Most Charming Coastal Villages near Cape Town
With some of the most beautiful beaches in the world within its city limits, why would anyone ever need to leave Cape Town? I can name you five good reasons right here. There are countless towns throughout the Western Cape, along both the Atlantic Ocean as well as False Bay, with unique character and distinct flavor. Some, like Kalk Bay and Hout Bay, are known for buzzing seafront promenades packed with fish-and-chips stands all through the summer; others, like Hermanus and Gordon’s Bay, come alive in the winter—Hermanus during whale season, thanks to its role as “whale-watching capital of the world,” and Gordon’s Bay with its popular winter festival. Then there’s Paternoster, a quiet whitewashed oasis that has a reputation for being one of the region’s oldest fishing villages, as well as a huge density of world-class seafood restaurants. Easily accessible from Cape Town, these waterfront villages are worth the drive.
A 20-minute drive from the heart of Cape Town deposits you in the Republic of Hout Bay—feisty locals began selling "passports" to the village, and legend says one enterprising traveler went around the world on his Hout Bay documents. Unsurprisingly, this town has a ton of character. Spend a weekend afternoon eating fish and chips on the waterfront and browsing through Bay Harbour Market.
This popular seaside village on False Bay is a fun place to go antiquing, gallery hopping, and, of course, eating: the original branch of the popular Harbour House seafood restaurant is perched right above the water. Another neighborhood institution is Olympia Café & Deli, which serves some of the best ciabbatas and danishes in the Western Cape.
Just 45 minutes from the city, this busy beach town also comes alive in the cooler months, thanks to its Winter Wonderland Festival of Lights in June and July. Revelers brave the chill for parades, markets, and food fairs. When in town, don't miss Bikini Beach Books, my favorite bookstore in the country: a rambling old house where every room and corridor is piled high with used tomes.
The name Paternoster comes from Latin for Our Father—supposedly the prayer cried out by Portuguese fishermen who were shipwrecked offshore. These days, it's a quick getaway for Capetonians, who drive 90 minutes for its quiet beaches and fabulous clutch of restaurants. It's also home to one of my favorite little hotels in South Africa, the chic Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
If you're in Cape Town between June and October, make sure you add this detour to your itinerary. In those months, it's a hotbed of activity for the southern right whale, which converge on the ocean to mate and calve. You can spot the whales from any of the charming restaurants along the waterfront — Bientang's Cave is a local favorite.