The 7 amazing scenic drives in Cape Town
The area around Cape Town is incredibly diverse and absolutely beautiful and offers a great variety of scenic road trips from stunning coastal drives to mountain passes and vineyards. Driving around Cape Town you can enjoy the stunning scenery, see wildlife, do a wine tasting or try some adventurous activities. Some of the suggested drives we’ve done many times and every time we find new places to visit and activities to do. Out of many things to do in Cape Town scenic drives are something not to miss here.
There are several incredible coastal drives from Cape Town that offer spectacular scenery and plenty of amazing things to do. The scenic drive along the Cape Peninsula including Chapman’s Peak Drive is probably our favorite here. The scenery along the route is breathtaking if you come to South Africa for a honeymoon this drive is definitely to be included in your itinerary.
Cape Peninsula scenic drive
Driving route: Cape Town – Camps Bay – Hout Bay – Chapman’s Peak Drive – Noordhoek – Kommetjie – Misty Cliffs – Cape Point National park (Cape of Good Hope) – Boulders Beach (Simon’s Town) – Muizenberg – Cape Town.
- Distance – 145 km loop
- Time – anything between 4 and 8 hours depending on how many places you visit.
- When to do the drive – the area is beautiful any time of the year the best is to do the drive on a nice not very windy day.
Cape Peninsula tours
Highlights of the drive
- Camps Bay – beautiful beaches, and ice-cold water.
- Hout Bay – the best place for spotting Cape Fur seals on this drive.
- Chapman’s Peak drive – the most scenic drive in Cape Town.
- Kommetjie – a beautiful white-sand beach with great waves for surfing.
- Cape Point National park – where you can spend all day, there are many walking routes, some beautiful beaches, and very cold water.
- Boulder’s Beach, Simon’s Town – is one of the must-see places in Cape Town. It’s a small hidden white-sand beach surrounded by huge boulders with quite a few penguins swimming and walking around.
- Muizenberg – a busy surf town with colorful wooden cabins on the white sandy beach.
Things to do on the Cape Point drive
- Snorkeling with seals in Hout Bay
- Guided kayaking tour in Hout Bay
- Surfing in Kommetjie – nice waves for all levels, there is a board rental place near the beach.
- Hiking at Cape Point National park. There are several short hikes as well as a 2-day hike with staying at an overnight hut.
- Swimming, relaxing, and watching penguins at Boulder’s Beach.
- Surfing or SUPing in Muizenberg, you can get a surfing lesson or rent a board from one of the surf shops here.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Most of the time the route goes along the coast with many stunning lookouts and endless white-sand beaches. I’d definitely recommend including this drive in your Cape Town itinerary. It’s not a long drive but there is so much to see here that it’ll take you the entire day, the earlier you start the better. The first stop is Camps Bay the fanciest neighborhood of Cape Town and the place with the most expensive property in the country.
From there you drive over the pass to Hout Bay where you can see seals in the harbor, for tips locals will show you how they feed seals. Finally, you’re getting to Chapman’s Peak Drive. It’s on a toll road you pay ZAR 50/US$3 for a car to drive through but it’s totally worth it. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the country.
Cape Point National park
Take your time in the Cape Point National Park. There is a lot to see here. One can spend the whole day just driving and walking around; it’s an absolutely beautiful place. The highlights of the park are Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, the Lighthouse, Diaz Beach, Kleine Bucht, Vasco Da Gama Cross, and Bordjiesrif Tidal Pool. The easiest way of getting to the Lighthouse and to the summit of Cape Point is to take a Flying Dutchman Funicular, you can buy tickets online and skip the line.
There are a couple of day hiking trails at Cape Point; Ship Wreck trail (3-5km), Phyllisia Circuit (7km), Kanonkop (5km), Cape of Good Hope Trail (3,5km), Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail (2km). Ask for a map at the entrance, all the trails are marked and relatively easy.
Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town
A small white-sand beach hidden between huge boulders with calm warmish waters is a part of the marine protected area. The exceptional beauty of Boulder’s Beach is not the only reason that attracts visitors to this beach every day, cute African penguins are always around; walking, swimming, or resting on the rocks.
To top up your marine animals’ experience in Simon’s Town do a snorkeling or a diving trip to see seals and Cow sharks (they are not known to attack divers). Simon’s Town is one of the best spots for diving in Cape Town including diving with sharks.
A good place for surfing or learning how to surf, there are a few surf shops on the beach so if you have more time you can stay here for a couple of days. Don’t forget to check out the colorful wooden cabins in Muizenberg, which awesome contrast with the white sand beach and blue sea. One of the top Instagram places around Cape Town.
You can stay in Muizenberg and watch the sunset on the beach or end your day with the stunning Lion’s Head hike and watch the sun going down from the top of it. Lion’s Head is one of the most popular sunset spots in Cape Town.
Places to stay on the Cape Point drive
During the peak summer season accommodation in the area is usually fully-booked. If you come in December-January it’s highly recommended to book a place in advance.
There are many fantastic coffee shops in Cape Town where you can stop for breakfast and coffee before your scenic drive.
Cape Town – Hermanus drive
Driving route: Cape Town – Strand – Gordon’s Bay – Rooi-Els – Betty’s Bay – Harold Porter Botanical Garden – Kleinmond – Hermanus – Sir Lowry’s Pass – Cape Town.
- Distance – 260 km return, one way along the coast, return over Sir Lowry’s Pass. 280 km if driving along the coast both ways.
- Time – 5 hours for the drive and taking photos, plus extra time for activities.
- When to do the drive – August & September are the best months if you want to see Southern Right Whale near Hermanus. Summer months, November – March, have the best weather though it gets very windy in December – January. During Christmas and New Year this route is extremely busy.
It’s one of our favorite scenic drives that we usually do as a day trip from Cape Town. We’ve done it many times and every time we’re heading that way we get very excited. The scenery is truly spectacular; beautiful mountains, rugged coastline, white-sand beaches, dramatic drops, and diverse marine life. If you want to do the Garden Route road trip from Cape Town this drive is a great way to start it. After Hermanus, you just continue driving towards Mossel Bay where the route starts.
Highlights of the road trip
- Clearance Drive is a stunning drive along the coast from Gordon’s Bay.
- Rooi-Els – a small town at the sea.
- Crystal Pools Natural Reserve.
- Stony Point Nature Reserve, penguins sanctuary in Betty’s Bay.
- Harold Porter Botanical Garden.
- Whales and dolphins in Hermanus.
- Penguins and sea birds in Gansbaai.
Things to do
- Swimming at Koel Bay at one of the beaches on the way from Gordon’s Bay to Rooi-Els.
- Hiking in Crystal Pools Nature Reserve, there is a nice 2-3 hours return hike to the falls and natural pools, an 8km walk. Open from November to April, sunrise to sunset. Entrance ZAR60 per person.
- Surfing at Koel Bay beach, bring a surfboard with you and watch for sharks.
- Snorkeling at Rooi Els, you can spot crayfish water is not as cold as in Cape Town but you still need a wetsuite.
- Hiking at the Harold Porter Botanical Garden.
- Whale watching in Hermanus. The peak season is from August to December, the peak season October – November when Southern-right whales are in the area. Usually, you see many seals and occasional penguins in the water as well during the tour.
The Clarence Drive from Gordon’s Bay to Rooi Els is just as stunning as Chapman’s Peak Drive. It’s on the winding coastal road with many viewpoints and some great and usually empty beaches. When you stop at a viewpoint near Gordon’s Bay look out for seals and dolphins there are usually some in the water close to the shore.
A nice small town of Betty’s Bay with long and usually empty white-sand beaches surrounded by mountains. The local beach is a nice place for a picnic on a not-windy day. If after visiting Boulder’s Beach you’re still keen to see more African penguins go to Stony Point Nature Reserve, there are hundreds of penguins there usually chilling on the beach right at the entrance.
Harold Porter Botanical Garden
This beautiful garden is full of lush green vegetation and flowers. Harold Porter Botanical Garden is a nice place to come for a picnic, walk around the garden, or have a meal at the restaurant. There are several day hiking trails here; the Zigzag, Fynbos, and Leopard’s Kloof Trails. To visit Leopard’s Kloof or to do the hike there you have to start before 1pm.
There are many great things to do in Hermanus. If you’re in the area between August and November we’d recommend doing a whale-watching tour, southern right whales are in Hermanus this time of the year, and chances to spot them are quite good.
If you want more adrenaline-pumping activity you can do cage diving with sharks where you have good chances to see great white sharks and some bronze whaler sharks.
If you have more time you can stay for a night in Hermanus and extend this drive to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa (for more details see the drive below).
Places to stay in Hermanus
Cape Town – Cape Agulhas road trip
Driving route: Cape Town – Gordon’s Bay – Betty’s Bay – Hermanus – Elim – Struisbaai – Cape Agulhas – Arniston – Napier – Sir Lowry’s Pass – Cape Town.
- Distance – 500 km loop (one way along the coast, return inland over Sir Lowry’s Pass).
- Time – 2-3 days.
- When to do the drive – summer months November – March is the best weather. December – January might be quite windy. Christmas and New Year are very busy.
Cape Town to Cape Agulhas drive with a tour
Highlights of the drive
- Gordon’s Bay drive.
- Stony Point Penguins colony at Betty’s Bay.
- Whales, seals, and penguins in Hermanus.
- Elim, a small village with cute little houses lined along the main street.
- The cozy town of Napier with many cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops on the main street.
- White fisherman cottages in Arniston
- Waenhuiskrans Cave in Arniston
- Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa
- Cape Agulhas Lighthouse
Things to do
- Shark cage diving in Gansbaai, all year round though inquire before as sometimes orcas are in the area and sharks (Great Whites) disappear.
- Wine and beer tasting, there are a couple of places around Hermanus and some on the way to Cape Agulhas.
- Exploring Waenhuiskrans Cave.
- Watching the sunset on Struisbaai beach.
- Spotting Parrie, a huge stingray that lives at the harbor of Struisbaai.
This route is not a day drive but rather a nice weekend getaway from Cape Town. Driving along the coast one way and inland back you get a chance to see the beautiful coast, sandy beaches, green rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and small towns.
Gansbaai and Elim
Gansbaai is a small town the main reason tourists come here is whale-watching or shark diving as the tours start here. From Gansbaai drive through Elim on the way to Struisbaai, it’s a small but lovely fisherman town with white cottages lined up along the road. Just outside Elim, there is a nice wine estate/restaurant Black Oystercatcher Wines.
The second option, driving from Hermanus past Stanford through Napier it’s shorter if you take this route you’ll skip Gansbaai and Elim but you get more wine farms on the way. Napier is a lovely town with beautiful old houses, good restaurants, cozy cafes, and souvenir shops. It looks very beautiful in the Jacaranda season between October and December.
Arniston is a small fisherman town where many locals go for the December holiday, the highlights of the town are white-colored fisherman’s cottages at the harbor and Waenhuiskrans Cave. You can visit the cave only at low tide. The only access to the cave except the sea is through a hole in a cave at high tide it’s underwater. The cave is big with a beautiful view over the ocean.
Struisbaai and Cape Agulhas
Struisbaai and Cape Agulhas officially are two small towns but in fact one place, it’s a very quiet place out of season, in December-January and Easter many South Africans come here for the holiday. The main thing that attracts tourists is the Southernmost Point of the African continent, the point officially divides two oceans; the Atlantic and the Indian though there is no visible line between them.
Though the point is inside Agulhas National park there is no gate or entrance fee. Another local attraction is Parrie the Stingray, a massive stingray that has been living in the harbor for many years. Sometimes there are two or three stingrays in the harbor. Struisbaai has a nice long beach for swimming, running, and watching the sunset or sunrise.
Places to stay in Struisbaai/Cape Agulhas
West Coast Flower route drive
Driving route; Cape Town – Durbanville wine route (optional) – Melkbosstrand – West Coast National Park – Langebaan – Paternoster – Cape Town
- Distance – 316 km
- Time – anything between 6 and 10 hours
- Best time for the drive – August and September are the best months for driving this route if you want to see thousands of wildflowers covering the fields and the coast along the West Coast
Highlights of the drive
- Durbanville wine route
- Beautiful coastal scenery; white-sand beaches, sand dunes, etc.
- West Coast National Park – the closest to Cape Town place to see famous Namaqualand flowers.
- Langebaan – a chilled beach town popular for kitesurfing.
- Paternoster – a charming town with great seafood restaurants.
Things to do
- Wine tasting at Durbanville. The area is known for Sauvignon Blanc. Many wine farms in Durbanville have interesting pairings e.g. wine and nougat, MCC and macaroons, etc.
- Hiking/driving and enjoying wildflowers at West Coast National Park.
- Chilling at the Lagoon in Langebaan.
- Eating fresh seafood at Paternoster.
Spring is the best time to drive the Namaqualand flower route though the area is beautiful any time of the year and worth visiting even outside the flower season. On the way from Cape Town to the West Coast, you can stop at a couple of wine farms in Durbanville and do some tastings. A big advantage of this drive compared to the other coastal routes is that there is never much traffic even during the December holiday. This drive can be a perfect start for a Cape Town – Namibia road trip.
West Coast National Park
It’s the closest place to Cape Town to see the famous flowers of Namaqualand. At West Coast National Park you can see a unique combination of fields and hills covered in a flower carpet next to the white-sand beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. There are a couple of hiking, cycling, and driving routes inside the park that will take you to the most spectacular corners of the West Coast.
A small town with a beautiful lagoon and long sandy beaches is one of the most popular places for kitesurfing in Cape Town. Summer months December to February is the best time for kitesurfing here. If you visit it during the flower season, it’s unlikely there will be any wind.
Another small town on the West Coast with traditional fishermen’s white houses, endless white sandy beaches, and a beautiful coastline. Paternoster is famous for its fresh seafood and fish restaurants as well as bakeries. It’s a nice place to stop for lunch with incredible sea views.
Places to stay in Langebaan
Cape Winelands drive
Driving route: Cape Town – Stellenbosch – Helshoogte Road – Franschhoek – Franschhoek Pass – Babylonstoren – Cape Town
- Distance – 180 km return
- Time – 1-2 days if you want to do wine tasting and some other activities in the area.
- Best time for the drive – summer between November to March is the best time for visiting the Winelands. Wine farms get extremely busy in summer over weekends if you have a chance it’s better to do a tasting on weekdays.
Visit Winelands with a tour
Highlights of the drive
- Fantastic wine farms around Stellenbosch – you can find some of the best South African wine farms here.
- The historical center and the University of Stellenbosch – a nice area to walk around and drink a cup of coffee.
- Jonkershoek Nature Reserve – a stunning place for hiking.
- Beautiful Helshoogte Road with a couple of stunning estates.
- Franschhoek Motor Museum – hundreds of cars from the first motorized vehicles to the Formula 1 racing cars.
- Wine farms in Franschhoek – this wine route is one of our favorites in Cape Winelands
- Franschhoek Pass – a beautiful mountain pass with amazing views
- Babylonstoren – this place has everything; wine tasting, lush green gardens, restaurants, etc. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring it.
Things to do
- Wine tasting in Stellenbosch
- Hiking in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
- Wine tasting in Franschhoek
- Riding the Franschhoek wine tram
- Diving over the Franschhoek Pass
- Visiting Franschhoek Motor Museum
- Enjoying the beautiful garden at Babylonstoren
It’s a beautiful drive through the main wine areas in Cape Town with stunning views, great wines, beautiful estates, and many amazing activities. You can do this trip in one day or spend more time in the area there are enough places and things to do to keep you busy for a week.
The town itself and the surrounding area are absolutely gorgeous. Stellenbosch is a bustling University town the only time you can see it quiet is during holidays. The historical center of the town is very nice for walking; old oak trees, colonial-style buildings, the University campus, antique shops, and small cafes.
Despite the small size, there are many things to do in Stellenbosch including amazing outdoor activities. Fantastic Stellenbosch wine farms are one of the main reasons that attract thousands of tourists. There are more than 100 wine estates here even if you spend months doing wine tasting you won’t be able to visit all of them.
Places to stay in Stellenbosch
The small charming town of Franschhoek is a great place for a romantic getaway from Cape Town. Located in the picturesque Franschhoek Valley the town boasts some of the finest restaurants and the best wine estates in the country. It’s definitely the place to come if you enjoy fine dining and great wines. You can drive around the valley stopping at different wine estates or take a break from driving and jump on the Franschhoek wine tram. It’s a great way of visiting some of the wine estates on the route. Just like in Stellenbosch there are many amazing things to do in Franschhoek besides wine tasting.
Places to stay in Franschhoek
Constantia Valley trip
Driving route: Cape Town city center – Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden (Rhodes Avenue) – Rhodes Drive – Constantia Wine Valley – Cape Town city center.
- Distance – 46 km return
- Time – 2 hours for the drive and photos plus the time you’ll spend wine tasting, eating, etc.
- Best time for the drive – any season if it’s a nice sunny day. Mondays are not great as most wine farms are closed to visitors. On weekends wine estates and restaurants get very busy.
Visit Constantia with a tour
Highlights of the drive
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden – the greenest place in Cape Town
- Rhodes Drive – a stunning 7 km drive
- Stunning wine estates in Constantia Valley
There are different tours from Cape Town that combine wine tasting in Constantia with other activities you can join one of them if you’re alone or don’t have a designated driver (drinking and driving is never a good idea).
Things to do
- Walking/hiking or picnicking in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
- Wine tasting in the Constantia Valley.
- Enjoying lunch with stunning views over the vineyards at one of the wine farms.
This is the shortest out of the suggested scenic drives in Cape Town but it’s a truly spectacular area. The drive is perfect for a romantic day out it has all you need; stunning scenery, great wines, and delicious food. You can combine this drive with a trip around the Cape Peninsula.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch is the greenest place in Cape Town with several walking and hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty levels. A perfect place to start a day with a picnic on the grass or breakfast at one of the coffee shops inside the garden. Don’t miss the Boomslang (tree snake) tree canopy in the garden. It winds among tree crowns offering great views of Kirstenbosch and the surrounding area.
Constantia Wine route
One of the most spectacular wine areas around Cape Town with some of the oldest wine estates in the country. There are 8 wine farms that are open to the public for tasting. If you come here on weekdays there is no need to book anything in advance, on weekends and public holidays, it might be better to make a reservation especially if you’re planning to have lunch or dinner at one of the estates.
Every wine farm in Constantia is worth visiting but there are two estates that are our favorites; Beau Constantia and Constantia Glen. Both have the best views of the area and great wines. We have a detailed post on Constantia wine farms where you can find more information about each farm.
Places to stay in Constantia
Two Mountain Passes Drive
Driving route; Cape Town – Paarl – Du Toitskloof Pass (Rawsonville) – Slanghoek – Bain’s Kloof Pass – Wellington – Cape Town.
- Distance – 248 km
- Time – from 4 hours
- Best time for the drive – any season on a nice day, not recommended to drive over the passes in heavy rain or if temperatures are below 0C. On Sundays most of the wine farms on the Breedekloof wine route are closed if you want to do some tasting it’s better to come on weekdays or Saturdays.
- Du Toitskloof Pass
- The drive between the pass and Rawsonville
- Breedekloof Wine Route
- Bain’s Kloof Pass
Things to do
- Driving over Du Toitskloof Pass and Bain’s Pass.
- Hiking at Limietberg Nature Reserve, there are several hiking trails near the passes.
- Tasting wines at Breedekloof Wine Route.
A beautiful drive over two fantastic passes with several wine farms along the route, a couple of nice restaurants/coffee shops, and farm stalls. This route is probably one of the most off-the-beaten-track drives near Cape Town. It’s never very busy here even wine farms are not overcrowded on holidays and weekends like on the other wine routes. If you’re seeking a tranquil drive with stunning scenery the two passes are a great option.
Places to stay in Paarl
Travel insurance for Cape Town trip
Traveling often involves different risks from a flight delay or cancellation to medical emergencies and baggage loss. It’s always advisable to have travel insurance that will cover you in case something goes wrong especially if you venture to a faraway country like South Africa. Theft or robbery is another important reason to get travel insurance for your South African trip whether you’re planning to visit only Cape Town or to venture on a long road trip around the country.
It’s better to choose an insurance company that focuses on traveling and has a lot of experience in covering travelers all over the world like World Nomads. Their travel insurance is very flexible, you can buy it online while traveling, it takes only a couple of minutes and it can cover the whole trip or only a part of it. Get an instant quote right now!
Renting a car for Cape Town scenic drives
All roads are tarred you can drive in any car, it can be a nice trip on a motorbike as well but only if you’re a confident driver.
Renting a car is the best way to explore the area and the easiest way to move around. All roads are tarred you don’t need a 4×4 for this trip. When renting a car make sure it doesn’t have a mileage limit or it’s more than 600km per rental. If you drive the suggested route from Cape Town Airport and back it’ll be just over 600km.
*Price for 3 days in US dollars, pick up and drop off at Cape Town Airport.
Trip planning resources
Recommended books and guidebooks
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The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.