Cape Town's Hidden Gems

After nearly 3 years of living in Cape Town, I've finally gathered an appropriate amount of information to write a 'Things To Do' list. I've chosen to avoid the regular tourist hotspots (Camps Bay, Lion's Head, Promenade, V&A Waterfront, Cape Point, Boulder's Beach etc etc) and bring to you some of the perhaps less well-known but in my mind, even more amazing sights. And although I feel that there is way more still to discover, here are some of my favourite things to do! 

  • Table Mountain

Although I said that I wouldn't include any of the ones that are on everyone else's list, this is the one exception. Whether you hike up there or take the cable car, this is definitely one of the must-dos in Cape Town. I've been up there a number of times and can safely say that the view never ceases to amaze me.

The best way to see the mountain is by hiking up - take the Skeleton Gorge route from Kirstenbosch. You get to see some of the most amazing nature going up - from waterfalls to rivers on the top with orchids growing around them - as well as getting a nice workout! The start of the hike is pretty steep so consider taking it slow, especially in the heat (thankfully the path is shaded most of the way). Once you reach the top however, it is quite an easy trek to the other side where you can catch a cable car down (or hike down if you legs can still carry you). The trip up takes about 3-4 hours, walking at a medium pace. If you are thinking that a hike may be too much for you then I can safely say that once you are on top of the mountain, you will absolutely not regret taking the long way up.

I should also mention here that hikes around Cape Town should ideally have their very own section on my blog - it is my favourite way to spend Sundays and see the beauty that this area has to offer! If you are interested in hikes in and around Cape Town, then this is quite a good article to browse through.

  • Chapman's Peak drive

Although this isn't a 'thing to do' per se, it would be really sad if somebody came to Cape Town and missed this beautiful drive. It starts from Noordhoek and ends in Hout Bay (or the other way around) and has some of the most beautiful views in the area. I love taking snacks with me and sitting on the edge of the rocks while watching the sun go down  -  truly magical!

The Chapman's Peak hike is also worth doing - it is moderately difficult but has the most superb 360 degree views on the top!

Chapman's Peak

This gorgeous nature reserve has a huge dam that you can hop into to cool down and is encompassed by one of my favourite hikes in the area - the path to the Elephant's Eye Cave. It is an easy walk/hike with only the final bit up to the cave being a bit more tricky but the views are absolutely worth it! The cave is huge and it is the perfect place to have a picnic and enjoy the views. 

Elephant's Eye Cave

  • Clarence drive/R44 from Gordon's Bay to Hermanus

This is one of the most gorgeous scenic drives in the Cape and is dotted with many beautiful beaches, whale-viewing sites (it is the start of the Whale Route!) and a penguin colony at Betty's Bay that is much better in terms of non-smelliness and tourist-trapness than its companion Boulder's Colony in Simon's Town. Not to mention that the route ends with Hermanus which is a beautiful town in its own right, with amazing whale watching opportunities and really beautiful wine estates!

  • Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay and the neighbouring St. James are lovely little seaside villages. We often go there for a slow stroll on weekends - there are street stalls, quaint boutiques, colourful boats, good food and an abundantly welcoming atmosphere all round!

Seal Island is definitely something that needs to be seen to be appreciated - home to over 60 000 cape fur seals, big ones and babies alike, it isn't as much an island as it is a big rock. The ferry costs around R100 and starts from Hout Bay Harbor - there are lots of boats to choose from, all working around the clock (daylight hours), and the trip lasts about an hour. You're guaranteed to see so many cute seals and if you're lucky you might even spot some whales or dolphins too!

Seal Island

There are quite a lot of markets in the general Cape Town area all through the week, so I've chosen to highlight my favourite, The Oranjezicht Market, which takes place every Saturday, rain or shine, from around 8:30am to 2pm near the V&A Waterfront. They've got amazingly fresh local produce for sale, really nice food for vegans and non-vegans alike, and a really nice atmosphere for just taking it slow on a Saturday morning. 

Be sure to get one of the olive sticks from Woodstock bakery and the red lentil hummus from Aramoun!

  • Llandudno beach

You can't get around coming to Cape Town without seeing and spending some time at one of its numerous beaches. There are quite a few really nice ones, but our favourite is Llandudno beach. It's just a short drive away from Camps Bay towards Hout Bay, and is the perfect amount of hidden while still playing host for enough people to not feel too secluded.

  • Wine tasting

If you know anything about Cape Town, it wont come as a surprise that there are some excellent wines to be had in the Western Cape. There are so many places in the area that the list could very easily go on for pages, so I've narrowed it down to three:

- Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards - Set on the high slopes of the Helderberg Mountain Range, about a 15 minute drive from Stellenbosch, Uva Mira's grapes are grown at quite a high altitude compared to other places in the region, giving their wine an outstanding taste - in my humble option at least. I've been there too many times to count over the past years, enjoying their amazing wines and equally spectacular views.

- Cape Point Vineyards - This wine estate has really good wines, nice views and a lovely atmosphere, given that the restaurant and tasting area is situated around their very own reservoir. Get some wine and pull up a blanket on the grass for an impromptu picnic.

- Beau Constantia - Another really lovely setting, this vineyard estate has amazing wines and exceptional views. They've also got a top-notch restaurant there - Chef's Warehouse Beau Constantia - that is well worth a visit! Be sure to make a booking ahead of time though, as they're often full. 

Babylonstoren is an Old Dutch farm with amazing restaurants, a huge garden in which they grow all of their own fruits and veggies, highly respected wines, a beautiful farm stall and luxury accommodation. I feel like this paragraph is not nearly enough to put in words how much I love this place - you can read more about it in the blogpost that I wrote here

Finally, you absolutely must pay a visit to this awesome deli shop run by an effortlessly astute and always-smiling sister/brother duo. They have an exquisite selection of both South African and international goods, all hand-picked by them, including lots of vegan stuff! They've even got vegan croissants and donuts there if you are lucky (although they sell out really fast!).


There is definitely lots more to see and do around Cape Town that isn't on this list. I feel like I should write down everything, while at the same time keep it compact and readable. Is it even possible to do both? In any case, check back here soon to see if I've added another not-to-miss activity to this list!

Babylonstoren: A Self-Sustaining Paradise In The Winelands

Babylonstoren is a Cape Dutch Farm Hotel, located about an hour’s drive from Cape Town (45 minutes if you hurry). Built in 1692, it is one of the oldest establishments in the area, with a rich history of farming and trading. It is essentially South African, boasting all the very best that Western Cape has to offer, with a hint of the old Dutch days shining through in the architecture and layout of the compound. Vines, orchards, plants and bushes cover the land as far as the eye can see, surrounded by a border of picturesque mountains in every direction.

We found ourselves there on a day that was too hot for a South African spring and too cold for summer (read: the perfect kind of weather) with a single backpack for the two of us, holding everything we might need for the night.  

As we parked the car we were greeted by Warren, a smiling concierge, who gave us a brief overview of the area while walking us to our cottage, which looked like a very well kept old Dutch manor from the outside. As we stepped in, however, we encountered an astonishing interior; the open-plan living area tastefully blurs the line between old and new, with glass walls all around the kitchen, a small library separating the living room from the dining space, high ceilings, lots of light, marble bathroom flooring and an enormous fireplace to keep us cozy after nightfall. All finished with incredible attention to detail and style. Safe to say, we took the tour of the cottage with our mouths slightly open, and our eyes wider than usual.

Once Warren finished up and left us to our own devices, we cracked open one of the two complimentary bottles of Babylonstoren’s own wine that came with the cottage, peeled a couple of the farm-grown blood oranges, and soaked it all up. Needless to say, we were absolutely smitten and could not wait to see what the surrounding areas had to offer.

Once we’d finished our chardonnay and gathered our senses, we headed out to the cellars, where an informative young lady gave us an extensive tour through the production process and storage methods of the vineyard. From there we were shown into the new wine tasting room, a beautiful class cuboid surrounded by the very vines used to make the wine that they serve. We were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of a vegetable platter made up of everything that was currently in season in the garden and, to my husband’s great delight, freshly baked bread from the bakery.

Drinks started with the sommelier bringing us each a glass of Babylonstoren’s Sprankler – a sparkling wine that is produced using the old champagne method, carrying a sultry apple aroma and a crisp, refreshing taste. Next up, a light Viognier, followed by a Rose and a couple of the extremely bold house reds. We sat and nibbled until there was nothing left, except for an empty platter and two very satisfied, albeit slightly tipsy guests.

We spent the next hour and a half on bikes provided by the hotel, riding down endless roads between vines, olive trees and orange trees. There is beauty everywhere you look and it felt as though we could get lost in that moment forever, peeking at each other between trees and admiring the vastness of the surrounding land.

We returned to our cottage as the sun dipped below the horizon, freshened up and made our way straight back out, setting our trajectory for Babel, the fine-dining establishment on the grounds.  Four courses, all made from the freshest ingredients in the garden, took us on yet another adventure – one of olfactory and textural bewilderment. I enjoyed a salad as my starter, which was made up of incredible ingredients such as waterblommetjies (water lilies), fresh pear, pak choi and more, all doused in an aromatic Thai green curry vinaigrette. This was followed by a mushroom risotto (easily the most flavorful risotto I’ve ever had), and finished off by and elaborate dessert featuring a chocolate fondant, coconut and lavender ice cream and gloriously sweet shards of meringue. As if it couldn’t get any better, all of the meals were perfectly paired with exquisite wines straight from the grounds. With heavy eyes and full bellies, we said goodnight to our waitress and walked back to our cottage under the starry African sky.

My husband made a fire as I filled the bathtub with water, sprinkling in bits of the bouquet of fragrant plants, which sat next to the tub. I picked a book from the shelf, took a nice long bath, and dried off in front of the fire before hopping into our bed.

The next day we woke up and went to breakfast where we were greeted by an amazing array of granola, yogurts, fruit, vegetables and juices. I was so excited by the incredible spread that I took pictures for the first 10 minutes, whilst the husband impatiently nibbled at his selection.  We filled our stomachs and headed to the main building where we met with the guide who was to give us a garden tour. We walked through the vast gardens, smelling an orange leaf here and tasting nectar from a flower there.

From there we headed to the farm stall to get freshly baked roasted garlic ciabattas and sparkling grape juice for the road. We packed our bags in the car, and said goodbye to the lovely people and place that had won our heart in such a short time. As we checked out, the concierge sent us off by saying “We’re looking forward to having you back here! You’re family now. You will always be welcome”. The last thing I said to my husband before we drove away was something along the lines of ”I really can’t wait to go back there!”

If this hasn't convinced you to visit Babylonstoren yet, here are some more amazing facts:

  • Hotel guests are free to explore 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of the property. In addition to walking between the orchards, guests can canoe on the dam, cycle through the vineyards, birdwatch, pick fruit and veg with the chefs, have a wine tasting, relax at the Spa, have a dip in the pool or just relax.

  • At its heart lies the 3,5 hectare (8 acre) garden, which has 15 sections that include fruit, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants, fragrant lawns, a prickly pear maze, a clivia tunnel and a plethora of trees of historical and botanical import.

  • If you don't stay the night, you can visit the farm with an entrance of of R10 per person and marvel at the gardens, have a wine tasting, go to one of the restaurants or the farm shop. You can easily spend the whole day there!

  • There are two restaurants on the property: Babel, the intimate signature restaurant, and the Greenhouse tea garden, where visitors to the garden can enjoy tea under the majestic old oaks. Guests can also enjoy wine tasting and delicious platters at the Tasting Room.

  • All the fresh produce used in the restaurant dishes are planted and harvested in the garden. The things that aren't produced at the farm are sourced locally.

You can find more information regarding the farm and hotel on their website.