Celebrate South African culture and history and make the most out of this annual holiday
The Cape Point experience
Spend an unforgettable day at one of South Africa’s most beautiful reserves
With vistas so breathtaking they seem hijacked from Hollywood’s “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and with an edge-of-the-world allure astounding enough to render nearby urban civilisation almost inconceivable, Cape Point is beyond a doubt one of South Africa’s most magnificent sightseeing and tourist attractions.
Though most well known as the dramatic point of collision between Africa's surly currents, this internationally renowned geographic phenomenon is worlds more than just towering cliffs and rocky escarpments that overlook a watery crux.
Falling within the Good Hope Section of Table Mountain National Park, the Cape Point Nature Reserve is 7750 hectares of wild coves, shimmering tidal pools, fynbos-covered valleys and diverse flora and fauna. There are 250 different bird species that make the area home, 1100 indigenous plant species whose roots burrow deep into the soil, a broad assortment of animal life that ranges from the nearly extinct bontebok to the deadly Cape cobra, and one phantom ship that reportedly haunts the boiling waters below.
Recognised as a World Heritage Site, the immaculately preserved stretch of land and the ocean that fans out from its base are also responsible for generating a hearty slice of South African maritime lore. Notorious for its tumultuous weather, the seas surrounding Cape Point’s most southwesterly tip – a fairly narrow finger of craggy cliff – are also a macabre and watery grave to 26 sunken ships.
Nicknamed the ‘Cape of Storms’ by the legendary explorer Bartholomew Diaz, this dangerous section of coast was a welcome navigational point by day, but a menacing obstacle course of fog, hidden rocks and raging thunderheads at night. As a result, countless sailors and trusty vessels have met their deaths.
Though, thanks to the construction of a lighthouse on the reserve’s highest peak in 1859, the waters have become far less lethal. And these days, the trek up to this life-saving beacon of guidance is one of the most popular activities at Cape Point.
Visitors can either walk their way up the medium-grade path (roughly a 15-minute hike), or can opt to take a ride up to the lighthouse via the convenient and environmentally-friendly Flying Dutchman Funicular.
Regardless of the mode of transit, the views from the lookout points surrounding the lighthouse and on the nearby summit are, arguably, unrivalled. Endless ocean extends in every direction, and mystical silhouettes of distant coastline fade into the horizon. On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way to False Bay; though, a signpost that points in the directions of some of the world’s far-away cities – New York, Buenos Aires and Hong Kong, for example – gives you the impression that, if not for our own limitations, you could glimpse the skylines beyond.
A short walk away, a second, revolving lighthouse looks out over the jagged rock face below. Having usurped the responsibilities initially delegated to its older counterpart, this structure was built later – in 1914 – to resolve problems brought on by rising mist, and is still currently functional. To date, it is the most powerful navigational beacon on the South African coast, emitting three flashes every 30 seconds.
Once you’ve hiked out to either marker, and conquered the quest to Cape Point’s pinnacle though, there are still countless other activities to indulge in.
Eat at the Cape Point Two Oceans Restaurant
Since opening its doors in December 1995, the reserve’s trusty Two Oceans Restaurant has been nearly single-handedly nourishing visitors from all corners of the globe. Refurbished completely in July 2012, the eatery exchanged a darker, more African-inspired interior for one that takes its cue from the tones and textures of its natural surroundings. Now open, airy and complete with sea-washed floors; an undulating, bleach-white ceiling meant to mirror the belly of a whale; a bespoke chandelier made from hand-picked seashells and coral; and interchanging crème and aquamarine accents, the restaurant is classically elegant, and is still home to a premium dining experience. A brilliant new sushi bar joins a seafood-focused main menu in providing ravished customers with breakfast, lunch and dinner, thus making it possible for patrons to both share enormous, fresh sushi platters as well as indulge in inventive individual rolls. If the weather’s right, visitors can dine al fresco on the Two Oceans’ legendary deck, an edifice that affords unobstructed views of the unravelling coastline, and even if it’s wet, windy or nippy, floor-to-ceiling glass windows spoil indoor diners with a panorama nearly as impressive.
Alternatively, if time’s of the essence (though, the Two Oceans is famous for its fast and efficient service), the Food Bar, an adjacent snack shop, has sandwiches, chips, pizza, sweets and soft drinks for sale.
Shop at the Cape Point stores
While some may argue that a simple snapshot from Cape Point’s staggering summit is the finest piece of memorabilia that could be taken from the reserve, others will be glad to know that three on-site shops are stocked to the brim with a wide assortment of souvenirs. The lower-level Cape Point Logo Store has shelves full of branded t-shirts, caps, magnets and books, while the adjacent Cape Point Parks Shop claims items that have more of a natural focus: bath and body products made with African extracts, vibrant ceramics, locally-made curios and even protea seeds are on offer. Lastly, next to the first lighthouse at the top of the Flying Dutchman Funicular, a shop with a distinctly nautical theme provides visitors with the opportunity to take home trinkets and treasures that pay homage to Cape Point’s maritime past and present.
Hike, bike, picnic and swim at Cape Point
Replete with scenic hikes, deserted wild beaches perfect for picnicking, vibrant tidal pools (Bordjiesrif and Buffels Bay) and breathtaking bike paths, the Cape Point Nature Reserve is well equipped to offer even the seasoned local with a seemingly never-ending list of family-friendly activities.
For information about the six flora and fauna-filled walks – many of which have a number of routes – stop over at the Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre. Here you can purchase a helpful brochure, as well as speak to an experienced staff member about the smattering of designated braai spots.
Otherwise, CapeTownMagazine.com can highly recommend the one-hour walk down to the idyllic but unruly Diaz Beach (watch out though, the hike back up is taxing), as well as a trek on any one of the three Olifantsbos shipwreck trails.
Stay overnight at Cape Point
If rushing through one of South Africa’s most stunning natural reserves doesn’t appeal, then consider booking one of the two on-site self-catering accommodation options:
Ideal for hosting a family or group getaway, these self-catering cottages (there are two) sleep six people each; there’s a master bedroom and two additional bedrooms in both houses. Furthermore, the cottages boast fully-equipped kitchens, a jetmaster fireplace, electricity, linen and braai areas.
• Olifantsbos Guest House
Tucked away on the shore of one of Cape Point’s southern, secluded beaches, the Olifantsbos Guest House is self-catering accommodation ideal for a group of people looking to unwind and recharge with a restful, relaxing few days. Complete with a master bedroom, two additional bedrooms and an annex that accommodates six more people, the guest house can sleep twelve in total. The house includes a fully-equipped kitchen, linen, a fireplace and a braai area, and a gorgeous patio and boardwalk leads to the beach.
Conservation Levies for the Cape Point Nature Reserve
Entry to Cape Point costs R50 p/child (under the age of 12), R105 p/adult, and is free for Green Card holders. A single ride on the Flying Dutchman Funicular is R16 p/child (aged 6 to 16), and is R39 p/adult; a return ticket costs R21 p/child and R49 p/adult.
By Stephanie Katz
FREE Audio Tour of Cape Point
Created by popular GPS audio walking tour app, VoiceMap, Cape Point has launched a FREE audio tour, titled ‘Cape Point Audio Guide: Funicular Route’ for visitors wishing for an even more memorable and informative experience of Africa’s most southwesterly tip. The tour begins at the main parking area and shares – not to give too much away – a wide range of fun and captivating facts about the national park’s maritime history, spectacular fauna and flora, Cape Point legends and the funicular. Offering two variations, the Quick Tour and the Full Tour, the informative and easy-to-use audio tour is as ideal for guests on a tight schedule as it is for those who would prefer a more leisurely stroll. The VoiceMap audio tour is available for free download via the Apple and Google Play App stores. NOTE: It’s advised that listeners complete all downloads prior to visiting Cape Point, as the cellular signal in the park fluctuates.
Tip: Head to Cape Point during SANParks Week and get into the national reserve for FREE and try the audio tour.
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