I am fortunate to live at one end of what is possibly the most beautiful, entertaining and chilled urban stroll in all the world – the stretch of coast between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek. It’s a walk of just over six kilometres and you could do it in an hour, but it usually takes the whole day. Or maybe two. And it’s the one thing you really have to do if you’re heading off to Cape Town for a quick winter break.
If you start at the Muizenberg end, the first two kays or so are right on the sea’s edge on a walkway between the rocks and the railway line. But before you leave, get your blood sugar and caffeine levels up at one of the many coffee shops overlooking the beach parking lot. Or spend the morning learning how to surf. Just walk down the seafront and pick a surf school, or rent a board, or learn SUPping (stand-up-paddling).
It’s whale season – and will be till late spring – so you stand a good chance of seeing a southern right chilling just beyond the rocks – and even if you don’t, you will enjoy the fabulous ocean views, flowers and beautiful houses terraced up the side of the mountain. The walkway to St James starts at the western end of the beach but be warned that, at high tide, you’re likely to get splashed. The path ends at St James Tidal Pool with its colourful postcard-picture-perfect bathing boxes. From there you can zip under the railway line and walk along the road, or take your shoes off and stroll along Danger Beach. This tiny beach is well named, and it’s frequented almost entirely by locals who are well acquainted with its powerful undertow and rip tides. But you’re safe if you stay on the sand.
And then you head up to Kalk Bay Main Road with its cute little boutiques, funky junk stores, pottery outlets, antique emporia, coffee shops and vibey restaurants. There are so many lunch options, including some well-worn old favourites like The Brass Bell where you can watch surfers riding waves almost up to your table, and the iconic Olympia Café with its long queues, tatty décor, sassy service, and awesome food. Or pop down to Kalky’s in the harbour for some of Cape Town’s best Fish and Chips. And, if you’re planning a braai later, buy a fish fresh off the boats, and get one of the cheerful, bantering ladies to clean and fillet it for you.
From Kalk Bay to Fish Hoek, you have to walk next to the road for a short while, and – yes, the road works are still not finished, so this is a few hundred metres of not-so-nice walk. But, once round the corner at Clovelly, you can take your shoes off and stroll the long beach with your feet cooling off in the ocean. A mile of perfect sand away, at the southern end, is the most perfectly positioned restaurant and bistro, both of which serve food that’s OK, but does not quite match up to the view. Or just grab a take-away, and find a good bench. But if you want decent coffee, and some really great bread and pastries, the little boulangerie C’est la Vie is just a short walk from the beach.
Fish Hoek is a great place to watch the sun set – yes, I know you’re facing east, but the mountains across the bay turn rosy pink, and the sea glows a golden purple – much more subtle and stylish than the garish bright orange western seaboard sunsets.
You can take the train back, or – a far better idea – spend the night in one of the many B&Bs or small hotels, and then next morning either walk back to Muizenberg or continue to Simon’s Town. But not before joining the friendly group of early morning swimmers – it’s a Fish Hoek tradition. You may even find me there.
If you feel like extending the walk – and I suggest you do – the walkway starting at the southern end of Fish Hoek Beach will take you to Sunny Cove Station, about a kilometre away. It’s a really scenic walk worth doing for its own sake, or you can continue from there to Simon’s Town. It’s easiest to take the bridge across the railway line, and walk along the road – but right next to the sea. After about five kays or so, you’re in the fascinating, historic Simon’s Town with just over a kilometre of more restaurants, cute little shops and fabulous Victorian buildings. I recommend The Sweetest Thing for upping the blood sugar and getting a caffeine boost. And for lunch you can’t beat Neptune’s Galley in the False Bay Yacht Club. It’s unpretentious and affordable, the food is tasty and plentiful, the beer is cold, and you can keep a beady eye on the kids playing on the lawn while you daydream about travelling the world as you watch the masts bobbing up and down in the marina. And don’t miss Boulder’s Beach and the penguins. If you fancy, you can even do an escorted penguin-watching paddle with Kayak Cape Town.
There are loads of museums on this route, so it can be a cultural experience as well. Muizenberg has quite a few museums but some are open only intermittently if at all. The SAPS Museum offers an insight into South African history from the perspective of those who broke the law and those who tried to uphold it, the second oldest building in Cape Town – Het Posthuys – is still standing, and Rhodes’ Cottage is where Rhodes Did Fall – it’s where he died at the tender age of 48). The Fish Hoek Valley Museum is a bit of a walk from the beach, but it’s a must-see if you are into pre-history, as it depicts the excavation of interesting local Stone Age remains. The Simons Town Museum documents Simons Town’s connection with the Dutch East India Company and the British Navy, while the Simons Town Heritage Museum details the significant Muslim contribution to the development of the town and also – sadly – the history of forced removal. Simon’s Town is a naval town with lots of military history, and much of which can be explored in the South African Naval Museum, or visit the statue of Just Nuisance, South Africa’s only canine able seaman. Still a tad militaristic is the Warrior Toy Museum, with a huge collection of lead soldiers. (The best soldier is a lead soldier.) But it also has a model railway that even TBBT’s Sheldon would rave over, and enough teddy bears for a picnic.
Cape Point Route for accommodation options www.capepointroute.co.za, 21
Kayak Cape Town www.kayakcapetown.co.za, 082 501-8930
Simon’s Town Heritage Museum, open only on Sundays or by appointment. www.muslim.co.za/tourism/placestovisit/heritage_museum_simonstown, 021 786 2302.
South African Naval Museum 021 787-4686
Simon’s Town Museum 021 786-3046, www.simonstown.com/museum/index.html
Boulder’s Beach is part of Table Mountain National Park, www.sanparks.co.za/parks/table_mountain, and a wild card will get you in for free. Otherwise it’s R70 for adults, R35 for children
Het Posthuys Museum is only open by appointment. Call the Muizenberg Historical Society (which also offers guided historical walks). 082 908-3456
Warrior Toy Museum is open daily (Mon to Sun) 10h00-16h00. 021 786 1395
Brass Bell www.brassbell.co.za, 021 788-5455
Olympia Cafe 021 788-6396, www.olympiacafe.co.za
Rhodes Cottage, is closed for renovation but it should reopen late winter or early spring contact the historical society to find out if it has reopened. 082 908-3456
C’est la Vie 083 676-7430
Kalky’s 021 788 1726
The Sweetest Thing 021 786 4200
Neptune’s Galley 021 786 4638
Fish Hoek Valley Museum 021 782 1752
SAPS Museum is open Monday to Friday 08h00 to 15h30 021 788-7035