Monday, October 26, 2009

The South Peninsula of Cape Town

The South Peninsula of Cape Town

Visitors seeking holiday accommodation in Cape Town are often confused when the locals talk about the Southern Suburbs and the South Peninsula. Let me try and clarify these two small regions for you.

The southern suburbs of Cape Town are those which stretch from the city towards the coast of Muizenberg; diverse and interesting, but away from the undoubted attractions of the beaches. The South Peninsula is one of the most popular holiday regions in the Western Cape, and stretches from Muizenberg on the False Bay coast through to Simonstown, and around the Atlantic seaboard towards Cape Point from where the road meanders through typical beach side villages; Scarborough, Kommetjie and Noordhoek. In the South Peninsula the visitor will find a series of charming coastal towns all of which have quite a significant history and all of which have undoubted attraction for those who are seeking a relaxed coastal lifestyle. Here you can find an almost limitless choice of beach holiday accommodation , from self catering, bed and breakfast to the most upmarket guesthouses. Don't be surprised if you find the people, both young and old or walking barefoot in the town in their baggies, as the area is truly laid-back.

Muizenberg has a long history of popularity for beach holidays and was extremely popular in Victorian times although it deteriorated during the 70’s-90’s, but it is rapidly revitalising itself. It has village charm but you will also find seafront mansions built by wealthy Victorian businessmen. The beach is long with a shallow slope and ever rolling waves, making it very popular with both swimmers and surfers alike. You are most likely to find the cheapest holiday accommodation in this suburb. Along the beach at surfer’s corner you will find beautifully restored Victorian shops and apartments together with cheerful and inexpensive restaurants where you can breakfast or lunch while watching the surfers at play.
The pretty stone built Edwardian era railway station building at Muizenberg is a notable attraction, and accommodates both a popular restaurant and several antique shops.
From this station one can take the train down the Southern line which follows the coast of False Bay through the suburbs to Simonstown. Visitors will find this an interesting and relaxing diversion and your kids will love looking out over the sea and the tidal pools from the train window.

Rubbing shoulders with Muizenberg is exclusive St James, with Mansions and luxury holiday homes facing directly toward False Bay along a stretch which is known as millionaire’s mile. Visitors will undoubtedly have seen many pictures and postcards of the beautiful tidal pool with its brightly coloured bathing boxes at St James, as it is a favoured subject for many photographers. Here you will also find the historic cottage of Cecil John Rhodes which is open to the public as a museum.

Once you pass through you are sure to be enchanted by the historic fishing town of Kalk Bay ; so named because of the lime extracted from sea shells and used for the construction of buildings in the 1800’s. The main road of this little suburb is lined with charming Victorian shops with apartments above and has become notable not only for its unconventional and Bohamian lifestyle but also as a browsing destination for antiques , crafts and art galleries for both locals and visitors. On weekends, winter and summer, you will find it busy, although never too crowded. There are many good restaurants in the area; probably the most notable of which is the Brass Bell, situated on the sea side of the station, and which has been near for decades, becoming something of an institution. It has a selection of dining areas all of which have great views of the sea. My personal favourite is to dine in the deck area where you can eat with the waves breaking alongside. Kalk bay remains a working fishing harbour and you will find a visit to the small harbour interesting, where you might be able to buy fresh fish from the boats. In the harbour are a few upmarket restaurants, but you can also stand in line with the locals to sit on benches and eat at Kalky’s Fish ‘n Chips which is reputed to have the best in Cape Town

Around the corner is Fish Hoek which is best known as the only town in the Western Cape where the sale of liquor is not allowed. Latterly, it has permitted a few licensed restaurants and pubs. Although most of the South Peninsula became inhabited early on by settlers, it seems strange that this town with its beautiful, sheltered beach was only laid out as a township in 1918 and has very little of historic value. You should not be put off by this, however, because there is a long stretch of white sand across this sheltered bay which is an ideal bathing spot for families, young surfers, and safe for children. There is a concrete walkway that follows the shore for a long distance and makes both a pleasant walk as well as an opportunity to watch the whales when they appear in September to November for mating and calving.

Historic Simonstown is the last real town on the False Bay side, gained its name from the Dutch Governor, Simon van der Stel who personally surveyed False Bay in 1687 and recommended it as a sheltered safe alternative anchorage to Table Bay in winter. The main road of Simonstown, St George’s street, is known as “historic mile” and one can have an interesting walk admiring the selection of beautiful buildings; some of which date to the Dutch period in the 18 th century, but most of which were only built from when the British took occupation in 1806. During the days of the British Royal Navy there were many hotels in the main street and most of these historic buildings have now been converted into holiday accommodation. Simonstown’s business fathers have been very successful in attracting tourists, because of the interesting town centre and the wonderful beaches and the naval base. Sometimes it can be a little too popular as the tour buses offload the masses for a break and a bit of shopping en route to Cape Point. There are some interesting museums here, including the Simonstown Museum which is based in the old magistrates residence, dating back to about 1777; the Naval museum and the Heritage Museum. Explore also the historic small Muslim area above Jubilee Square, the town centre.

The beaches of Simonstown are generally sheltered from wave action both by the little bays and also large boulders off the shore, making this an ideal spot for families who would like their children to be able to swim and play in safety. Very few have not seen pictures or heard of the cute African penguins that now inhabit one of the best beaches, which is boulders Beach, just outside of the town. Until a short while ago it was possible to swim alongside the penguins that took over the beach in 1985, but now one will have to be content to admire them from the walk that skirts the beach.

Along the road from Simonstown to Cape Point you will see a few dotted beach cottages, some so far from the road as it climbs towards the point that you wonder how people get done to them.

From here there is a coastal road which is truly spectacular and passes through Scarborough, which is a genuine beach cottage village, popular with retirees and those who can afford to have a weekend home close to the city. You will have plenty of time to admire the sea and the beautiful beaches as you drive along the coast, before spotting the lighthouse at Slangkop, which towers above another seaside village, called Kommetjie. This village, apart from being known as a good spot for catching crayfish, is extremely popular with surfers who like to ride its rolling waves. Long Beach stretches from this village right across the bay to the last town of the South Peninsula, which is Noordhoek.

Noordhoek is quite different from any of the towns that I have described. It was originally a farming settlement occupied from about the 1700s, growing fruit and vegetables for the naval settlement in Simonstown. Over the past few decades it has grown considerably in size but properties here tend to be much larger than the average for Cape Town, as it is still deemed to be agricultural. Plot sizes average 1-2 acres, with the result that it is popular for those who keep and ride horses and the only town that I had seen which has special road crossings- not for pedestrians -but for horses. You will find many attractions here- restaurants, galleries and the like, and because of the size of the properties many owners have more than one building on their properties; the choice of holiday accommodation here is extensive both in range and in price. There are some exclusive and very expensive lodges, B’n B’s and guest houses, but you will also find affordable self catering cottages such as Horizon Holiday Cottages where you and your family will feel at home in the ideal location to explore those wonderful and interesting area.
Not for nothing is Noordhoek known as cape Town's best kept secret destination
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1 comment:

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