It’s not enough to visit Cape Town, South Africa. If you find yourself in the region, you really must explore the entire Cape Peninsula – everything from Table Mountain and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to the Cape of Good Hope, a historically significant peninsula that also happens to be stunningly beautiful. That being said, how does one visit the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa?
One of the most comprehensive ways to visit the Cape of Good Hope is to take a Cape of Good Hope tour from Cape Town. A typical day trip will include a drive along the coast of Cape Town, lookouts and landmarks, Boulders Beach and the penguin colony, Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope and Simon’s Town. You can drive to the viewing area of the Cape of Good Hope, where you’ll see Cape, bank and white-breasted cormorants nesting in the steep cliffs. The main parking lot and visitor center are a five-minute drive past the Cape of Good Hope.
So, Where Is the Cape of Good Hope?
The Cape of Good Hope, a part of Table Mountain National Park, extends from the southern tip of the African continent, close to where the Indian and Atlantic oceans converge. (The actual southernmost point of Africa is at Cape Agulhas on the Garden Route.) To reach the Cape of Good Hope, you’ll drive about 35 miles from the center of Cape Town. Take the scenic route by Chapman’s Peak and Nordhoek for the best views.
What Can I Do at the Cape of Good Hope?
Visit the Cape Point Lighthouse
For incredible views over the Cape of Good Hope, climb to the top of the Cape Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in the late 1850s. After a shipwreck off the coast in 1911, a second lighthouse was built, which is the most powerful lighthouse on the South African coast. You have three choices: take the paved path and long stone staircases along the coastline, take the steady, paved path that climbs from the parking lot; or ride in the Flying Dutchman Funicular, which will whisk you to the top of Cape Point in three minutes.
Watch for Wildlife & Enjoy the Garden Setting
While you’re at the Cape of Good Hope, keep an eye out for Cape mountain zebra, antelope and eland roaming free. You’ll also likely see baboons – just be sure not to feed them. They’re quite bold and often stop traffic as groups of them play in the road. There are 250 species of bird species recorded in the Good Hope Nature Reserve, where the ostrich and endemic Cape sugarbird and orange-breasted sunbird can be seen. Plus, if you’re visiting between June and November, the Cape of Good Hope is an excellent whale-watching destination.
Garden lovers will take notice of the 1,100 species of indigenous plants that grow here.
On the way to the Good Hope Nature Reserve, after Simon’s Town, you’ll come to Boulders Beach. This rugged coastal stretch is renowned for its huge penguin colony of African or jackass penguins (known for their braying donkey-like call). Boulders Beach is one of two mainland nesting colonies of African penguins in South Africa.
Today there are nearly 3,000 penguins who live in the small, sheltered bays on False Bay. Huge granite boulders thought to be more than 500 million years old, shelter the beach. You can swim here, too, thanks to the safe, sheltered waters.
During your Cape of Good Hope day trip, make time to stop in Noordhoek, perhaps on your way back to Cape Town. There’s a long stretch of white-sand beach – best for surfers, not swimmers, but also a wonderful spot of a walk. Have a light lunch or afternoon tea at one of the waterfront restaurants. Be sure to drive the toll road – Chapman’s Peak Drive – from Noordhoek to Hout Bay along the Atlantic Ocean.
Just over 21 miles from Cape Town, Simon’s Town is one of South Africa’s oldest towns, rich in maritime history and home to the South African Navy. Spend as much time as possible exploring this delightful town, known for its beautiful beaches, rich history and African penguin colony at nearby Boulder’s Beach. Walk from the train station to Jubilee Square, taking in the quaint colonial architecture. Search for whales out at sea between June and November. Pop in to great restaurants and charming craft markets.
If you have time, consider taking a Simon’s Town bike tour with an expert guide who will show you the hidden highlights of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope National Park.
There are a number of enticing museums in Simon’s Town as well, including the Simon’s Town Museum, the SA Naval Museum and the Warrior Toy Museum. Be sure to climb the steps – starting from Barnard Street – to the Navy Signals area and Red Hill, where you’ll find the grave of Just Nuisance, the only dog to ever be enlisted in the Royal Navy.
For a heart-pumping adventure, hike above Boulders Beach and the Seaforth area to the blockhouse and on to the top, Black Hill/Swartkop (the tall mountain above Boulders). You’ll go through iconic fynbos landscape along the way. The whole hike takes about 2-3 hours roundtrip.
Hang out in the surf town of Muizenberg, a great summer spot for families in search of beach time – or surf lessons. In between romps in the waves, check out the many bohemian bookshops and eateries that reflect “Muizies’” home-grown culture.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
If you’re a garden lover, don’t miss this lush favorite in Cape Town. You can picnic on the lawn, hike up Skeleton Gorge, take in the views from the canopy walkway or kick back and enjoyed a chilled local wine and listen to a summer evening concert.