Western Cape, South Africa Travel Guide: Cape Town, Cape Peninsula, Stellenbosch & The Garden Route
One week trip all over the Western Cape beginning in Cape Town, traveling around the Peninsula, onto Stellenbosch, the Garden Route and then back to Cape Town.
This was not only one of the most incredible trips I’ve been on because of the scenery, food and experiences, but it was also so special as the first trip my mom and I have taken together just us 2…or should I say 3…a mother daughter baby moon!
Recommended time of year to go
October for whale watching.
December-January for warmest days.
April for perfect sunny, clear weather and not too hot or too cold - our experience!
Recommended amount of time
We did this entire guide in 1 week (6 full days outlined and 2 half travel days) but if you have the time I would recommend 10 days, but not more than 2 weeks. We spent 3 days in Cape town and 3 days traveling along the coast. If we had more time, it would have been fun to spend a couple more nights in some locations, but overall we got a really good feel for each place and did everything I had hoped for. Here’s how we did it!
Bo-Kaap neighborhood (Cape Malay culture)
Bolder Beach (Penguins)
Cape Point Lighthouse
Cape of Good Hope
Sunday street market
The road trip & Garden Route
Plettenburg Tsitsikamma National Park
With numerous beaches and mountain stops. The one thing I would add on with more time (if this wasn't a baby moon trip) would be the wineries all along the Garden Route!
We stayed at a hotel in Cape Town with a central location and then in airbnb / rental home style spaces along the Garden Route.
Road condition and maps
The roads were perfect with high speeds everywhere we went. Every place we visited in also on google maps in the correct location as well as with good highway signage.
Budget and Backpacker Travel
The activities, food and lodging have a wide range for the style you are going for. We went for a mix of affordable but luxury in most circumstances and it seemed there were more backpacker style options available, too. Many of the places we explored such as the city walking tours, beaches and mountain views are free or with reasonable entrance fees for the guided tours. National Parks have a SADC discount, make sure to ask if they aren't listed! Fresh seafood sit down dinner with unbeatable views had an average cost of $15 per person but of course this was also a range with more affordable, delicious options for takeaway and street style food places as well as higher end restaurants. This trip can truly be tailored to what you'd like to make it.
Walk around the waterfront and soaking up the first smells and sights of Cape Town. Breakfast at vagabond kitchens: a cute cafe with a view of course of table mountain and right near the waterfront with fantastic coffee and breakfast sandwiches. We ordered 2 cappuccinos and split 1 breakfast wrap and Eggs Benedict sandwich on the go.
Off we went to Robben Island for the 9am tour and had an incredible experience. Read my whole write up with more details and reflection from the 4 hour tour.
We didn't waste any time, and had a quick lunch at Cape Town Fish Market V&A Waterfront before heading out for our next tour. We shared the seafood platter but still had leftovers. The view was delightful and the food was delicious!
Bo-kaap walking tour is an absolute must! I find walking tours to be the most effective and efficient way to really get to know a place. I just love hearing the local insights, recommendations and all the history behind the places close up. We got a great feel for the downtown and Bo-kaap neighborhood, as well as much of the history of Cape Town as a city, within just 1 hour and 30 minutes.
We took a nice long break to have Cape Malay style food and drink and sit in the colorful neighborhood at Faeeza's Home Kitchen. Since we were still full from the seafood platter, we just had tea with Cape Malay spiced doughnuts called koesiester.
The last activity we wanted to do for the day - to really do a full Cape Town day of course - Table mountain. We took an uber up to the cable car, which was an experience in of itself with such steep hills and gorgeous views with each street climb. Unfortunately the cable car was closed due to wind and they also did not recommend hiking either. But it is still an amazing view from the cable car base looking over the entire city and bay.
As you can imagine, we were beyond satisfied with our first day of being out and about so we decided to stay in for dinner in at the Rockefeller hotel. Their menu is top notch so we were very happy with this decision and had a feast of sushi roll, sushi fashion sandwich, gnocchi dish, zucchini fries...all the many things I'm not fortunate enough to have in the city where we live. We also decided at this dinner that we weren't quite up for the task of driving and exploring on our own the next day just yet, so we moved our rental car one day later and decided to try the hop on big red bus full cape peninsula tour where we would get to see all that we wanted and likely more, while just sitting back. The best perk of all, was the all the information the tour guide provided us with, so in the end we were so grateful for this decision!
Cape Peninsula & Camps Bay
Breakfast at Vovo Telo with rooibos cappuccinos, ham and cheese croissant (my favorite) and chocolate croissant. We boarded the tour bus at 9:30 for a full day of views!
Muizenberg Beach and Kalk Bay were top recommended places. Although we didn't stop, it was beautiful to pass through and get a feel for it as well as hear a few recommendations and stories from the tour guide.
Next up was Simons town where Bolders beach is located. We took about a 2 hour stop here to see the penguins and have an early lunch. Simons town was the first Naval town by the British in 1841 with Georgian and Victorian architecture from 1830-1901. Some say the buildings (not pictured) look similar to New Orleans.
Bolders beach to see the african penguins was another top priority on our list!
Some penguins are visible outside of the paid entry area but not very many. There are 2 board walks to see penguins — the main one allows you to see the most, up close, all at once and is a short walk down (beach). The second one to the right side goes through greenery and there are tons of penguins that hang there in the shade and shelters (bushes). Both provide up close interaction while keeping the penguins safe.
We walked over to the beautiful restaurant called Seaforth which is just 2 minutes from the entrance. We enjoyed the fish cakes and "todays line fish" of freshly caught tuna with roasted vegetables on the side. Sit by the beach and maybe even swim here...we dipped our toes in! It’s cold but not quite as cold as Cape Town beaches.
Drive through cape point national park with incredible fauna and flora to reach Cape Point where we climbed the Light House.
Cape of good hope is the most south-western point of the african continent. It was originally named Cape of Storms in the 1480s by explorer Bartolomeu Dias and later changed to Cape of Good Hope.
Clarification: The most Southern tip geographically is the official meeting point of the 2 oceans. Scientifically, Cape of Good Hope is the meeting point due to the way the currents go; it's where the 2 different temperatures and currents meet. Of course you won’t see different colors, but you will feel all the wind!
Just today in the wild we saw penguins, seals, ostrich, ground hog, antelope, baboons!
We skipped our stop at the Waterfront and rode the bus until the stop at Camps Bay because we wanted to make sure to catch up sunset and feel for this beach before leaving Cape Town! Dinner at Chinchilla restaurant to watch the sunset - amazing mussels in a cream wine sauce (I think my favorite out of the daily mussels we enjoyed) and a great salad. We then enjoyed gelato for dessert and a walk along the beach.
We had a slow morning with coffee and pastries from the hotel and then picked up our rental car at hertz, which we booked ahead, and off we went to Stellenbosch!
Stellenbosch has 3,500 vineyards but only 600 wineries. We came for the beautiful landscape as well as the tastes of the wines, cheeses and olives (oil).
Lunch at De Volkskombuis for traditional Afrikaans food where we shared the venison capriccio (Springbok) and the lamb tammatie bredie (traditional lamb stew with rice).
A quick, sunny walk over to the Dorpstreet Sunday Market was the perfect afternoon stroll lavishing in the live music, tasting homemade fudge, candies and browsing books, clothing, jewellery and more. After this, we were ready for the vineyards!
Tokara - artsy, unqiue, gorgeous views in sitting area over the vineyard/olive groves and all the way to table mountain, olive oil tasting and great cheese board.
Delaire Graff Estate - beautiful mountainous views and upscale.
Peter Faulke - valley views with historic style building with modern twist, lovely wine garden and burrata plate.
Remhoogte Wine Estate with Wildlife for our overnight stay.
Western Cape road trip: On the way to The Garden Route
We took a slow day of driving along the coast and stopping often, to get to the start of the Garden Route.
Brunch at the Bientang's cave restaurant at the harbor.
I was in seafood heaven with their seafood potjie (buttery, creamy, cheesy stew with a great mix of calamari, mussels, fish, prawns) and my mom enjoyed the grilled fish of the day. They also have a great selection of drinks including non alcoholic savanna dry cider and castle free beer.
Harbor and dock view is beautiful. We just took a quick stroll here, but it is also known for whale and shark watching.
We then stopped in the quaint town at a Biltong shop for the classic South African snack and next door at a cafe attached to a specialty food store for some goodies to take home and an iced coffee for the road. This is where I first noticed my baby bump really beginning to show!
L'agulhas Light House and The Most Southern Tip of Africa as well as the meeting of the two oceans geographically (not scientifically, see above).
A stop along the way for a picnic dinner with incredible mountain views.
5) Mossel bay
Our final destination and accommodation for the night at The Lookout guest house, with an incredible view, comfortable space and welcoming hosts. We did not spend much time in this town in order to start early on the Garden Route the next morning.
Western Cape road trip: The Garden Route
A stunning sunrise from the balcony over Mossel Bay and then we left early with breakfast boxes neatly packed from the guesthouse to go enjoy up in the mountains!
1) Swartberg Pass
Very cool but said to be a much better experience when there are clouds. Be ready for a steep and narrow mountainside gravel road.
Cango cave tour 10am. This is an absolute must of the Garden Route (not along the coast like most of the route, but so worth venturing into the highlands for such expansive mountain caves). Cango means a place of water. It 19°C stays all year round. They levelled the floor in 1964 to welcome visitors but before it was all uneven rocks. The caves are dried up, which means they don't have enough water to keep growing as compared to other caves around the world. The tour guide sang acappella and it was one of the most beautiful moments of the entire trip.
3) Keurbooms beach
Ristorante Enrico grilled fish of the day with rice and veggies and the most amazing seafood pizza. This is said to be another point for whale/dolphin spotting.
4) Tsitsikamma National Park
The last stop of the Garden Route according to most maps, and my absolute favorite! If I had researched it more, I would have tried to spend more time here for do the kayak tour and enjoy the beach. We mainly just hiked the suspension bridge which was an incredible experience. They have beach cabins to stay in, which I would love to come back to. It is also barely over the border into the Eastern Cape province (road toll).
The big tree closed earlier than listed on their website/google maps information, so make sure to go before 2pm if possible. Sadly we just missed it but sounds worth it!
5) Plettenburg Bay
Desserts and drink tasting at Barrington's (hotel and restaurant). We loved the granadilla cheesecake and chocolate fondant molten lava cake! We left most of the beer flight not due to the taste but because I couldn't help much haha.
Western Cape road trip: The Garden Route
1) Robberg Beach
The warmest of all the many beaches we went to and the very first clouds we saw all week! We stayed at a beach cottage just a few minutes neighborhood walk to the beach.
2) Robberg Nature Reserve Peninsula
National park great for hiking and nature trails about 15min from Plettenberg.
3) Wolf sanctuary
A fascinating place to stop that I highly recommend if you love animals and nature. It is right along the main road between Plett and Knysna so it takes hardly any time at all to fit in. We saw and fed so many unique animals as well as learning about the crossbred that are only here.
4) Knysna "a destination you will never forget"
See the heads and go to Thesens Island to Ile De Pain breakfast and a walk along the water. Cute boutiques here! Hiking, Kayaking and more adventure available, too.
5) Wilderness beach
Known as one of the best places to swim and we absolutely loved it! We took our leisurely last day at the beach before a long drive back to Cape Town. And our very last taste of the ocean was having lunch at Pomodo Pizzeria just a few minutes from the beach in Wilderness.
Baby, mama to be and grandma to be were over the moon! The perfect baby moon I could have ever dreamed of. Thank you to my mama for such a fun travel experience together. Let the adventures continue!