You can go on many excellent day trips from Cape Town.
Easily one of my favorite cities in the world, Cape Town is – to put it simply – breathtakingly beautiful. This is a place where many cultures meet. It is jam-packed with colors, interesting things to do, great restaurants and a thriving nightlife.
But there’s more! On top of offering a wide range of attractions and activities, Cape Town is a perfect base to explore the surrounding regions. Whether you are looking to admire wildlife; embark on an adventure; take in swiping views; bask in the sun and surf the waves; learn more about the country’s difficult past; or are looking to taste the fabulous South African wines, you will have the chance to do it.
So, once you are done wandering the colorful streets of Bo-Kaap; have browsed all the stalls at Greenmarket Square; have visited the District Six Museum; have gorged on all the food in the Victoria and Albert Waterfront; admired the views from Table Mountain; go on and embark on one or more of the fantastic day trips.
In this post, I highlight all the places you can visit in a day out of town and share information that will help you plan it.
The Best Day Trips From Cape Town
Most day trips mentioned in this post are doable independently if you rent a car (except Robben Island, for which you need to take the ferry); alternatively you can join a shared guided tour or opt for a private tour.
All of the places mentioned in this post are within a couple of hours drive from the city. Others may suggest places that are further away such as the Garden Route – but I believe that if you end up having to spend so much time in the car to get to a place, then it’s not worth going just for a day. Besides, a place like the Garden Route deserves way more than just a day trip.
Cape Peninsula and Boulders Beach
If you have limited time in the Mother City you will have to pick your day trips wisely. The one to Cape Peninsula is a must, for it is incredibly scenic and you get to see many places along the way.
This is where the mountain chains of Southern Africa meet the Atlantic Ocean, so during the day you will be able to admire the impressive natural landscape; the rugged coastline – the views around Chapman’s Peak are breathtaking (you can enjoy them fully on this bike tour); the wildlife – expect to see baboons, ostriches, seals, penguins, but even zebras and if you are lucky whales too!
Whether you are driving or joining a guided tour, during this day trip from Cape Town you will be stopping at Hout Bay, which is home to a beautiful beach and from where you can take a one-hour boat tour to a fur seal colony; Chapman’s Peak, from where you will be able to admire the coast in all its glory; Simon’s Town and its Boulders Beach penguin colony; and finally the Cape Peninsula.
Boulders Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. There are a few trails and viewpoints that go around the beach so you can admire the penguins. The best trail starts behind the ticket office and takes you all the way to a small beach that feels very private and deserted (depending on the day, you will literally only see penguins there!).
Once you get to the Cape Peninsula, you can hike up to the old lighthouse (or take the Flying Dutchman Funicular to the top). The views are stunning. From there, you can hike to the Cape of Good Hope, originally named “Cape of Storms” by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias, as this was a very dangerous place of rough seas, fog, storms and rocky coastline.
The hike takes about one hour (one way) and offers stunning views of Diaz Beach below, but keep in mind swimming is absolutely forbidden because of the very strong currents.
If time is not an issue, there are more hikes to do in the area, such as that to the WWII Thomas T Tucker shipwreck.
Cape Peninsula entry fee is 340 South African Rand (R) (around $22 USD). Boulders Beach Penguin Colony entry fee is R160 (around $10.50 USD).
Wear comfortable shoes / hiking shoes for your trip to Cape Peninsula, as you’ll be walking a lot.
Day trips to Cape Peninsula and Boulders Beach can be done independently if you have your own car, but there are plenty of tours going there.
Hout Bay is actually a suburb of Cape Town. Most people stop by for an hour or so when approaching Chapman’s Peak on their way to Cape Peninsula but you can also go there on the hop-on hop-off bus.
One of the best things to do in Hout Bay is visiting the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the largest bird park in Africa, home to a whopping 400 species of birds, and can actually be reached on the hop-on hop-off bus.
You can get your hop-on hop-off bus ticket here.
The highlight of Hout Bay, however, is the possibility of taking a boat tour to Duiker Island, where a large colony of Cape Fur Seals live. Some tours actually even allow the possibility of snorkeling with the seals!
If you want to go snorkeling with seals in Hout Bay check out this tour.
Muizenberg Beach and Kalk Bay
These two small towns are part of the greater Cape Town area.
Muizenberg Beach is famous for the colorful huts set on the whitest sand you can imagine. It’s a surfers’ paradise, so head there if you want to learn how to surf or improve your surfing skills. Depending on how much time you have, you could even opt to walk the Muizenberg Catwalk, a pleasant very easy 40-minutes hike during which you pass by rock pools and get impressive coastal views.
Kalk Bay, a 15 minutes drive from Muizenberg, is a highly underrated town – the kind of place where you stop for lunch (I recommend Olympia Café for that), decide to go for a quick walk just to check out what’s around, and end up falling in love with (that’s exactly what happened to me). It is packed with vintage and antique shops as well as trendy boutiques and good cafés and restaurants too. Make sure to also go for a walk along Kalk Bay pier, it is worth it!
Muizenberg is about 30 minutes drive from the center of Cape Town, and Kalk Bay a further 15 minutes drive. The best way to get there is by car.
The Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelands actually deserve more than a day trip. There is so much to see and do in the area, that you’d be way better off staying longer. However, if a day is all you have make sure to head out early and explore the historic Winelands.
Stellenbosch is usually the most popular stop. It has a lovely historical center with well kept buildings in Cape Dutch style; lots of art galleries; a few small museums; and more wineries than you can ever remember. But Franshhoek and Paarl should be also mentioned.
If you intend to do wine tasting you will have to select the wineries you want to visit and book in advance. You may also want to consider having lunch at a winery – most of them have fabulous restaurants for fine dining experiences.
Stellenbosch is about 45 minutes to one hour drive from Cape Town, and Franschhoek a further 30 minutes out. It is perfectly ok to drive there, but if you go wine tasting, driving back after drinking is not the smartest thing do do.
The best way to visit the Cape Winelands if you have limited time is on a guided day tour that will spare you the hassle of having to drive – especially if you want to fully enjoy wine tasting. There are some excellent tours departing daily from Cape Town and which can be easily booked online.
If wine tasting is all you want to do, click here.
Make sure to check out my posts 17 Cool Things To Do In Stellenbosch and 7 Amazing Estates To Do Wine Tasting In Stellenbosch for more ideas on what to do in the area, where to eat and the best wineries. You can also read my post Stellenbosch Accommodation: 12 Hotels In Stellenbosch For Any Budget.
Hermanus is a small, picturesque town on the Atlantic Coast of South Africa, just about 1.5 hours drive from the Mother City. Though the city is lovely in and of itself and a great place to eat oysters, the real draw here is that it is an excellent place for whale watching.
For six months, from June to December (and especially in September, when there even is a whale festival!), Southern Right Whales migrate to the coast in front of Hermanus to escape the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean, mate and give birth.
Though you may be able to spot whales even from the city (the best place for that is the 12-km Cliff Path) you are better off joining a boat expedition to do that, but remember to book well beforehand to ensure you have a spot on the boat.
It takes about 1.5 hours to drive from Cape Town to Hermanus. Keep in mind that if you intend to go on a road trip along the Garden Route, this can easily be arranged as a stop along the way to Wilderness or other destinations.
For more whale watching and marine life destinations, consider going to Gansbaai, which is a bit further away from Cape Town. In recent years, it’s become known as a destination where you can do the “Big 5 Marine Safari” and spot whales, great white sharks, dolphins, penguins and seals.
Many travelers go to Gansbaai to do cage-diving with sharks, but I am a bit reluctant to recommend it as it is often not done in an ethical way (guides are often known to bait the sharks). If you intend to go to Gansbaai specifically for cage-diving with sharks, triple check that the company runs the tour in an ethical way. Mentions that there is no guarantee you’ll be seeing the sharks is usually a good sign.
The area of Klein Karoo is a perfect place for a day trip. This desert region is scattered with interesting towns such as Oudtshoorn, Swellendam (thought to be the oldest settlement in South Africa), and Calitzdorp (famous for the production of Port wine). As you drive along, you will be able to spot many ostriches and stop at wine farms along the way. You can even go on a hike in the Swartberg Nature Reserve.
Most people who go to Klein Karoo are interested in one of the game reserves where they may have a chance to admire the African Big Five – lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos.
There are two game reserves in the Klein Karoo area that are both within easy reach from Cape Town – Aquila Game Reserve and Inverdoorn Game Reserve. You can get there independently and then join a game drive, or simply join a guided day tour departing from Cape Town. I recommend planning to be there for the sunset game drive, as that’s when animals will be more active (alternatively, they are very active at sunrise but that will mean leaving from Cape Town no later than 4:00 am).
There are several ways of getting to Klein Karoo. The most scenic one is Route 62. You can get to Aquila Game Reserve in Klein Karoo in about 2 hours drive from Cape Town. Inverdoorn Game Reserve is a further 30 minutes drive north.
To book your safari in Inverdoorn Game Reserve from Cape Town, click here.
If you are into wildlife, you may want to go all the way to Kruger National Park for a proper African safari. I recommend staying for at least 4 or 5 days.
The West Coast and West Coast National Park
If you decide to go west to the Western Cape and all the way to West Coast National Park, you will find lesser crowds, gorgeous landscapes of wetlands with lots and lots of unique wildlife and birdwatching opportunities; stunning beaches and more. West Coast National Park with all its wetlands is the perfect place for hiking, birdwatching and even whale watching.
Among the activities you can enjoy on the West Coast there are hiking, mountain biking and sand-boarding. Make sure to go to Langebaan for plenty of water activities such as SUP, kitesurfing and snorkeling; Yzerfontein if you care to see the longest beach in South Africa (a whopping 25 km – 15.5 miles); Atlantis Dunes for the chance to go sand boarding and admire dunes that reach 50 meters (164 feet) in height. Paternoster is a beautiful fishing village packed with fantastic fish and seafood restaurants.
If you go in the spring, make sure to also go to Darling, Seeberg and Postberg to spot wildflowers.
It takes about one hour to drive from Cape Town to the entrance of West Coast National Park. Paternoster, the furthest point, is roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes drive.
Should you want to go on a guided tour, this is a good option that also includes a game drive at Buffelsfontein Game Reserve.
Constantia is in the greater Cape Town area – a mere 15 minutes drive from the center of town. It’s part of the Cape Town hop-on hop-off bus route, so getting there is really easy. It’s a really pleasant place to visit, with beautiful mountain views, markets, the Village Shopping Center, lots of good restaurants, vineyards and – needless to say – plenty of opportunities to go wine tasting.
The best place to visit there is Groot Constantia, the oldest wine farm in the country. You can go on a wine tasting tour that will first take you to the plant, then the vineyards and finally to the cellar where you can enjoy wine tasting.
You can get to Constantia on the hop-on hop-off bus that leaves from Long Street in Cape Town – you can get your pass here.
Much like Constantia, Kirstenbosch Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, is located in the outer Cape Town area so depending on where you are staying it’s really easy to get there – in any case, it makes sense to visit it on a day trip.
Plan to go there on a sunny day, so that you can enjoy the massive, gorgeous park and have a picnic – it’s great if you have children! One place you won’t want to miss is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway.
Admission to Kirstenbosch Garden is 200 South African Rand (ZAR) (little over $13 USD). It’s actually included in Cape Town City Pass, which you can get here. The garden is open daily from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm from September to March, and from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm from April to August.
Kirstenbosch is a stop along the hop-on hop-off bus in Cape Town, so it’s fairly easy to reach it. You can get your hop-on hop-off bus ticket here.
Table Mountain National Park
Table Mountain National Park is right in Cape Town and very much the symbol of the city, but since visiting deserves an entire day I thought I’d add it to this list of day trips from Cape Town. Once there, the views are simply breathtaking. You will be able to see Lion’s Head in all its glory, and the entire city will span in front of your eyes. You can walk along the various trails for more and more incredible views (especially at sunset).
You have two options to reach the top of Table Mountain:
TABLE MOUNTAIN CABLEWAY – this cableway has a 360 degrees rotating floor, so everyone on board can admire the views. You need to get tickets in advance – and even then depending on the day you’ll have to stand in line to get on. You can get your tickets here – it also includes a hop-on hop-off bus ticket.
HIKE– There are many trails that lead all the way to Table Mountain. Kloof’s Corner Hike and the more difficult Kloof’s Corner Ridge are among the best. One important thing to consider when hiking Table Mountain is that because of the constantly changing whether and of the many recorded robberies in the area, it is not safe to hike alone (for more reasons not to hike alone, check out this post).
Regularly check the weather broadcast to verify the visibility from Table Mountain (you can do so on the official website of Table Mountain), as this is often covered in fog and that will ruin your experience. In practice, if you can’t see the top of Table Mountain from the city, you won’t be able to see anything from the top! Make sure to also bring a jacket with you at it’s significantly cooler up there than it is in the city.
The best views of Cape Town are from Table Mountain, but the best views of Table Mountain are from Lion’s Head! The only way to enjoy these 360 degrees views of the city are by reaching the top of Lion’s Head on a hike. The trail is well marked, but there are bits and pieces were you will have to lift yourself up using hooks.
The same tips I have outlined for visiting Table Mountain apply for Lion’s Head: avoid hiking alone and don’t hike if you can’t see Lion’s Head from the city.
The one to Robben Island is one of the best day trips from Cape Town, perfect for anybody who wants to learn more about the difficult past of this gorgeous country. Used by the Dutch Settlers already in the 17th century to imprison and isolate unwanted people, Robben Island became famous for being the prison where Nelson Mandela – anti-apartheid revolutionary and eventually president of South Africa – was held for 18 years, along with many more political prisoners.
Once on the island, you get to visit the prison grounds on a guided tour led by a former prisoner. Afterwards, a bus tour will take you to all the most significant places on the island.
There are three daily ferries to Robben Island leaving from Nelson Mandela Getaway at the V&A Waterfront. The journey lasts about 45 minutes. I recommend opting for the earliest option, and the sea tends to get rougher throughout the day. You can book your guided tour here.
BONUS: Final Tips For Your Day Trips From Cape Town
Most of the day trips from Cape Town I have shared in this post can be enjoyed on a guided tour departing from the city. Yet, some make for the perfect road trip and if you can share the experience and costs with your friends, definitely opt for renting a car. Driving in South Africa is perfectly safe, but there are a few things that are worth reminding. The following tips are useful for everyone, but especially to anyone driving.
Beware of wildlife
Be extra cautious during when driving around the Cape Peninsula, as there will be lots of baboons hanging about the street, crossing the road suddenly and easily attracted to any food you may be carrying. Never take food out in the open, unless you are ready to confront an (aggressive) baboon. Don’t feed baboons. If you are driving, beware that they may be crossing the road or jumping in front of your car suddenly. Keep your windows closed or they may try to get in the car.
Keep spare change handy
Your guide will ask for cash to pay national park fees in case your tour does not include them, and you will need it for small items, drinks etc throughout the day.
If you are driving, keep spare change handy to pay tolls (only locally registered cards are accepted) or to pay when parking your car.
A common thing you will come across when driving in South Africa are people trying to help you park your car and suggesting they will guard it, and demanding cash for that. Unless they wear a badge, it is completely up to you to pay them, but you may want to avoid friction and still give them some small change. The same goes for people washing your windshield at traffic light – tell them to stop immediately, or give them a small tip.
If you are used to driving in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand (among other countries), this is a non-issue for you. But if you are used to driving on the right side of the road you will need to take extra caution at traffic light and intersections. If you think that shifting with your left hand may be an issue, consider renting an automatic car.
Always lock your car
You should keep your valuables out of sight – and not just after parking, but also while driving. Road crimes are common in South Africa – thieves often wait at road intersection for cars to stop to take the chance to rob them. Also remember that carjacking is unfortunately still quite common in South Africa.
Be back before dark
Avoid driving at night – for the many safety reasons you can imagine. So plan your day trips from Cape Town accordingly, leaving early in the morning and returning right after sunset at the latest.
Only get out of your car in designated areas
No matter how much you want to take a photo, wait for a good spot to stop safely.
Don’t pick up hitchhikers
South Africa isn’t the place to do so.
Road conditions aren’t great in certain areas, and that’s not good for the car. Besides, animals and people (even children) often cross the street unexpectedly. Finally, you may get a speeding ticket or – worse – be pulled over by the police.
Make sure to read my other posts about South Africa:
- A Guide To Renting A Car In South Africa
- What You Must Know About Driving In South Africa
- The Best Road Trips In South Africa
- 17 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Cape Town
- Where To Stay In Cape Town
- 3 Unmissable Things To Do In Johannesburg – On A 24 Hours Layover
- 20 Fabulous Places To Visit In South Africa
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Knysna And On The Garden Route
- 6 Areas Where To Find Accommodation In Knysna
- 11 Reasons Why You’ll Love Phinda Game Reserve
- The Best Beaches In South Africa
- The Best Airbnbs In Cape Town