5 Great Weekend Getaways From Cape Town
On a recent month-long visit to South Africa’s hottest metropolis, JS correspondent Michelle Halpern ventured beyond city limits to uncover 5 great weekend getaways from Cape Town. Here, she shares her favorites from an African safari to wine tasting and much more.
Get an Immersive Food & Wine Experience at Babylonstoren
A destination unto itself, this historic farm dating back to the late 1600s is a dream locale for those with a love of good food, wine and fresh local ingredients. Only over the last 10 years has Babylonstoren started preparing its grounds to welcome visitors, with a restaurant and guest suites added in 2010 and the first Babylonstoren label wines released the following year.
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Now a decade later, the impressive grounds play host to a beautifully manicured garden featuring over 300 edible and medicinal plant species (the garden alone is so expansive that daily tours take a full hour), a spa, greenhouse, tasting room, multiple restaurants and Farm Shop.
There’s no need to leave once you’ve arrived at Babylonstoren; stay in one of the property’s original farm-style cottages that have been modernized with glass box enclosed kitchen and dining areas and equipped with contemporary furniture, then spend your days relaxing in the spa, taste testing their award-winning wines and dining at their beloved restaurant, Babel. If you choose to extend your stay, there are plenty of other wineries in nearby Stellenbosch and Franschhoek that are worthy of a day trip.
See the Big 5 at Gondwana Game Reserve
Only four hours drive from Cape Town is an ideal weekend getaway and one of South Africa’s top game reserves, situated conveniently along the famous Garden Route just north of Mossel Bay. At Gondwana, guests are given the chance to witness the Big 5 in the wild, coordinated through early morning and evening game drives through the 27,000 acre reserve. Elephants, zebras, lions, leopards, giraffes, hippos, rhinos and more are all inhabitants within Gondwana’s vast reserve, where conservation of the endangered wildlife and plant species is of paramount concern.
The reserve’s Kwena huts situated closest to the main lodge offer a luxurious and romantic getaway for two (and often see frequent visits from wildlife passing through), while Gondwana’s villa accommodation, eco tented camps and impeccably designed Ulubisi House offer larger spaces for groups and families. Bonus: No malaria shots needed for this safari experience.
Relax Seaside on Thiesen Island, Knysna
Lovers of East Coast escapes like Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard will feel right at home in Knysa, an ideal seaside stop along any road trip down the South African coast. Rent a quiet Airbnb residence on Thiesen Island where you can cook up your own traditional South African braai at home or walk 10 minutes to local eateries like Tapas & Oysters or Île de Païn to familiarize with the neighborhood.
For an atmospheric seafood dinner, walk across the bridge to Freshline Fisheries and catch breakfast with a view the next morning at East Head Cafe at the mouth of the Knysna River. You’ll be hard pressed to find a shortage of beautiful views here — don’t miss some of the most photogenic spots like The Heads, Coney Glen Beach or Brenton on Sea.
Witness Whales in All Their Glory in Hermanus
Considered one of the 12 best whale watching spots in the world, Hermanus is a relatively small but beautiful town situated along South Africa’s southwestern coast, where marine life enthusiasts flock during peak whale season hoping to witness a bevy of these majestic sea mammals in their natural habitat: most notably the Southern Right Whale, Humpback Whales, Bryde Whales and occasionally an Orca if you’re lucky. Whale season begins in June and ends in November, but September and October are the best times to visit for maximum whale occupancy.
To get to Hermanus, rent a car from Cape Town and take the scenic route through Gordon’s Bay, along Claren’s Drive and through Betty’s Bay where you can stop to see the adorable penguins at the Stony Point Penguin Colony. Along this coastal route you’ll be met with dramatic cliff drop offs and picturesque coastlines, and potentially a baboon crossing here and there.
Fuel Your Adventurous Spirit in Nature’s Valley
For more adventurous and outdoors travelers, the surrounding areas of Tsitsikamma National Park are a must, and Nature’s Valley is the perfect place to base yourself while in the area. Hiking enthusiasts have the option of the 4-day long Otter Trail in Tsitsikamma, but for a quick day trip, the popular Mouth Trail will do the trick and offers stunning views of the ocean and the park’s famous suspension bridge.
For those not afraid to get wet, Kayak & Lilo offers tours that take paddlers through the mouth of the Storm River Gorge surrounded by dramatic cliffs that make for epic photo opps. Adrenaline junkies won’t want to miss Bloukrans Bungy, the world’s highest commercial bungee bridge in the world.
To fuel up for your adventures, do a wine tasting and lunch amongst the vineyards at Bramon Winery or visit the Nature’s Valley Farm Stall where you can order up a freshly baked meat pie or cheese plate and sit outside amongst the farm’s adorable inhabitants including cows, goats rabbits, and chickens.
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