Our family lives across four continents, which explains rare reunions and intense debates about where it should happen. Add to it an age range running from one-year-old to seventy-year-old and you will understand how complex it was to find the perfect Christmas destination. I never thought we would find a place that could so perfectly cater for everyone’s needs and expectations until we actually spent the best family holiday in Cape Town & its surroundings.
I believe the key factors of success for this Christmas-holiday were thegorgeous weather (well-appreciated by our European crew), the extreme diversity of things to do and discover (our family has its arts-addicts, beach-addicts, trekking-addicts and everyone is for sure a food-addict) and the very limited distances (well-appreciated by our little travelers and their parents). Here are a few tips I am happy to share. You will find all useful details on my google map.
Find your home away from home
If you have not seen your family members for a long time you surely want to share intimate moments, long-dinners and ever-lasting conversations in a sofa while the kids get to sleep in their beds, that is the kind of comfort you get choosing to rent a house.
We were extremely pleased with the two houses we picked on Airbnb. One was located in Camps Bay with stunning views to the ocean and to the majestic twelve apostles mountains, walking-distance to the beach and just a short drive into Cape Town.
The other one was nestled in the vineyards offering convenient access to the charming town of Stellenbosch and its fabulous wine estates. Both houses had swimming pools and the service was excellent.
Relax on the beach
Starting with a day on the beach is always a good way of recharging batteries after a long flight, soaking some warm sun into your cold bones, relaxing with a good book while the kids run around and build sand castles. Only the brave ones may decide to jump into the water as it is absolutely freezing. The surf lovers will have a wonderful time.
We particularly liked Llandudno beach, just a few minutes drive from Camps Bay. Llandudno is an elegant residential area with lush gardens. The beach is difficult to access via public transportation, has limited parking space and no restaurants (bring a picnic) therefore there is little crowd and you will be among the happy few enjoying sugar-sand, pristine water, fun rocks and surfing waves.
Stroll around colorful neighborhoods
Our children immediately felt in love with Bo kaap neighborhood and so did all of us. Everything in this multicultural and historical district is charming: the cobble stoned streets, the bright façades with all the colors of the rainbow, the beautiful mosques, the gorgeous views to the city and surrounding mountains… The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly making it the perfect city-walk. We had no plans, just hopped from house to house, engaging discussions with locals. For coffee and cakes make a break at Haas collective café on Rose street.
Not far from there, we enjoyed the lively atmosphere on Kloof street with all its shops, cafés and restaurants. The streets around are worth a ramble. You will admire the Georgian and Victorian mansions such as the Cape Cadogan Boutique hotel or the restaurant Kloof Street House, their facades stand proudly against a blue sky and table mountain background. We had a nice coffee break at Once café where we stocked on freshly baked bread.
The Woodstock district was another interesting area to explore. This industrial neighborhood is really buzzing with a constant flow of new hipster addresses such as the delicious Deli, The kitchen. Don't miss the Old Biscuit Mill with its attractive shops such as the Karoo Moon Country store selling all kind of African curios, the Kat Van Duinen boutique where you will find locally produced hand-made leather bags, the Saucisse Boutique Deli a family-run specialty meat and cheese deli and its fine restaurant, The test kitchen. If you are lucky to be there on a Saturday you will enjoy the fresh and organic products at the Goodneighbor market. I loved the contrasts in this district: street art walls adjoined to tiny local grocery shops, run-down factories hosting trendy art galleries. The hilly background is never far away.
It is an extended neighborhood and I suggest you use your car, as all parts are not nice to walk around.
Explore the up-and-coming contemporary art scene
Woodstock is where you will find the highest concentration of art galleries in town. Head to Sir Lowry Road and from there you will be able to visit the major galleries (SMAC, Stevenson, Goodman, Blank, etc) enjoying spacious exhibition halls in these former warehouses. These galleries offer a rare opportunity to discover south-African artists but also artists from neighboring countries.
Getting at the top of the Table Mountain was one of the highlights of our South African holiday. We went up with the funicular in the afternoon, early enough to have a long walk on the plateau dominating Cape Town and offering breathtaking views on each side of the bay including a clear view of Robben island which we did not visit because of the children (debating rather it would be too long for them… or not!). The wildlife and flora up there are unique. Our children had so much fun playing with the marmots, they enjoyed running freely on the safe and flat paths. It was extremely windy up there and I am glad we brought extra layers. We stayed long enough to see the sun set and that was a spectacular moment. Book your tickets online.
For the early birds, I highly suggest climbling up the Lion’s head at sunrise. The walk is easy till the last part where it gets stiffer. It becomes more crowded as the day rises. I would not suggest it for children under 7. Once again you will enjoy panoramic views on each side of the bay.
Reach the tiptoe of Africa and meet with penguins
I am not the kind of person counting visas on my passport or ticking world-wonders on a map, however travelling all the way to the Cape of Good Hope was certainly part of my traveler’s bucket list. The name by itself brings so much to my imagination. It was a one-hour and a half drive from Camps Bay with exceptional views first to the Atlantic Ocean and then to the Indian Ocean. The final stretch of the natural park is wild heath opened on both sides to the boisterous oceans. We were welcomed there by gusts of wind and curious baboons adding to the mystery of the place. Pity we were not alone. It does get pretty packed and I can only advice to get there early. We could have stayed hours looking at the waves crashing at the foot of the lighthouse.
While you travel to the Cape of Good Hope you must make a stop at Boulders to visit the African penguins’ colony both at the view site and on the beach. This is one experience that enchanted everyone in the family. I advise going early in order to avoid the crowd.
Get green (and some food) in the immediate vicinities of Cape Town
We had most of our dinners at home and therefore did not get to explore the evening dining scene. One of my regrets is that we did not make it to the gourmet restaurant La Colombe in Constantia, which I was highly recommended. Next time!
More appropriate for a family luncheon was the nearby Groot Constantia estate where we had a casual lunch under the trees with an infinite view to the vineyards and surrounding mountains. We could peacefully sip our bottle of wine while the children ran around the lawns.
I also recommend the lovely Roundhouse Restaurant just above Camps Bay, nestled in a fragrant pinewood with open views to the Bay and the twelve apostles'. The lunch is a gourmet picnic, which perfectly suited the whole family with once again lots of space for our little ones to run.
You should not miss the beautiful Kirstenbosch botanical garden where you will admire rare plants from all around South Africa set in a scenic landscape against the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain. You can order a picnic basket from The Kirstenbosch Tea Room .
Indulge yourself with good wines, good food and spectacular landscapes in the Stellenbosch region
We had a crush on the charming student town of Stellenbosch. We enjoyed walking around the shady streets, visiting art galleries and shops. There are plenty of engaging cafés and delis. Don't miss the General Store, Oom Samie se Winkel, yes it's a touristic trap but some traps are worth falling into!
The major issue you will be facing is which estates to visit. If I had to discover only two of them I would pick the luxurious estate Delaire Graff and the traditional estate Boschendal.
We had an exquisite Christmas lunch at Delaire Graff followed by a memorable tour of the estate, its art collection, its botanical gardens artistically landscaped and its vineyards set in a spectacular environment. A quintessential experience of refinement and luxury!
Boschendal was a true “coup de coeur’ for its natural beauty, welcoming spirit, family-friendly atmosphere, state-of-the-art kitchen garden, fabulous restaurant, delicious deli, fragrant roses’ garden, relaxed picnic lawns, etc. There is so much to do on site from wine tasting and gourmet experiences to mountain biking and horse riding. The estate offers very comfy little cottages with a swimming pool if you wish to stay overnight.
And the international airport is only thirty minutes drive from Stellenbosch… so that is a wrap!