The Cape Peninsula is rocky outcrop that reaches into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean like a giant curved finger. At its southernmost point lies the Cape of Good Hope, so called because of the optimism it gave to early trading seafarers rounding the tip of Africa en route between Europe and the Far East.
Geographically speaking, the Cape Peninsula actually starts in Mouille Point near the city center of Cape Town, therefore encompassing the Atlantic Seaboard, with the Table Mountain range running the length of the 52km-long outcrop. Ask any local however and they’ll point you instead to the tip of the peninsula between Hout Bay and Simons Town, commonly known as the South Peninsula.
The South Peninsula is best known for Cape Point Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the southern section of the Table Mountain National Park. The 77,5km2 reserve contains dramatic scenery of the Atlantic coastline, a number of pristine footprint-free beaches, several hiking trails and two lighthouses with incredible views of the peninsula’s southernmost point. You might even spot some big game here – keep an eye out for zebra, eland, bontebok and ostrich.
The small-town feel of Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Scarborough on the western side of the peninsula is favoured by visitors who want to escape the busy suburbs and popular beaches of the city, while surfers are equally fond of the less crowded surfing conditions.
On the eastern side of the peninsula lies Simon’s Town, a historical maritime town and headquarters of the South African Navy. The town is steeped in centuries-old naval history and the picturesque St George’s Street is lined with preserved Dutch-style buildings now home to boutiques, eateries, antique shops and coffee shops.
The most famous attraction in Simon’s Town is the African penguin colony who call Boulder’s Beach their home. The beach is part of the national parks network and visitors can view the penguins from an elevated platform, or better yet, swim alongside them at the adjacent Foxy Beach.
• During whale season from June to November, it is possible to spot migrating Humpback, Southern Right and Bryde’s whales rounding Cape Point. These gentle giants can also be spotted from elevated coastal vantage points like Boyes Drive and Chapmans Peak and Clarens Drive. For an up close and personal experience, boat trips are on offer from Simon’s Town harbour.
• Chapmans Peak Drive on the western side of the Southern Peninsula sits right at the top of South Africa’s most scenic coastal drives. The pass in itself is a feat of engineering and the views will leave you breathless.
• Boulders Beach in Simons Town is a protected coastal habitat for a resident penguin colony and one of the only places in the world where you can get close to African penguins. Swimming alongside these unique sea creatures is certainly a bucket list experience!
• Cape Point is about 70km from the center of Cape Town and there is no public transport connection, so you’ll need to take a bus, taxi or self-drive to get there. The drive itself takes about an hour and a half. It is a great self-drive destination and a spectacular scenic drive that is best undertaken as a day trip. If you head out early, you can also visit some of the nearby coastal towns such as Hout Bay, Simon’s Town and Kalk Bay.
• If you prefer not to self-drive, there are numerous sightseeing bus companies and private tour operators that offer half and full day sightseeing tours to the tip of the peninsula and its surrounding towns and points of interest.