CAPE TOWN, South Africa (Reuters Life!) - Bright sunshine and balmy evenings are alluring aspects for discerning travelers to explore Africa’s southernmost city in springtime.
With its spectacular mountains and gorgeous beaches, Cape Town is perfect for outdoor activities like rock climbing, wind surfing and cycling. And after seeing lions and elephants on safari further north, you can watch whales, penguins and seals in the waters around the Cape of Good Hope.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in the city.
Stay at a Bed & Breakfast like the Walden House (5, Burnside Rd), an elegant Victorian house nestled under Table Mountain in the Tamboerskloof section of town.
6 p.m. - Wander down to the Waterfront, dotted with bars and restaurants and watch the sun set. You may even be joined by one or two of the local seals that love to sleep on the docks.
8 p.m. - Take a short cab ride to Bukhara (33 Church St), one of the so-called Mother City’s best Indian restaurants. Besides the excellent chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian dishes, they offer an African specialty — Ostrich tikka.
8 a.m. - Breakfast at the Walden House with eggs cooked to order and a huge array of cereals, cheeses, baked items and local fruits and berries such as mangoes and passion fruit.
Cape Town’s weather can change quickly and Table Mountain, which dominates the skyline, can become shrouded in clouds — the “tablecloth” that gives the mountain its name.
The rule is, if you can see the top, you should go immediately. Do not delay, or you will miss incredible views 1,085 meters (1,187 yards) above the city.
Go by cable car (180 rand ($26) for the round trip) or, for the more adventurous, take a four-hour hike.
Ideally, arrive in the late afternoon and sip drinks in the Cableway Cocktail Bar on the summit and watch the sun set over the ocean and the twinkling lights of the city.
If the tablecloth is set on Table Mountain, take a drive 30 km (20 miles) down the peninsula to Cape Point. Stop at the Simon’s Town Museum, which tells the history of the area and its ties to the Dutch East India Company and Britain’s Royal Navy, which used a sheltered harbor there for two centuries.
Just down the road is Boulders Beach, where a colony of African penguins resides. A walk across the dunes and rocks to see the flightless birds costs 35 rand.
The western side of the Cape peninsula is dotted with picturesque beaches and lighthouses. Stop in Camps Bay for cocktails at one of the trendy bars that line the beach, and watch the sun disappear into the Atlantic.
8 p.m. - Dinner at Baia, an elegant seafood restaurant on the waterfront with views from every dining room. Start with a carpaccio of the South African national symbol — the springbok.
Try kingklip, a southern hemisphere fish, known in South America as congrio. And of course, South African wines are de rigeur.
9 a.m. - Take a drive along the winding roads of the Garden Route, with its spectacular scenery of cliffs and beaches. At Bettys Bay, you will see more penguins and at 10 rand it is cheaper than Boulders Beach.
Head to Hermanus, where Southern Right whales come to calve during September and October and their fluking (raising tail fins out of the water) is visible from the shore. Hermanus even has a “whale crier”, who walks around town telling visitors the best places to spot the marine giants.
1 p.m. - Fresh sea air will make a visitor hungry and Hermanus is full of great places to eat. Bientang (Below Marine Drive) is situated in a cave at the water’s edge and famous for Bouillabaisse and line fish grilled on an open fire, as well as hot and cold oyster, prawn, mussels or calamari platters.
An alternative Sunday drive is to the old Dutch university town of Stellenbosch in the heart of wine country. Eat at 1802, the restaurant at d’Ouwe Werf (Church St) — South Africa’s oldest hotel, established in 1802.
Entrees from around 50-60 rand include a salad of strawberries and biltong — dried, cured meat — and Cape Malay Bobotie, a dish of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping.
At least 100 vineyards are within easy reach of Stellenbosch and most, like Tokara, Boschendal or La Cabriere in nearby Franschhoek, offer tastings. Besides the familiar white Chardonnays and Sauvignons Blanc, South Africa produces a distinctive red wine, Pinotage.
Reporting by Steve James, editing by Paul Casciato