CAPE TOWN, Sept 17 — When visiting cities such as London and Tokyo, it almost makes no sense to drive because the public transportation system — from the subway to trains linking the suburbs and other towns of interest — is so efficient and well-connected. Other places just beg for a car, to hit the road and explore all the stops along the way.
The Cape Peninsula — encompassing Cape Town, Cape Point and everything in between — is the epitome of this “on the road” urge with the Atlantic Ocean to its west and the Indian Ocean to its east.
In essence, this scenic road trip — one of the most spectacular in the world — offers a chance to drive between two oceans... in a single day!
We set off early in our rental car from Cape Town, after a quick breakfast at our hotel. The idea is to spend as much time on the road as possible with stops along the way wherever and whenever the fancy takes us.
Leaving Cape Town, the astounding visage of Table Mountain looms over us as we drive around it. We pass by the enigmatic Lion’s Head peak and take in the views of Table Bay where the mountains meet the sea.
There is plenty to see closer to the road, too. The Cape Peninsula (known as Kaapse Skiereiland in Afrikaans) is home to indigenous plant and animal life found nowhere else in the world, especially in the fynbis scrublands.
We play a game spotting a variety of flora and fauna, in particular the protea flowers (or sugarbushes) with its distinctive spiky petals.
Down at Constantia, we find ourselves in the midst of a rolling bed of vineyards with old wineries imploring us to stop and enjoy a glass (or a bottle, if we linger). Alas, we have to leave this green, green valley if we are to see more of the deep blue sea.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Constantia with Circe’s island where she kept Odysseus enraptured for one year. Still, we have but one day and we can’t afford to spend all of it being too tipsy to drive.
From Constantia, we drive past Muizenberg and then we are coasting alongside False Bay. The dramatic vistas here alone are worth the entire road trip. The sea, the sand, the sky — and a solemn stillness with only the occasional cry of a seagull to break the silence.
Soon we arrive at Simon’s Town, a former naval base named after Simon van der Stel, one of the Cape Colony’s earliest governors.
The bay beckons us but we make a beeline for JB’s Ice Cream Parlour instead. Sandwiched between quaint little cottages on the main road, this is the spot for ice cream in the Cape Peninsula.
JB’s has Italian gelato, sorbets and soft serve ice cream with delightful flavours such as Zanzibar Vanilla Pod, Orange Seville and Peaches ‘n’ Cream. We grab cones to go, perfect to lick and savour while we stroll along the harbour pier.
During spring and early summer, whales may come quite close to the shoreline so you have a good chance of spotting those magnificent creatures. No such luck for us but the views across the bay are breathtaking nevertheless.
Further down south from Simon’s Town is Boulder’s Beach, where a large penguin colony is situated — a can’t miss opportunity to get up close with these waddling (if only on land) acrobats of the sea.
Next we enter the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, the entry point to a scenic trek to the famous Cape Point (which, despite common belief, isn’t the southernmost tip of Africa — that is actually Cape Agulhas — but sometimes branding is all that matters).
Hiking up to Cape Point is more pleasant than arduous, what with the amazing scenery around us. Standing at the old lighthouse at the top of Cape Point, with shags taking off and landing on the sheer cliffs, we feel like we are at the end of the world.
Then it’s time to pivot and head north again, through Scarborough and Redhill, taking the coastal route in the west. We encounter some strange and interesting sculptures — such as a zebra constructed from rusty metal — along the way.
Past the ostrich farms in Redhill, we stop by the Cape Farmhouse Restaurant for a late lunch. Located down a beaten track, the 250-year-old farmhouse is nestled under the shade of large oaks.
We enjoy a relaxing meal under trellises of intertwining grapevines: fresh west coast mussels served with spiced coconut harissa and garlic crostini; sweet corn fritters layered with locally smoked salmon trout, cream cheese, rocket and red pepper coulis. This is no plain farmhouse fare, however rustic the atmosphere may be, but real food made from seasonal produce.
Time for the last leg of our Cape Peninsula road trip: the nine-kilometre stretch of coastal roads known as Chapman’s Peak Drive. It starts in the village of Noordhoek and ends in Hout Bay, not far from Cape Town.
There is a desolate beauty about this drive which is named after the rocky Chapman’s Peak mountain opposite Hout Bay. This is not a part to speed past but to drive slowly and let the splendour be engraved in our memories.
Continuing on the coastal road of Victoria Drive, we climb up Little Lion’s Head with great views of Hout Bay and Llandudno, especially this close to sunset. We appear beneath the Twelve Apostles, past Bakoven, and finally reach Camps Bay just in time for a sublime sundown experience on the sandy beach.
In all, we covered almost 150 kilometres in one day — starting from Cape Town, following the east coast with False Bay to our left, pivoting at Cape Point before heading north again, this time taking the west coast route with the Atlantic Ocean on our left and finishing in Camps Bay. What a road trip!
And we can’t wait to do it all over again.
JB’s Ice Cream Parlour
104 St Georges Street, Simon’s Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 9am-2pm
Tel: +27 84 408 8274
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
Cape Point Rd, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Open daily 6am-6pm
Entry: Adult: 135 rand (RM43.30); children 70 rand (RM22.45)
Cape Farmhouse Restaurant
M66 & M65, Redhill, Cape Town, South Africa
Open Tue-Sun 9am-5pm; Mon closed
Tel: +27 21 780 1246