1. Table Mountain
Situated within a national park, reaching the pinnacle of the Table Mountain is a thrilling experience that offers phenomenal, birds-eye views overlooking the city of Cape Town, Robben Island to the north, and the Atlantic seaboard to the west and south. Peaking at 1,086 meters (3,563 ft), the top can easily be reached via an ingenuous cableway, and each Rotair car features revolving floors allowing passengers to enjoy 360-degree views during the trek to the top.
2. Robben Island
Located just off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is a place to go to learn about history. Over a span of three centuries, Robben Island was used as a military base, a hospital for those with socially unacceptable diseases such as lepers and as a prison for political prisoners. Its most famous prisoner was undoubtedly Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned here for 18 years; he went on to become president of South Africa following his release. Today Robben Island is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cape Town and can be reached by ferry from the V&A Waterfront.
3. Boulders Beach Penguin Colony
There aren’t too many places in the world where one can walk on the beach, sunbathe or swim with penguins as companions, but Boulders Beach is one of them. Two penguins settled on this beach, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, in 1982. Now more than 2,000 penguins call this beach home. These are African penguins, sometimes called “jackass” penguins because their chirps sound more like a donkey’s bray than a bird tweet. The path to the penguin area allows visitors to get within a few feet of the penguins. While the penguins are used to humans, visitors should look, but not touch them, as they may bite if they get scared.
4. Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
This Waterfront is considered one of South Africa’s most popular attractions, with its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Bay and Table Mountain. Named for the British Queen Victoria and her youngest son Alfred, who tipped the first stones for the breakwater back in the 1860s, the historic waterfront today boasts a variety of shops and restaurants. The waterfront is also home to art galleries, an aquarium, an amphitheater with live entertainment that is usually free, and a ship museum, among other attractions.
Also known as the Malay Quarter, it is a colorful neighborhood not far from central Cape Town. Its brightly painted, uniquely-styled houses, some dating back to the 18th century, and cobblestone streets create marvelous photo opportunities for visitors. This is a multicultural area, home to Muslim mosques and shrines, and the Bo-Kaap Museum that showcases the life of early Muslims in the area. The best way to explore Bo-Kaap is on foot.
6. Clifton and Camps Bay Beaches
Cape Town offers some of the best city beaches in the world. Clifton Beach is certainly the trendiest of them all and is situated on the west Atlantic side only ten minutes from the city centre. Clifton is actually a series of four beaches separated by a stretch of granite boulders. All the beaches have almost pure white sand and offer beautiful views and sunsets. Unfortunately though the water looks blue and appealing, is in fact always very chilly averaging around 14 °C.
Just south of Clifton, trendy Camp's Bay sports another stunning beach, backed by the magnificent Twelve Apostles (the Table Mountain range) and the distinctive peak of Lion's Head. People watching is an art along this pretty palm lined stretch as well as at the chic cafes and boutiques fringing Victoria Street.
7. Cape Point
Spectacular scenery is a good reason to visit Cape Point, located at the very end of the Cape Peninsula. Less than 65 km (40 miles) from Cape Town, Cape Point is extremely picturesque with high boulders and stunning ocean views. Part of the Table Mountain National Park, Cape Point is home to about 250 species of birds as well as baboons and zebra. Visitors have a choice of walking a steep path or taking a funicular to the light house atop the boulders.
8. Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens
These gardens, established in 1913, is one of the world’s great botanical gardens, and was the first to concentrate on a country’s native plants. Kirstenbosch features not only plants from the Cape area but also from throughout southern Africa. The garden is set against a backdrop of Table Mountain, a fact that offers visitors some pretty stunning views. Hikers may enjoy a walk on the trail that starts in the garden and leads to the top of Table Mountain.
The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees at Kirstenbosch. Inspired by a snake called ‘The Boomslang‘ (meaning tree snake), it is a raised walkway. The Walkway takes the visitor from the forest floor through the trees and bursts out above the canopy, giving spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, garden and the Cape Flats.
9. Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope, shaped like a pentagon, is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. The Dutch East India Company started construction on it in 1666 to replenish supplies for ships. It's gate design includes the coats of arms of several Dutch cities. It is a Cape military installation today, as well as home to the Castle Military Museum and the Iziko Museums of Cape Town. The Military Museum tells the history of the Cape, while the Iziko Museum displays historical paintings and antique furniture, known as the William Fehr collection.
10. Chapman's Peak Drive
About 25 kilometers from the city centre, Chapman's Peak Drive, affectionately called "Chappies" by the locals, is one of the most jaw-dropping driving routes in the world. Cut into the sheer face of Chapman's Peak, which plunges to the sea, this spectacular toll road snakes its way for about nine kilometers between Noordhoek and Hout Bay passing panoramic Chapman's Peak point along the way. With 114 curves carved into the rock face, some perched more than 500 meters above the sea, this is not a route for those prone to motion sickness.
Around sunset, cars cram along the panoramic viewpoints as sightseers stake a spot to watch the sun sink while sipping a cool drink in the time-honored South African tradition known as "sundowners." Look for southern right whales and dolphins in the sparkling Atlantic Ocean below, and drive slowly and carefully.
11. Great White Shark Cage Dives
In the chilly waters off Cape Town's coast, thrill seekers can come face-to-face with one of the ocean's most feared predators: great white sharks. Protected by the thick bars of an iron cage, divers score a hefty dose of adrenaline as these magnificent creatures swim within inches of the bars.
Tour operators in Cape Town offer shark cage dives in areas such as Simon's Town, Dyer Island, Mossel Bay, Seal Island, and Gansbaai, the "Great White Shark Capital of the World." The best time to see these magnificent creatures is between April and October. No diving certification is needed since divers are enclosed in the custom-built cages, and part of the funds go towards shark research and conservation.
Those who prefer to appreciate these awe-inspiring creatures from a distance can watch all the excitement from the boat. Seal, dolphin, penguin, and whale-watching tours are also available for more timid animal lovers.
12. Kalk Bay
A gem on the False Bay coastline, Kalk Bay is known for its raw beauty, interesting shops, vast selection of restaurants and stunning views. You could easily spend a full day in this little neighbourhood and still not be able to experience it all!