Cape Town, South Africa, nestled against the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is a cruise port that provides visitors with an experience of a lifetime, both visually and culturally.
It’s often overlooked when seeking a warm weather cruise, Cape Town, a city under the shadow of towering Table Mountain and washed by two oceans, is considered one of the top 5 most beautiful seaside cities in the world!
That reputation is part of why it’s becoming a more consistent port of call for world cruises and other 12 to 14 day cruises along Africa’s coast.Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city, having been first settled by the Dutch in 1652, as a rest station on the long route from the Netherlands to the East Indies. In 1814, the British gained control of the city, and many Dutch moved inland to ultimately establish Johannesburg and Pretoria.
But some remained behind, and it was their architectural heritage, language and customs that became interwoven with those of the British, East Asian immigrants and the native African people. Today if there is one element of Cape Town’s cultural scene, it is the blending of these distinctive traditions that marks the everyday lives of its nearly 4 million residents.
When spending just one day in this mesmerizing port of call, it can be a difficult trying to narrow down the options in order to make the most of this beautiful, historical region.
A few of our favorite places to help you dive deep in to this rich area are:
1. Ride to the Top of Table Mountain
Experience the breathtaking views of Cape Town from the summit of Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a majestic plateau that stands watch over Cape Town, offering visitors spectacular views of Robben Island, Table Bay and the surrounding region.
Traveling to the top of Table Mountain is a perfect way to begin a port day in Cape Town, as the panoramic views give visitors a good “lay of the land.” The Table Mountain Arial Cableway offers quick cable-car rides up the mountain which offer their own spectacular views before ever reaching the summit.
Before embarking on a journey up Table Mountain, keep these tips in mind:
- Clear days are ideal for this excursion, but if the summit is hidden behind cloud-cover, the views are greatly diminished. Clouds can roll in or out at any time, so if the weather is nice, seize the moment and journey up the mountain.
- Although there is a snack bar atop the mountain, it’s a good idea to carry a bottle of water because there is often a long line of people waiting to visit this popular tourist attraction.
- Wear comfortable shoes because the Table Mountain National Park offers many different walking and hiking trails. Don’t forget to pack sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat, especially during sunny peak season.
2. Spend Time at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront offers plenty of shopping and dining options. This lively area around the Cape Town dock is an easy way to spend a day in Cape Town on foot and experience a taste of South Africa’s vibrant culture.
The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre houses hundreds of retails shops, open markets, cafes, museums and restaurants. South Africa is world-renowned for its fine jewelry and Victoria Wharf has several reputable jewelry stores where visitors can find a high-quality, one-of-a-kind piece to take home. When shopping for authentic South African souvenirs, look for vendors offering unique handmade jewelry, baskets and other crafts. Be wary of mass-produced souvenirs that may be imported from other countries.
In addition, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront offers amenities such as:
- Visitor Information Centers: There is an information kiosk conveniently located at the wharf, as well as a visitor information center on Dock Road.
- ATM: There are several ATMs scattered throughout the waterfront area.
- Internet Access: Since onboard satellite internet service is sometimes spotty, take advantage of this opportunity to check emails and touch base with family and friends at home. There are plenty of internet hotspots and cafes interspersed throughout the waterfront shopping district.
3. Pumba Private Game Reserve
If you’re sailing Holland America, take advantage of the opportunity to catch a short flight inland for a 3-day game drive in Pumba Private Game Reserve, you are in Africa after all!
Pumba Private Game Reserve, located in the heart of the Eastern Cape’s malaria-free game viewing region, covers 16,000 acres of privately-owned property in the Eastern Cape. Overlooking Lake Kariega, Pumba Private Game Reserve offers stunning views of the wilderness and water from every point. At its five-star luxury Game Lodge, visitors have every opportunity to enjoy the ultimate essence of Africa’s safari style.
4. Visit Robben Island
For a life-changing glimpse into South Africa’s history, do not miss the chance to tour Robben Island, home of the prison where Nelson Mandela spent almost two decades.
Visitors can view Mandela’s actual prison cell on tours led by former inmates who describe their personal experiences and discuss the history of apartheid in South Africa. Ferries to the island depart from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront throughout the day.
Robben Island, situated seven miles north of Cape Town, has a colorful history which includes a leper colony, mental institution and the infamous prison. Cruise ship visitors can take a half-day tour of the island to learn about the apartheid-haunted past of South Africa, as well as the transformations that have taken place since its banishment in 1990.
These three activities barely scratch the surface of ways to spend a day in Cape Town. If you have more time, here are a few more options to consider:
- Castle of Good Hope – This 17th century fortress in the heart of downtown Cape Town once protected the early colonial settlers
- Nelson Hotel – Having lunch or afternoon tea at the Mt. Nelson Hotel in the Garden District is a treat, as it brings back the glory days of the Victorian Era
- South African Jewish Museum – Provides a fascinating history of the role of Jewish immigrants in the life of the country and in the diamond industry
- wo Oceans Aquarium – If you are interested in marine life, this aquarium features a variety of sea life from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. With different temperatures, the waters of each is home to very different species
- District Six Museum – District Six was destroyed under Apartheid laws in the early 1960’s, but this museum brings that multi ethnic community back to life
- Cape Town Diamond Museum – The museum tells the story of South Africa’s diamond mining industry, and it features an array of gems in different stages of finish
- Beaches at Clifton – If you are looking for sun and surf, then choose any of the four beaches in the seaside suburb of Clifton, as they are magnificent
Looking for more ideas? Let our team help plan your African getaway, along with special Cruise Specialists only excursions.
With over 39 years of experience, Gillian Clark can help you find the sailing from Silversea to a World Cruise that will visit this port and be your perfect getaway. Click here to contact her today >>