Cape Town Outdoors

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Cape Town Outdoors
An emphasis on fitness and connecting with the elements is part of daily life in Cape Town. Whether it’s hiking Lion’s Head in time for sunrise, or taking an evening jog along the Sea Point Promenade, Capetonians just can’t sit still.
By Marie Frei, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Danie Nel/age fotostock
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    From Sunrise to Sunset
    Start your day in Cape Town with a steep but quick ascent up Lion’s Head, a popular sunrise spot among locals. While the peace and quiet of the top of Table Mountain makes for a memorable place to watch the sunset, nearby Signal Hill is a great alternative when the cable car is closed or if you'd prefer not to hike. Drive around the curve of the hill to the small parking lot at the top, and set down a blanket on the sloped side facing the ocean. Over your shoulder, the white clouds spilling over the front and side of Table Mountain appear to turn red when the sun reaches the horizon.
    Photo by Danie Nel/age fotostock
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    Hiking the Western Cape
    The spine of Table Mountain runs along the middle of the Cape Peninsula, and provides hikers of all levels with scenic viewpoints and dark, leafy-green forests to explore. Hiking Table Mountain itself is a popular feat, as is hiking Devil’s Peak, both of which can be accessed on the the same road as the Table Mountain aerial cableway station. If you drive Ou Kaapse Weg on the way to Cape Point, you may want to pull off at Silvermine Reservoir, a local swimming hole popular in summertime. Cloud cover can be unpredictable in the winter, so make sure to bring a few warm layers when tackling one of the area's highest peaks, Maclear's Beacon.
    Photo by Marie Frei
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    World-Famous Wines
    Several vineyards in the Cape Winelands—including Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek—offer even more than world-class wines. Cheese tastings, chocolate pairings, and even wildlife sanctuaries can be found in the green hills just beyond the city. If you’re limited on time, the Constantia Wine Valley (where it all began in 1685) is only about a half-hour drive from the city center. While you can easily drive out to the Winelands in an hour, it’s generally more fun to book a tour so that everyone in the group can partake in tasting. Operators like Wine Flies set you up with a driver-guide and arrange everything, including lunch. If you’re really looking to spoil yourself, check out the chauffeur-driven Jaguar tours with Classic Cats.
    Photo by Matt Long
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    Scenic Drives around the Cape
    There are two scenic routes to get to the Cape of Good Hope: Main Road (M4), and Ou Kaapse Weg. The Main Road route traces the coastline and features the quaint villages of Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, and Simonstown. The Ou Kaapse Weg route cuts through Silvermine Nature Reserve; pull over briefly at the top of the hill for a panoramic view of the Southern Suburbs. Coming back up the peninsula, Chapman’s Peak is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Pack a picnic and pull off to the side of the road at the halfway point to enjoy the view as the waves crash against the steep rock face below.
    Photo courtesy of Cape Town Tourism
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    Blue Flag Beaches
    Cape Town proudly boasts eight Blue Flag beaches, an international honor that recognizes them for their cleanliness and environmental management. There are endless ways to enjoy each of these beaches, but nothing beats an early-morning surf at Muizenberg. Fondly called Surfer’s Corner, there are several surf shops that rent boards and wetsuits by the hour. Sunbathers will want to head across the peninsula to dip into the icy-cold Atlantic waters at Clifton 4th Beach. Accessed via a steep staircase, you’ll discover white sand dotted with beautiful people. Llandudno Beach, located at the end of a small private residential community, is the kind of family-friendly beach where you’ll see locals walking their dogs at sunset.
    Photo by Hendrik Holler/age fotostock
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    Enjoy the Ocean's Bounty
    Surrounded by the icy waters of the Atlantic, Cape Town is paradise for seafood-lovers and fishermen. Set just off the main Camps Bay drag, The Codfather has no printed menus and meals are offered based on what’s freshest that day. The windows of the fine-dining Harbour House restaurant in Kalk Bay overlook colorful fishing boats swaying in the working harbor below. At Hallelujah, in the center of Cape Town, dine on small dishes like grilled prawns and pickled octopus beside whimsical flamingo-patterned wallpaper. Hout Bay is another working harbor and the launch point for many deep-sea fishing charters.
    Photo by Franz Marc Frei/age fotostock
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    A Playground for Thrill-Seekers
    Adrenaline junkies can get their heart thumping and blood flowing in Cape Town. Abseil Africa takes you rappelling down the side of Table Mountain, over 3,200 feet above sea level. Nearby, paragliders set sail from Lion’s Head. The easiest way to get the lay of the land is to book a helicopter ride. Taking off from the V&A Waterfront, the longer aerial tours take you on a loop around the peninsula. For a greater rush, book a skydiving tour. Following a mountain stream, kloofing (or canyoneering) down a ravine involves scrambling and jumping from various heights into deep pools of water below. A good beginner path is the Riviersonderend trail in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.
    Photo by Mark van Aardt/age fotostock
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    Parks and Gardens
    Cape Town features several parks and gardens for fresh air and peace. World-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is at the top of every visitor’s list. A treetop walkway snaking through the Arboretum is one of the newest ways to explore this mountainside garden. Further down the road in Claremont, visitors will discover some of the region’s oldest and tallest exotic trees at the Arderne Gardens. There’s also a koi pond where children love feeding the ducks. In nearby Newlands, the Vineyard Hotel and Spa lies on the banks of the Liesbeek River. With solar power and over twenty acres of landscaped garden, they are known for their commitment to reducing their environmental impact.
    Photo by Marie Frei
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    Cape Town Sporting Events
    Whether you want to cheer from the stands or stay in shape while you're abroad, Cape Town offers several outdoor fitness options. Rugby, cricket, and soccer (referred to as football) are the most popular spectator sports, with game tickets easily found online. Runners around the globe train for the Two Oceans Marathon, held annually in April. There are several courses for golfers, including Rondebosch, Clovelly, and Steenberg. Tennis courts are generally restricted to private members, but there's one court in St. James, overlooking the turquoise waters of False Bay, that can be rented hourly. See the St. James Retirement Hotel reception for more details.
    Photo by Eric Nathan/age fotostock