fan of olive oil will be in heaven at this place. Their olive oil is absolutely fantastic and the whole tasting was just so well put together.

Wine and olive oil tasting at Morgenster!

Wine and olive oil tasting at Morgenster!

 

Waterkloof

Located still in Somerset West, this estate had hands down the best views of all the wine farms. It is located up on a hill with views of the city, ocean, and the crops. The building itself is incredibly modern, fancy, and just oozed elegance all around. We stopped here for lunch after making a reservation the previous day and what a delicious lunch it was. Two courses (app, main) ran us 250R each but it was some delicious food.

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The view from the Waterkloof, that glass structure is the view the restaurant gets.

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Avontuur

We left Waterkloof after an amazing lunch, and headed towards Stellenbosch just a few km down the street. This is the most popular wine farm region in Cape Town and there are so many farms and so condensed that it makes it easy to go from place to place. First stop is Avonturr. We literally just saw signs on the road and it looked nice so we pulled in. Having just come from Waterkloof, this place seemed a little less elegant but the scenery with its horses and grapes make it a worthwhile stop. Oh, and the wine is pretty damn good too.

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Rust En Frede

Another famous wine estate in Stellenbosch, its wine are world famous and its restaurant is ranked in the top 5 restaurants in the country. They have some of the best Shiraz I’ve tasted and I’m sure to come back to this as I want to eat at the restaurant.

Rust En Frede interior.

Rust En Frede interior.

 

Bilton

By this point, it was 4:30pm already and even though I was ready to go to another ten farms, everything was closing up. Bilton is located right next to Rust En Frede, along with 5 other farms, making this a great area to visit. Bilton has a chocolate & wine pairing that I was eager to test out and I was not disappointed. For 45R, we had 5 wines, paired with 4 different chocolates! This chocolate was absolutely delicious too, especially this one called the Cape Malay Spiced chocolate they had (second in the picture). I can’t believe for 45R, we could get all of this. Likely the reason I wanted to keep going to more farms!

Chocolate and Wine, a winning combo.

Chocolate and Wine, a winning combo.

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Garden Route Roadtrip Part 4: Cape Town New Years Travel Guide
Showing 2 comments
  • Avatar
    Francois Williams
    Reply

    Cape Town is paradise…

  • Avatar
    Francois Williams
    Reply

    I usedto deliver newspapers at Vergelegen and ourensford as highschool student, living outside Somerset in Firgrove…my first job after matriculation was…work in wine cellar at Franschoek!!

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