Cape Town is one of the only cities in the world that has a huge national park that practically straddles across the entire city. Originating from north of Cape Town it stretches across the Peninsula to Cape Point. A natural world heritage site, and a Natural New 7 Wonder of the World, the park encompass beaches, forests, waterfalls, ravines and its topped with the magnificent iconic Table Mountain. You can hike in it, climb in it, cycle in it, swim in it, surf it, camp in it and even see Penguins in it, at Boulders Beach. It is so intertwined with the geography of the City of Cape Town that in parts it borders residential properties. It is awash with flora, with 8200 plant species, to put that into perspective the whole off the UK has less than 1500 plant species. In addition to the penguins the park is home to baboons, antelopes, eland, caracals, dassies and quaggas. It’s very popular with hikers and local favourites include a full moon hike up Lion’s Head, Silvermine to the Elephant’s Eye Cave and Platteklip Gorge, the quickest and easiest hike up Table Mountain. Although private camping is banned in the park, there are many accommodation options ranging from budget overnight basic huts to tented camps right through to more plush cottages.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, or just simply Kirstenbosch as it called in Cape Town, is seen as one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the word. With a spectacular mountain backdrop, its rolling lawns, gardens and extensive range of flora and fauna extend over 36 hectares of serene parklands. With an emphasis on biodiversity Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants on its grounds With a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, a protea garden, a cycad amphitheatre complete with life size models of dinosaurs and a meandering 160 metre long tree canopy walkway, Kirstenbosch is designed for serendipitous walks of discovery. Or if you’d prefer a more planned approach there is free guided tours throughout the day. It’s the perfect park to spend a day meandering, contemplating and of course with lots of stopping to smell the flowers. Its lawns are made for picture perfect picnicking, though if you feel like being pampered there is a number of eateries and tea rooms to choose from. You can even buy a ready made picnic hamper to take to the lawns. For some Eco-friendly retail therapy there is also a garden centre, a book shop and a gift shop on site. Every Sunday in Summer Kirstenbosch plays host to sundowner concerts which are truly magical experiences and a must-do while you’re in Cape Town.
The Company Gardens founded in 1652 is the oldest formal garden in South Africa. It was created by the first European settlers to grow fresh produce for the blossoming shipping trade that was stopping off in the newly formed port of Cape Town. The “Company” in the gardens refers to the Dutch East Indian Company who were the de facto owners of the settlement of Cape Town. Initially it was used primarily for growing vegetables, but over time trees, shrubs and flowers were added making it one of the most celebrated gardens in the world of its time. Due to its location near the CBD, the park is an urban oasis for city workers needing a break from the rat race. At lunch times the garden comes alive with impromptu picnickers. The garden’s main thoroughfare, the oak lined Government Avenue offers the opportunity for a wonderful shady amble or the chance to stop and feed the friendly squirrels who scurry with joyful abandon across the gardens. If you feeling just a tad more active and want to make a day of it with your family, The Company Gardens is home to the National Museum of South African, the South African National Gallery, Cape Town Cathedral and a Planetarium. There is regular crafts markets in the gardens and a delightful tea room with a terrace if you forgot to pack your own lunch.
“Parks and playgrounds are the soul of a city.” Marty Rubin
As it has an abundance of beaches and a mountain slap bang in the middle of the city, Cape Town’s proximity to nature is one of its most appealing characteristics. Even with this array of nature on its doorstep, parks are the lungs of a city. A place to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life, to take a timeout, to relax, chill and breathe. With over 5000 hectares of clean, safe and accessible city-run open spaces from Claremont to Woodstock and from Durbanville to Mitchells Plain, you are never too far from a park in Cape Town. Due to the inequities of the past, the townships are somewhat lacking in the green space department though the excellent Khayelitsha Wetlands Park demonstrates that the City of Cape Town is making a serious effort to rectify past omissions. Every park as its own charms from the pick-up soccer games in Sea Point to outdoor spray cooling in Valhalla Park to jogging around the exquisite Green Point Urban Park in the shade of Cape Town Stadium. Whether you want to throw a frisbee, savour a picnic or simply chill out with a good book, you can be assured Cape Town has a park for you.
“The Globe” of Cape Town, which has been serving up Shakespearean theatre under starlit heavens since the first showing of The Taming of the Shrew (29 January 1956), is another one of those local things you do not want to neglect. Set inside a lush park in Wynberg, the annual "Shakespeare-in-the-Park" is a whole new way to experience theatre, without air-conditioning, house lights, or an auditorium.
The venue seats 720 people and we would advise that you take a blanket, it does get a bit chilly towards the end of the evening. There is a small kiosk where you can pick up snacks, hot chocolate and coffee/tea and it’s run by the local Rotary club.
In terms of local attractions “Some are born great, others achieve greatness” and this one has done both. The venue has been amazing from the beginning, and the unrelenting passion of the theatre practitioners that perform and direct here, have made it fantastic. This year they are putting on “Twelfth Night”, one of Shakespeare’s best known plays, from the 17th January until Saturday, 25 February 2017.
Short Synopsis: In Twelfth Night Orsino courts the Countess Olivia. Shipwrecked Viola disguises herself and takes on the name Cesario, and enters the Duke’s service. By the end, Viola and the Duke are married, and Olivia weds a man named Sebastian.
After the interest in our post on the Green Point Urban Park we decided to elaborate a little and have put together a little cross section of some of our favourite parks in and around Cape Town, which is not only surrounded by nature, but infiltrated by it too ☺
The Blue Train Park
The Green Point / Mouille Point promenade is incredibly popular amongst joggers, strollers, walkers, children and dogs, and this 7 kilometer stretch of ocean-side green belt has been the home of the miniature blue train for over 50 years. Having previously fallen into disrepair, the Sea Point Rotary Club has been instrumental in resuscitating the park and area, as well as ensuring that the proceeds from the (already very inexpensive) admission fee go towards well deserving charities for small children and mentally challenged adults. Pack a picnic, enjoy the lawn, the view and the train rides (there are plans in the pipeline to include a small tea garden on the grounds).
Location: Mouille Point Beachfront, Mouille Point, Cape Town
Times: Open daily from 09h00 until sunset, weather permitting
Phone: + 27 (0)84 314-9200
Perched at the top of Vredehoek overlooking the Cape Town city bowl, you will find Deer Park Café in the Rocklands Road Park, a community maintained public park with extensive playground apparatus for children. Inside and outside seating is available in this naturally stylish café, with big bay windows allowing you an easy view of your children while they play. The menu revolves seasonally and ensures that only the freshest of ingredients are plated, make sure to keep an eye on the daily blackboard menu. Also, keep some space for dessert, the café is known for its cakes and generous portions.
Another community maintained Public Park close to the heart of Cape Town is De Waal Park. Sporting a restored Victorian fountain and several roundabout paths to stretch your legs on, this park also plays host to free music concerts in the evenings over summer. Joggers, dog walkers, slackliners and children all love this park for its lushness, space and easy access, truly an oasis in the city.
There is no entry fee to the park although donations to ‘Friends of De Waal Park’ are welcome.
Location: Gardens / Oranjezicht, City Bowl, Cape Town
Grab your sunscreen and your hat, you’ve been indulging in all the finer things that Cape Town has to offer, now it’s time to pay some of that decadence forward :-) Bring the kids, there is something for every age at the Green Point Urban Park. Tucked between the Cape Town Stadium grounds and the lighthouse marking the border between Green and Mouille Point the park is a truly South African take on a European style common. Rolling green lawns, outdoor exercise equipment, a massive biodiversity garden, several play areas with all kinds of things for kids to climb on, run around in and crawl over. The park is divided into three areas, People & Plants, Wetlands, and Discovering Biodiversity, with many information boards that make the stroll informative as well as beautiful. The fact that all the water you see comes directly from springs and rivers on top of Table Mountain only adds to the magic. Seeing as you’ve done your bit to burn some calories, maybe you could allow yourself a little reward, perhaps in the form of an ice-cream? The Creamery Café in Mouille Point is artisanal ice cream at its finest. Try the classics, such as the Sea Salt Caramel or the Rosetta Roastery Coffee flavours, and pop over the road to have a look at the last remnants of the RMS Athens which was wrecked on these rocks on the 17###sup/sup### of May 1865.