Last Updated on June 23, 2020

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(This post about places to visit in South Africa (Cape Town and Cape Provinces) was updated in April 2019)

If you are planning a vacation to South Africa choosing from the many wonderful places to visit and see that the country has to offer can be difficult. With gorgeous beaches, beautiful scenery, stunning mountains, game reserves, fabulous wildlife and more you have a lot to choose from.

There are a total of 9 provinces in South Africa . These are Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape

To help plan your itinerary for South Africa this post focuses on 20 of the best things to do in Cape Town and the Cape Provinces of the Northern Cape, North West Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape. 

Map showing the locations of the top 20 things to do in the South African Cape Provinces

20 must-visit places in Cape Town and the Cape Provinces

1. Stand at the top of Table Mountain

Where – Cape Town

Why? Because the views are fantastic! And who doesn’t want to stand on top of that beautiful mountain?

The city of Cape Town is overlooked by the flat topped Table Mountain so you really can’t miss it! If you are flying into Cape Town airport look out for the views from the plan as you come in to land.

If you do intend taking the cableway to the top make sure you book as soon as you have the weather forecast (don’t book to go when it is cloudy as you may see very little)

When you get to the top look out for some of the local wildlife particularly the dassies. Take one of the free walks (10.00 and noon) to some of the best lookout points – don’t forget your camera.

There are shops and a cafe at the top of the mountain. Buy a postcard and post it into the postbox and it will be franked with a unique Table Mountain stamp.

TIP – Don’t book your tickets too far in advance because if it is cloudy you will miss out on the spectacular views.

If you are planning to travel overland to Cape Town from Kruger Park check out this great 2 week itinerary for planning the drive!

Why not take one of the many hiking trails and hike to the top of Table Mountain

Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa

2. Take a stroll along the V&A Waterfront

Where?  Cape Town

Why? For shopping, restaurants and those views of Table Mountain!

Explore the Watershed where you will find fashion, furniture, jewellery and lots of locally made arts and crafts. (I hope you have lots of room in your luggage for all the things you will surely buy!)

If you enjoy good food head to the V&A Food Market where you will find over 40 vendors selling a variety of foods from around the world.

Don’t miss the street performers either who will keep you entertained!

TIP – Book a hotel near the V&A Waterfront and enjoy the many restaurants in the area.

Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa

3. Visit the penguins at Boulder’s Beach

Where – At False Bay just outside Simon’s Town near Cape Town

Why? Because who doesn’t love penguins! The colony of penguins at Boulder’s Beach have been in residence since 1982 and are a popular tourist attraction.

There are approximately 2000/3000 penguins in the colony and they can be seen from one of the three boardwalks.

TIP – Go early to get parking! There is a conservation fee of R65 per person so remember to take some cash too.

Beach with boulders and penguins

4. Try some South African wines

Where – There are some outstanding vineyards to visit in the Cape – head out on a road trip or tour from Cape Town to Franschhoek and Stellenbosch the most well known of the wine growing areas in SA and home to many fabulous vineyards.

Why? If you enjoy your wine you will already know that some of the best in the world comes from the Cape. Say no more!

TIP- Book a stay at a vineyard.  There are also some excellent tours available too.

To find out more about wines around the world including in the Cape check out the wine travel guides on Carpe Travel. 

South African Stellenbosch wine route with a Cape Dutch House in a field of vines

5. Visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Where – Kirstenbosch is a beautiful botanical garden found against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

Why? It is probably set on the most beautiful setting of any botanical garden in the world!

I highly recommend visiting Kirstenbosch when you are in Cape Town whatever the season though apparently August to November are the bets months if you want to see the fynbos at its best.

TIP – Take a stroll on the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Kirstenbosch Walkway through the gardens with Table Mountain in the background

6. Visit Robben Island

Where – Robben Island is a small island in Table Bay about 12 km off the coast from Cape Town.

Why?  One name – Nelson Mandela. He was held on the island for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned. The island is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

TIP – Book your tickets in advance – I have missed out twice through not booking ahead of our arrival in Cape Town!

A view of Robben Island

7. Drive the Garden Route

Where – A 200 km drive from Mossel Bay in the west  to Plettenberg Bay and the Tstisikamma Forest in the east.

Why – One of the world’s most beautiful drives with beautiful coastlines and scenery. Pass through towns such as George, Wilderness and Knysna on your way.

Why not explore the Garden Route in a motor home– what a fantastic way to experience this beautiful drive!

If you are planning a road trip in South Africa check out my travel tips which are an essential read and include safety tips and things NOT to do when you are there.

TIP – Plan at least 5 days to drive the route and add lots of activities into your itinerary as there is a lot to do on the way!

Book hotels/B&B’s along the route click here for suggestions!

A picture showing Robberg Peninsula Beach in South Africa

8. See lots of ostriches at Outshoorn

Where?Outshoorn  which is on Route 62 an alternative drive deviating from the Garden Route which takes you through the Klein Karoo. (It runs from Cape Town to Outshoorn and is another great driving option)

Why? – it is the ostrich capital of the world!

TRACY’S TRAVEL TIP – Don’t just visit the ostrich farms also head for Cango Caves an underground wonderland of limestone formations in all sorts of beautiful colours – be sure to book in advance as they are a popular attraction.

If caves are natural wonders you enjoy visiting on holiday this guide to caves in South Africa and the world is an essential read!

Ostriches in Outshoorn South Africa

9. Go cage diving and come face to face with a Great White Shark

Where? Off Cape Town

Why? Because you probably are fearless.. or this is on your bucket list!

TIP – there are lots of companies who offer the chance to go cage diving with Great White Sharks. I would research options thoroughly before committing.

Great White Shark

10. Stand at the most South-Western tip of South Africa

Where?Cape Point is at the tip of the Cape Peninsula which is 60 kms south of Cape Town and part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Cape Floral Region.

Why? Bragging rights! What a great photograph too! (If you want a photograph at the most southern point of the African Continent head to Port Agulhas!)

TIP – Be extremely careful of the baboons – they will take food from you and can be very aggressive.

Sign for the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

11. Go whale watching in Hermanus

Where? – Hermanus is situated on South Coast of the Western Cape.  (90mins from Cape Town) and is famous for its incredible  

Why? – For viewings of Southern Right Whales this is the place to be from late Sept to early October when the whales arrive to give birth. The whale season runs from June to late November.

TIPcheck to ensure whales are around when you plan to visit as the season can vary slightly. 

A whale breaching in Hermanus South Africa

12. Visit Addo Park

Where? The third largest game park in South Africa Addo is situated 72km from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Why? If you want to see elephants! If this is your first time on a game drive read my top tips to ensure you make the most of it. And if you don’t know what to wear take a look at my recommended safari packing list!

TIP – There are also lots of outdoor activities available such as hiking and horse riding in the Addo area.

Elephants at Addo in South Africa

13. See the wild flowers in Namaqualand

Where? head to the Northern Cape (see Springbok on the map) for the Namaqualand flower route during the months of August and September

Why?  To see stunning spring flower displays.

TRACY’S TRAVEL TIP – Stop off at the tourist informations on the way as they will know where the best displays of wild flowers are!

Wild flowers in Namaqualand  in South Africa

14. Peer into the big hole at Kimberley

Where? Kimberley (the diamond city) is the capital of the Northern Cape province.

Why? Because it is a seriously massive hole! It was the centre of diamond mining during the diamond rush in South Africa in the 1870’s.

TIP – It gets very hot in this region in the summer (December/January) so try to visit at other times. To get around use the trams which are the only city in SA with a tram system!

The Big Hole in Kimberley  in South Africa

15. Visit Tsitsikamma National Park

Where? The Tsitsikamma National Park incorporates 80km of coastline and is on the Garden Route Trail between George and Port Elizabeth.

Why? If you are a fan of outdoor activites then spending time at Tsitsikamma National Park is a must.

There are a multitude of activities including hiking trails, bungee jumping, swimming and also the famous Storms River Suspension Bridge which spans 77 metres across the Storms River mouth and is a very popular attraction in the park.

TRACY’S TRAVEL TIP – There are lots of great activities to do in the area so make sure you are kitted out before setting off! 

Tsitsikamma National Park in South Africa

16. VISIT THE VALLEY OF DESOLATION IN GRAAFF-REINET

Where?  In the Camdeboo National Park near the oldest town in the Karoo Graaff-Reinet the site is a 14 km drive from the town.

Why? One of the greatest natural wonders in the world – see the unique landscape, ecosystem and scenic beauty of the Great Karoo.

TIP – Make sure you fill up with fuel and supplies in Graaf Reinet before you go!

An aerial view of Graaff-Reinet

17. Visit the Owl House

Where? In the small village of Nieu Bethesda just past the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. (see number 15!)

Why? The Owl House is a museum of the work that was created by Helen Martins between 1945 and 1976. She created hundreds of sculptures using concrete, crushed glass, mirrors and wire amongst other materials.

TIP – For some background before you visit! Athol Fugard wrote a play about Helen Martin’s life called The Road to Mecca. It was made into a film of the same name. 

Owl House in South Africa

18. Cruise the Crags

Where? On the Garden Route beside Plettenberg Bay.

Why? There are loads of activities to do! This includes Monkeyland, Birds of Eden, Jukani, Lawnwood Snake Sanctuary, Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, The Elephant Sanctuary, Hog Hollow Horse Trails, Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve to name a few!

TRACY’S TRAVEL TIP – give yourself time as there are lots of things to see and do! 

Plettenburg Bay in South Africa

19.Visit some of the many museums in Cape Town

Where? In Cape Town there are many excellent museums including The District Six Museum, the Heart of Cape Town museum and the South African Jewish Museum.

Why? Learn more about the history and peoples of Cape Town

TIP – If museums are not your thing or you have kids then a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium may suit you better!

Brightly coloured houses in Bo Kaap Cape town

20. Stop off at Ronnie’s S*x Shop

Where? Where Route 62, outside Barrydale

Why? No it isn’t actually a s*x shop! Ronnie’s friends played a prank on him years ago and added the “s*x” part! Stop off for an ice cold beer or bite to eat! Ronnie’s is legendary on Route 62 and a must-visit!

TIP – Check out the impressive collection of bras and undies hanging over the bar that have been signed and donated by many of Ronnie’s female visitors over the years! You can also add to the collection.

Shop in South Africa called Ronnies!

Enjoy your trip!

This post will hopefully have provided lots of ideas for things to do and see in the Cape Provinces in South Africa as well as a few ideas for Cape Town.

If you are spending a few days in Cape Town check out my post which was written by my friend who actually lives there (so not by a blogger who has been once for a week in 2004!) about things to do in Cape Town.

If you enjoy reading my top 10 books to read before you visit South Africa are a good starting point. And if you prefer films check out my top 10 South African movies.

Read more!

This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclosure for additional information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

One thought on “Places to visit in South Africa (Cape Town and Cape Provinces)

  1. Pingback: THE 32 CHEAPEST TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD • Creative Travel Guide

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