Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town, South Africa

Note: This is a guest post by Justin Carmack of True Nomads.

Cape Town! I love Cape Town, it’s my favorite city in South Africa, and though I haven’t been all over Africa, it is so far my favorite city on the continent. It’s an awesome place where, in my all-to-short time spent there, I made many lasting memories.Here is my list of my Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town.

1. Go Cage Diving.

I guess for number one I will list the thing that is still the most fresh on my mind: Cage diving with great whites. It is still so fresh in my mind, because for me it was one of the most cool and fun things I’ve ever done anywhere. When someone mentions cage diving with sharks, many people’s first reaction is of fright. Although I admit I might have taken advantage of this reaction when talking to a pretty girl in the bar, the reality is that it isn’t scary at all. It is just a ton of fun and a must do!

2. Get some history.

It seems fitting if you were just in Johannesburg buffing up on your history at Mandela’s house and the Apartheid Museum, to continue on here in Cape Town. To start off, Running down the center of the leafy Company’s Gardens is the oak-lined pedestrian strip of Government Avenue wich accesses great museums like National Gallery, Houses of Parliament, the Iziko Museum (home to a large taxidermy exhibit), the Iziko Planetarium, and the Iziko Slave Lodge (built by the Dutch East India Company to house up to 9,000 slaves, convicts and the mentally ill). Even more history, albeit sobering, can be seen at number 3:

Government Ave

3. Visit Robben Island

Dutch for ’Seal Island’, Robben island is the infamous prison island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in a tiny cell for 18 of his 27 years behind bars. As we all know, Mandela was released after the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, and then went on to be President of the country and then a Nobel Peace prize Laureate. That is some amazing history that will hopefully never be repeated. Tours of the prison and Mandela’s cell can be booked from your hostel, hotel or anywhere really.

Robben Island Gatehouse

4. Drink. When in Cape Town, do as the Cape Townians

In the center of CT, Long Street is the place for partying. There are tons of drinking holes like Julep, The Waiting Room, Havana Club and Neighbourhood just to name a few. Many of these places have second story balconies overlooking Long Street, and are awesome places for hanging out. All along Long Street are nice hostels, cheap eateries, and souvenir shops to keep one happy. It is definitely the best area to stay.

Long Street Cafe, Cape Town

5. Check out the lesser known beaches

Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to forget the epic beaches of Cape Town. While most people head to the near-by Camps Bay, Clifton Beach or Scarborough, and don’t get me wrong, they are world class, but if you are looking to get away from the crowds, loud jet skis and incoming beach balls, here are a few little know beaches to check out: Beta Beach- Backed by big boulders, this is a small but nice tanning beach. Oudekraal: Next to Beta, it is a protected cove at the bottom of a steep staircase. Worth the R10 fee. Smitswinkelbaai: Getting farther away now, but worth it. This is between Simon’s Town and Cape of Good Hope. Tietiebaa: Far away in Cape Columbine Reserve on the West Coast, but a great spot to relax, as anything with sound is prohibited IE loud vehicles, music , dogs etc.

Boulders Beach

6. See some really cute wild penguins

Another thing that I will always remember in fondness, is renting scooters in Cape Town and taking a road trip all the way to Cape Point to see where the Indian and the Atlantic collide. It was the most prolific road trips I’ve ever done. It was the coastal highway that follows the amazing and serene shores of South Africa to the Southern most point in Africa (not just South Africa). After leaving Cape Point, we dashed down to Simon’s Town to experience one of those rare times in life when I will be able to see penguins in their natural habitat.

African Penguin relaxing in Boulders Beach

7. Stand on THE Table

You thought I was going to forget Table Mountain didn’t you? There’s no way! They call it a candidate for the 8th wonder of the world, and for a damn good reason. The views from the top of Table mountain are some of the best I’ve seen. The ambitious can take a hike up and down either side, other wise there is a cable car that will take you to the top. From the south side you can take one of the longest abseils in the world, down to the bottom

Table Mountain

8. Catch a wave

The shores around Cape Town sport some of the greatest waves in Africa for surf fans. (though it is way too cold for me) there are many company offering surf lessons, and lets not forget the Redbull Big Wave Africa surf competition, held at “Dungeons”, just east of The Sentinel, a peak in Hout Bay, Cape Town. The competition is held between 24 July and 31 August each year, depending on the waves. You can also try kite surfing here.

Kite surfer

9.Jump off a mountain

A popular attraction in Cape Town is paragliding off of Lions Head mountain. Imagine the amazing views of Table Mountain, combined with the adrenaline of jumping off of a mountain. You land peacefully on the beach, and will want to do it again!

Paragliding in Cape Town

10. Become a Wine-O

About an hours scenic drive out of Cape Town, the famous Cape Winelands with it’s rolling vineyards, and mountainous landscape, has enough world renown wine tasting to keep everyone satisfied. Tours can be booked from your hostel in Cape Town, to places like Stellenbosch American Express Wine Route and Fairview Wine Estate and more. The Cape Town region is becoming synonymous for wine, as it is for Great Whites

Top 10 Things to Do in Cape Town, South Africa

Meet the Nomads - Justin Carmack of True Nomads

Also, check out Justin’s article about 10 Things to Do in Perth.

Follow Justin’s adventure at True Nomads. You can also follow him via Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. You can also check my short interview with Justin here.

Photo Credits (Flickr Creative Commons): Shark by hermanusbackpackers/ Gov’t Ave by Kyknoord/ Robben Island by Wire Lizard/ Long Street by flowcomm/ Boulders Beach by Zahir Mirza/ Penguins by Nick Perretti/ Table Mountain by George M. Groutas/ Kite Surfer by martie1swart/ Vineyard by Mister-E/ Paragliding by Derek Keats


  1. great list of things to do!

  2. This is a great list! We’re hoping to get to South Africa this fall, and this is definitely additional inspiration.

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