It was the crack of dawn on a Saturday and we were parked along Boyes Drive, a windy mountain road overlooking the ocean. As the sun rose, the water turned from black to dark blue until streaks of silver appeared where the morning light touched the waves. In the distance, the mountains of Kogelberg Nature Reserve were backlit against a mustard sky.
This was our first stop on a Cape Town road trip from Cape Town proper around South Africa’s southern peninsula. Our journey would take us through Kalk Bay, on to Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach where the African penguins frolic, then down to Cape Point, followed by Hout Bay on the western coast, and past Table Mountain before ending up back in Cape Town 12 hours later.
Below us, the beach town of Muizenberg was fast asleep, barely recognizable through the haze that covered the view like a blanket. From that height we could see for miles as the waves rolled towards the shore in layers, scalloped like the fabric of an ornate ball gown. Except for the few cars that occasionally drove past; they were all we could hear.
Karen Larsen, a reader who lives in Fish Hoek, a coastal town on the edge of False Bay, graciously offered to chauffeur me around. In pitch black, she picked me up in the wee hours of the morning from The Portswood, my waterfront hotel, only to head back in the direction from whence she came to save me from having to rent a car. Travel is really about the people you meet and Karen is a gem.
The day unfurled slowly, there was no agenda. We stopped to explore on a whim and take pictures when we were inspired. The views were absolutely stunning. It was clear from the get-go that South Africa’s southern peninsula is one of those destinations that when on vacation you stop and question what you’re doing with your life and how you could ever leave.
Here’s a peek at what we saw along the way.
Cape Town Road Trip
Each morning, locals greet the sunrise at public tide pools along Main Road heading towards the town of Kalk Bay. What a wonderful way to enjoy the ocean while simultaneously being protected from sharks and jellyfish.
Brightly colored changing huts that line the beach near downtown Kalk Bay.
This man has the right idea. It’s shortly after sunrise and he’s starting his day with yoga on the rocks while the ocean laps at his feet.
A family enjoys a stroll along the dock in Kalk Bay harbor, others fish for fun. There is a small lighthouse that guides the boats to the marina at the end.
A seagull looks longingly at a tasty bug overhead. ~ Kalk Bay harbor
We stopped at Olympia Cafe for a bit of breakfast in the town of Kalk Bay. An adorable eatery that reminded me of the charming little cafes in New York’s SoHo district. Outside, street artists sell their jewelry and other handmade trinkets.
Inside Cafe Olympia
Handmade kudus for sale outside Olympia Cafe
One of the many cute shops along Main Road in Kalk Bay.
Simon’s town harbor in the distance and home to South Africa’s Navy.
Just north of downtown Simon’s town, Boulders Beach is aptly named but best known for its colony of over 2000 endangered African (a.k.a Jackass) Penguins. Why Jackass? They sound exactly like a donkey braying when calling to each other. It’s hilarious and very loud. Cost is 60 rand for adults, 30 rand for children. With the current exchange rate, (dollars to Rand) it’s less than $6 and $3 respectively.
Only a few feet away, African penguins hang out on granite boulders estimated to be over 540 million years old. While they’re used to people milling about, they don’t like you to get too close and if you venture beyond their preferred personal space you may get nipped. And it hurts.
The aptly named Boulders Beach
The sound of penguins braying
The penguin version of a Cape Town road trip.
Karen spies a penguin in the rocks on Foxy Beach, a great place to see penguins and a short walk from Boulder Beach.
Karen’s target: Tucked in a hole created by three different boulders, this penguin looks as if he’s smirking at us
Cape Point, the Southernmost tip of South Africa. The ocean spray flies dozens of feet in the air as it strikes the rocks along the shore. Though you can’t see in this photo, Cape Point is a major tourist attraction with cars, buses, and bikes moving in and out. If crowds make you crazy, you might want to skip this.
Baboons are a fact of life in the Cape Town area. They are fascinating to watch but be careful. They have 3-inch incisors and if they think you have food they will walk right up and take it out of your hand. If they feel frustrated or threatened they’ll bite and you really won’t enjoy that.
Scorched bushes and barren hills high above the Cape Town area are all that remain after a terrible brush fire. Beginning in high in the hills of Muizenberg, the fire moved west towards Hout Bay. It was the worst fire in 15 years and lasted for days, destroying countless acres of terrain.
A close up of one of the scorched plants still standing after the Cape Town fires
Had to do it: Table mountain selfie near the end of our road trip.
A large tanker floats under the setting sun and brings our lovely Cape Town road trip to a close.
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