Table Mountain NP – Cape Town
If you watched any of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, then you’re probably familiar with Table Mountain, the aptly named peak that towers over the city of Cape Town. While this is the most prominent feature of Table Mountain National Park, the park actually stretches from north to south encompassing 85 square miles of land along the mountainous Cape Peninsula. The park is seamlessly intertwined with the city of Cape Town which is easily one of the most naturally beautiful settings for a major city in the world. Officially established as a national park in 1998, the park is currently managed by SAN Parks and each section of the park has its own entrance fee. If you plan on visiting several sections of Table Mountain NP and possibly some other national parks in South Africa, it could be worth it to buy the Wild Card, which provides unlimited access to all South African parks of a year.
It’s hard to miss Table Mountain if you’re spending time in Cape Town. There are numerous hiking trails to the 3,558-foot summit which can easily be completed in a half-day, or there is the option of taking the cableway to the top. If you plan on taking the cableway, be sure to book tickets in advance, as this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and the lines can get out of control. Assuming that the weather cooperates, the views from the summit will be breathtaking.
Lion’s Head is the second most recognizable mountain in Cape Town. At 2,195 feet, it makes for a much shorter hike than Table Mountain, but still provides some amazing views from the top. You can very easily complete the round-trip hike in less than 2 hours.
If you don’t want to spend half your day hiking or waiting in line for the cableway up Table Mountain, then Signal Hill is an easy alternative. There is a road that leads to the summit, allowing visitors to experience the stunning views without having to exert themselves physically or wait in line. Standing 1,150-feet, it is much smaller than Table Mountain, but its proximity to both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head makes it an excellent viewpoint with incredible views of both neighboring peaks as well as the city below. The mountain is also sometimes referred to as “Lion’s Rump” which, quite frankly, is a much better name.
The penguins of Boulders Beach were the highlight of the national park for us. Located about 45 minutes south of Cape Town in the town of Simon’s Town, the “Boulders” section of Table Mountain National Park allows you to get up close and personal with a colony of African penguins who have called the beach home since 1982. A series of boardwalks provides access to the edge of the main beach where the penguins congregate (“Foxy Beach”); however, people are not permitted to walk on this particular beach. The beach that is actually named “Boulders Beach” is just south of Foxy Beach and people are allowed to walk on the sand and even swim in the water with the penguins just a few feet away.
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is best known for being the most southwestern point on the African continent. Located at the end of the peninsula, the landscape on the Cape of Good Hope is rugged and beautiful, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who are drawn by the plentiful opportunities for hiking, biking and surfing. Wildlife is also abundant, and the odds are good that you’ll encounter ostriches, baboons, eland, and maybe even zebra.
When to Visit
While it never really gets “cold’, November-April are the warmest and driest months to visit Table Mountain National Park. If you go during the rainier months, Table Mountain is more likely to be shrouded in clouds, making the views from the summit nonexistent. If this is the case, you’re probably better off just driving up Signal Hill or possibly hiking Lion’s Head. Regardless, Table Mountain National Park is an amazing place to visit any time of year. We visited in September, and while we did get some rain, the main attractions were less crowded than they would have been during peak season and the weather was overall comfortable.