We couldn’t bring ourselves to go swimming in the cold waters surrounding Cape Town, but there are plenty of other ways to stay active when visiting the city!
The best known, of course, being a hike up Table Mountain. There are many different routes to take depending on your main goal: Intense workout, excellent views, reaching the summit, etc. And many of these paths do two or more of these things!
We did the hike with some fairly inexperienced hikers (myself included! I often wear sandals while “hiking” in Switzerland), so we chose the well-known Platteklip Gorge trail. For some other trail options, check out this website.
You start on Tafelberg Road, a kilometer or so past the cableway station. The first thought that entered my head: Damn! These views are already pretty great. Do we really need to hike the rest of the mountain??? : )
Trust me though, it really is worth it. But I have to admit, numerous times throughout this trek I had to remind myself of two things. 1) I could literally see elderly people hiking up this trail with us and 2) It was my fault and mine alone that we were hiking up this mountain (Chandler would have happily taken the cableway up and down).
You see, all of the guides we read said that this was the “easiest” hike to the top of Table Mountain. But many had the hilarious follow-up that easiest does not mean easy. You literally zig-zag for hours up a ravine. And with numerous stops for a friend of ours, this 1.5-3 hour hike took us the full three hours.
Some of that was my fault. With views like these, how do you not constantly snap photos?
The other reason our hike took so long was a strong misunderstanding of the word “break.” Chandler doesn’t take breaks. Or, what I mean is, he’s such a fast hiker, that he takes his breaks while waiting for others to catch up with him…not really helpful for the rest of us.
I take breaks while standing…I take out my water, let my heart rate fall back to a regular speed, and keep moving.
Our friend, God love her, takes full, 10-minute, sit-down breaks. Significantly expanding the amount of time it takes to hike Platteklip. It did, however, mean that I got to have some fun photoshoots : )
Another friend of ours had opted out of the hike and had joined the cableway queue instead. The longer our hike took, the worse we felt, thinking about how long she was waiting for us at the top. Until we got to the top and found out that we had gotten there first!
We had all started from the Platteklip Gorge trail marker and it had taken her three hours to walk back to the cableway, buy tickets, wait in line, and ride the cablecar up. Meaning, on a busy day, experienced hikers can make it up the mountain in half the time that it takes people using the cableway. Insane!
Despite the amount of time our hike took, we were definitely rewarded by what we saw. From the top, everyone is able to enjoy views of the city, ocean, and Lion’s Head (you can even see Robben Island on a clear day!).
We lucked out. With a little help from spontaneity and planning both, we made it up the mountain on a crystal-clear day. Most of the surrounding days were overcast and cloudy, with limited visibility on the mountain.
Another well-known and less physically exerting way to stay active in Cape Town is a stroll through the Kirstenbosch Gardens.
Our guesthouse, Blackheath Lodge, had informed us of Kirstenbosch’s Summer Sunset Concerts on Sunday evenings (from late November to early April). But apparently, for the first time in the garden’s history, the concert was sold out! Turns out the locals are really huge fans of Amanda Black.
However, all was not lost. The concert took place in the outdoor amphitheater on the garden’s grounds and it was easy to hear throughout the rest of the park. Meaning we could hear the music (and everyone singing along) while walking through the largest botanical garden in South Africa.
Some of our favorite areas included the Fragrance Garden, the Dell, the Cycad Amphitheater (with dinosaur sculptures!), and the Koppie & Pelargonium Garden.
Not to mention the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway with panoramic views of the gardens and Table Mountain in the distance.
We were only here for a few hours in the evening, but I could easily see how you could spend a whole day relaxing and enjoying your surroundings. There was more than ample proof of this by the sheer number of picnics we passed!
As we continue on our path away from intensive physical activities to the more commercial, the V&A Waterfront is an obvious mention.
The area is beautiful and there’s tons to do and see if you’re walking through. We easily walked a couple of kilometers as we followed the water’s edge, passing numerous shopping, eating, and drinking establishments.
The best time to come is just before sunset, and we decided to rest our weary legs (so much walking!) at Den Anker. And since you can only make so many healthy choices in a day, while Chandler was trying a few of their numerous Belgian craft beers, I was falling in love with their Gin Yell ‘oh Cocktail – a mixture of Hope Salt River Gin and Liefmans Yell ‘oh, with hints of lime and mint!
The last bit of this post is a reminder that it doesn’t matter how active you are if your eating habits aren’t up to snuff. One of the many things we loved about Cape Town was the ease in which we were able to find healthy food.
Some favorites include the smoothies and smoothie bowls at Nourish’d (photo below and highly recommended after hiking Table Mountain!). They’re card only, however, they’ll grudgingly accept cash if you have exact change!
Another place worth raving about is Plant. A gourmet vegan restaurant, their mac&cheese with homemade parmesan and cashew cheese (photo below) is just as good as their refreshingly fresh juices.
A surprising WOW for us was Schekter’s RAW and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that you absolutely have to order the pumpkin pie flapjacks. And what’s not to love about their philosophy: “RAW to us is natural, authentic, honest, plant-based, cruelty-free and nutrient dense food. We source our ingredients only from the best of local and international suppliers. We strive to serve beautifully presented, nutritious food infused with passion, gratitude and a generous spirit.” Did I mention they also serve smoothie bowls?
A final, healthy, standout meal was had at Jarryds. An espresso bar & eatery, their all-day breakfast menu is legit – including, my favorite, the Turkish eggs (photo below). And, ahem, another smoothie bowl (have you caught our meal theme yet?).
But, like I said, not every choice can, nor should be, the healthiest choice available. Which is how we found ourselves at Lekker Vegan immediately following our Table Mountain hike. We needed protein & carbs and we needed them ASAP. So, naturally, we went to a fast food chain promising vegan gourmet junk food. And they delivered on that promise with amazing veggie nuggets, a veggie burger (photo above), and some kombucha juice. And if you think I ate a lot, you should have seen Chandler’s Gatsby sandwich!
The last food I’ll mention in Cape Town is the only sweet treat we indulged in: Brownies from Honest Chocolate Café. They use ethically and responsibly sourced beans and make their chocolate with minimal, simple ingredients. The end result? One of the best brownies I’ve ever had.
After you’ve had a few, it’ll be time to hike Table Mountain for a second time!