Whether you’re an early riser, or more a fan of the great South African sundowner, there is a perfect sun-gazing vantage point for you in Cape Town. Here are 7 of the best namely: Table Mountain Cableway, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Robben Island, V&A Waterfront, Cape Point, City Walk and Groot Constantia .
Cape Town is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise. Between the mountains and oceans, there is so much to do, no matter what the season and, if you time it well, you can watch the sunrise when you go up with the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway and see the sunset from the Robben Island Ferry, on the same day! Use our handy itinerary to plan your day.
It’s hard to know where to start when you are so spoiled for choice, so let’s begin with something you can schedule right away. If you’ve ever had to visit the Cape Town CBD during the week, you would have shuddered at the idea of sitting in traffic. However, if you leave home before 6am, you can skip the traffic, stop off to grab some coffee and go and watch the sunrise from the V&A Waterfront. There is a beautiful walkway that runs along the edge of the water and you can watch the light catch the Cape Town Stadium, while the rest of the city comes alive.
For the early-risers, you’ll find there is a whole new energy and atmosphere to the V&A Waterfront at this time of the day. Hit the marked running route around the property for an invigorating jog, and then reward yourself with a coffee overlooking the working harbour, as the sails go up and the day for many begins.
There is an amazing transition that takes place at the V&A Waterfront shortly before sunset. The afternoon visitors have already made their way home, and the sunny balconies start to fill with people looking to enjoy the last light as the sparkling Waterfront slowly transforms into a dining and entertainment hub. There are dozens of fine restaurants with terraces and good vantage points, and there are few better places to spend an afternoon and evening here.
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Of course, the V&A Waterfront isn’t your only option if you have to be in the CBD. Why not explore the Company’s Garden or surrounding areas while you’re killing time? It’s fascinating to watch the street vendors set up for the day and people watching will yield a few interesting insights about how differently everyone lives. If you have a lot of time on your hands, why not explore the city using the City Walk map. The walk takes you past a number of places where you can enjoy a snack with your choice of hot beverage, so be prepared to indulge in something delicious.
Cape Point is another great place to watch the sunrise, if you can get to the entrance as the sun’s rays appear over the vast False Bay, you’ll be perfectly positioned to catch one of the most spectacular sunrises of your life. The ticket office opens as early as 6am from October to March and from 7am from April to September. If you want to watch the sunrise from the top lighthouse, you will need to walk up because the Flying Dutchmen Funicular only starts running at 9am, but you could always treat yourself to breakfast at the Two Oceans Restaurant after you’ve walked back down.
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You can’t beat watching the sunrise from the top of the world, and Table Mountain is the closest you’ll get in Cape Town. The quickest and most scenic way to summit the mountain is the Table Mountain Cableway. While the Cableway’s operating hours change with the seasons, you can get up to the top of the mountain with the cable car as early as 8:30am (in Winter). You could, of course climb to the top and not be limited to opening and closing times. When you’re so high up, even overcast days don’t matter, because you will be above the clouds. Please call ahead to make sure that the cable car is running, if you want to make use of that convenience. The team updates their website www.tablemountain.net, Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the day so that you can prepare accordingly.
If the idea of an early morning makes you want to curl up into a ball and burrow deeper under your duvet, watching the sunset might be a great alternative. Since the sun sets at around 5:30pm in Winter and at around 7:30pm in Summer, it would be a great idea to spend an afternoon exploring the summit of Table Mountain, then sitting down to enjoy a picnic as the sun disappears over Table Bay.
Moving further afield (since sunrises and sunsets in Cape Town are stunning, no matter where you watch them from) why not see how the flora and fauna of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, wake up? The ticket office opens at 7:30am but you could always walk in from Constantia Nek before then so that you can catch the sunrise. It’s good hiking practice to always walk with someone and it would be a good idea if one of you dropped off your car in the Kirstenbosch Garden parking lot, before hopping into the other person’s car to get to Constantia Nek.
Many people time their visit for a quick jog or brisk walk as the early morning rays quickly envelope the incredible gardens. Kirstenbosch isn’t just about the sunrises though. The Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts (Runs from November – April) are a must-do when in Cape Town. The natural amphitheatre set on the slopes of Table Mountain offers a vantage point and ambience like few other concert venues in the world. Get there early for a good spot and to enjoy the evening sunshine with a picnic and glass or two of wine, before the sun slips behind the mountain and the festivities on the stage begin.
Groot Constantia has numerous walking paths that one can enjoy in the early mornings and evenings. Walk to the top of the estate and bask in the glory as the sun rises over the vineyards, or enjoy a meal outside Simon’s Restaurant or Jonkershuis Restaurant while the sun sets.
Both Simon’s and Jonkerhuis have amazing outdoor areas with unique vantage points over the estate, and it makes absolute sense to get there for lunch to fully appreciate these.
Of course, if the wine flows and the lunch goes on a little longer than expected, you could always go for a slow walk up to the top of the estate as the evening sun disappears behind Table Mountain.
The sunset piéce de résistance would have to be catching the 1pm ferry to Robben Island in Winter or the 3pm ferry in summer. Your 4 hour tour (including the +-30 minute ferry trip to the island and back, depending on type of boat used) includes a guided bus tour of the island and culminates with a viewing of Nelson Mandela’s cell, will give you a lot to reflect on, as you head back towards busy city life. While the sunset may seem secondary to everything you’ve seen and heard, it will be difficult to ignore the beauty around you, as you approach the Cape Town harbour at dusk.
What are your favourite things to do in Cape Town?
Let us know on our Cape Town Big 7 Facebook or Twitter page. Better yet, snap an Instagram shot of your favourite outdoor moment and tag @CapeTownBig7 #CTBig7
One Destination, 7 Unbelievable Experiences
There is no one way to explore all of the Cape Town Big 7, and much of what makes each of them so special is the variety of things to see and do at each. So if possible, take your time to explore each of the city’s most visited tourist attractions in as much depth as possible – as any local will tell you, you can spend a lifetime at each of the Big 7 and still not tire of them. Find the 3 and 4 day itineraries and tips here.