The Fairest Cape 170km

Victoria Road along the Cape Town coast.

Green Point

The most conspicuous feature of Green Point is the 20-m-high red-and-white lighthouse 1 that for over 175 years has warned ships against hazards along the coast. Designed and built by German builder, Herman Schutte, the Green Point Lighthouse (often incorrectly called Mouille Point Lighthouse) is the oldest solidly constructed navigational aid along South Africa's coast. It became operational in 1824 and automated in 1961.

Sea Point

...is one of Cape Town's most sought-after residential and South African holidays areas, and its Beach Road is dubbed the 'Platinum Mile'. Lion's Head forms an impressive backdrop to the many high-rise luxury apartments, while Sea Point Promenade 1 extends for 4 km along the seaward side of the road. The promenade is popular with joggers, residents walking their dogs and sundown strollers.

Sea Point Contact

At this notable geological site can be seen the intrusion of a large mass of granite into the older sedimentary shales of the Malmesbury Group, dating back about 550 to 600 million years. What makes the site remarkable is the nature of the contact: instead of being sharply defined, the granite and shales are extensively mixed in a wide belt. The contact became famous after Charles Darwin visited the site in 1836, and is indicated by a National Monuments Council plaque.

Clifton

A favourite hot spot for South African holidays, famed for its four small beaches nestling among granite outcrops, Clifton is popular with sun-worshippers, despite the frigid water. It is also one of the city's most fashionable suburbs, with luxurious apartments and penthouses hugging the mountain slopes. Originally known as Schoenmakersgat, after a shoemaker who lived in a cave, it was later renamed Clifton-on-Sea after a resort in the United Kingdom. Still later it came to be known simply as Clifton.

Chapman's Peak Drive

...one of the world's most spectacular coastal drives, was built between 1915 and 1922 when the road was cut into the precipitous cliffs that soar for over 500 m above the coast. The road engineers exploited the weakness in the rock by following the contact between the 550 to 600-million-year-old Cape Granite and the overlying sedimentary rock of the Table Mountain Group. Its highest point is 160 m above the sea.

Chapman's Peak Drive was closed to traffic in 1999 due to rock falls, but is scheduled to reopen in 2002. In the meantime, the route to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve detours from Hout Bay via Constantia Nek, along Ou Kaapse Weg to Kommetjie and Scarborough.

Cape Of Good Hope Nature Reserve

Situated at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula, the Cape of Good Hope section of the Cape Peninsula National Park covers 7 750 ha of fynbos vegetation and dramatic coastal scenery. The area can be explored by car along a network of tar roads, or on foot on one of the seven trails that meander through fynbos, with its over 1 100 plant species.

Animals to be seen include Cape Point's famous baboons, bontebok, grey rhebok, eland and red hartebeest, and over 250 bird species have been recorded in the reserve. There are also several good spots for whale-watching and angling, while the coast offers excellent snorkelling and swimming opportunities.

Cape Point

Sheer coastal cliffs rise nearly 200 m above the Atlantic Ocean, creating a spectacular vantage point over False Bay to the east and the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Ranked amongst the highest sea cliffs in the world, Cape Point was described in 1579 by British navigator, Sir Francis Drake as '... the fairest cape and the most stately thing we saw in the whole circumference of the globe'. If you are feeling energetic, you can walk from the car park up to the old lighthouse 4, built on the 249-m-high Da Gama Peak in 1859. Or take the funicular railway to the viewpoint and stroll back down to the parking area. This is another popular attraction for visitors on their South African holidays.

Boulders

...is a picturesque bathing spot with beaches of white sand nestling among grey granite outcrops. It is home to one of only two land-based breeding colonies of the endangered African penguin 2 (Spheniscus demersus, previously known as the jackass penguin) along the South African coast.

From two pairs that bred in 1985, the population has grown to over 950 breeding pairs. Visitors can get excellent close-up views from a boardwalk and viewing platform at Foxy Beach. At Boulders Beach, where swimming is permitted, penguins sometimes come ashore and waddle comically past sunbathers.

Simon's Town

Named after the Dutch governor Simon van der Stel, Simon's Town has a rich maritime history dating back to 1743 when it became the official anchorage for ships of the Dutch East India Company. To protect the bay against attack by foreign fleets, the company built the Zoutman Battery on the northern outskirts of the settlement in 1793. Simon's Town served as the Southern Atlantic base of the Royal Navy between 1814 and 1957, when it was transferred to the South African Navy.

Ramble down the Historic Mile, which has 21 buildings dating back more than 150 years, or visit Jubilee Square with its monument to Able Seaman Just Nuisance - one of the few dogs to attain naval rank! Other attractions include Simon's Town Museum, the South African Naval Museum, Warrior Toy Museum and Martello Tower, built in 1796 as part of the British fortification of Simon's Bay.

Fish Hoek

...features a magnificent sweep of sandy beach and opportunities for swimming and snorkelling off Jager Walk. From August to December, the walkway is a good vantage point for whale-watching. For many years, Fish Hoek enjoyed the status of being one of the only 'dry' towns in South Africa.

Kalk Bay

...owes its name to the 17th-century lime kilns in which crushed sea shells were burned to make lime. The picturesque fishing harbour was built in 1913 to protect boats against the gales that often lash False Bay. The harbour is a hive of activity when boats return with catches of Cape delicacies such as snoek, geelbek and yellowtail.

St. James

...with its colourful wooden changing rooms, tidal pool and sandy beach, is a popular family beach. It was named after the St James Church, which was demolished in 1900 to make way for a railway station after the original platform, built 17 years earlier, became inadequate.

Muizenberg

...with its wide sweeping beach, offers safe swimming, surfing and is a popular destination for South African holidays. It has variously served as a cattle post (established in the 1670s by the Dutch East India Company at nearby Sandvlei), a winter anchorage for company ships and a military outpost. In the 1740s, the fort became known as Muijsenberg after Wynand Muijs, the sergeant in charge.

Among its cultural treasures is the Natale Labia Museum, a beautiful dressed-stone mansion built in the 1930s for Prince Natale Labia and Princess Ida Labia. It now serves as a satellite museum of the South African National Gallery. De Post Huys, built in 1673 by the Dutch East India Company as a signal house and a small fort, is one of the oldest European-built houses in South Africa. Also of interest is Rhodes' Cottage, an unassuming thatched home where Cecil John Rhodes died in 1902.

Groot Constantia

...forms part of the farm granted to Governor Simon van der Stel in 1685. He named his farm Constantia and planted the estate's first vineyards. After his death in 1712, the farm was divided into three. Groot Constantia changed hands several times until it was bought by Hendrik Cloete in 1778, and remained in the Cloete family for over a century. During this time the estate's wines became world-famous.

Its focal point is the magnificent U-shaped Cape Dutch manor house 5 with its unusually high gable; the house is now a museum portraying life at Constantia from the 17th century on. At the rear of the manor house is the Cloete Cellar, dating back to 1791, with its magnificent sculptured pediment by Anton Anreith.

Victoria And Alfred Waterfront

Centred around the Victoria and Alfred basins of Cape Town's harbour, the Waterfront 3 is one of South Africa's top tourist attraction. Its huge variety of attractions, activities, speciality shops and restaurants, all within the setting of a working harbour, include the Two Oceans Aquarium, Telkom Exploratorium and IMAX Cinema in the BMW Pavilion. Visitors can take a cruise around the harbour, a longer boat trip in Table Bay or a helicopter flip over the city.

Art and craft enthusiasts should visit the Waterfront Craft Market and Red Shed Craft Workshop. The Waterfront is also the embarkation point for tours of Robben Island; now a museum and nature reserve, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.

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