15 Aug
2012

Free Access to Table Mountain National park, and others in September

The people of greater Cape Town have often complained about the prohibitive pricing of the recreation spots in the Table Mountain National Park , as well as other national parks that makes it difficult for those who live in our beautiful city to appreciate its natural resources. One of the most beautiful picnic, braai and swimming spots is situated at Buffels Bay in the Cape Point nature reserve. Here are rolling lawns, barbecue

Buffels bay beach Cape Point Nature reserve

pits, and a beautiful white sand beach along with an expansive tidal pool; but at almost any time of the year it is all but deserted because tourists do not usually visit Cape Point for the beach, but for the spectacular views and the lighthouse. It is sad that this ideal family recreation spot is beyond the reach of many of the local people owing to the entrance cost of R85 per adult to the reserve.

Some good news is that South African National Parks has announced the 2012 South African National Parks Week with free access to all South African citizens will be launched on Monday, 10th September 2012.  SAN Parks Acting Head of Communications: Paul Daphne, who announced the week long campaign will be giving free access to the national parks from 10th to 14th September 2012. This will be applicable to all the national parks managed by SAN Parks, with the exception of Boulders Beach in Table Mountain National Park and the Namaqua National Park. Table Mountain National Park (excluding Boulders) is extending SA National Parks week until Saturday 15 September 2012 .

According to Mr Daphne this focus week on national parks was first promoted in 2006 after the SAN Parks Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda, recognised that the vast majority of South Africans were not accessing the national parks. He then embarked on a campaign to encourage all South Africans, especially those from the communities around the parks, to share in what SAN Parks envisions as ‘connecting to society’.  He further noted that the objective of SA National Parks Week is to cultivate a sense of understanding and pride in South Africans, of their natural, cultural and historical heritage; which is the basis for the established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’, and has proved to be a successful campaign in terms of education and awareness of conservation issues.

This free access is granted to all South African day visitors on presentation of their official Identity Documents. Young persons under the age of 16 will be allowed free access without the requirement of proof of identity. It must be noted that the free access to the parks will not include any commercial activities in the park such as guided safaris in vehicles or guided walks, etc.

“Environmental education and protection is the responsibility of everyone, not just a privileged few. If we are to create a sense of ownership of the natural heritage of South Africa in all South Africans, then all South Africans must be able to have access to such,” said Daphne.

For more information see the website : http://www.sanparks.org/

 

 

2 Aug
2012

Cape Town’s safe tidal bathing pools

Visitors to Cape Town in the summer, traveling with their families, like to take the children to beaches where there is safe bathing. Around the False Bay coast of Cape Town, which has warmer waters than that of the Atlantic, there are a number of tidal pools enclosed by stone walls,  but refreshed by the ocean,  which offer protected and safe bathing for children. Most of these are well maintained by the city as part of its drive to improve Cape Town tourism. Here is information about these pools; all of which are within a short drive from our self-catering accommodation.

St James Pool: This much photographed tidal pool and beach with its brightly coloured Victorian era bathing boxes is one of the most popular in Cape Town. It is a large pool, but for most of its length it is quite shallow making it ideal for small ones to enjoy running and splashing in the sea. The pool is surrounded by a relatively low wall, which keeps the water refreshed, but keeps children safe from the waves and there is no danger from shark!  Next to the pool are plenty of rocks with little tidal pools to explore, full of marine treasures which will keep the kids

Famous bathing huts

Famous bathing huts

occupied for hours when not swimming. There is a nice wide sand beach too for the adults and for sunbathing, but St James is very popular on weekends and holidays so it would be best to arrive early if you want to spend the day here. There are toilets, showers and changing rooms at the beach, which is approached by a beautifully maintained subway from the main road just before St James station. Now that the upgrade of the main road has been completed up to Kalk Bay, there is plenty of hassle free parking.

A pleasant diversion for all of the family could be the walkway along the shore between St James and the beach at Muizenberg  offering an enjoyable  meander where one can admire not only the ocean but a range of beautiful , historic buildings facing the sea along what is known as millionaires’ mile.

Dalebrook Pool : is a little further on the main road before one gets to Kalk Bay, and is not as well-known to visitors from outside of Cape Town. This is a really nice pool for the little ones as it is expansive,  but generally quite shallow,  with a bottom that is more flat rock than sand. Dalebrook pool is also surrounded by a stone wall, low enough for the waves to break over the end and keep the pool clean. If taking the children, be sure to let them take their goggles and snorkels because there are plenty of little fish and marine plants in the tidal pool that will keep them amazed. Unfortunately there is not much of the beach at this pool and parents will have to sit on the rocks or the concrete benches provided. Access to the beach is through a well maintained subway under the railway line from the Main road, opposite Dalebrook Road, and there is usually parking available except at the busiest of times. Toilets, a shower and changing room are available, and it is close enough to Kalk Bay should you need to purchase refreshments or snacks.

 Woolley Pool is something of a hidden gem, as it is not easily spotted from the road. Access is from the main road through a subway under the railway line just before Clovelly, on the way to Fish Hoek. It is quite a small pool; making it ideal for children and there is a small grassed area for relaxing or picnicking, with spectacular views across the bay to Simonstown. Unfortunately the promenade where one could previously park has been closed off pending the reconstruction as part of the main road upgrading which is due to be completed before the end of 2013. One could park lower down in the main road or at the fishing harbour in Kalk Bay and walk to the pool in about 10 minutes.

Glencairn Pool: Glencairn beach  is a lovely white sandy beach, lying  between the popular family beaches of Fish Hoek and Simonstown,  that somehow seems not to have been discovered by the masses,even in season,  and here too is a large walled tidal pool with safe swimming and

plenty of lawn area. The tidal pool is found a little further up from the beach on the main road.  Although one can approach the pool from the beach; there is parking on the main road between the beach and the station and access gained via a subway to the tidal pool. This beach and tidal pool may be reached within 5 minutes via Black Hill Road coming from our affordable Noordhoek holiday accommodation. Glencairn tidal pool

 

 

 

 

Miller’s Point has a caravan park, boat launching site and a magnificent tidal pool, situated on the road between Simonstown and Cape Point. It is less popular and not as well-known as many of the other pools, probably because of the distance that one has to travel, but it has a really great tidal pool for children, surrounded by expansive green lawns on which the adults can relax, and a large number of braai (bbq) pits. There are changing cubicles and well maintained toilets, although the whole area shows signs of inadequate maintenance. Miller’s Point has been identified by the Cape Town City Council for redevelopment and                                               Milers Point tidal pool

improvement and consultation is currently taking place with stakeholders,  so one can expect future improvements. Although there is not much of a beach here, there are quite a number of small sandy coves where you could enjoy a private family picnic. GPS coordinates : S25.74446 E028.21735

 

Boulders Beach at Simonstown is not actually a tidal pool, but it is a beautifully sheltered little beach with shallow waters , gently sloping sands, surrounded by massive boulders which enclose and protect the beach from wind, waves and even predators. Children will enjoy bathing here because it is located in the sanctuary for the African Penguins who share the beach and the water with the bathers. Most of the Cape Town beaches are free to enter, but the entry fee payable at Boulders  contributes to the cost of running the Penguin sanctuary and information centre, and keeps the numbers down. It is not only a great spot for the kids to bathe in safety, but they will have hours of fun climbing the boulders as well as ducking beneath them to get to the coves on the other side. It is a very popular beach and crowded at weekends and holidays, so it is best to arrive early as numbers are limited in order to preserve the peace of the penguins

    

1 Aug
2012

10 Best picnic spots of Cape Town

Everyone loves Cape Town, but in the summer the blue skies and sunny skies beckon both visitors on holiday in Cape Town and locals to enjoy planning a romantic picnic for two, or an outing for the whole family. Cape Town’s stunning scenery presents many opportunities for a relaxing outdoor meal to be enjoyed in the most pleasant surroundings.  Here is a list of 10 beautiful picnic spots where one can enjoy a picnic or a barbecue known to all in South Africa as a “braai”, and best of all, within a short drive from our Noordhoek self-catering accommodation. If you are willing to pay for a gourmet picnic, there are many more choices on the wine farms both in Constantia or further afield. We have, however,  chosen these spots because they allow you to pack your own picnic basket and cooler box economically with your favourite eats and drinks.

Silvermine Nature Reserve

The Silvermine reserve is part of the Table Mountain National park, and is just a few minutes’ drive from our Noordhoek self-catering Cape Town accommodation. At the top of the mountain road is a clearly marked National Parks sign denoting the entrance to the Silvermine reservoir trail. There is a nominal entrance fee, but toilet facilities are provided at the parking area. A pleasant and easy walk to the Silvermine reservoir will be sure to enjoyed by the whole family, along a trail that winds through indigenous flora and even a small forest, alongside a bubbling stream with boardwalks to cross the stream, until the trail circles the wall of the pretty dam, where the cool, clean blue waters may entice you to enjoy a swim on a warm day. Along the walk up to the dam you will enjoy spectacular  views across False Bay.There are a number picnic benches and tables made out of stone set in shady glades where one can picnic or make use of the braai (bbq) pits.

Tokai Forest Picnic Area

Situated on the edge of the Tokai forest is a spacious picnic site shaded by pine trees, set in the beautiful Constantia valley. There is ample space for families and for kids to run and play; as well as walking trails through the forest. Tokai forest is a close forest of tall pine trees, and, indigenous forest, as well as Cape Fynbos; an ideal spot for weekend family picnics. There is a nominal entrance fee payable.  Thoughtfully provided are concrete picnic tables and stools offering lovely shaded Al  Fresco dining enjoyment  as well as bbq (braai) pits, and a convenient ablution block. Just a little further up Tokai Rd as you leave the picnic area,  you will find the beautiful Tokai Manor House, with its unusual rectangular pediment dating back to about 1795; and which now houses the national parks board in Cape Town.    Tokai forest picnic

The Tokai Forest reserve also contains hiking and biking trails which are accessed through Orpen Rd that runs through the forest to Constantia,  but the picnic area is accessed from the top of Tokai road; pass through the traffic circle and you will find the entrance on your right

Chapman’s Peak Drive

A short drive down the road from our Noordhoek accommodation is Chapman’s Peak Drive, which is undoubtedly Cape Town’s most spectacular coastal scenic drive. It presents many opportunities for great photography,  with the road skirting the rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean far below, while hugging the slopes of the mountain. Chapman’s Peak drive hugs the rocky coastline to Hout Bay and offers magnificent views from the white sand beach of Noordhoek to the sheltered bay nestling under the imposing Karbonkelberg, which is Hout Bay. Along the drive you will find a number of designated picnic spots, on either side of the road; each equipped with concrete tables and benches, and some with braai (bbq) pits.  Romantic cape town picnic spots

Some will be tucked under sheltering trees and some open to the sun looking across the bay, but most of are situated on spectacular view spots, and at least one next to a bubbling waterfall. These are lovely secluded spots to enjoy your picnic and, if you plan it for the late afternoon, you will be rewarded with one of the spectacular sunsets enjoyed almost every evening on this western side of the peninsula as the sun sinks into the sea.

 

Perdekloof Picnic Site and Wildschutsbrand

Travelling from Noordhoek south along the Peninsula through Kommetjie to Cape Point, are 2 large shaded picnic spots located in a sheltered growth of pine trees at the foot of the mountain, just after the beach village of Scarborough. Wildschutsbrand  is the larger and is open all year round whilst Perdekloof is closed during the winter months. There are numerous concrete tables and benches;  well spaced out to avoid crowding and well maintained braai (barbeque) facilities  at both. Perdekloof offers a great opportunity to enjoy that “away from it all” feeling, whilst being easily accessible. Right opposite the picnic area is the mountain road to Simonstown which offers spectacular views of False bay, and an open air showroom with great opportunities to purchase stone African carvings from the local people. Entrance to these picnic sites is free.

Cape Point Nature reserve

In the Cape Point Park are picnic spots at both Buffels Bay and Bordjiesdrif on the Atlantic side, with clean white sand beaches, tidal pools, and lovely grassed picnic and braai spots which make it ideal for a family outing. Buffels Bay is often preferred for swimming because it enjoys the warmer waters of False Bay. Cape Point nature reserve presents an opportunity to view the mighty meeting of the oceans at Cape point, the high cliffs above the sea, and a variety of wild animals including baboons, Cape Mountain Zebra and various antelope. There are many other bird and animal species and some 1,100 species of ‘fynbos’ (Cape indigenous flora) The reserve is open between 6am to 6 pm in the summer months,  but  be warned on 2 counts: The entrance fees are steep by any standard and you are may  have to share have your picnic with the baboons.

Simonstown

Seaforth beach is an ideal venue for a family picnic; it has sloping green lawns that overlook the sheltered bathing beach, enabling parents to keep an eye on the little ones at play. The beach is sheltered from waves by massive rocks and offers safe swimming for kids. Entrance to the beach is free. There is a good restaurant at Seaforth Beach, with lovely views from their deck.

Boulders Beach, a little further on, was recently voted the best family beach in the world by a leading UK journal. Here, too, is a safe sheltered beach, nestled amongst the massive boulders for which the beach is named. The whole family will enjoy strolling along the boardwalk past the penguin colony where the cute black and white birds waddle along the beach or swim in the waves. This is a pay beach to limit the numbers. Further on the road to Cape Point one will find a delightful small beach at Froggy Pond ; situated right next to the road opposite the Fresh Air camp, where green lawns invite one to unpack a picnic and enjoy the sound of the waves and the fresh air, or drive further towards Cape Point and picnic in solitude at one of the concrete picnic tables and benches provided at the side of the road.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

The Gardens are renowned for the diverse floral kingdom and displays of indigenous Proteas and fynbos, with a magnificent setting against the majestic eastern slopes of Table Mountain. This is an ideal spot for a family picnic with rolling lawns offering  plenty of space for the kids to play. In summer there are open-air concerts presented on Sunday evenings, so bring along a blanket, a picnic basket and some Cape wine to enjoy the gardens or the concerts. The Silvertree Deli and Restaurant offers a selection of picnic baskets if you want to take the easy way out. An entrance fee has to be paid to the Gardens.

Wynberg Park

This beautiful park was established as far back as the 1890’s, and is very popular with locals over the weekends, although usually quiet during the week. It is far and away the most beautiful of Cape Town’s parks, and is worth a visit at any time of the year. The photograph that has been included was taken on a sunny day in the middle of winter, showing just how beautiful the days can be in Cape Town’s “secret season”.   Features of the park include the spring giving rise to the “Krakeelwater” river; a magnificent conifer garden, water features and a truly beautiful  Wynberg park

duckpond, Lovely grassy areas provide an ideal setting for a family picnic while those of a more carnivorous nature are catered for by the provision of braai or bbq areas, with concrete benches and tables. There is also a range of playground equipment to keep the children amused. It is a truly lovely park to enjoy some quiet relaxation. The park is entered from the Trovato Link when leaving Wynberg to approach the M3 highway to Cape Town.

 

      Deer Park

The Deer Park aka Rockland park in Vredehoek, Cape Town, seems to have been kept a secret by those who live under the shadow of Table Mountain; this may be not only because is it almost under the Table Mountain cableway but is not easy to find on your first visit and certainly would not be accessible to the casual passerby. It is certainly worth a visit for its spectacular views over the city to Table Bay on the one hand and impressive views of the slopes of Table Mountain where you are likely to sight one of the cable cars ferrying people to and from the top.  There are lush lawns, verdant trees and indigenous plants, a softly flowing river and abundant birdlife.  Picnickers are catered for by the provision of concrete tables and benches and there is a convenient ablution facility. High up on the slopes of table mountain the air seems wonderfully clean and fresh. There are paths for walking or running and mountain trails that can be negotiated even with young children; exciting paths for mountain bikers looking for an unusual test of skill, and well maintained playground equipment for little ones. The best way to find this Park if you are coming along the M3 De Waal drive is to take the Mill Street offramp,   then turn left into Upper Buitenkant St where,  after a short distance,  it will fork left to become Highlands Avenue, and then take a right into Rocklands Avenue which will bring you to the entrance of the park.

De Waal Park

De Waal park is a community park situated in the heart of the City Bowl of Cape Town.  I have included it primarily because free concerts are often held here during the summer months, and it does offer beautiful views of the slopes of Table Mountain as well as of the city. Looking at the clustered Victorian semi’s close by and even the closely nestled Villas which don’t ever seem to get much sunlight, one can imagine how the Victorians would have loved to escape their dark dwellings in winter for a walk in the lush greenery of the park with its many European trees or escape the heat in summer to this cool retreat. It seems less well maintained than any of the other parks, but is perfectly safe and fully fenced. There are no tables or chairs, so you will need to bring a picnic basket although there are a number of benches thoughtfully provided under the shade of the trees. The best way to find De Waal Park when approaching it from the M3 is to take the Mill Street exit; turn left into Upper Orange Street, where you will find the entrance to the park on the corner of Upper Orange and Belvedere St, Oranjezicht.

 

21 Jun
2012

Darling of the West Coast

The winter in Cape Town is often known in the tourist industry as the “secret season”. This is not just because accommodation rates are lower and restaurants offer specials but because of the many beautiful sunny and warm days that we enjoy during the winter. It was on such a Sunday in June when we had no guests coming or going at our self-catering accommodation in Cape Town that we decided to take a drive to the charming little village of Dawhich lies at the West coast from Cape Town only 75 km from the city. Darling can be reached via the N7 Cape darling west coastTown/Namibia West Coast Highway, although a more pleasant and scenic drive along the R27 will take you through Blaauwberg Strand, and the pretty coastal village of Melkbosstrand along country roads lined with tall, old gumtrees.

Darling is one of those idyllic country towns lying between acres of vineyards and acres of farmland, mainly wheat.  One gains a sense of peace and tranquillity as you wander the streets lined with beautifully restored Victorian homes and lush, green gardens. Like all of our small villages in South Africa the church is prominently placed and plays an important role in the community. The small Main Street offers a pleasing variety of restaurants, boutiques and other interesting shops, with such evocative names as the “marmalade cat”.

Darling is also the home of artisan beers which are becoming more and more popular with South African beer drinkers and which has carved a niche market with its flagship Darling “slow brew”  which sports a catchy tortoise logo. Since the success of the slow brew,  a number of other varieties have been added to the range including pale native ale. Darling, however, has become increasingly well-known for its range of wines and can now boast its own West Coast wine route, which can easily be covered  in one day as there are only five cellers which include a number that have received acclaim such as Alexanderfontein, Groote Post and Darling Cellars.

One of South Africa’s best-known satirist comedians , Pieter Dirk Uys, used the alter ego tannie (Aunt)  Evita Bezuidenhout to both amuse and attack the institutions both pre-and post-apartheid and chose to settle in Darling. On the site of the old station you will find  Evita se Perron, (Evita’s Platform). No visit to Darling should miss this attraction. Here is a country restaurant offering traditional South African dishes as well as a pub, and a craft and handicrafts store. On display in the store are a large number of mementos,  both shocking and amusing,  dating back to the time of apartheid.  There is also a theatre where shows are held regularly including satirical performances by Pieter Dirk Uys himself.

While a visit to Darling makes an enjoyable day outing from Cape Town, there is plenty of interesting quality accommodation available in the village where one could spend the night if you wish to stay for one of the performances. These range from charming self-catering cottages to a luxury four-star lodge. During the spring months, and August to end September, spectacular blooms of wildflowers are to be seen all around Darling and down to the coast at nearby Yzerfontein- about 20 km away. Walks in the fields to view the flowers are arranged by tour operators in the village, and the Darling wild flower show held annually since 1917 takes place during middle of September.

While not the most famous of the attractions nearby Cape Town, this little village makes a pleasant day outing.

 

 

Darling village

17 Mar
2012

Blue Bird Garage market, Muizenberg

Cape Town has a number of well-established and long-standing markets but we find that many guests of our self-catering Noordhoek accommodation enjoy browsing, mingling with the locals as well as eating and drinking fine home-made food and delights as an interesting and economical option to restaurants. The southern end of the Cape Town peninsula, aka the “Deep South” now has a number of good food and produce markets which are easy to get to,  with plenty of parking.

One of the new markets which has been going since 2010 is the Blue Bird Garage Market, which is situated at 39 Albertyn Road, Muizenberg; located in an old aircraft hangar in one of the older parts of the town. It is easily found next to False Bay station alongside the roadway crossing. Don’t be tempted by the touts to park in the narrow streets next to the market as there is ample, safe parking available in the main road just a few metres away.bluebird garage market

This market has proved popular from the onset with those looking to purchase home-made and home-cooked foods including a range of gourmet dishes or,  for many,  an interesting alternative evening out where each can choose their own snacks or meals to be enjoyed at one of the many tables provided in the middle of the market, to be enjoyed with some interesting wine or beers to be found at the little bar in the corner. Currently you will find a range of beers from the Birkenhead Brewery; try these and experience the remarkable difference in taste from the mass produced stuff.

At the entrance to the market is a beautiful selection of fruit and vegetables that almost defy you to pass without buying; we left weighed down with a loaded basket at prices much lower than the local supermarkets. On offer is a choice of food that defies anyone not to find something to enjoy. The most delightful smells wafted from the lids of the “25 Rupee”  stall, where home-made Indian curries and rotis were on offer. Equally enticing was the Thai food situated alongside authentic Chinese cuisine, which included not just the usual spring rolls but filled dumplings and a range of mouth watering stirfries. Just as one can hardly go to a restaurant anymore without finding sushi you will also find the genuine thing being prepared here before your eyes. The choice continues to middle eastern filled Pita breads, gourmet pizzas and artisan bakes. There is plenty to tempt the sweet tooth; including home-made fudge, nougat and the delectable Portuguese custard tarts known as “Pasteis de Nata”.

This market is not only about food but you will find a range of craft made jewellery, interesting clothing including a hilarious range of Laugh it Off T shirts, books and esoteric items.

The Blue Bird garage market is certainly child friendly and kids will find much to keep them occupied and enjoy eating while parents continue their shopping.

Initially the market was opened on Fridays from 3 pm to 9 pm only, but  it is now trading on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to meet the popular demand.

It is just a short drive from the market to the popular attractions of Muizenberg, including the iconic Surfer’s Corner, where you could be tempted to tarry and watch the surfers at play.

 

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5 Mar
2012

Hook Line and Sinker

We had been warned not to go without booking. This somewhat quirky family seafood eatery is seriously popular and one can wait several weeks to get a table on a weekend. We were met and greeted by the owner when we arrived, and shown to the table by wife Jacqui. Simple decor includes wall tiles on which you are encouraged to join the reviews of many hundred others. Stefan the owner/chef is a raconteur par non, and will regale you with stories of his diamond diving, motor racing and business exploits, while waiting for guests to arrive before lighting the fire. The restaurant is a long way out of Cape Town but be warned not to be late, or you may not eat. Stefan cooks the fish and seafood on an open fireplace in the open plan kitchen, in view of the guests. The food is not barbequed however, but pan fried in one of the many cast iron pans that hang on the walls. The food- well the line fish served with dill butter was superb, although my wife would have preferred her prawns to have less butter in the sauce. Hook Line and Sinker
We enjoyed delicious mussel soup in a tomato base, and a prawn bisque while the fires were being lit; the soup served with a large, scrumptious freshly baked Ciabatta bread. The fish is not only fresh, but a variety of local line fish is offered giving one a chance to sample the best of Cape Town’s great variety of fish.
A short but interesting wine list showcase local wine estates at very reasonable prices. We enjoyed a sauvignon blanc that was as good as some of the more expensive and famous estates.

The deserts are apparently legendary but we had to decline after such a sumptuous meal.
After a fragrant coffee to round off a great meal, we were personally escorted to our car by Stefan; he is certainly a character, and does things his way, but they know how to look after their guests. There is no second sitting so guests are encouraged to linger and to chat; particularly once the cooking has been done.
Hook, Line and Sinker is quite a long way from Cape Town but can be reached via one of the most beautiful, scenic coastal roads through Gordons Bay and Rooi Els. The drive alone through the most spectacular coastal road, makes it worth going the distance.

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