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Posted on: Friday, 23 December 2011

Being a tourist in your own town – 10 unusual things to do in Cape Town

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The Cape in a side car

The Cape in a side car

There are a lot of things I’ve not done in Cape Town that the average tourist has. Exploring Cape Town through the eyes of a tourist can be as good as going on holiday elsewhere, a lot cheaper, and will earn you greenie points for saving on carbon emissions and for contributing to the local economy.

So this year over the Festive Season, why not try to explore the city as a tourist. Here is my choice list of things we’d like to do – not all of them fall in the Top 10 Things to do in Cape Town, but then they’ve also got to appeal to those who have lived here a while …

Explore your own city – 10 unusual things to do in Cape Town:

Drive the Cape in a sidecar
Seriously, tell me you’ve not yearned to have a whirl in one of these before your more sensible side kicks in, and warns of the rather obvious perils involved. Bet you didn’t know that you can organise a chauffeured tour in a vintage World War II sidecar through the Cape wine routes, along the peninsular or you can create your own itinerary – the choice is yours. A two-hour drive is probably going to set you back about a grand (they don’t appear to offer cheaper, shorter rides), but wow, I think it’s worth it – a marvellous birthday or Christmas gift idea for a special someone in your life. Or a self-treat, for a year well done.

Things to Do in Cape Town

Things to Do in Cape Town

Cape Malay Cooking Safari, Bo-Kaap
Andulela offers a series of cultural and culinary tours, one of which is a Cape Malay cooking safari priced at about R500 per person. Starting at the Bo-Kaap Museum you get to know the history of the area, take a stroll through the more historic streets, followed by a ‘hands-on’ informal cooking workshop in a local Bo-Kaap family home. You’ll learn how to mix masala, fold samoosas and how best to produce a Cape Malay curry, after which you dig in and experience the meal for yourself. Fun? I think so. (Contact: +27(0)21 790-2592)

Climbing Lion’s Head at Full Moon
My all-time favourite activity despite having still to do it (which is probably why it’s still a favourite; once I’ve seen the heights I am to scale, I may change my mind). Lion’s Head is renowned for the incredible views out over Robben Island, the Atlantic Seaboard and the Blouberg beaches. The hour-long walk is extremely popular during the full moon. The climb though is pretty strenuous, and there are sections where your fear of heights and your rather tenuous grip on the mountain may result in early termination of said climb. But by all accounts it is worth it.

Sandboarding on the dunes of Atlantis or Silversands in Betty’s Bay
This one is a rather active activity and one which, given that I’ve waited this long to give it a whirl, I reserve the right to back out of given my level of fitness. But I have to say that the idea appeals. I’ve not snowboarded, but they say that you require roughly the same skills to achieve sandboarding (how much can there be to it?) and both dunes are well worth travelling for. For the young-at-heart and the super fit, this is a tremendously fun outing.

Things to Do in Cape Town

Things to Do in Cape Town

Cape Town by foot
You can do this in a couple of ways, either by booking a tour guide through Cape Town Tourism, or you can pick up a couple of free self-guided walks that take one through the CBD, Sea Point and Vredehoek and do it yourself. Either way, you will get to experience a side of Cape Town that even the average local knows little about.  You can pick up the maps at Cape Town Tourism on Hout Street.

Visit the Berlin Wall
I did not even know that Cape Town had a bit of the Berlin Wall (segments of the Berlin Wall have been given to various institutions and countries since 1989). Our bit was at St George’s Mall given to Nelson Mandela during the 1990s and placed outside the Mandela Rhodes Foundation at 150 St George’s Mall. Judging by the online pictures and descriptions of the bit of wall, it has now moved to the Waterfront. It now lies beyond the Aquarium and V&A Hotel, past Mitchell’s Brewery and then down a side street… worth going to find?

Taking the Topless Bus
My six-year old is constantly asking me to take him on the double-decker red bus he sees around town, and the hop-on-hop-off bus is a wonderful way in which to see the city, visitor or local. A one-day ticket costs between R110 and R150 (depending on whether or not there is a special on) and includes 17 great stops around the city. Considering the traffic in town, a seat at the top of one of these is worth every cent.

Things to Do in Cape Town

Things to Do in Cape Town

Tea at Mount Nelson
If you haven’t done this, you have not yet lived. Tea at the Mount Nelson is an institution, and one that every visitor and local alike should experience. Served daily between 2.30pm and 5pm the array of cucumber sandwiches, cakes and pastries accompanied by loose leaf teas, will keep you happily ensconced on the veranda for hours. I’ve already been, but try and keep me away…

Horse riding on Noordhoek beach
There are a couple of horse-riding companies who make ponies available for riding on Noordhoek beach, one from Imhoff Farm close to the little village of Kommetjie that offer three rides daily from the Kommetjie side of Long Beach, and the other from the foot of Chapman’s Peak that take rides onto the beach at Noordhoek via a series of wetlands. The ride will set you back roughly R400. (See Things to Do in Noordhoek)

Picnic at Vergelegen
Vergelegen wine estate is one of the oldest in Somerset West and provides a gorgeous setting under a forest of camphor trees in summer. Booking your pre-prepared picnic is essential, but the romance of the flowing white table cloths, the sound of water, the incredible ponds and streams and faerie world atmosphere is worth every cent. A wonderful outing for a special occasion or just to meet up with friends.

Things to Do in Cape Town

Things to Do in Cape Town

Sunset at Camps Bay
You cannot live in Cape Town and not experience at least an annual sunset on the Atlantic Ocean, preferably on one of the more beautiful beaches like Camps Bay and Llundudno. The Cape Doctor aside, head out on a good evening with sundowners and snacks and you will not be disappointed at Camps Bay Beach.

Learn to surf at Big Bay
This bay, near Table View, is said to be one of the best bays in which to learn to surf, and at least one of the surfing schools in the vicinity claims to get you standing and surfing within a day. A full-day programme will set you back between R500-R700.

Destination Info:

Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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