The best things in life are free. And things that are cheap are pretty good too. We know budgets are tight after a bumper festive season, so here’s our list of the best free, or budget-friendly, things to do around Cape Town.
1. Journey into the heart of the Boomslang
The Boomslang treetop walkway at Kirstenbosch is one of the most rewarding Cape Town experiences you could wish for. This architectural triumph sits in the trees high above Kirstenbosch Gardens, and offers views across the incredible gardens, the Southern Suburbs, and on a clear day, to the distant mountains on the other side of the Cape Flats. The high ribcage-like railing and gentle sway of the walkway underfoot will leave you feeling like you’re in the belly of a boomslang, and you’ll depart the other side with a whole new perspective on the famous Kirstenbosch Gardens.
Extra tip: Kirstenbosch offers free guided walks around the gardens which offer fascinating insight whether you’re a first-time visitor or a Kirstenbosch regular. Tuesday is also pensioners day, and South African residents over 60 can enter the gardens for free.
Cost: Free! (Entrance fee into the gardens is still payable where applicable). Buy Kirstenbosch tickets online.
2. Drink award-winning wine
The best wine in the world comes at a price, but you can savour some of it for just a few Rand. A full Groot Constantia wine tasting and cellar tour costs just R50, and you’ll get to sample a range of the estate’s best products and see where it’s made. If you’re feeling a little more decadent, opt for the chocolate pairing for just R25 more to sample amazing chocolates alongside carefully selected wines.
Cost: R50 (wine and cellar tour); R75 (chocolate and wine pairing). Buy Groot Constantia tasting tickets online.
3. Pack a picnic
Cape Town is full of amazing picnic spots, and the Cape Town Big 6 destinations are home to some of the best. If you’re looking for height, head to the top of Table Mountain and find a scenic vantage point – better yet, Take advantage of the Cableway’s ½ price Sunset Special. Adults and children pay ½ price on return tickets from 6pm (valid until 28 February 2015). If ocean views are your thing, Cape Point has a number of demarcated picnic sites dotted around the reserve; and Kirstenbosch’s lush green lawns, shaded corners, and panoramic vistas make for ideal picnicking conditions. There are no specific costs associated with picnics at this site, though you will have to pay the respective entrance fees.
Cost: Entrance fees apply, no cost to picnic.
4. Take a walk (or run) around a pristine vineyard, or a working harbour
Both Groot Constantia and the V&A Waterfront are amazing places to stretch your legs, and neither will cost you a cent if all you want to do is take in the atmosphere and the incredible views.
The vineyards at Groot Constantia are among the most beautiful and tranquil in the Cape, with panoramic views to match. Joggers and dog walkers are welcome on the estate, even if you don’t opt for a meal at the restaurants or the wine tasting and cellar tours. The orientation centre is also free, and the historical buildings dotted across the estate are amazing to explore from the outside.
The same is true for the V&A Waterfront. The 2.5km and 5km demarcated running trails highlight the best of the buzzing harbour and is freely available to everyone. There is also a superb self-guided historical walking tour which showcases the very best of South African history. Both the running route and walking tour start at the V&A Information Centre where you can also get your map which will guide you along the way. When you’re done, you can always splash out on a decadent treat at the V&A Food Market to reward yourself for being so savvy with your money.
5. Take a hike
It’s no secret that the views atop Cape Point and Table Mountain are among the best in the world. But if you’re keen to save a bit of money, don’t forget that you can always hike to the top of these attractions, and take an exciting ride back down to sea level. At Cape Point, you’ll be riding on the Flying Dutchman Funicular, and on Table Mountain, you’ll be on the famous Table Mountain Cableway. You’ll save on the ticket to the top, and the reward will be that much sweeter when you reach the summit.
Extra tip: Head to the Cableway on your birthday, and you’ll be gifted with a free return ticket!
Cost: Entrance fees and relevant ticket purchases apply. Buy Table Mountain Cableway tickets online.
6. Join the clubs and get the cards!
Finally, a great way to make sure you stick within your budget throughout the year is to take advantage of programmes designed to reward local residents and regular users.
The My Green Card costs just R110 and allows you 12 entries into any of Table Mountain National Park’s pay points, including Cape Point. This is a remarkable deal that essentially places a single entry into Cape Point at just R9.17.
Likewise, Table Mountain Cableway’s Cable Card is for serious fans of Table Mountainand represents amazing value. For R535, you’ll be entitled to one return cable car tripevery day, weather permitting, for an entire year. Perfect for a late afternoon hike up and ride down, just make sure to keep an eye on the clock and wind levels to ensure the Cableway is open when you arrive at the top station.
If you want to make the most of South Africa’s incredible botanical gardens, it makes perfect sense to become a member of the Botanical Society. Local residents pay R400 per annum, with discounts for scholars and pensioners, which entitles you to free access to SANBI National Botanical Gardens for an entire year.
The Groot Constantia Wine Club offers amazing rewards for members! Sign up and buy six bottles of wine, and Groot Constantia will refund the R50 tasting fee and give you a 10% discount on your wine purchase. Get more information and sign up on the Groot Constantia website.