The Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town includes scenic rides with spectacular views along coastal roads, pristine beaches and quaint fishing villages of the Atlantic and False Bay coasts. Until recently I had never been on an organised guided Cape Peninsula Tour, though I had lived in the city for most of my adult life and visited all of the stops at one time or another.
During my recent trip to Cape Town I came to know from my brother about a newly launched local Cape Flats tour company, Cool Running Travels. They offer exclusive private guided tours, specialised tours and chauffeur services in the Western Cape and Garden Route. I wanted to experience the city like a tourist this time 🙂
I decided to take the Cape Peninsula Tour after we returned from our trip to Franschoek, even though the weather had been overcast and rainy all week. The owner, Emraan Roode, offered Simone and myself the opportunity to experience the tour for ourselves at a discounted rate, before the official launch this month.
Emraan has extensive experience working for luxury hotels and a multi-city tour operator, but decided that it was time to strike out on his own and launch his singular vision of a luxury travel and tour company with affordable rates.
We confirmed our booking directly with Emraan as the website was still under construction and online bookings were not yet available. All bookings can be requested via the Booking page and they will work out a price based on your requirements.
Prices vary and are dependent on the number of people in the group, the type of vehicle selected and any customisations requested. Please check whether the tour selected is wheelchair accessible because some of the terrain is uneven and certain areas may not have wheelchair accessibility ramps.
A quick Google search reveals that similar regular private Cape Peninsula tours are priced online at US$325 for two people, before customisations.
Our tour included the following:
- Pick up and drop off
- Professional guide
- Entrance fees to Cape Point Nature Reserve and Boulders Beach penguin colony.
- A visit to Groot Constantia or Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. We decided against Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens due to the gloomy and rainy weather.
Our tour excluded the following:
- Food and drinks, unless specified
- Gratuities (optional)
- Funicular fees at Cape Point
- Boat trip to Duiker Island (Seal Island) from Hout Bay
Our tour was a full day Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town, starting on the Atlantic seaboard and ending at Groot Constantia estate. It included drives along scenic coastal roads and stops at Maiden’s Cove, Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak Drive, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Boulders Beach and Groot Constantia. An optional trip to Duiker’s Island (Seal Island) near Hout Bay was declined because I had forgotten to bring motion sickness tablets.
The best thing about an exclusive and private guided tour was being picked up from our home in a spacious SUV, and not having to battle early morning peak hour traffic. If you are staying in a hotel in the City Centre or Atlantic Seaboard this will not be an issue and pick up times will be between 08:30 and 09:00.
The first stop on our Cape Peninsula Tour was at the Waterfront for a very early quick breakfast of coffee, delicious koesisters and drool worthy toasted cheese sandwiches. I was presently surprised at the high quality of the offering at the Freshstop including a Seattle Coffee Company kiosk as well as fresh hot breakfast items. This was one of my requested customisations as most travelers will have had breakfast at their hotel before their tour pickup.
It was a cold and dark Winter’s morning when we left home for our Cape Peninsula tour, but by the time we reached our first stop the chill had abated and the sky looked like it would brighten. When we reached Maiden’s Cove it seemed that miraculously all the grey clouds heavy laden with rain had moved out to sea, and the sky would be bright and blue when the mist evaporated before the Winter sun.
Maiden’s Cove – Atlantic Seaboard
Our first sightseeing stop on the Cape Peninsula Tour was at Maiden’s Cove in Camps Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard. It is a popular lookout point with tour groups and perfect for capturing beautiful images of Camps Bay, Lions Head and the Twelve Apostles. At low tide there are tidal pools on the rocky beach, suitable for swimming.
Further down there are barbeque areas and picnic spots, but these should be avoided on windy days as it is completely unprotected. A cold breeze reminded me of the time we went there for a braai and the wind was so fierce that it repeatedly upended our gazebo, and we went home without even unpacking a single food item.
When a few bus loads of tourists arrived we continued our journey and drove through and past through Bakoven and the exclusive and very expensive residential enclave of Llandudno. This stretch of coastline has some of the most sought after residential seaside properties in the country.
I made a mental note to visit the Twelve Apostles Hotel on my next trip, because it seems to have unrestricted ocean views and must be the perfect place for a sundowner in Summer.
Hout Bay Harbour
My earliest memories of Hout Bay are with my late father; tagging along with him when he went to buy fresh fish off the boats as they came into the harbour. Nowadays the subsistence fishermen appear to have been replaced completely by commercial fishing companies and the Hout Bay Harbour area is showing the distinct signs of gentrification. I noticed a design studio in one of the old fisheries warehouses and a craft brewery elsewhere.
The harbour is a hub of activity with boat charters leaving every 30 minutes and a curios market selling overpriced gifts and souvenirs. I made the acquaintance of a ginormous seal and his caretaker / friend. There are cafes and restaurants (including halaal options), some of which were already open by the time we reached the area.
One of my favorite places for a seafood meal is the cheap and cheerful Fish on the Rocks, at the end of the harbour. We were there much too early and they were still closed, but I could not resist a few photos. I find that the quality of their food is consistent and superior to some of the more expensive establishments on Mariner’s Wharf, and at a fraction of the price. If you happen to visit during the summer months, be prepared to stand in line because they are very popular.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
The Chapman’s Peak Drive toll road from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, on the southern end of the Cape Peninsula, took us over that must rank as one of the world’s most scenic drives, with hair raising twists and turns and spectacular views. The first thing that came to mind on our drive was an advertisement for a German car manufacturer that aired many years ago, in which a vehicle plunged over the side of the cliff and the driver emerged unscathed. It still gives me shivers down my spine thinking about it.
Chapman’s Peak Drive may be closed on certain days due to bad weather and rock fall concerns and then the tour will travel via alternate routes and you may check the official website of Chapman’s Peak Drive for updated status on road closures.
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Cape Point Lighthouse
On our way to the reserve we drove by ostriches and llamas being raised on farms in the area.
The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is under the management of the Table Mountain National Park and a range of daily conservation and entry fees applies to visitors. South African and SADC nationals may use the SANParks loyalty program Wild Card to gain entry, provided it is for the applicable category and cluster.
The reserve is famous for the babboons who roam freely amongst other wildlife. On the road to the Cape Point Visitors centre and Lighthouse we saw a troop that included young baboons. I was quite relieved that we managed more than an hour at leisure without seeing any up close, as they are known to be very aggressive when they smell food.
In summer the accessible beaches scattered around the reserve are popular for picnics and day campers. Our final stop in the reserve was at Cape Point and I got photobombed by an American tourist while taking my photo at the Cape of Good Hope sign! There was an icy wind blowing in from the ocean and I would suggest buttoning up here.
Seaforth Beach and Lunch
We arrived in Simon’s Town at lunch time and by then we were quite famished. Our guide suggested that we take lunch at one of his personal favorite eateries right on Seaforth Beach. I had not been there in quite a few years and could not believe how much it has changed from my childhood. Where there was once a small beach hut selling iced lollies, potato crisps and soft drinks on this side of a big boulder, there now stood a big pale blue restaurant.
The restaurant has a relaxed beachy feel and the service was excellent. Both Simone and I ordered the Seafood platter and found the portion very generous. The fish, mussels and calamari were delicious but the prawns were lukewarm and a bit tasteless. We were fortunate to place our order barely 5 minutes before the restaurant filled up with what seemed to be two bus loads of tourists, and did not wait very long for the food to arrive.
On the road outside we passed an informal market and a store specializing in Aloe skin care products.
Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony
To feel less guilty about the seafood platters we had consumed for lunch we walked down to the Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony that is just a few minutes stroll down the road from the restaurant. The road has been closed to tour busses and is now only open for residential access.
The Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony is also under the management of the Table Mountain National Park and a range of daily conservation and entry fees applies to visitors. South African and SADC nationals may use the SANParks loyalty program Wild Card to gain entry, provided it is for the applicable category and cluster.
It is the home of a colony of African Penguins, also known as Jackass penguins, that was established on Foxy Beach in 1983. I heard one of them sounding off and it really did sound like a donkey!
I recall clambering over the boulders from Seaforth Beach as a child when it was the only beach non-whites could go to, without fear of prosecution and persecution, during the apartheid regime. Now three beaches have been closed off with fences, and boardwalks have been constructed to provide access to the viewing areas close to the beaches. The fences have been installed to prevent the penguins from invading the ocean front properties bordering the beach and destroying the vegetation and plants.
In some ways, I found the boardwalks to be very intrusive as it seemed to bring humans right into their home. The penguins are in their breeding season that runs from February to August and we saw quite a few babies. For more information about the Boulder’s Beach Penguin colony go here.
From Simon’s Town we drove over the mountain and passed back through Noordhoek to reach Constantia Valley via Ou Kaapse Weg. The rate of construction against the Noordhoek mountain slopes is quite staggering, with new luxury gated communities aplenty.
We reached the Groot Constantia estate just as the weather turned inclement and it started to rain. I could not believe that it had taken me this long to visit one of the oldest estates founded in the Cape in 1685, and regretted that we did not have more time to explore. We ducked into the Cultural history museum first and learned about the history of an estate that has produced world renowned vintages for more than 330 years.
After photos in the garden I ran through the rain to reach the Cape Dutch manor house, and the proportions inside were unexpected. The ceilings were so high and the doorways so tall! Our guide told us about the ghost stories that abound, and it explained the crib in the Master bedroom. Apparently the woman in the portrait had lost her baby during infancy and the baby was painted out of the portrait. His cries were heard echoing in the hallways for years and years afterward but no one could pinpoint where the sounds came from.
This was the last stop on the Cape Peninsula tour from Cape Town and the end to a very enjoyable day seeing all the best that the Cape Peninsula has to offer.
- During Winter the wind is bitingly cold and it is wise to wear warm layers. Use sunblock if the weather is clear as fair skins will still burn.
- During Summer the sun is harsh and many visitors underestimate how hot it can get. Always take a sun hat or shaded head cover and slather on a thick layer of sunblock.
- Do not exit the car anywhere in the Cape of Good Nature reserve with food and drink on your person, as the baboon population will not hesitate to grab it off you.
- The sun is so bright you gotta wear shades!
- All the places of interest and landmarks we visited were beautifully maintained and unspoilt. Please try to keep it that way and #LeaveNoTrace after you’ve gone.
If you are travelling for the holidays then my Top Travel Tips for any traveller is a useful resource. For travel tips about Italy check out why Italy was not on my bucket list and for Istanbul read about my Culinary tour of Istanbul Istanbul.
If you really want to enjoy the beautiful scenic drives and sights of the Cape Peninsula then the best way to do it is on a guided tour. Although it is a full day tour and can be very tiring, we never felt rushed and were able to enjoy the experience thoroughly.
Our guide, Emraan, was very knowledgeable about the route and the various landmarks and places of interest. We learned much about the early history of the Cape and the various areas along the route from him. He had come to know that Simone is also a professional tour guide, and generously shared some tips that he has picked up over the years in the tourism and hospitality industry.
If you are visiting Cape Town and want an exceptional experience, then the Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town is the tour for you.
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