16 unique things to do in Cape Town for a different experience

Cape Town is one of only a few towns on Earth where you can get lost in the depths of nature during the day and experience clubbing in an urban metropolis in the night. It’s one of the most popular holiday destinations (even voted as the best city in the world by Telegraph) and there’s a good reason for that; from beautiful beaches to pristine nature and cultural monuments, Cape Town has it all. During my time in Cape Town, I did manage to cover most of the city’s popular tourist attractions. However, I won’t talk about them in this article. This is the kind of information you can get on most major travel websites. In this article, we’ll cover some unique things to do in Cape Town that you can’t find anywhere else.

Rent a beach villa in Scarborough

unique things to do in cape town

Scarborough is located outside of the Cape Point Nature Reserve and getting there will take you on one of the most scenic road trips in South Africa. The Scarborough beach is long and wide, with its white sandy beach and crystal-clear blue water, it just beckons you to relax and enjoy all it has to offer. The beach is popular amongst bodyboarders and surfers but because of the current not an ideal place for swimmers and because of this, the beach is never over-crowded even on the hottest summer’s day. So if you’re looking for a peaceful place to stay in away from the crowded streets of Cape Town, this is a great choice. If you’re wondering where to stay, check out this website for the best Scarborough accommodation options.

Additionally, in just a short fifteen-minute-drive, you can reach Cape Point Nature Reserve and…

See the rare African penguin on Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach penguin

Boulders Beach is one of the last remaining places where you can see the very rare African Penguin. Because of this, the beach has turned into a tourist attraction in recent years but it’s still worth visiting because of the unique experience it offers. More than 2,000 African penguins call this beautiful beach a home, making one of only few mainland penguin colonies on our planet. You can see them from far away, come to say hello, or even go swimming with these amazing creatures! Talking about unique animal encounter opportunities, another thing you may want to experience is…

Seeing Whales in Hermanus

Whales in Hermanus

The Western Cape coast is also home to one of the 12 best whale-watching destinations, according to World Wildlife Fund. If you’re a nature lover, whale-watching tours in Hermanus are one thing you wouldn’t want to miss. Additionally, every year in June, the annual Hermanus Whale Festival takes place, attracting visitors from every corner of the world. If you think this is all Cape Town has to offer when it comes to unique animal-encounter opportunities, you’re wrong. While visiting you can also…

Meet the seals of Seal Island

Seal Island cape town

Located just off the Cape Town Coast, Seal Island is a small landmass filled with seals (like its name suggests). Seals use the island as a breeding ground at least until great white sharks attack the surrounding waters. This happens several times a year when sharks surround the island and waiting for any seal that swims too far away from the shore. If you’re looking for unique animal encounters that you can rarely experience, visiting Seal Island is a great choice! The island doesn’t have any vegetation and the only other thing you can find here (that’s not a seal) is the old eroded radar tower built during WWII. Talking about old, abandoned places…

Explore the Macassar Beach Pavilion

Macassar Beach PavilionPhoto by mallix CC by 2.0

The once-upon-a-time-popular Macassar Beach Pavilion in Cape Town has been abandoned in attempts to let nature reclaim this area. The water slides are rusty and filled with sand and the once-bright colors fade away into the surrounding sand dunes. The old water park spreads across 2,700 acres, making it one of the biggest abandoned sights in the area. The old signs in the park were replaced with “dunes on the move” signs, serving as a warning to the few curios souls that end up wandering around.

The remnants of the iconic District Six

District Six cape townPhoto by Satdeep Gill CC by 4.0

District six was historically the most cosmopolitan neighborhood in Cape Town in every sense of the word. Around the mid-20th century, more than 60,000 people from different ethnicities and religions lived in this neighborhood until the apartheid regime came to power. During the 1960s and 1970s, all non-white residents were forcefully relocated and slum clearing was used as an excuse. In the years that followed, District Six became a symbol of the apartheid oppression. While you’re around, also visit St. Mark’s Anglican Church, one of the rare buildings that the Government wasn’t able to tear down and the successors of the exiled family drive from all corners of the city to attend Sunday service even today. As you can see by now, this is a very diverse country and it’s probably a good idea to read more about some things you should know before visiting Sough Africa.

If this sounds interesting, you should also check out…

Bo Kaap, the old Muslim neighborhood

Bo Kaap cape town

During the 16th and 17th century when South Africa was occupied by the Dutch, thousands of Muslim slaves from Malaysia and Indonesia were brought to Cape Town as slaves. During the apartheid, all Muslims were relocated to the new Bo-Cap neighborhood. Bo-Cap literally translates to Muslim-only neighborhood. As a sign of peaceful revolt, the community of Bo-Kaap painted the entire neighborhood with bright colors, making it one of the most colorful places in the world.

 

Today, this once-Muslim-only neighborhood faces a real danger of losing that same community that made it what it is today. Since 1994, property taxes for this neighborhood have gone up in and a lot of the people living here are moving out, unable to pay the high taxes. These people are being replaced by rich South Africans that want to live in the popular colorful neighborhood which can’t help but resemble the faith of District Six mentioned above, but that’s a topic for some other day. Anyway, visiting Bo-Kaap is one of the most unique things to do in Cape Town.

If you like this story and want to discover more of Cape Town’s history, you have the unique opportunity to…

Follow Mandela’s footsteps

Mandela footsteps cape town

Even if you’re a total noob when it comes to history, you probably at least heard of Mandela’s inspiring story. Most of the important events in Mandela’s life took place in Cape Town and you can still visit most of these places today. You can hop to Robben Island and see the prison where he was detained as well as the balcony where Mandela’s first speech after 27 years in prison took place. You can also visit the home in which he grew up in, in Soweto township, see the Victor Verster Prison where Mandela spent the last 18 months of his life, and check out a lot of other interesting landmarks where important events of his life took place.

If this sounds exciting and you like taking independent tours that allow you to explore the city, also check out…

The Gallivanting Goose

unique things to do in cape town

If you’re traveling with your friends or coworkers, the Gallivanting Goose is a great way to spend an afternoon. This tour gives you the chance to spend some quality time with the people you’re traveling with while getting to know the city at the same time. It’s basically a big scavenger hunt that includes landmarks around Cape Town. You’ll need to get creative, develop a good strategy, and of course great teamwork in order to complete the hunt.

Talking about unique things to do in Cape Town, we can’t miss mentioning…

Taking an unusual jazz safari tour

Do you want to get away from the gentrified side of Cape Town and get under the city’s skin? In that case, a jazz safari is a great option for you! This unique musical tour includes visits to the houses of famous local jazz musicians in an evening filled with intimate conversations, great food, useful information not only about jazz but about the Cape Town’s culture as well, and of course, a lot of jazz. The tours are catered to small groups and are a great way to learn about the local jazz scene.

And if you’re a fan of the alternative scene, then you’ll surely enjoy…

I Love My Laundry

unique things to do in cape town

Who says doing laundry has to be boring? At I Love My Laundry, you can see art exhibitions, go on wine-tasting tours, have craft beer, and even eat delicious dim sum, all while doing your laundry! The laundry has three branches spread across Cape Town and they all have different programs. I love My Laundry has become quite popular among travelers and is also a great place to meet other travelers in Cape Town.

Since the topic of this article is unique things to do in Cape Town, we have to mention some adventure activities to the list, like…

Driving Chapman’s Peak Drive

Chapman's Peak

Chapman’s Peak is one of the most scenic but also most dangerous roads in South Africa. Even though it has been recently renovated, the road is still very difficult to navigate because of the countless number of hairpin bends. If you can handle all twists and turns this road has in store for you, you’ll get an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Southwestern coastline as a reward.

Fun fact: In 1988, a driver missed had an accident on Chapman’s Peak, falling 30 stores below in a Mercedez-Benz. He miraculously survived and even filmed a Mercedes commercial a few years later!

Bonus: if you aren’t brave enough to drive Chapman’s Peak on your own, there are a lot of companies that offer driving tours. Some of them even do it in an old, vintage open-top sports car.

Talking about driving tours, another thing you have to experience while in Cape Town is…

Board the Franschhoek Wine Tram

Franschhoek Wine Tram

I know the Franschhoek Valley is worldwide-famous for its cuisine and wine estates and that it attracts many tourists but the wine tram tour simply has to be included in this list of unique things to do in Cape Town. This hop-on-hop-off tour is a great way to explore the valley and discover its 300-years-old history. It all starts with what appears to be a very old vintage 19th-century tram but this tram is different; the stations where it stops are the most distinguished wineries in South Africa. The tour is the perfect combination of wine tasting and stunning outdoors.

And talking about outdoors…

Camping at Kogel Bay Beach

Kogel Bay Beach

Kogel Bay Beach is one of the most romantic spots in Cape Town. What most tourists don’t know is that a lot of locals propose to their girlfriends on this very same spot! So, if you’re an outdoor couple and are looking for a great camping spot, nothing compares to waking up seeing the sun rising over Kogel Bay Beach.

If you want to get off the beaten track in Cape Town, use this Sixt coupon and get 15% off on all car rentals in South Africa.

Ride horses at the edge of South Africa

horse riding south africa

Based in Noordhoek, the Sleepy Hollow Trail is one of the most picturesque horse riding routes in Africa. It’s located on the southernmost tip of Africa and is a must if you’re a fan of horse riding. Along the trail, the horses pass through water, meet flamingos and trot on the way, and you’re surrounded by sandy beaches and charcoal mountains with the blue ocean coming in and out of the mist.

Climb up Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Finally, this list can’t be complete without Table Mountain, even though it’s slowly turning into one of the most visited places in Cape Town. This mountain is on UNESCO’s list for a good reason; it covers only 0.5% of Africa’s land but it’s home to more than 20% of Africa’s flora. If that’s not a reason enough to visit, I don’t know what is! 

Helpful resources for visiting Cape Town

 

When booking flights, use Air France’s Discover the World at a low price program and save big on all flighs to Cape Town.

If you’re looking for cheap accommodation options in Cape Town, use my Booking discount code. For a luxurious but yet budget-friendly alternative, use this link and get one night free in Radisson Cape Town.

For the best travel insrance deals, I’m always using World Nomads and I personally recommend you try it!

How did you like this list of unique things to do in Cape Town? Did you ever visit? If yes, what are your favorite things to do? If not, what would you to first if you visit Cape Town? Let us know in the comments!

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12 thoughts on “16 unique things to do in Cape Town for a different experience”

  1. Ahh there are so many things I want to do here! Pinned! I can’t wait to visit Cape Town. I definitely want to go horseback riding on the Sleepy Hollow Trail and take the wine tram! Bo Kaap looks so colorful would be fun to get some photos there. Speaking of photos, I loooove your photo of the penguins! I can’t wait to see them myself.

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  2. South Africa is still in my travel list and waiting for me to explore. I am no familiar with this continent, but Cape Town seems one of the place I should visit first. I am sold when you mentioned penguins and whales, ooh boy, I love them!

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  3. I haven’t been to South Africa yet, but this fantastic list of activities is surely moving it higher on my travel wishlist! I could spend hours on Boulders Beach watching those super cute penguins! Also, I have a thing for old trains and I’m already totally in love with that vintage wine tram in the Franschhoek valley 😀

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  4. While staying in a beach villa does sound good, camping in Kogel Bay Beach is all the more fun!
    OMG! I didn’t know African penguins exist! Thanks for the information and good to know that we can see a few here.
    Its indeed a fabulous place where you can see not just penguins but also whales & seals! Impressive!

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  5. Thank you so much for this post! My fiancé and I are traveling through Africa for our honeymoon and South Africa is our starting point, so this post will definitely come in handy. Boulders Beach has ALWAYS been on my bucket list! Those penguins are TOO CUTE! And the Franschhoek wine tram sounds like something I’d love to do!

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  6. It would be a dream to see the African penguins on Boulders Beach! I would also love to eat and drink my way through Franschhoek Valley on the Wine Tram. There are so many great places to stay and things to do – it would be difficult to only pick a few favorites!

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  7. There isn’t a single thing from this list that doesn’t sound like fun to me! I’d love to go whale watching, see the seals and the rare African penguins as well. Climbing the table mountain was always in my list but I’ve come across some things I didn’t know could be done in Cape Town such as the wine tram and staying in a beach villa in Scarborough. Bookmarking this awesome list!

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