Spring is sprung, summer is on the way, and school is out – the great outdoors is a feast of places and spaces awaiting exploration, and Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in which to do great things.
We’ve selected a series of great spots in which to have a wonderful time, most of them child-friendly, but not necessarily all – sometimes grown-ups just want to have fun on their own…
Perfect picnic spots
Kirstenbosch – arguably the most popular weekend picnic haunt in the city, you’re probably better seeking out an alternative on a hot summer’s weekend day if you want to beat the crowds, but still the most gorgeous spot imaginable. Spill out on lawns, benches, in the magical Dell or in the higher reaches of the gardens.
Location: Rhodes Drive, Newlands
Harold Porter – one of Cape Town‘s better kept secrets (mostly because it isn’t in Cape Town), this botanical garden is located just outside Betty’s Bay. The coastal drive along the R44 is as mesmerising as the incredible series of gardens, in amongst which you can picnic. Peace, serenity, gorgeous views and not many people are yours for the taking. Include Stony Point, just off Betty’s Bay, to see penguins in action.
Location: cnr Clarence Drive and Broadwith Road, Betty’s Bay
Imhoff Farm – a great space in which to eat, shop and be, Imhoff Farm has a series of restaurants and shops around a lot of green grassy areas perfect for a picnic. Time your picnic for the first Saturday of every month when there is a market in the Imhoff couryard, selling local foods and crafts.
Noordhoek Farm Village – another great village atmosphere at which to hang out, where restaurants include the Foodbarn bakery and deli, and The Toad in the Village. Whilst this isn’t a ‘bring your own’ picnic idea, you can stock up on delicious items from the Foodbarn, and head down to Noordhoek beach for fun in the sun.
Location: Chapman’s Peak Drive, Noordhoek
Schusterskraal, Scarborough – Parallel to Scarborough Beach, which lies in Schusters Kraal bay, just outside the rather eclectic village of roughly 400 houses or so, Schusterskraal is a little far for most folk, but worth it if you want a day away from the crowds. You even get to take your dogs along.
Location: Drive towards Scarborough Beach but take last road left to picnic site
Vergelegen – admittedly not a bring-your-own picnic venue, Vergelegen is a rather expensive picnic out with friends and family, but worth every cent. Phone ahead to book your picnic (there are limited numbers) and spend your time under a series of camphor trees in a forest of camphor trees; the setting is sublime.
Location: Vergelegen Wine Estate, Lourensford Road, Somerset West
Terrific towns within easy reach of Cape Town
Riebeek Kasteel – picture perfect little spot in the heart of the Swartland, amidst a series of olive groves, mountains, vineyards and charming country cottages, guest houses, quirky shops and restaurants. Great for a drive, lunch and lazy afternoon to mozy around the town.
How to get there: N7 to Malmesbury, then the R46 to Riebeek Kasteel
Grabouw – perfect weekend escape, Grabouw lies in the midst of apple and fruit growing country, surrounded by various farm stalls and country estates. The town rests in the Elgin Valley where there is so much to do that you’ll need a weekend at the very least to do it any justice. Go for the surrounds and the weekend guest house escapes.
How to get there: Just on the other side of St Lowry’s Pass, in the Overberg
Vermont – sleepy seaside village, except during school holidays, Vermont lies just a little closer to Cape Town than Hermanus, a wonderful weekend escape and perfect with children for the myriad tidal pools. Make sure you take in the Hermanuspietersfontein food market at the Hemel en Aarde Village in Onrus on Saturday mornings.
How to get there: Take the N2 to bot River, and then the R43 to Vermont
Philadelphia – great day’s escape from Cape Town, Philadelphia has retained it’s ‘village in the middle of nowhere’ atmosphere and remains picture-card perfect. The town is designed around a pretty NG church, is small, and lies in amongst farmland. Visit the quirky shops, the Pepper Tree Art Stable and Coffee Shop, or De Malle Meul for a wonderful lunch or tea.
How to get there: Take the N7, look out for the turn to the right
Captivating cafés at which to eat
Eight at Spier – a farm-to-table eating experience, Eight has been described as the ‘Rolls Royce of ethical restaurants’ – food is either grown at Spier or sourced from local farmers, is of the organic variety as much as possible, and tastes fabulous. It also doesn’t break the budget. The décor is simple, uses recycled and ethical material as much as possible, and is also child-friendly, spilling out into the garden with tables under umbrellas.
Address: Take the R310 to Stellenbosch, Eight is on the Spier wine estate and open Tues – Sun for brunch, lunch and tea
Cape Farmhouse – this is an ‘on the farm’ feeling without having to travel that far from the city bowl. Cape Farmhouse lies surrounded by mountains, oak trees, fynbos and the calls of birds just a few kilometres south of Scarborough. The 250-year old farmhouse serves up delicious meals and teas, with play areas for children. It’s a wonderful day’s outing.
Address: Find it at the junction of M66 and M65, bottom of Redhill Road, Scarborough
Oude Molen Millstone Café – the perfect summer venue away from the madding crowds, find breads from wood fired ovens, great coffees, freshly squeezed juices, organic garden produce, home-made preserves and jams and a menu to match. The play area in and under the huge tree makes for a relaxing time for parents, whilst the garden is sublime.
Address: Alexandra Road, Oude Molen Eco Village, Pinelands
Deer Park Café – you head here to meet people and give your children space to run around. Lying in the heart of Vredehoek at one end of Rocklands park, the Deer Park Café has inside and outside seating, friendly staff and great food with some serious vegetarian options and a kiddie menu. Makes hanging out in the city bowl a pleasure.
Address: 2 Deer Park Avenue, Vredehoek
Octopus’ Garden – St James is a wonderful space in which to be anyway, but add a fun restaurant like the Octopus’ Garden and you have an assured successful outing. The décor is ‘fantastically quirky’ and fondly described as ‘Alice in Wonderland crossed with Under the sea’ with a rather eclectic mix of brightly painted rooms filled with knick knacks and a play area outside.
Address: Main Road St James, Old Post Office Building
Starlings Café – if ‘doing lunch, brunch or tea’ with the ladies (and trendy gents) of the southern suburbs in amongst the trees of a beautiful garden is your kind of thing, then Starlings is your hangout. Whilst not child-friendly, it is popular, the views of the skies amazing, and the food is excellent. Service is relaxed and friendly. It’s a great space in which to catch up with a friend, or your older children.
Address: 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont
And just in case your itinerary needs something a little extra, here’s a list of:
Tantalising tidal pools
- St James’ tidal pool
- Miller’s Point
- Glencairn tidal pool
- Sea Point swimming pool (not a tidal pool, it’s true, but fun nonetheless)