A Day Driving South Africa’s Stunning Cape Peninsula

June 30, 2024
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A self-guided tour of Cape Peninsula, South Africa...one of the world's iconic roadtrips

South Africa’s Cape Peninsula is one of the world’s iconic roadtrips…in just a few hours and with minimal effort, you can soak in dazzling views of the turquoise ocean, navigate over 100 curves on the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive, fuel up on delicious local coffee and food in cute beach towns, and watch adorable penguins frolic in the rolling waves.

The penguins of Boulders Beach are just one of the many things to see on South Africa's Cape Peninsula, one of the world's iconic roadtrips

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If you’re into coastal road trips, sweeping views, and itinerary “bang for your buck”, a self-guided Cape Peninsula tour certainly delivers.  If none of that sounds interesting…move along 🙂

I explored it as a day trip from Cape Town—which it’s perfect for—but it more than deserves a longer visit if you have the time to spare.  In this post I’ll share how to plan your own Cape Peninsula tour, a recommended route and stops, where I ate and drank, car rental and driving tips, and much more!

colorful beach huts of Muizenberg, South Africa

Do you need a rental car for Cape Peninsula?

In short, yes, you need a car.  Or you need to book a tour.  Having your own car gives you the greatest ability to see everything you want, on your own timeframe.

I picked up my rental car in downtown Cape Town and immediately headed to Cape Peninsula, then up to the winelands and returning at Cape Town airport.  After a LOT of research and anxiety (I’ll write a separate post later), I rented with local company Bluu via RentalCars.com.  I also frequently use DiscoverCars and am a big fan.  The main thing was I wanted to rent with Bluu, and would recommend them!

If you’re not comfortable driving yourself, I definitely recommend at least experiencing the beauty of Cape Peninsula, so consider a combo tour like this (or this one focused just on the peninsula).  One other option to consider is the Hop On, Hop Off bus.  I’ve never done it, but I read a number of blogs that recommended their “Mini Peninsula Tour” (tips included getting a seat on top and don’t listen to the guide, just soak in the views).

Is driving Cape Peninsula difficult?

Driving Cape Peninsula is pretty easy if you’re a comfortable driver, with well-maintained two-lane roads.  Just remember you drive on the left!

Always keep your doors locked when driving and be aware, though I’d say this area is generally safer than others around Cape Town.  Definitely don’t keep valuables visible in the car.

In some places you’ll find “car guards”, men who watch your car to prevent theft while you’re in a restaurant, etc. (it’s typical to tip 5-15 rand for this service).  And just know that all gas stations are full-service (I usually tipped a few rand here as wel).

what to see on a road trip of Cape Peninsula, South Africa...dazzling ocean views, surfer on the beach

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What to wear around Cape Peninsula

The Cape Peninsula area has a pretty temperate climate, though being along the coastline it’s always a bit windier.  I was visiting at the end of March, so the end of summer headed into fall.  It was actually hotter than I’d anticipated, and I was glad I’d brought my sundresses.  But having a light cardigan for when the sun goes down was helpful.

In Cape Town I leaned on sundresses…a lot of mine are from StitchFix.  Amazon is also where I get a lot of my dresses these days.  Some good styles would be a t-shirt dress, a tank dress, or something flowy with fluttery cap sleeves (I brought the latter).

I had also brought lightweight, breathable stretchy travel pants (Athleta and these Eddie Bauer ones are my faves) to pair with lightweight sleeveless or short-sleeve tops, and that’s what I wore on the peninsula.

I alternated between my beloved cute/comfy walking sandals and my cute white sneakers but wore the sneakers this day.  If I’d been planning to do any beach walking I definitely would have gone sandals.

If you’re planning to maybe take a dip in the ocean, don’t forget a swimsuit (this one is my new fave!) and you definitely need sunscreen!  Here are my favorite body sunscreens for travel and my fave face sunscreens).  I also relied on my go-to natural non-toxic makeup (which does great in sweaty weather!), polarized sunglasses, and a headband (for keeping my hair out of my eyes in the wind).

girl in blue shirt and red pants with ocean beach view, Cape Peninsula, South Africa

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A few tips for planning your Cape Peninsula adventure

This maps link will give you a good idea of the perfect rough route, with some of the stops I did.  Now, for logistical reasons I ended up going this direction (because I was then driving up to the Franschhoek area after).

However, all things being equal, I recommend going clockwise if possible—slightly better views and easier places to stop, due to driving on the left.  A.k.a. start with Muizenberg.  This also gets you to Boulder Beach in the morning, before the crowds get too bad.

It’s hard to estimate timing…I had initially planned 3 hours without any stops (but knowing I’d stop plenty), so I’d assume a half day at minimum.  However, I’d try to allocate a full day if possible, particularly if you want to visit Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  Because I got a later start on my morning and was headed up to the winelands after, I ended up cutting those out.

Where to base yourself:  Most people explore Cape Peninsula as a day trip from Cape Town, which is a great idea.  I loved my stay in Cape Town, and would highly recommend the delightful Blackheath Lodge, a cute little hotel (or maybe B&B?) that I based myself at.

I had several other hotels on my Cape Town “short list”, including PODS Camps BayAzamare Guest House,  O’ Two Hotel, and Taj Cape Town.  I also really considered splurging on the iconic Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, and really wanted those views, but with only one day and not planning to rent a car to get around the city, it didn’t make as much sense…but it would for exploring the peninsula!

BUT, if you have more time to explore the peninsula (or stay for some proper beach time), there are some stunning hotels (like this one in Hout’s Bay and this one in Kommetjie) as well as dreamy apartment or villa rentals, many of which have their own pools as well (this one in Simon’s Town, this one in Fish Hoek, this charming apartment near Fish Hoek, and this more remote seaside bungalow headed toward Cape Point are among my faves).

views along Chapman's Peak Drive on Cape Peninsula, South Africa

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A guide to exploring Cape Peninsula

I picked up my rental car bright and early and made a stop at the amazing Oranjezicht City Farm Market in Cape Town (only open Saturday mornings, and maybe Wednesday evening?).  This place is AWESOME and I honestly could have spent hours exploring it, trying all the foods, and doing some shopping.

But I knew I had an ambitious driving day in front of me, so I grabbed a couple more iced coffees and hit the road.  I stopped briefly for this view, which I think is maybe just past the famous Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa.

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the Chapman's Peak Drive is amazing

Here are all my South Africa posts for planning your own adventure:

How To Spend A Perfect 24 Hours In Cape Town

An Amazing Dinner At TTK Fledglings, One Of Cape Town’s Best Restaurants

Visiting South Africa’s Famous Penguins: A Stop At Foxy Beach & Boulders Beach

What To Do In South Africa’s Winelands: Franschhoek & Stellenbosch

Where To Stay In Franschhoek + A Review Of Cape Vue Country House

…and much more to come soon!

Hout Bay

My first real stop was Hout Bay.  I obviously wanted to snap a pic of the pretty water, but my main goal was some of the famous fish & chips from Mariner’s Wharf.  Annnnd…I totally didn’t think about opening times.

There is free parking and no attendant (which is a nice change), but they didn’t open until 10:00am so I had like 15 minutes to kill plus waiting for my food.  The fish & chips place is downstairs under the balcony, it was a bit confusing to figure out where to go.

I noshed on my piping-hot fried fish and also realized that my stomach was still full from the market and not at all prepared for fried food yet.  But it was delicious.  Then I headed on down the road.

One thing that would be on my list for a return visit is swimming with the seal pups at Hout Bay (only from about mid-March to end of May).  And if you happen to be in Hout Bay on the weekend, be sure to check out the market. It’s chock full of freshly prepared foods, local crafts, great coffee and a particularly friendly atmosphere (I was bummed to miss, but also knew I had a lot to see in a short time).

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - stop at Hout Bay for fish & chips

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - stop at Hout Bay for fish & chips

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - stop at Hout Bay for fish & chips

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Chapman’s Peak Drive

Next up was the iconic Chapman’s Peak Drive, also known as “Chappies” to the locals.  I had a gorgeous, hot early fall day for my drive, and the windswept coastal road did not disappoint!  My photos don’t begin to do it justice.

The road is cut out of the cliff and while I’d been told that the drive is “hair-raising”, with near-vertical cliffs, I didn’t see why it was particularly intense??  The route begins in Hout Bay and winds up to Chapman’s Point before ending at Noordhoek.  Be advised, part of this includes a toll road, I think they take both cash and cards.

The biggest bummer is that there aren’t many places to stop off, at least that I could figure out (without doing something dangerous).  And I couldn’t get good photos while driving, especially on the left side.  Also, there are a LOT of cyclists, so you have to be really vigilant.

Again, driving this from the other direction would have been even more amazing.  I did find one or two spots to stop before it got REALLY good…look at the color of that water!

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - marvel at the views on Chapman's Peak Drive

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - marvel at the views on Chapman's Peak Drive

what to do on Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - marvel at the views on Chapman's Peak Drive

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Noordhoek

My winding Chapman’s Peak Drive ended as I rounded the bend overlooking the long, broad, and fairly deserted expanse of Noordhoek Beach.

Noordhoek Beach, on South Africa's Cape Peninsula

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I slightly bypassed Noordhoek proper (though there *was* a coffee shop called The Coffee Guy that I wanted to try), and headed toward Noordhoek Farm Village.

My friend in Cape Town told me that they jokingly call this area the “lentil curtain” because it’s full of hippies and bohemians.  Farm Village is a cute little cluster of hipster shops and restaurants, and it was BUZZIN’ on a Saturday morning over Easter weekend!

I stopped in a The Roost, a cute coffee shop, then did a bit of shopping as well.  There is a really beautiful shop of souvenirs and crafts, I got a gorgeous pair of beaded earrings.

The Roost coffee shop at Noordhoek Farm Village, South Africa

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cape peninsula,cape peninsula south africa,day trip from cape town,cape town day trip,tour cape peninsula

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Decisions:  to Cape Point or not to Cape Point?

It was a this point that I got a bit panicked on timing…it is quite a long way still down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, and rather than being a loop, it’s a “there and back”.  And there isn’t a ton to see or do besides that.  When I factored in driving time, parking, the walk out to one or both of the points…ehhh the “math wasn’t mathin'”.

And since I still had a lot to see including the penguin beach (and I was getting hungry), I decided to skip the Point since I didn’t plan to spend real time there exploring.  Instead, I curved back north toward Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach.

Coastal stretch from Smitswinkel Bay to Simon’s Town

If you can’t tell by the stupid amount of pics below, this stretch of road was my absolute favorite!!

This drive is just a lot of absolutely gorgeous beach scenery for a while, each view surpassing the last one…

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

A Roadtrip of Cape Peninsula, South Africa | South Africa's Cape Peninsula is one of the world's iconic roadtrips...in just a few hours you can soak in dazzling coastal views, the 114 curves of the famous Chapman's Peak Drive, explore cute beach towns, & watch adorable penguins frolic in the ocean.

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Lol I felt like I stopped every three minutes of so, I couldn’t help myself!

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

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I was mesmerized by the rolling waves and wind kicking up spray.  This is exactly the type of place I’d love to base myself, find a gorgeous rental with a patio or balcony, and just sit and read.

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the ocean views on the eastern coast heading toward Simon's Town were my favorite

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Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach

As I got close to Simon’s Town, I got stuck behind a tour bus for a while on the curves and that really slowed me down.  I had planned to stop here for lunch, but it was insane (again, gorgeous holiday weekend), so I kept moving as the hassle of parking was not appealing.  In general, getting through the towns takes forever on a weekend, you move on at a crawl.

Instead, I got through the downtown area and after quite a bit of circling and waiting, managed to snag a parking spot in the dirt lot at Boulders/Foxy Beach (more on parking, tickets, etc. in my dedicated post).  The water is absolutely stunning, and the penguins are so cute!!

I got decent pics with my iPhone 14 Pro camera but also used this as a chance to test out my “real” camera setup and long lens before taking them on safari.  And they definitely delivered better shots!  I made this as quick of a stop as I could, there’s really not much to *do*…plan for at least an hour including all the parking and line craziness.

Read about (with WAY more pics) how to plan your visit to the penguins!

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the penguins of Foxy Beach & Boulder Beach are a must-see

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the penguins of Foxy Beach & Boulder Beach are a must-see

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa, one of the world's iconic roadtrips - the penguins of Foxy Beach & Boulder Beach are a must-see

South Africa was on my list of “10 Places I’m Dying to Visit” in 2024!

Muizenberg

The last “must stop” on my Cape Peninsula itinerary was Muizenberg.  It’s famous for its beach, and specifically the colorful beach huts.  The town offers good waves, plenty of surf shops, a real hippie/hipster weekender vibe.

I had expected perhaps a bit more from the beach huts…there aren’t that many of them and they’re actually quite difficult to photograph and get something good.  But the beach is broad and sandy, and was hoppin’ on a holiday weekend Saturday afternoon.

I also grabbed a Vietnamese iced coffee at Hang Ten Café right there in the beach parking lot (there were several great-sounding coffee shops in a very small area, it was hard to choose!).

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa - Muizenberg is a cute beach town & known for its colorful beach huts

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa - Muizenberg is a cute beach town & known for its colorful beach huts

how to tour Cape Peninsula, South Africa - Muizenberg is a cute beach town & known for its colorful beach huts

cape peninsula,cape peninsula south africa,day trip from cape town,cape town day trip,tour cape peninsula

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I was staaaaaarving at this point, and my friend had recommended Tortuga Loca for its Mexican food.  I stopped there for a late lunch and cocktail, and loved the ambiance!

cape peninsula,cape peninsula south africa,day trip from cape town,cape town day trip,tour cape peninsula

cape peninsula,cape peninsula south africa,day trip from cape town,cape town day trip,tour cape peninsula

cape peninsula,cape peninsula south africa,day trip from cape town,cape town day trip,tour cape peninsula

In some ways I got an amazing sampling tour of Cape Peninsula, but I also know that I just scratched the surface.  If you have the space in your itinerary, this would be a great 2-3 day stay, a combination of beach relaxation, exploring cute towns, and doing a few of the “must see” spots.

But alas, I had another hour and a half of driving ahead of me, up to the Franschhoek and Stellenbosch winelands.  I love me a wine region, and adored my 36-or-so hours there…read more about it here!

Other stunning coastal roadtrip explorations you’ll love:

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A Roadtrip of Cape Peninsula, South Africa | South Africa's Cape Peninsula is one of the world's iconic roadtrips...in just a few hours you can soak in dazzling coastal views, the 114 curves of the famous Chapman's Peak Drive, explore cute beach towns, & watch adorable penguins frolic in the ocean. How to tour Cape Peninsula, rental car tips, where to stop, best route, & much more for your Cape Town itinerary, Cape Town day trip, what to do in South Africa! #southafrica #capetown

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