Everything You Need To Know About Cape Point
Cape Point is a huge tourist attraction! If you’re looking for day trips from Cape Town, this should be on the top of your list.
Cape Point is approximately 1½ hours drive from Cape Town. It’s a beautiful, scenic drive, with lots of amazing stops.
Why tourists are flocking to Cape Point
Cape Point is a mountainous and scenic landform at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent.
Cape Point is said to be the point where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet. (Notice the different colors of the water on either side of the peninsula.)
While this is true, it’s is not accurate 100% of the time. The currents of the two oceans meet at the point where the warm-water Agulhas current meets the cold water Benguela current. This point fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. (Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point of Africa. It’s a 3½ hours drive from Cape Point).
It is rich in flora and fauna. With towering stone cliffs, endemic fynbos, breathtaking beaches, and rolling green hills and valleys, Cape Point is truly spectacular. It is a birder’s rich escape and a botanist’s holy grail.
Cape Point boasts 1080 plant species. In fact, it has one of the highest concentrations of plant species for similar-sized areas in the world. This tiny area has more plant varieties than all of Britain.
There is a large variety of pelagic birds. Also look out for zebra, eland, ostriches, small mammals, and many species of reptiles. Chacma baboons are also very common here, especially at the point itself.
In 1488, Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias became the first European mariner to round the southern tip of Africa. By doing so, he opened the way for a sea route from Europe to Asia.
But Cape Point is historical for various reasons. Amongst others, it has a vast maritime history thanks to many shipwrecks, including a WWII American weapons transport vessel.
The shoreline is littered with wrecks from years gone by. Their presence on the peninsula’s beaches makes for a fascinating journey into the past. There are a few shipwreck trails you can explore. It offers unparalleled views into this turbulent time in Cape Point’s history.
Cape Point has two historical lighthouses. The Old Lighthouse is 238m/ 260 yards above sea level. It is easily accessible from the trail and funicular. The New Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1919 and electrified in 1936, is the most powerful light in Africa. It has a candlepower of 19 million.
The old lighthouse is an estimated 1.5h walk to the new lighthouse via the Lighthouse Keepers trail. From here you’ll get a great view of the 200m/ 218 yard cliff face towering out of the ocean with the Old Lighthouse perched at the top.
The Cape Point Funicular, also known as The Flying Dutchman, is the line that runs from a lower station at the Cape Point car park. It goes up an incline through dense fynbos to the upper lighthouse.
The Flying Dutchman Funicular takes its name from the local legend of the Flying Dutchman ghost ship. It’s the only commercial funicular of its type in Africa.
The funicular leaves from the lower station every three minutes. It comfortably accommodates 25 passengers per car, and it can transport 450 people to the upper lighthouse per hour. You could also hike, but if this is not your thing, the Flying Dutchman is the ideal way to get to the lighthouse even during peak times.
A return ticket on The Flying Dutchman is approximately $4.35 / R65 (at the time of this writing.)
There are a number of beautiful and manageable short walks throughout the reserve. No matter which trail you pick, you will be rewarded with panoramic ocean and mountain views, access to unspoiled beaches. On this hike, you may get the opportunity to see wildlife wandering peacefully among the vibrant fynbos or across the salt white sand.
Here are some of the best short walks and hikes in and around the Cape Point Nature Reserve:
Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail is a short, easy trail (2km / 1.2 miles there and back) that runs below the iconic lighthouse atop Cape Point. However, it is often overlooked by visitors who are eager to visit the old lighthouse.
The trail has a narrow but well-established path that will lead you along a sheer cliff-face towards the lesser-known new lighthouse. The trail offers a fascinating perspective of the old Cape Point lighthouse, which towers many meters above. You will walk through historical bunkers and beautiful fynbos until the path runs out.
The trail begins just behind the upper funicular station. Park at the Cape Point main parking area to access it.
Cape of Good Hope Trail
The Cape of Good Hope trail is also an easy trail, but it’s a little longer at 3.5km / 2+ miles. It should take you approximately 2-3 hours to finish the trail.
The Cape Of Good Hope trail takes you along a well-maintained and marked boardwalk towards the famous Cape of Good Hope sign. This trail is popular for its accessibility, its rugged western shoreline, and its views over the pristine Dias Beach.
If you’re on the trail, be sure to go all the way to the very end of the trail. The end of the trail is the south-western point of the Cape Peninsula, and therefore the most South Western corner of Africa. Take a photo as evidence that you truly have reached that point.
You can get to the trail from the Cape Point main parking area. Simply follow signs towards Cape of Good Hope.
The Antoniesgat trail is 3.5km / 2+ miles long. It should take you approximately 2-3 hours to finish the trail.
This trail is moderately difficult but is one of the region’s most enjoyable short trails. Here’s what you can look forward to:
- Access to Buffels Bay Beach, which is a gem hidden from the main tour groups. The Antoniesgat Trail departs from near this beach;
- Beautiful views over the bay, towards the mountains, and up towards the Cape Point lighthouse;
- The opportunity to cool off in the tidal pools;
- There are a number of caves and tunnels to explore en-route;
- The walk takes you close to the action where powerful waves pound the peninsula;
- The opportunity to enjoy a braai (bbq) at the well-maintained facilities at the end of the walk.
Access the trail from the traffic circle south of Buffels Bay Beach.
The Gifkommetjie trail is approximately 5.5km / 3.4 miles long. It’s an easy trail that follows the southwestern shores of Cape Point. It is often overlooked, so it’s quiet most of the time.
This trail offers beautiful views of the unspoiled shoreline, lush green dune vegetation, and open pans and marshes.
If you are moderately fit and you’re looking to get some good distance on a flat route, this would be a good option for you. You’ll get a feeling of true isolation and escapism in one of the most picturesque locations in the world.
To access the Gifkommetjie trail parking area, follow signposts once you enter Cape Point.
The Phyllisia Circuit is an easy trail that is approximately 7km / 4.3 miles long. It is named after a large trawler that ran aground on the nearby shoreline in 1968.
This circular route takes you parallel to the Western Cape Point coastline, and returns along the shore.
To access this trail, follow signposts to the Gifkommetjie parking lot. You’ll be able to access the Phyllisia Circuit from there.
The shipwreck trails are perhaps the most popular of the shorter trails at Cape Point. They vary in distance and time. These unique walks depart from the Olifantsbos parking area, and each offer a fascinating insight into the early days of the many Cape Point maritime disasters and access to unspoiled fauna and flora. Read our guide to the Cape Point Shipwreck trail for more information on what you can expect from each of these walks.
This is the shortest and most easily accessible walk at 3km/ 1.86 miles. It should take you approximately 1½ hours to finish this trail.
The trail leads down to the beach through fynbos foliage. This is where the former WWII troop and weapons transport vessel— SS Thomas T. Tucker wrecked in 1942. The SS Thomas T. Tucker is Cape Point’s most photographed wreck. Its hull is home to the local birdlife.
The Sirkelsvlei trail is a relatively easy trail that is approximately 7.5km / 4.66 miles long. It takes you across the rugged landscape and past the Sirkelsvlei pan. This is home to rare animals such as hartebeest and bontebok.
The Kanonkop trail is one of the most popular trails. It’s a moderately easy trail. It is approximately 5.5km/ 3.4 miles long and should take you around 3 hours to finish this circular route.
The Kanonkop trail provides magnificent views over False Bay, the prominent Da Gama monument, Cape Point and Buffels Bay Beach.
The trail requires only a moderate level of fitness. If you’re not quite up to it, follow the road to Venus Pools and park close to the signs directing you up Kanonkop, (a few hundred metres/yards after the turnoff at Bynes.)
Access the trail from the visitors center.
Tourists and locals alike are urged to take necessary precautions when exploring secluded areas—crimes and accidents do happen. Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700. Criminal incidents should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as able. Table Mountian National Parks also recommend @safetymountain as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route, and travel time via WhatsApp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.
Things to do at Cape Point
People do not just visit Cape Point because it’s the most southwestern point of Africa. There are actually lots of things you can do:
- Watch whales moving past Cape Point on their annual migration (around June to October);
- There are several great swimming and picnic sites at the Bordjiesrif and Buffels Bay tidal pools;
- Discover cultural and historical spots, including monuments to the explorers Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias;
- Photograph the more than 1 100 indigenous plant species that grow nowhere else in the world;
- Explore 250 bird species, including some endemic to the area;
- Explore the fauna. Try to spot the Cape mountain zebra and the world’s largest antelope—the eland;
- Walk the shipwreck trails to view a few of the 26 recorded shipwrecks around Cape Point;
- Participate in fun, outdoor activities like sea kayaking and mountain biking;
- Cape Point boasts many scenic hiking trails. Hike along short or overnight trails, through natural fynbos and sandy beaches;
- Explore stunning dive sites on both sides of the Point.
How to get to Cape Point
Cape Point is about 70km from the Cape Town central business district – aka the CBD. Getting there by car will take about 1h20 depending on traffic. Here’s how to get there:
By Car Or Taxi / Uber
Depending on which route you choose, you can see the South African penguins at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, stop for lunch in Hout Bay, or taste some wine in Constantia.
Unfortunately, the train from Cape Town takes you only up to Simonstown. Sadly, this is still 25km / 15.5 miles from Cape Point. From Simonstown, you could get to Cape Point via:
- a scooter or a bicycle (hire it from companies like Cycle Cape Point), or;
- take a taxi or Uber.
The Cape Point Explorer red sightseeing bus offers a full day’s excursion. You will get an English-speaking guide aboard a luxury air-conditioned coach.
This tour includes a stop at Boulders Beach (you will need to pay for your entry) and entry into the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Point).
Book your spot on the bus 24 hours in advance.
By Private Tour
A private tour is the most luxurious, and expensive option.
There are several tour companies to choose from, and you can easily tailor-make your itinerary according to your travel needs.
Note from the author
This is a great day trip from Cape Town. It’s 100% doable and lots of people do it all the time.
But honestly, we can’t do it in one day because there is too much we want to do!
- As you drive from Cape Town, you drive through beautiful Constantia, which is wine country. If you enjoy your wines, you may feel tempted to stop;
- The mountains you will be crossing are just gorgeous and to take it all in, it may take you longer to cross if you’re stopping;
- You may get hungry—Hout Bay has great restaurants with delicious fish and chips;
- Once you make it to Simonstown, you may be tempted to shop;
- While in Simonstown, you’ve gotta stop at Boulders Beach to see the adorable penguins. And since you have to pay to get in, (and you don’t want to be wasteful), you might as well relax on the beautiful, quiet beach for a little while;
- Once you make your way to Cape Point, which is 25km / 15.5 miles from Simonstown, there is a lot to see and do upon arrival. They have the great Two Oceans Restaurant, plus there’s hiking, the Flying Dutchman, photos to take, the beach to relax on… These things take time.
As such, it never takes us just one day!