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The Rugged Beauty of the Cape Point Route

One of the great day trips from Cape Town, South Africa is the magnificent Cape Point Route. This is also one of the most remarkable drives anywhere in the world and features steep cliffs, stunning vistas and plenty of sightseeing opportunities!

The Cape Peninsula in the haze
The peninsula has many steep cliffs plunging into the Atlantic Ocean

“In Cape Town, there’s a drive from Cape Point to Camps Bay where the road is hewn out of the cliffs. It’s just stunning, particularly if you do it as the sun is going down.” – Sean Pertwee

The route starts in Hout Bay (although some would include the northern extension from Hout Bay up to Camps Bay in the drive as well) and head’s south through the Table Mountain National Park. We stayed at the Tintswalo Atlantic lodge, which is strategically positioned right at the start of Chapman’s Peak Drive and the Cape Point Route.

The road on Chapman's Peak Drive is carved into the side of a cliff
Chapman’s Peak Drive

The Champman’s Peak Drive grabs your attention almost immediately! While only 9km in length, there are over 100 tight, winding curves carved into the vertical rock face of Chapman’s Peak. Construction on the road began during World War I and concluded in 1922, providing a more direct route from Cape Town to the Cape Peninsula.

The view of Hout Bay and Sentinel Peak from Chapman's Peak Drive
Hout Bay and Sentinel Peak

Heading south, you hug the mountain tightly. But when you drive north, you are right on the cliff’s ledge making it a thrilling drive! From the road, you look across Hout Bay at the majestic Sentinel Peak in the distance, which is beautifully framed at sunset every evening. Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most thrilling roads anywhere and is this day trip!

Vegetation in the Table Mountain National Park
The protected flora of the region

Nearly the entire drive falls within the Table Mountain National Park – an 85 square mile area covering most of the peninsula. The area also falls into the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being such a small area, over 20% of the entire flora biodiversity on the continent of Africa is crammed into this small area, including the protected Fynbos plants (the bushes with small leaves that dot the hillside).

View of ocean from the Cape Point Lighthouse
Looking down from the lighthouse

In school, we learned that the Cape of Good Hope is the most southern point in Africa. When the early mariners rounded this rocky outcropping, they started heading north to warmer weather. This is also the place where the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean meet. Unfortunately, it’s all wrong.

The most southern point in Africa is Cape Agulhas, which is where the cold Atlantic Ocean (Benguela Current) and the warmer Indian Ocean (Agulhas Current) meet. However, in the 1400s and 1500s, mariners believed otherwise because Agulhas is less impressive.

Wooden sign saying Cape of Good Hope, the most South-Western Point of the African Continent

The Cape Peninsula includes the rugged, impressive knife-edged Cape Point and the more understated Cape of Good Hope. The latter is slightly further south (34.3581° S) than the former (34.3572° S), even though the opposite appears to be true.

Visitors can hike up to the Cape Point Lighthouse for stunning views of the ocean and the Table Mountain National Park. For those less inclined to hike, the modern Flying Dutchman Funicular whisks visitors nearly 300 vertical feet up the mountain in under three minutes. From the top of the funicular, it is a short 10 minute walk up to the lighthouse. The stairs to climb up can be quite steep and narrow.

The Flying Dutchman Funicular to the lighthouse at Cape Point
The Flying Dutchman Funicular

The Cape of Good Hope was a slight detour on the way out of the park. Driving out to the spot, we saw wild ostriches foraging along the hillside. Despite being the most southwestern point in all of Africa, a single sign marks its importance. You won’t find any gift shops or snack kiosks here!

Pulling in, we found a small parking and simple wooden sign marking the location’s significance. As the sea crashed against the rocks, we could almost imagine what those early mariners must have felt passing by this spot.

The Cape of Good Hope
View from the Cape Point Lighthouse

Heading back to Cape Town, most visitors head east along the M4 route, which hugs the coast of the Great White Shark-infested False Bay. We didn’t see any Great White Sharks, but we did see…PENGUINS!

African Penguin and a "Baby Blue" Chick at Boulders Beach
African Penguin and a “Baby Blue” Chick

Just off the M4 at Boulders Beach, visitors can get up close to endangered African Penguins. In 1982, four penguins found their way to this beach and never left. Today, there are over 2,200 African Penguins at the Boulders. Walking along fenced off paths, we were able to get within feet to the penguin nests and the young “baby blue” chicks in their natural habitat.

We spent about an hour watching the parents feed the chicks and herd them in groups on the beach. Occasionally, a daring seagull would land on the beach, only to be chased off by several of the watchful parents. The African Penguins are beautiful to look at, but not to smell. The stench is rather powerful, but we were blessed with a nice breeze!

The African Penguins at Boulders Beach and a seagull

From Boulders Beach, the M4 hugs the coast through the towns of Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek on the way back to the city. Many of the local beaches along this stretch cater to surfers and water enthusiasts.

However, no drive of the Cape Point Route would be complete without a visit to a winery. Quite fortunately, the route ends in the Constantia wine region. What better way to end a Cape Town day trip than a glass of South Africa’s finest?

While there are a number of great wineries in Constantia, we chose the Steenberg Winery, located on Cape Town’s oldest farm. We did a little wine sampling, settled into the Bistro 1682, enjoyed a glass of Shiraz and sampled the tapas, while reflecting on the beauty of the day.

Bottles and wine glasses at Steenberg Winery in Constantia
Wine tasting at Steenberg

We almost skipped the peninsula in favor of something else in Cape Town – and that would have been a serious mistake. While this peninsula is not the most southern point in Africa, it is a place of stunning, rugged beauty. Of all our time in Africa, this was one of the surprising highlights.

Eucalyptus flora
The flora along the route

Cape Point Route Visitor Information

Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope

Overseen by South African National Parks. Hours: 06:00-18:00 October-March; 07:00-17:00 April-September. Restaurant and restroom facilities available at the Cape Point parking lot. No facilities at Cape of Good Hope.

Flying Dutchman Funicular

Hours: 09:30-18:00 summer; 09:30-17:00 winter.

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Hours: 08:00-18:30 summer; 08:00-17:00 winter.

Here are few more photos:

Sign at the summit of Cape Point pointing in the direction of cities around the world
Sign at the summit of Cape Point
Sign saying Table Mountain National Park, Warning, Please look under your vehicle for penguins
Rock painted with a stenciled portrait of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela graffiti
Wild ostriches foraging on a hillside
Wild ostriches
Chapman's Peak Drive on the Cape Point Route
Chapman’s Peak Drive

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Shannon Kircher

Sunday 8th of May 2016

Gorgeous pictures! Heading there this fall and can't even wait for these beautiful views and whale watching season, especially in spring with the flowers in bloom!


Tuesday 21st of October 2014

What an absolutely stunning route! The flora is gorgeous. So jealous you saw so many penguins :)


Sunday 19th of October 2014

Isn't this just the most gorgeous drive anywhere? The landscape, the bluest of blue ocean, the African sun, and of course the penguins... Did you see the baboons, too?

Laura Longwell

Sunday 19th of October 2014

The drive is great. We were lucky to avoid the baboons on this part of the journey, but we saw plenty elsewhere.

Claire @ ZigZag On Earht

Wednesday 1st of October 2014

Some of those shots are so funny: the rail, the road sign to check under the car. But I really like the one with the beautiful laying tree.

Murray Clark

Wednesday 24th of September 2014

Drove this route in 2012 when in Africa for 2 months between Cape Town and Nairobi, and it is a stunning day out of Cape Town. Have been to Cape Agulhas, the most southern tip of Africa, but not as scenic as this route, but worth going for the experience. You can see many photos of our Africa trip, including one month on safari between Johannesburg and Nairobi, as well as over 8,000 photos from around 80 countries all over the world.

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