48 Hours in Cape Town

By Karen Rutter

If you’ve got 48 hours to spend in Cape Town, you’re guaranteed to get at least two sunrises. And it would be silly to waste them. For an invigorating start to your stay, try an early morning walk, swim, sup or surf at Muizenberg Beach. The colourful beach huts form a cheery backdrop to your seaside exercise. If needed, you can hire wetsuits, boards and even an instructor from any one of the friendly surf shops, including Gary’s Surf School, the Surf Emporium/Roxy Surf School, the Surfshack Surf School and more.

Once you’ve worked up a good appetite, you can satisfy your pangs at Surfer’s Corner, where you can eat banana and toasted almond pancakes at the Ta Da! Crèperie and Coffee Bar, get a serious coffee at Blonde & Beard, try the traditional morning special at the Gaslight Cafè, or have poached eggs on butternut rosti at the Empire Cafè. Most venues have a view of the sea.

Then make your way towards Kalk Bay—the twinkly sea will be on your left, with the mountain looming on your right. But don’t drive straight through this quaint village—you’d really miss out. Park the car and take a stroll around the colourful shops and vibey restaurants that line the main road. Here, you can find a vintage frock or a retro T-shirt, stock up on freshly baked pastries, visit an art gallery or two and even buy a vinyl LP. The Kalk Bay Harbour is a vibrant space where fishing boats return daily with fresh snoek and yellow tail while hopeful seals and diving seagulls look for snacks. Fish ‘n chips are obviously a big favourite here, available from basic outdoor tables at Kalkies or Lucky Fish, or the stylish Harbour House overlooking the pier.

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Then drive your car further south, towards Cape Point. We’re exploring the route in the new Honda HR-V  and it is a pleasure right from the very start of our adventures in Muizenberg. It’s a stylish urban crossover that combines the sleek lines of a sedan with the chunky edge of a sports utility vehicle, with a number of comfort-inducing touches such as leather seats and steering wheel, and a seven-inch touch screen display with rear view camera. Not bulky, but spacious, the four-seater is perfect for exploring the Mother City and surrounds.

Before you reach the Cape Point Nature Reserve  (where you won’t actually see the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet, but it looks like they do) you’ll pass picturesque Simon’s Town, with its old stone buildings and navy-dominated harbour. Just outside the town is the world-famous Boulders Beach,  home to over 3 000 African penguins. You can walk along rustic wooden walkways and watch the free-range birds frolic about in the shrubbery, or even take a dip in the sheltered bay where they swim. It’s pretty special to see a penguin diving alongside you.

Cape Point itself offers plenty to do, from cycling through the fynbos and hiking along the beach, to climbing up to the Cape Point lighthouse. Just don’t let a baboon eat your picnic when you’re there.

If you carry on driving around the peninsula, you’ll eventually reach Noordhoek, where horses roam behind rustic wooden fences and a long beach beckons your feet. But it’s not all sleepy countryside. You’ll find Cape Point Vineyards—where you can have a picnic or do a wine-tasting accompanied by the most spectacular view—and the Noordhoek Farm Village, home to Bob Skinstad's country pub, The Toad in the Village, Franck Dangereux's Food Barn, Cafè Roux , an eco hotel, and a range of funky shops.

Once you’ve come this far, you have to experience the iconic Chapman’s Peak Drive—and this is where the Honda HR-V Elegance is a pure treat to handle. The road winds above sheer cliffs that drop down into the sea—there’s no room for error. The spunky car takes each curve, ascent and descent with nonchalant calm. The automatic version we drive simulates seven virtual gears, so handling is ultra-smooth, while the raised seating affords excellent views from all windows. Chappies is a breeze.

At the bottom of the drive is Hout Bay, home to yet another working harbour. Here you can catch charter boats out to nearby Seal Island to watch the sea-life at play. There are also plenty of restaurants and coffee shops, while the busy Hout Bay Market—every Friday to Sunday—is a bustling affair where punters share communal tables for takeaways, watch mime artists, hear buskers and make new friends.

Sunrise obviously means sunset will follow, and there is no better place to view this Cape Town classic than from one of the many venues lining the main strip in Camps Bay ( which follows Hout Bay if you are on a circular route). The bold and the bling love to don their dark glasses and sip frosty drinks on this stretch. Or you could simply sit on the beach sand and enjoy the sights. Alternatively, for those with an adrenaline-addiction, why not take a tandem paraglide off Lion’s Head and impress the sunset crowd when you land?

We can also say the Honda HR-V Elegance gets its own share of admiring looks when we cruise the strip. Its clean, smooth lines are eye-catching from the outside, while inside, the bells and whistles (including USB connections and CD player with multiple speakers, as well as cruise control and multi-information trip computer) make the journey as plush as possible.

Dinner in Cape Town is no joke, with literally hundreds of restaurants, ranging from alfresco to fast food to fine dining, demanding your attention. The city always tops the list of places to eat, with many award-winning spots to be found. The Pot Luck Club, Fork, Bistrot Bizerca, Savoy Cabbage, La Boheme, Addis in Cape, Societi Bistro and the Black Sheep Restaurant are some of our favourites but, hey, don’t just take our word for it—get out there and explore. You won’t be disappointed.

After all that, plus some sleep, you’ll be ready for your next sunrise. How about seeing it from the top of the city, for a change? Take a walk or ride the Cable Car up Table Mountain. The 360-degree view of the landscape is really unique—and you can get up close and personal with the view with an abseiling trip, if you’re feeling brave.

Afterwards, breakfast and brunch spots abound in Cape Town and the city centre is full of interesting spots to slake your appetite. The General Store, Borage Bistro, Latitude 33, Dear Me and Birds Boutique Cafe are all great—but again, check things out for yourself, there’s plenty to choose from.

If you feel like walking off your meal, the V & A Waterfront is always a popular place to visit with its massive mall full of different shops, working harbour, boat trips out to sea, and sneaky seagulls ready to pilfer your fish and chips if you’re not careful.

Alternatively, head south to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with its beautiful setting against the slopes of Table Mountain. Neat paths pass through fynbos gardens and manicured beds of fragrant flowers, while the ‘Boomslang’ bridge winds overhead. The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a peaceful sanctuary, almost in the middle of the city, and it’s easy to spend hours hiking, sitting and enjoying the view, and sniffing the daisies.

From there you can head to the Constantia Wine Route to taste—and possibly buy—some of the great labels from this region. It’s a route with a great mix of old established wine homesteads and stylish new boutique spaces—many offering add-ons such as sushi-and-wine pairings and cheese and charcuterie platters. It’s a green, lush area with spectacular views; included on the route are Eagles’ Nest, Beau Constantia, Constantia Glen, Groot Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Steenberg and Constantia Uitsig. Many of the farms also have full restaurants.

Winding down the day, you may want to cruise vibey Long Street for a casual evening cocktail, cold beer or an organic smoothie. There are so many restaurants, clubs and pubs that you’re spoilt for choice. Lola’s, the Royale Eatery, The Beerhouse, Tiger’s Milk, The Grand Daddy Hotel, the Long Street Cafe and The Dubliner are all good fun. As is simply driving the strip and catching all the eye candy.

Finally, why not wind down your evening with a bit of theatre or comedy? The Alexander Bar in town has a fabulous line-up of local acts every night of the week, and it’s a funky place to hang out. Artscape always has a varied line-up of theatre, dance or comedy, as does the Baxter in Rondebosch.

48 hours is not really enough time to explore everything Cape Town has to offer, but you can get a pretty good innings with a smart itinerary—and a spunky car.