Peninsula Driving Tour
Start: Take the M3 out of town; this follows the eastern flank of the mountain, providing access to the southern suburbs.
Finish: Kloof Nek roundabout in town.
Time: The full tour will take at least 1 full day.
Not all the sites listed below are must-sees; personal interest should shape your itinerary. That said, get an early start, and make an effort to fit Kirstenbosch and Groot Constantia into the morning, leaving Cape Point for the afternoon and Chapman's Peak Drive for the evening. Because this is a circular route, it can also be done in reverse, but the idea is to be back on the Atlantic seaboard at sunset, or stay out on the False Bay coast and wait for sunrise. Should Chapman's Peak be closed, return from Cape Point via Ou Kaapse Weg and Silvermine Nature Reserve, rejoining the M4 north. Head through Constantia (past the Alphen Hotel) over Constantia Neck and descend into Hout Bay. Drive the Atlantic seaboard back to Cape Town, passing the coastal suburbs of Llundudno, Bakoven, and Camps Bay as the sun sets.
As you approach the Groote Schuur Hospital on your left, scene of the world's first heart transplant, look for the wildebeest (gnu) and mountain zebras grazing on the slopes of the mountain. Art lovers should consider taking the Mowbray turnoff to the:
1. Irma Stern Museum
Stern, a follower of the German expressionist movement -- and acknowledged as one of South Africa's best 20th-century artists -- was also an avid collector of Iberian, African, and Oriental artifacts. The museum, on Cecil Road (tel. 021/685-5686; Tues-Sat 10am-5pm; R10), also exhibits new talents.
Back on the M3, still traveling south, you will pass Mostert's Mill on your left, another reminder of the Cape's Dutch past, and look out for left-hand turn to:
2. Rhodes Memorial
You can see the imposing memorial high up on the slopes on your right; the restaurant behind the memorial has awesome views, so break here for tea or breakfast if you have the time, or return another day. Back on the M3, you will pass a series of imposing ivy-clad buildings, which comprise the University of Cape Town, built on land donated by Rhodes. If you're interested in colonial architecture, you can make an appointment to visit Groote Schuur, also donated by Rhodes, and designed by Herbert Baker, "the architect of the Empire," and up until the end of Mandela's term, the official government residence; call tel. 021/686-9100.
From here, the suburbs become increasingly upmarket. Take the turnoff to:
3. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Consider visiting Kirstenbosch (you'll need at least an hour, preferably more) before heading through the suburbs of Bishop's Court and Wynberg for Constantia.
If you've decided against Kirstenbosch, you may have time along the way to visit the:
4. Groot Constantia Estate
You can visit the 17th-century manor house and wine museum, and possibly try a wine tasting . Alternatively, set aside a full afternoon to travel the full Constantia Wine Route, visiting at least three estates (don't miss Klein Constantia).
Keep traveling south on the M3 until it runs into a T-junction, then turn left to the next T-junction, where you join the M4; turn right and look for Boyes Drive and the gorgeous elevated views of False Bay. This short detour of the coastal route is often less congested than the narrow road that runs through the coastal suburbs of Muizenberg, St James, and Kalk Bay, though you'll miss much of the interesting turn-of-the-20th-century architecture which spawned the title Millionaire's Mile. If this history interests you, try to time your visit for a Monday and make an appointment to view the:
5. Natale Labia Museum
Built in the Venetian style, the Natale Labia Museum, Main Road, Muizenberg (tel. 021/788-4106 or 021/481-3800; by appointment only), was the sumptuous home of the Count and Countess Labia, and is a fabulous example of the holiday homes built by Cape Town's glam society in the last century, when False Bay was the favored seaboard of wealthy randlords.
Another attraction on Muizenberg's Main Road (also called the Historical Mile) is:
6. Cecil Rhodes Cottage
This house, on the main road (tel. 021/788-1816; Mon-Fri 9:30am-4:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am; donations welcome), is where Rhodes purportedly died -- a remarkably humble abode for a man who shaped much of southern Africa's history. If you enjoy this area and want more information, contact Cape Point Route (tel. 021/782-9356).
Another popular stop along this tight coastal road cutting between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, is the St James tidal pool beach (right near the St James train station; look for the sign), with its trademark bathing boxes painted in different colors. Continue on Main Road to the quaint fishing village of Kalk Bay, which has a number of good places to eat and junk shops to explore.
Take a Break -- Whether you've taken Muizenberg's main road or Boyes Drive, stop in at quaint Kalk Bay to browse the antiques shops, galleries, junk shops, and retro-modern boutiques.
The drive then resumes south along the M4 to Fish Hoek and the naval village of:
7. Simon's Town
This vies with Kalk Bay as the most charming of the False Bay towns, lined with double-story Victorian buildings, which is why many regular visitors to the Cape choose to stay here. If you feel like lingering, visit the Simon's Town Museum, Court Road (tel. 021/786-3046; R4 adults, R1 children; Mon-Fri 9am-4pm, Sat 10am-1pm, Sun 11am-3pm), or take a 40-minute cruise around the bay (tel. 021/786-2136). For more details on what the town has to offer, visit the Simon's Town Tourism Bureau, also on Court Road (tel. 021/786-8440).
If you're hot and bothered, don a bathing suit and join the penguins at nearby:
8. Boulders Beach
View the large breeding colony of jackass (African) penguins that settled here in the early 1980s -- to the horror of residents, who now have to deal with the attendant coachloads of tourists.
From Simons Town, it's 15 minutes to the entrance of the:
9. Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
Once inside, take Circular Drive to spot game, or head for one of the usually deserted beaches; if you're pressed for time, head straight for Cape Point. From the nature reserve, it's a relatively straightforward and spectacular drive back to town (if Chapman's Peak is open; if not, see tip above). Take the M65 left out of the reserve past the Cape Point Ostrich Farm (tel. 021/780-9294; daily 9:30am-5:30pm; tours are R30 and include coffee), and travel through the pretty coastal town of Scarborough (a gorgeously peaceable place to stay overnight, by the way), the aptly named Misty Cliffs, and Kommetjie (you can opt to bypass Kommetjie, but note that this, too, has some fabulous beachfront accommodations options) to Noordhoek.
Noordhoek has a famously beautiful beach, the aptly named Long Beach (make sure you don't walk it with valuables), but if you're pressed for time, follow the signs and head north to ascend the exhilarating:
10. Chapman's Peak Drive
Built between 1915 and 1922, this winding 10km (6 1/4-mile) drive must rate as one of the world's best, with cliffs plunging straight into the ocean, dwarfing the vehicles snaking along its side. Not surprisingly, hundreds of international car commercials have been shot here. Note that this opened as a toll road in 2003 (count on paying around R30), but these days, it's frequently and controversially closed to all traffic; look for signs alerting you to any closure, or ask your host to find out before you set off.
From Chapman's Peak, you descend into:
11. Hout Bay
Here you could either stop for the most delicious calamari, on the veranda at the Chapman's Peak Hotel, or head for the harbor and book a cruise to view the seal colony and seabird sanctuary on Duiker Island, or visit the World of Birds Sanctuary [kds] on Valley Road (tel. 021/790-2730; www.worldofbirds.org.za; daily 9am-5pm; R59 adults, R37 children), home to more than 400 species of birds and small animals; it's Africa's largest bird park and includes a monkey jungle.
From Hout Bay, you can now take the coast-hugging:
12. Victoria Road (or M6)
Take this road to Camps Bay -- with any luck, it will coincide with sunset, or you'll have a moon to guide you.
Follow the M6 through Camps Bay and turn right at the KLOOF NEK ROUNDHOUSE sign to snake up the mountain to the Kloof Nek roundabout and take the turnoff to:
13. Signal Hill
The views from the hill are breathtaking, particularly at night, when the twinkling city lies spread before you.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.