Discovering Cape Town: Navigating This Vibrant City with a Rental Car
Cape Town, affectionately known as the Mother City, is a multicultural wonderland packed with opportunities for discovery. The city has it all, from spectacular nature to fine dining, history, culture, and a buzzing nightlife.
While you could get around in taxis and tour buses, probably the best way to explore everything the city has to offer is by renting a car, setting your own schedule, and following your heart. Read on for a range of awesome activities you can look forward to in this remarkable destination.
Head to False Bay and see marine life in a totally different way. Water bikes are eco-friendly, easy to operate, and offer a unique way to navigate the ocean. You’ll always be safe with a support crew on a nearby guide boat.
Make your way from Simon’s Town pier past the naval base towards Boulders Beach or down the coast to Glencairn. Standard tours are one hour long, but shorter and longer trips can be arranged, too.
Have a Day of Watery Fun at Elgin River Lodge
Make your way to this apple farm in the Elgin River Valley for a day of aquatic adventures. Go swimming, tubing, canoeing, ziplining into water, wakeboarding and water-skiing.
There are also excellent hiking and biking trails all over this 100-hectare property. Take breaks in between all the fun at the charming Toad on the River pub.
Go Kayaking Along the Atlantic Seaboard
Feel the sense of freedom and adventure as you go out paddling on the open ocean. Two-hour guided kayaking trips leave from Three Anchor Bay beach below the gorgeous Sea Point Promenade and head out along the Sea Point coastline towards Bantry Bay or in the other direction into Table Bay and towards the V&A Waterfront.
You’ll paddle past shipwrecks, spot dolphins and sunfish, and see what the city and its amazing mountains look like from the sparkling blue waters.
Go for a Swim at Silvermine
Less than an hour’s drive from the CBD, this beautiful mountain-top reservoir is perfect for leisurely swims and idyllic picnics. The water is usually a bit warmer than the ocean, and there’s a boardwalk trail around the dam that’s wheelchair and pram-friendly.
Silvermine is also the starting point for a number of popular hikes, such as Elephant’s Eye Cave, Silvermine Ridge, and Sentinel View.
SUP at the Waterfront
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUPing) is a great way to get around the calm, wave-free canals around the Waterfront, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’ll get all the gear you need, as well as some training for newcomers.
Once you’ve got it down, head out for a three-kilometre loop around the waterways. If you don’t want to go it alone, a guide is always on hand too.
Take a Sunset Cruise
Cape Town sundowners can’t be beat aboard a luxury catamaran. The cruise offers spectacular views of the city and the mountains that surround it, so don’t forget to pack your camera.
The boats leave from the V&A Waterfront and head out into Table Bay and along the Atlantic Seaboard. 90 minutes later, you’ll return to the harbour just in time to see the moonrise. Consider driving to South Africa for a car rental in Cape Town.
Take a Trip on a Fliteboard
It’s a bit like surfing but a lot more hi-tech. Electric hydrofoils are almost like surfboards, but they have an electric propeller attached to a large fin on the bottom of the board.
The result is that the rider can ride above the surface of the water. After being supplied with a wetsuit, helmet, and lifevest, you’ll head out into the water to learn the basics with a pro. After about 90 minutes, you’ll be ready to take a two-hour guided tour of the coastline!
Learn to Surf at Muizenberg
Bring your swimming costume, towel, sunscreen, and a healthy dose of enthusiasm and get ready to learn how to ride the waves. All skill levels and ages are welcome.
The water is some of the warmest in Cape Town, and you can look forward to group or private lessons in the gentle waves of the stunning Muizenberg beach. All surf lessons include 90 minutes of coaching, surfboard, and wetsuit rental.
Go on a Kelp Forest Adventure
Immerse yourself in the Great African Seaforest, where you’ll get to play amongst the kelp with seals at Pyramid Rock and Partridge Point in False Bay. At just 12 meters deep, it’s perfect for beginner scuba divers and snorkelers alike.
Wetsuits and gear are supplied at Pisces Divers in Simon’s Town. Enjoy a hot shower and light lunch straight after your underwater adventures.
Go Coasteering in False Bay
This adventure is a bit like kloofing or canyoning but with an oceanic twist. Make your way along the False Bay coastline, swimming, snorkelling, scrambling, and leaping off boulders into the ocean.
You’ll be led by a guide and have your own helmet and personal flotation device, so there’s no need to worry about safety. You can also rent a wetsuit and booties if the water’s a little bit chilly. Find this adventure at Windmill Beach in Simon’s Town.
Take a Scenic Helicopter Flip
Get a bird’s eye view of the wonders of Cape Town from a helicopter cruising at around 2500 ft. Take in the city and harbour, the Atlantic Seaboard, Robben Island, and even Cape Point and the False Bay coast.
Trips to the Cape Winelands are also available and include iconic destinations such as Constantia, Durbanville, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek. Head to East Pier Road at the V&A Waterfront and get airborne!
Go Mountain Ziplining in Elgin
Situated in the Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve, the Cape Canopy tour will have you soaring through a playground of fynbos, forests, beautiful gorges, and thundering waterfalls.
Start off with an epic 4×4 drive up into the mountains before being attached to cables that run between a series of aerial platforms. Supervised by professional guides, there are 11 slides in total, the longest being 320 meters long!
Go Paragliding Over Sea Point
See some of the city from above on an adrenaline-pumping tandem paraglide experience. No experience is necessary – your instructor will run through the basics before clipping you into their harness for a magical flight.
Sit back, relax, and soar like a seagull before landing gracefully on the grassy Sea Point Promenade. Depending on the wind conditions, your flight can last between five and thirty minutes. If the conditions are ideal, your pilot will even show you how to steer the wing yourself!
Go Kloofing in Kamikaze Kanyon
This is definitely not an adventure for those with a fear of heights! This full-day mission begins with breakfast and ends off with cold beers, but what you do in between will blow you away.
Spend the day jumping off cliffs into crystal-clear rock pools, abseil down the incredible 65-meter Thunder Falls, and go hiking in beautiful scenery with spectacular views of the ocean. This outing is run by qualified guides; all you need to bring is your swimsuit, hardy shoes, a hat, and a solid dose of courage.
Take a Scooter Down Table Mountain
The spectacular scenery from the slopes of Table Mountain gets even better on this off-road adventure. This two-hour tour starts at the top of Signal Hill for the first downhill run to Bo-Kaap before moving on to the sides of Table Mountain.
The scooters are freewheel affairs, which makes them eco-friendly. Start your adventure at the Kloof Nek parking area on Tafelberg Road.
Go Mountain Biking in Elgin
Head out to Oak Valley Wine Estate for a day of off-road adventure. This area is rated as one of South Africa’s best mountain biking destinations, and the spectacular scenery will leave your jaw on the ground.
Look forward to well-maintained single-track trails designed to accommodate all skill levels.
Abseil Down Table Mountain
Table Mountain offers the most spectacular views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean, but for a real thrill, try abseiling down it. At 1067 meters above sea level, this is the highest commercial abseil on the planet.
You’ll be surrounded by Camps Bay, Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles as you lower yourself down the side. This excursion includes a safety demo, getting into your harness for a 112-meter abseil, and a lovely hike to get back to the top.
No previous experience is necessary, but you’ll be bragging about it for years to come!
Go Heli-Biking in Jonkershoek
Why ride up when you can get dropped off by helicopter? Take full advantage of 18 awesome mountain bike trails with spectacular views of Stellenbosch below you.
The trails cater to varying levels of skill and fitness and are suited to everyone, from beginners to experts. An experienced guide is on hand to help you make the most of the trails, and bikes can be rented if required.
Go on a Treetop Obstacle Course
Disappear into the Constantia Nek forests for a day of adventure with ziplines, cargo nets, and elevated platforms included. There are four aerial obstacle courses, two that are kid-friendly and two better suited to teens and adults.
Trained instructors are available for safety briefings. Wear comfortable clothing and closed shoes and bring ahead for adventure.
See the Penguins at Boulders Beach
Thanks to its population of resident African penguins, Boulders Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Cape Town. It’s one of the few places on the planet where you can get up close to these endangered birds.
It’s quite something to watch them glide through the water and waddle about on the beach. Follow the boardwalk along the beach to see the main colony, where hundreds of penguins gather and nest.
Cruise the Coastline on a Tandem Bicycle
Take in the fresh air on a bicycle built for two. Riding a tandem is one of the best ways to enjoy the Sea Point Promenade and the beaches beyond. You’ll leave from Granger Bay at the Waterfront and cruise along the Atlantic coastline at your own pace. The ride is mostly flat, so you don’t have to worry about those fitness levels!
Go eScootering on the Promenade
Zip along the coastline on a battery-powered, fat-tyred electric scooter. It’s a great way to cover a lot of ground fast. Cruise past the joggers, skaters, and dog walkers as you take in the beautiful Atlantic coastline.
The e-scooters come in different sizes, so there’s even one for the kids. Explore the Promenade and the magnificent Green Point Park, stopping for an ice cream on your two-wheeled seaside escapade.
Take a Garden Tour at Babylonstoren
The spectacular 5-hectare heritage garden at Babylonstoren is a must-do. A tribute to the original food gardens of the Cape’s early days, it’s divided into 15 areas with spaces for vegetables, fruits, herbs, bees, indigenous plants, flowers, and even includes a prickly pear maze.
Spend a morning discovering everything it has to offer on your own, or take a guided tour through the grounds.
Spend a Day at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Famous for its beauty and diversity, Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to preserve the Cape’s rare flora and fauna. It’s perfect for scenic strolls in idyllic surroundings, and the marvellous views from the Boomslang Canopy Walk are not to be missed.
Pack a picnic or order one from the tea room and explore the cycad garden, shady forest walks, and wide open spaces. If you’re here in the right season, you can even enjoy the Summer Sunset concerts, a favourite amongst locals.
Explore the Spice Route in Paarl
Just 45 minutes outside the city, you’ll find the delightful village setup of the Spice Route. Grab a tasting passport and tuck into a charcuterie paired with Spice Route wines, CBC craft beers, Wilderer gin, and De Villiers chocolate.
Enjoy hiking and mountain bike trails, or check out the interesting shops, ceramic painting studios, coffee roastery, and restaurants. There’s even a ‘beach bar’ for cocktails in the sand.
Discover Cape Point
Cape Point Nature Reserve is an excellent destination for a day trip. Take a beach stroll, dip yourself in the tidal pools at Buffels Bay, or take a hike where you may come across wildlife like buck and ostriches.
Take the Flying Dutchman funicular to visit the lighthouse or take the steep steps down to the spectacular Diaz Beach.
Take a Segway Through Stellenbosch Vineyards
Cruise through the rows of vines and around the farm and gardens at the beautiful Spier Estate on an off-road Segway. A short 20-minute training session is all you’ll need to prepare yourself for your adventure, and you can even choose to include a wine tasting on your journey.
For a romantic treat, book a twilight tour with a bottle of wine included.
Visit the Two Oceans Aquarium
The world-class Two Oceans Aquarium is home to over 8000 sea creatures. It’s a mesmerizing peek into life off the Cape’s shores and includes an incredible swaying kelp forest, schools of silverfish, cruising turtles, sharks, jellyfish, octopus, seahorses, pufferfish, and moray eels. The penguin exhibit is well worth checking out, too.
Explore the V&A Waterfront
This bustling working harbour in the centre of Cape Town is well worth a visit. Take in the views from the Cape Wheel, try your hand at cave putt-putt, and take a ride on the popular pirate ship.
Go rollerskating, skateboarding, and SUPing at Battery Park. Browse a wide array of stalls at The Watershed and sample foodie delights at the V&A Food Market. There’s so much to see and do that you could easily spend a whole day here.
Chill Out at Kalk Bay Harbor
Take a stroll along the bustling pier where fishermen sell their catches right off the boat, and seals play in the turquoise waters. There are two restaurants that offer amazing ocean views and some of the best fish and chips you’ll ever taste.
Even if you’re here in winter it’s worth a visit to watch massive waves crash against the jetty and red-and-white striped lighthouse.
Go Horse Riding at Pearly Beach
Trot next to the bluest sea on a white sand beach while your guides capture your adventure on GoPros. The two-and-a-half-hour trails are suitable for all levels of riders, and you don’t need to have any prior experience riding these well-trained horses.
For a special experience, take a ride at sunset, complete with a glass of bubbly. In winter, there’s even an inland Fynbos mountain trail option.
Catch the Steam Train to Elgin
On weekends, Ceres Rail’s grand old locomotives make a full-day round trip to Elgin, leaving from the city and heading out over Sir Lowry’s Pass.
Take in the breathtaking scenery of mountains, fynbos-covered hills, farmlands, and orchards while you relax in the Bar Lounge car, sipping on fine wine or a cocktail. Your destination is the Elgin Railway Market, where street food stalls and live music make for a fun day out.
Have a Picnic at Laborie Estate
Laborie Estate in the heart of Paarl dates all the way back to 1691 and is the ideal destination for a summer picnic. Choose between a picnic table, a spot on the lawns next to the vines with gorgeous mountain views, or a secluded area tucked away in the vineyards.
Your picnic crate is filled with locally sourced treats from the Manor House. For an idyllic end to a day out in the winelands, a sunset picnic is a must.
Check out the Oranjezicht City Farm Market
This quirky market is packed with local home-grown produce. You’ll find fresh veggies, fruit, herbs, bread, cheese, raw honey, and ethically sourced meats and seafood.
There’s also a lifestyle section offering clothing, decor, ceramics, vintage items, pet accessories, plants, and farm-to-vase flowers. An array of stalls sell global street foods, and there’s a market bar where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly, wine, beer, and cocktails.
Have a Night Out at the Athletic Club and Social
This three-storey venue on Buitengracht Street is one of the best spots in Cape Town’s nightlife scene. Inside this grand old building, you can explore The Trapezaria for a bite to eat, three awesome bars, and a speakeasy-like basement called The Trophy Room, complete with live jazz.
Take the stairs to a balcony with awesome views of Signal Hill and venture into a maze of rooms where the design is colonial-meets-modern.
Go Ebiking in the Franschhoek Winelands
For a taste of French country life, ride an electric bike through Franschhoek’s vineyards. The 3.5-hour Vinebikes tour begins at the Huguenot Monument and takes in Grand Provence, Glenwood and Country Kitchen, Leeu Estate, Leopards Leap or Holden Manz.
Your bike is even equipped with nifty wine saddlebags so you can easily carry your purchases.
Go Foraging on the Coastline
This Veld and Sea summertime Coastal Foraging course is hosted by foraging expert Roushanna Gray. The course starts on the beach, where you get to explore tidal pools for edible seaweed and hunt for invasive mussel species.
Next, you’ll head to the Veld and Sea HQ at Cape Point to enjoy food demos, cook your gatherings over a fire, and have a communal lunch in the Glasshouse paired with local botanical-inspired drinks.
Indulge in a Summer Night Market
There are a number of vibrant night markets in Cape Town, but there are three that take the cake. Boschendal’s Friday Night Market happens on the historic Werf of this stunning wine farm, with a range of artisanal food and drink, craft stalls, and live music.
On Thursday evenings, the Noordhoek Community Market takes place on the sprawling lawns of the Cape Point Vineyards, with awesome sunset views over the ocean. Somerset West’s Lourensford Twilight Market is situated in lush gardens that evoke a fairytale forest with live entertainment.
Enjoy a Picnic by Helicopter
Fly away to the most beautiful picnic spot in the Winelands on the fynbos-covered slopes of the Jonkershoek Valley. You’ll get to dine on a stunning lunch spread prepared by chef Eva, including starters, mains and desserts, all paired with local wines.
Take in the incredible views and enjoy a walk in Stellenbosch’s most spectacular patch of nature. The helicopter flight itself is truly amazing, with all of Cape Town and its surroundings whizzing by below you.
Take a Tuk-Tuk Wine-Tasting Tour of Franschhoek
Escape to Franschhoek and delight in this convenient and affordable way to get around the valley. Visit wine farms, eat at gourmet restaurants, or have your own picnic.
You can design your own tour through the Winelands with either a half-day (three estates) or a full-day (five estates) tour. Sample the wines at local favourites like La Motte, La Petite Ferme, Grande Provence, Rickety Bridge, and Leeu Estate.
Go Shopping at The Old Biscuit Mill
Built in the early 1900s and revived in the early 2000s, The Old Biscuit Mill is not your ordinary shopping precinct. Some of Cape Town’s top creatives have studios, workshops, and stores here. On offer are clothing, decor, furniture, artisanal goods, and crafts.
Grab a good coffee at the Espresso Lab or sample a gastronomical experience at The Pot Luck Club. Every Saturday, there’s the popular Neighbourgoods Market with live music and cool street food.
Indulge in a Spot of High Tea at The Cellars-Hohenort
This historic country hotel in the Constantia Valley is one of Cape Town’s best places to enjoy high tea, in part because of its award-winning gardens.
The Classic High Tea is served in the Greenhouse and starts with a glass of bubbly before moving on to four courses, including goat’s cheesecake, smoked salmon mousse cornets, caramelized onion tart, walnut-carrot cake, and key lime pie, amongst other specialities. Wash it all down with 11 loose-leaf Nigiro teas, rooibos, and herbal infusions.
Visit the Norval Art Foundation
Art meets nature in the serene Constantia winelands. Here, you’ll find a collection of galleries and art exhibitions showcasing the finest South African and African modern art – from large-scale installations to films.
Outside the Foundation, amid indigenous flora, you’ll find an interactive sculpture garden, a stretch of wetlands, stunning views, an amphitheatre, and beautiful picnic spots. The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar offers a bistro-style menu and outdoor tables.
Watch a Movie Under the Stars
The Galileo Open Air Cinema features locations around Cape Town and the Winelands. Watch a family hit, cult favourite, romcom, or golden oldie. Get food to go with your flick, such as burgers, pizza, and shawarmas.
There’s also a bar for beers, wine, and bubbly. All that’s left is to find a spot on the lawn, sit back, relax, and watch the silver screen come to life. For a special date night, VVIP tickets come with premium seating, a cheese platter, a bottle of wine and, of course, popcorn.
Visit the Zeitz Mocaa
Situated in 56 former grain silos in the harbour, this eight-storey space underwent a state-of-the-art transformation back in 2017. The architecture itself is a wonder to behold, and there are galleries on every floor showcasing modern and contemporary art.
The varied spaces include the Atrium, Centers for Costume, Photography, and The Moving Image. Don’t miss the rooftop sculpture garden and shop. With stunning views, The Ocular Lounge is a great place for a meal and a drink.
Visit a Sculpture Garden in Stellenbosch
Situated on the seven-hectare Mulberry Farm in Stellenbosch, these lush gardens are home to over 60 stunning sculptures created by local artist Dylan Lewis.
The sculptures can be divided into four broad themes – the human form, shamanic figures, monumental abstracted fragments, and the great cats. The hills are home to earthly male images, and the poplar grove is where you’ll find the female form. There’s also a tearoom for cakes, coffee, and other refreshments.
Go for a Cruise in a Classic Convertible
Switch your rental car for a classic Cobra sports car and spend a day road-tripping in style. The cars come with all the comforts of a modern ride, including automatic transmission, power steering, and safety features.
It’s the perfect way to take in the Atlantic Seaboard, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Point, Boulders Beach, the False Bay coast, and the Constantia Winelands. If you haven’t got the time for a full-day drive, take one out for a two-hour sunset spin.
Cape Town is a city that’s best experienced behind the wheel. With the flexibility and freedom offered by a rental car, you can uncover the city’s many treasures at your leisure.
Drive South Africa is ready to set you on your journey with a vehicle that fits your style and needs. Book your car today and embark on an unforgettable Cape Town adventure.