My favourite cities are the ones that have nature at their door step and which are made up of a number of smaller communities, each encapsulating their own personality and style but also contributing to the city as a whole. A city of villages.
Cape Town is definitely a city of villages.
During our time in Cape Town we have been lucky enough to explore a lot of these villages that make the city such an incredible place. My favourites are the communities by the sea, which is not surprising since I live in one of Sydney’s coastal villages.
Along with the natural beauty of the mountains and the beaches, these coastal villages are the reason I love Cape Town so much. They have similarities to each other but still maintain a distinctiveness that sets them apart. From glitzy and crowded to rugged and deserted, the coastal communities of Cape Town offer different things to different people.
Spanning both sides of the Cape Peninsula, the western coast is exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, while the east coast of the peninsula enjoys the calmer protected (and warmer) waters of False Bay. Both sides of the peninsula have so much to offer.
Cape Town’s coastal communities are all worthy of exploration.
Along with being the home of the South African Navy, the thing that the small maritime community of Simon’s Town is famous for is its resident penguins. There is a massive colony of cute African penguins that live on a beach here and are protected in a reserve that you pay entry to enter. Walking along boardwalks we passed penguins in nesting boxes and hidden in the dunes. Once reaching the beach we saw dozens of them swimming in the ocean, waddling along the sand and chatting to each other. An incredible sight. What is even more incredible is that they have only been there since 1985, with no record of them living there before that.
The beautiful Boulders Beach is next to where the penguins live and is what it says on the package: a beach with large Cape granite boulders strewn in the sand and the water. The water is so clear here and it is sheltered, making it the perfect place to swim.
We met our old flatmates from our London days one morning down at a Café by the Marina where we sat in the sun with coffees then wandered the quaint main street, checking out the quirky antiques and luxury home wares. From Simon’s Town you can catch a train all the way to Muizenberg, which we did, stopping off at some other cute villages along the way.
Kalk Bay is the hippy child of Cape Town’s coastal villages, a fishing village that is known for its eclectic shopping and fantastic cafes. We ate lunch at the incredible Satori Restaurant and Pizzeria where my pineapple and olive pizza was one of the best I have ever tasted. There are small alleyways that lead off the main street that hide bohemian shops selling handmade jewellery, scented candles, retro second hand clothing and local art. There is definitely a creative buzz in this small village and there seemed to be a lot more going on here culturally than the quieter surrounding suburbs. If I ever live on the coast in Cape Town, this is where it would be.
St James is Kalk Bay’s quiet neighbour and is largely residential, with beautiful historic homes and a stone church with a thatched roof along the quiet main road. Historically known as the ‘millionaire’s mile’, this thin strip of coast that is squeezed between the mountains and the sea is home to a lovely beach as well as an ocean pool that is fronted by a row of brightly coloured beach huts.. We spent a couple of hours lazing on the beach, half in the shade of the railway tracks that pass right by the coast. The water temperature is much warmer than the other side of the peninsula as it is closer to Cape Agulhus where the chilly Atlantic and warm Indian oceans meet. I actually went for a swim here without freezing half to death which is always nice.
We walked along the coast from Kalk Bay to Muizenberg and it was my least favourite of the village’s we visited on the False Bay Coast of Cape Town. It had a slightly seedy vibe that reminded me a lot of Venice Beach in LA, but it wasn’t as interesting. The long wide beach is popular with surfers and there are a lot of surf shops that cater to this crowd. It was a lot busier here than elsewhere along the coastline and if you are looking for a party atmosphere, then this is the beach for you. I’m too old for that nonsense.
I loved this quiet beach town located along from the deserted Noordhoek beach. Of all of the coastal communities we visited, Kommetjie was the friendliest and the quietest. We only spent a short time there walking the beautiful coastal path from the iconic lighthouse and along the water past lovely homes with little to no security (very rare for South Africa). Everyone we saw along our walk greeted us and the place had a very family friendly vibe. It seems to be home to a lot of dog lovers as nearly every person we saw was with a furry companion. Luckily they were dogs rather than cats or I would have had an even harder time leaving this lovely spot.
More remote than its glitzy neighbours on the western side of the Peninsula, Camps Bay and Clifton, this rugged beach is a great spot for grabbing a seafood lunch at Fishermen’s Wharf then watching the seals eating fish out of a local guy’s mouth on the wharf.
Reasonably undeveloped, Hout Bay has a small main street with a few shops up from the beach. We stayed in a beautiful Cape Dutch house for five nights and loved being based in this quiet and unpretentious spot.
It is still a working fishing village so a lot of Cape Town’s fishing boats are docked here and it is interesting to wander up the long wharf to check them out. There are large sand dunes backing part of the beach and with mountains surrounding it, it feels like you are very far from the city.
The star of the show on the west coast of the peninsula, Camps Bay is the place to see and be seen. When we drove along the beach front road on Boxing Day it was ridiculously packed with people but it was blissfully quiet and relaxed when we first visited on a sunny day in autumn 2009. Palm trees and trendy restaurants line the beach side main road along with expensive hotels and properties. The stunning white sand beach is wide and long, stretching out into a perfect cove of cerulean water. If you want to hang out with millionaires and spot celebrities, this is your beach.
Another playground for the rich and famous, Clifton’s four small beaches are more secluded than Camps Bay because they are only accessed by steep paths from the road above. You can walk around the granite boulders that separate each beach and they are all very beautiful, backed by the majestic Lions Head peak. Clifton retains more of a local feel due to the lack of shops and restaurants. It’s just a shame that the water is so cold.
I would recommend anyone travelling to Cape Town to visit any one of its coastal communities. There are even more that we didn’t have time to visit or were only passing through briefly- Sea Point which is a vibrant suburb with a happening main street, Fish Hoek with its beautiful beach and colourful bathing huts, Noordhoek with its long and wild white sand beach which we saw from above while driving around Chapman’s Peak. All are on our list for next time we are in the Mother City.
Oh, there will definitely be a next time.