Day 3: Chapman’s Peak Drive & The Cape of Good Hope Day Trip
On my third day in Cape Town, I embarked on one of the top scenic drives in South Africa and certainly one of the best in the world. This day trip from Cape Town would take me 75 kilometers south to the Cape of Good Hope and through the spectacular scenery of seaside towns, rugged beaches, endless Atlantic ocean views – all squeezed by the Table Mountain range into a tightly compact scenic drive. The drive itself would take you on roads which defy the laws of human engineering and at times, are carved directly into the mountainside.
Cape Town to Cape of Good Hope Route:
Click on the map to open in Google Maps
The best way to enjoy a day trip from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope is with a car. There are so many beautiful spots along the way, that you really want to have the freedom to stop whenever and wherever you want. I rented a car for two days from one of the major global operators in town, as tomorrow, I would head out to wine country. The rates are not bad at all and the cars are in good condition. For convenience, I chose an extra service which would drop the car off at my hotel where we would do all the paperwork. This saved me the hassle of getting into town in morning traffic only to have to head back south again. It wasn’t cheap but in my case, well worth it. The Ambassador Hotel also provides free valet parking overnight so that was super convenient as well.
From Bantry Bay, it’s pretty easy to hit the road. Just head south on Victoria Road passed Clifton and Camps Bay, heading towards Llandudno. Once you pass Camps Bay, you’ll start getting excellent views of the 12 Apostles. These towering adjoining peaks make up the southern end of Table Mountain on the Cape Town side and spill to the Atlantic with sporadic development on their slopes here and there. You’ll also get a better perspective on Lion’s Head, which is much closer to the city and from this vantage point, looks like a lonely towering pillar rising from the ocean, much like a volcano.
After about 20 minutes, you’ll reach the affluent town of Llandudno. Make your way down the steep roads to the car park by the beach. Not much happens in Llandudno but the beach itself is beautiful. Modern homes cling to the beach with only a bunch of massive scattered granite rocks protecting them from the pounding waves. It’s a nice stop but the real highlight lies a short walk away.
From the car park, head via the unmarked footpath to Sandy Bay, 15 minutes away. The walk itself is super easy and you are totally rewarded for your efforts. Sandy Bay is a beautiful white sand beach and you might have it all to yourself, as I did. It’s known is as Cape Town’s nude beach but there weren’t any nudies around when I was there. The beach itself is quite wild and protected by towering cliffs on the southern end. It’s a really cool place to take a break but do bring your own food and drinks as there are no other options here (thankfully).
Taking a Break in Hout Bay
Back to the carpark at Llandudno for another 10-minute drive to Hout Bay. This picturesque fishing town is perfectly situated between mountains on three sides and is also the starting point for one of the best scenic drives in South Africa, Chapman’s Peak Drive. Hout Bay is home to one of the busiest fishing harbors in the Western Cape, specializing in tuna, snoek, and crayfish. I parked the car near the harbor and went for a stroll around the piers, watching the fishing boats come and go with their daily catch. It’s a good place to grab some seafood or catch the locals feeding seals off the pier.
Scenic Ride at Chapman’s Peak Drive
As mentioned, Hout Bay is the starting point for Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the finest ocean roads in the world and a ‘must do’ if you already made it out here. This road connects Hout Bay to Noordhoek, 15 kilometers away and is a real piece of engineering marvel. The road twists its way through beautiful Atlantic scenery and is squeezed by towering mountains on its eastern side so much so, that in parts, the road itself was simply carved into the mountain. In many ways, Chapman’s Peak Drive resembled parts of our California road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway.
This road has really beat all odds but it wasn’t always this case. Many times in the past, the road was closed for long periods of reconstruction. In recent years, it has been permanently opened after extra reinforcements were put in place. Such excellent views don’t come for free unfortunately and Chapman’s Peak Drive is a tolled road costing 38R per vehicle. It’s totally worth it.
Just before the toll booth on the Hout Bay side, there’s a great lookout point back towards the bay. Stop the car before paying the toll to suck in the views and prepare your camera (and patience) because you’ll be stopping frequently over the next few kilometers.
Once reaching Chapman’s Peak, many just cross over to the other side of the peninsula and Simon’s Town, in their rush to get to Cape Point. If you do have the time, continue along the coast to enjoy this beautiful ocean scenery for a little longer. You won’t be disappointed.
I continued along the coast stopping on the road just to get a glimpse of the unspoiled Noordhoek beach. This massively long rugged beach is popular to explore on horseback and if you have the time, looks well worth detouring to for further exploration.
From Noordhoek, it’s another 25 minutes along the coast to Scarborough. The further you drive south on this side of the peninsula, the fewer people you’ll see and Scarborough is, in fact, the last settlement along this end. It’s a small and rugged seaside town, quite remote and isolated but with a wild beach that’s worth getting a glimpse of.
From Scarborough, continue along the M65 and start climbing the mountain. Eventually, you’ll be faced with 2 options: continue south on M65 or east on M66 towards Simon’s Town. You’ll want to head towards Simon’s Town and the road will eventually start to sharply twist and turn its way down towards this cute little town.
Lunch in Lovely Simon’s Town
Simon’s Town is the perfect spot for a break before heading down Cape Point. Its Cape Dutch style buildings set the stage for a laid-back atmosphere in a town that was founded all the way back in 1687. You can get to Simon’s Town from Cape Town via train so it makes for a popular destination for day trippers. Simon’s Town is also home to a naval base and you might see a few massive ships docking in the bay.
Park the car virtually anywhere and eventually make your way to the marina and Jubilee Square. The main activity here is just strolling around and taking in the sights and sounds of the bay. It’s also a good place to grab some lunch before continuing the day.
The African Penguin Show
The obvious next stop if you’ve already made it to Simon’s Town is nearby Boulders Beach. This beautiful set of coves are sheltered by massive boulders and the main stars here are the African Penguins, which have called this place home since 1983. Park the car and head to one of the viewing areas to watch this endangered flightless bird. The scene here is quite surreal; one the one end is a lovely beach that’s popular with Simon’s Town folks, on the other end are seaside mansions and sandwiched between the two is a little cove where the penguins live and play.
This place is needless to say very popular with tourists but it’s still a worthwhile spot to get a rare glimpse of the African Penguin. Be on the lookout for penguins ‘hiding’ in the bushes along the marked path.
Cape Point & The Cape of Good Hope
It was now time for the climax of this day trip from Cape Town and I started making my way towards the Cape of Good Hope and its famous Cape Point. Continue the drive along the coast from Simon’s Town for about 10km and just before the park entrance you’ll see a pretty cool set of beach homes way down below you. This is Smitswinkelbaai (no clue how to pronounce this), a beautiful little cove nestled between the mountains. It won’t be possible to get down there with the car so just admire the view from the top.
You’ll then enter the Cape of Good Hope – Table Mountain National Park (105R per adult). Most venture out here to visit Cape Point but there’s a lot more to see here and you can practically spend a whole day just in this park. There’s a common misconception that Cape Point is also the southernmost point on the continent and where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. This is not accurate and Cape Point is actually branded as the southwestern most point in the African continent. Record or no record, this place is gorgeous and definitely, a must visit.
The cape was first reached by Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 and was named the Cape of Good Hope because the Europeans finally had found an ‘easy’ way to navigate to India and the Far East. The park is not only home to wild ocean scenery but also to a very diverse ecosystem of plants and animals including many ostriches that you’ll catch roaming the grounds here and there.
The highlight, of course, is the famous lighthouse at Cape Point, right at the edge of the peninsula. Beyond this point, Antarctica is the next landmass. Once you enter the park, you’ll eventually reach a fork in the road and you’ll continue straight to get to the lighthouse. It’s very busy here as you can imagine with visitors hauled in by the busloads. If you can get here early in the day, that’s great – but if you can’t, you’ll just have to walk a little bit more.
Once you park the car, climb the stairs towards the original lighthouse. The views from here are amazing and you’ll see Diaz Beach to your right with its fine white sand and pounding waves. You don’t want to be swimming in these waters. Speaking of swimming, this stretch of ocean has claimed the lives of many seamen. Countless ships have been lost along Cape Point as they were trying to round the cape and were too close to the rocks. The wind didn’t help much either and you’ll feel it as you’re climbing up to the lighthouse.
The original lighthouse was built in 1859 but was quickly discovered to be ineffective. Despite being built on high ground, at the top of the ridge, the fog, and low clouds deemed its beacon practically invisible. Following the 1911 sinking of a Portuguese ship, work on the new lighthouse just below was started. Today, the new lighthouse shines the brightest light of any other lighthouse in the country with the equivalent of 10 million candles, visible for about 60km out to sea.
Once you’re done visiting the original lighthouse, you can continue walking towards the new lighthouse below via a marked path for even more beautiful (and windy) views of the area.
Back in the car and back at the fork in the road, it was now left towards the Cape of Good Hope. Park the car and walk down along the rocky beach. You’ll immediately recognize the famous sign indicating that you’ve finally made it! You won’t be along here though and I don’t only mean other fellow travelers. Look around you for ostriches also out for some views (and probably food as well)!
Sunset at Hout Bay
With this ‘achievement unlocked’ I was happy enough to start heading back towards Cape Town. On the way, I stopped again at Hout Bay, this time to enjoy the last hours of sunshine on the beach. What an incredible day this was. If you make it to Cape Town, this is definitely a day trip that’s worth doing.
There’s a lot to see inside the Cape of Good Hope – Table Mountain National Park including some fine walks. It’s probably worth it to spend an entire day here and explore the area a bit better. I didn’t have time for this so just hit the popular spots that you can do on a day trip from Cape Town.