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Penguins, peaks and panoramas: A one-day Cape Town road trip

Penguins, peaks and panoramas: A Cape Town road trip

Penguins waddling along the beach, primary-coloured beach huts, rocky mountains and expanses of blue ocean – Cape Town has to have one of the best natural settings around. There’s a lot to see in the city itself, but if you’ve got a day to spare then the Cape Peninsula makes for a perfect one-day road trip full of penguins, peaks and panoramas. A lot of companies run day trips from Cape Town, but it’s also easy to drive yourself and means you can take things at your own pace and stop off where you like. Our driving route took us on a 85-mile loop around the peninsula, taking most of a day when you factor in stops. So pack your camera, your sunscreen and your coat (those Cape winds can be brutal!) and hit the road.

Penguins, peaks and panoramas: A Cape Town road trip

Muizenberg

Our first stop was Muizenberg, 16 miles (35 minutes) south of Cape Town on the shores of False Bay. This laid-back beach suburb was one of South Africa’s most fashionable seaside resorts in the early 20th century. But it fell out of favour and into disrepair until recently being regenerated. Now you’ll find cool cafés, quirky shops and street art behind a 12-mile stretch of white-sand beach. It’s one of the best places to learn to surf with warm (by Cape standards), shallow waters. But it was its row of irresistibly Instagrammable colourful Victorian beach huts that drew me in. With the wind blowing an icy gale the beach was almost deserted, but the blue skies were perfect for photos. And on a calm day you can swim, surf or picnic on the beach.

Muizenberg beach, South Africa

The famous Muizenberg beach huts

Boulders Beach

From Muizenberg the road hugs the shore for 12 miles (25 minutes) to Boulders Beach – home to the stars of the show, the penguins. Two breeding pairs pitched up here in 1983 and because fishing was restricted in False Bay the colony has grown to over 3000. Africa’s only penguin species is endangered so this is one of the few places you can get up close to them. After paying our entrance fee (which helps with conservation) we followed the boardwalk through the dunes to the viewing platforms on the beach.

It wasn’t long until we spotted our first penguins tucked into nesting boxes and below the path, and by the time we got to the beach we were surrounded. They’re sleek and graceful in the water, but on land it’s a different story as they waddle around and try not to get washed back out to sea. They’re fascinating to watch as they sun themselves and preen on the beach. But cute as they are, there are lots of signs warning you not to get too close – their beaks are razor-sharp and if they feel threatened they’ll give you a good nip.

Penguins on Boulders Beach, South Africa

Penguin paradise

Cape Point

Back on the road (having resisted stealing a penguin), another 14 miles (30 minutes) south took us to the Cape of Good Hope. It might not really be the southern tip of Africa (the real southernmost point is Cape Agulhas, 95 miles east), but the views and unspoilt landscape are well worth a visit. Cape Point is a nature reserve that’s part of the Table Mountain National Park, so keep your eyes out for wildlife, especially cheeky baboons who’ll steal anything they can get their hands on. At the Cape you can walk or take the Flying Dutchman Funicular up to the lighthouse and look out over vast ocean where the next land is Antarctica. There are lots of walking paths and bays to explore. And tucked underneath the visitor’s centre is a good restaurant where we stopped for lunch and a glass of wine on a terrace with a panoramic view.

Cape Point, South Africa

Cape Point – where two oceans meet

Chapman’s Peak Drive

From the Cape it’s a 27-mile (55-minute) drive back to the main road and across to the west coast of the peninsula where you’ll find Chapman’s Peak Drive. Rated as one of the world’s most spectacular coastal drives, it runs for just under six miles between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. The road was built in the First World War and zig zags through 114 bends as it hugs the edge of the cliff. It’s an impressive feat of engineering – though there have been a few rockfalls so it’s sometimes closed in bad weather. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road as you wind your way between rocky peaks and crashing waves (maybe even spot a few whales and dolphins), but there are plenty of viewpoints to pull in at and soak it all up.

Chapmans Peak Drive, South Africa

Looking back on Chapmans Peak Drive

Camps Bay

At the end of Chapman’s Peak Drive the road heads inland for 4 miles (10 minutes) before emerging back out by the ocean at Llandudno. A bit of a contrast to its Welsh namesake, this Llandudno has no streetlights, no shops and some of South Africa’s most expensive houses. It’s one of a 10-mile string of Cape Town coastal suburbs that runs through Camps Bay, Clifton, Bantry Bay and Sea Point. Camps Bay is one of the biggest, with another stretch of white sand and a row of bars and restaurants behind which are the perfect spot to stop and watch the sun go down before driving the final couple of miles back into the city.

Camps Bay beach South Africa

Camps Bay beach

The details

Car hire cost us around £25 for the day – there are a lot of rental places in the area around the junction of Strand Street and Loop Street in downtown Cape Town. The conservation fee at Boulders Beach is 70 ZAR (£4.50) for adults or 35 (£2.25) for children. Cape Point is normally open from sunrise to sunset. Entry costs 135 ZAR (£8.50) for adults or 70 (£4.50) for children, plus an extra cost of 65 return or 50 single (£4/£3) for the funicular. Chapman’s Peak Drive is a toll road which costs 42 ZAR (£2.60) per car one way.

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A one-day road trip route from Cape Town, with the Boulders Beach penguins, Muizenberg's colourful beach huts, Cape Point's views and Chapman's Peak Drive.

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Vlad
    March 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Everything looks so pretty! I’ve always wanted to see that penguin beach, you’re making me want to visit South Africa ASAP 😀 Love your photos, as always 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 8, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      I’d seen so many pics of the penguin beach I did wonder if it might not be as good in real life but it was fab, they’re so entertaining to watch! (You should so go to South Africa by the way, definitely one of my favourite trips in the last few years.)

  • Reply
    Caitlin @ Southern Exhilaration
    March 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    What a beautiful location, and a fun road trip! I particularly liked the cute colorful huts! This post is making me want to book a ticket and cross South Africa off my list! Thanks for sharing, Lucy!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 8, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      You’re very welcome! It’s such a beautiful area (and those beach huts were fab, I didn’t even mind it was so chilly as it meant I got them all to myself!).

  • Reply
    Heyjude
    March 8, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Sigh! My ‘hometown’ was Muizenberg. A place I shall never forget. We always used to go to the beach in the morning before the wind picked up!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 9, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Such a gorgeous place (even in the wind!).

  • Reply
    Kim
    March 8, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve seen so many photos of penguins beach and really want to go there at some point. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 9, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      I think all the photos I’d seen were definitely what made we want to go too!

  • Reply
    Noelle
    March 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Beautiful photos – I loved Muizenberg when I went!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 9, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Gorgeous isn’t it!

  • Reply
    Ladies What Travel (@LadiesWTravel)
    March 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Road trips and penguins?! Count me in! 😉

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 12, 2017 at 11:12 am

      It’s definitely a good combination!

  • Reply
    Ellenor Davis
    March 10, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    After reading this I will definitely want to visit South Africa. These penguins are so cute 🙂 Love all the gorgeous places there and the beautiful photos you made. Thanks

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 12, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      It’s an amazing country – so much to see and some fantastic wildlife (penguins included!)

  • Reply
    beingbuttons
    March 12, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I remember doing a very similar trip when I went to South Africa. We stopped off in Simon’s Town to go to the Scratch Patch (picking your favourite polished gemstones from a large gemstone patch) which was pretty cool. I also remember the fish and chips at Hout Bay being incredible!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 12, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Sounds great too! We didn’t have room for fish and chips but do love them when I’m by the sea.

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    March 13, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Next time you do a trip like this, please, please, please can I come with you? I long to see the penguins on the beach but there is so much more to see than I realised.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 19, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Always room for one more!

  • Reply
    asongoftravelblog
    March 13, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Beautiful post! It’s given me lots of inspiration for the travel blog I have just started!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 19, 2017 at 11:13 am

      That’s great to hear – and best of luck with your new blog!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    March 16, 2017 at 12:30 am

    Chapman’s Peak Drive has the most stunning coastal views. This is a road trip I’d love to take and although chilly the weather was perfect for your photos…

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 19, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Such fabulous views – I’ll take a chilly sunny day over a cloudy one any time!

  • Reply
    aeparker81
    March 17, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    This brought back some memories – we did that trip too about 10 years ago. Muizenburg beach is awesome isn’t it. There’s one called Llandudno that we read are books on one afternoon before heading to the airport!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 19, 2017 at 11:17 am

      I’ve got an Instagram pic of Llandudno! Some really posh houses around there.

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    March 18, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I had no idea their were penguins there until I saw a photo about a year ago. What a beautiful coastal drive Chapman’s Peak must be. I can only imagine the gorgeous views!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 19, 2017 at 11:18 am

      There’s so much lovely scenery around there – and the penguins were fascinating to watch.

  • Reply
    Travel Candy
    March 19, 2017 at 10:38 am

    I would have SO wanted to steal one of those penguins, too! I love the beach huts on Muizenberg beach – and you would never know that it was cold from the picture!

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