14 things you must do in Cape Town this summer

11 September 2011 - 12:14 By Janine and Vanessa Stephen

There's much to do in the Mother City, write Janine and Vanessa Stephen


"We do tend to wake the neighbours," says Tim Clarke, owner of Cape Sidecar Adventures, as Vicky roars into life, backfires spectacularly and settles into a rhythmic thumping growl. One of Cape Sidecars' 25 working machines, Vicky is a spritely Chinese 1968 CJ750 motorbike. She tours the peninsula at a steady pace, followed by admiring glances from café crowds and grinning thumbs-up from Big Issue sellers. It's impossible not to feel special kitted up in leather jackets, bandanas and goggles while zooming around the mountains. Tim chauffeured us, so there was no need for a motorbike licence, but if you do have one, then rent a sidecar for the weekend. Sidecars take two passengers plus chauffeur and trips range from a couple of hours to a couple of days. Contact Tim on 0214349855, or tim.clarke@sidecars.co.za for the coolest trip ever to Cape Point.


Got a bit sunburnt and need to rest your skin? Go and see stars at Iziko's planetarium. Shows cater to children and adults, while the Milky Way seen without light pollution is likely to blow your mind. It's value for money at only R25 for adults and R10 for kids, pensioners and students - including entrance to the neighbouring South African Museum. www.iziko.org.za; 021 481 3900.

Afterwards, keep to the celestial theme by walking through the Company Gardens to the Mount Nelson's plush Planet Bar to see if they can produce a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. If not, settle for champagne. They're open from noon until late and have an extensive cocktail menu. Book on 021 483 1737.


Hop into a sea kayak and cruise along the coast on a guided trip to spot the penguins in the sea off Boulders Beach in Simon's Town. You skip the holiday crowds and tour buses and see creatures torpedo along beneath you. Beginners, moderately fit people and kids welcome - the vessels are rock steady. R250 per person, Kayak Cape Town, www.kayakcapetown.co.za, 0825018930.


Escape smoky clubs and go listen to your favourite band in natural splendour. Pack a picnic and a blanket or two and book your place in the sun at the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts - the awesome views of Nursery Buttress and Skeleton Ravine are better than any concert hall (and some rock stars). Every Sunday from November 20; the line-up is announced in October. Call 0217998783. More intimate with just 600 seats is the Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre, set among immense gums on an Elgin Valley wine farm. Sip excellent estate wines under the stars (no BYO) and order a gourmet picnic hamper. www.cluver.com.


Like your wine? Like physical activity? What better then, than a wine tasting tour by bicycle. You can choose your level of exertion but generally 17km of pedalling over the course of a full day will take you via four farms - and some 20 wines. It may sound like you'll be rolling in the vineyards, but the exercise should ensure you remain happy, not paralytic. Take cash for lunch and the odd bottle to haul home for more sedate sipping. Book with Bikes n Wines http://bikesnwines.com/, 0741860418.


Head down the 8km of sparkling sand and protected wetlands that make up Noordhoek beach for a free history lesson. The Kakapo beached here on its maiden voyage from the UK to Australia. As shipwrecks go, this was a good one as the crew simply clambered onto the sand without getting their feet wet. She lies in the same position after more than 100 years and is still impressive. Getting to the wreck is a bit of a walk, but you can also hire a steed: Noordhoek is famous for sunset horse rides. There are a number of stables - try http://sleepyhollowhorseriding.co.za. If you step away from the firmer sand of the high-tide mark, be careful of well-camouflaged nests: most shorebirds will be breeding.


Find some friends. Form a team. Spend some inspired hours with a sewing machine, kilos of glitter, pipe cleaners and feather dusters (tequila optional). And then head down to the annual MCQP event on December 17 in full costume finery for the sweatiest, sexiest party of the season. It's impossible to wear too little; there's more buff skin on show here than at Sandy Bay. This year's theme and venue will be announced on September 24 - but that's no excuse for not going sequin shopping immediately. www.mcqp.co.za.


Take your binoculars to Robben Island. Visit the famous apartheid prison and world heritage site and simultaneously tick off the Chukar partridge and peacock from South Africa's only officially listed feral populations. There's a chance for numerous other birds too, like the greater sheathbill, a large colony of rare bank cormorants and of course African penguins. Ferries leave from 9am from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront and cost R220 for adults and R110 for children under 18. Do it yourself or go with a birding tour such as Birding Ecotours: www.birdingecotours.co.za.


In high summer in Europe, the galleries are packed with ambling tourists, making it almost impossible to see anything without fighting a scrum of bodies. Cape Town is much better - December is prime time for gallerists. Head to Woodstock for a taste of the best: Stevenson (www.stevenson.info) for a curated show of names including Debra Poynton and Viviane Sassen (titled "what we talk about when we talk about love"); Whatiftheworld (www.whatiftheworld.com) for an energetic dose of Cameron Platter; and Blank Projects (www.blankprojects.com) for a collaboration between Avant Car Guard and friends. Finish off with lunch at the Kitchen (111 Sir Lowry Road; 0214622201) - if it's good enough for Michelle Obama ...


There is some debate, but Hout Bay's The Workshop is tiny - saved from oblivion by a decent outdoor area. Inside is standing room only, but tented cover outside means that you won't fry crispy in the sun and palms add a bit of a tropical feel. They've somehow squeezed in a small TV so you can keep up with the Bokke/Proteas/ Bafana. Plus there's pub food if you wish to stay a while - but don't try Chapman's Peak if you stay too long. Open from 11.30am till late. 0217901747.


Gather your friends and head to Mzoli's in Gugulethu (just off Klipfontein Road) for meat feasting and revelry. This butchery turned get-together hotspot draws locals and out-of-towners alike. Hungry patrons with sticky fingers decimate mountains of beef, pork, lamb and chicken braaied to salty perfection. It's mildly chaotic, but it's friendly, unusual and used to lost-looking tourists. Mzoli's doesn't sell alcohol but there's no problem taking your own. Don't expect finger bowls or parsley garnishes but the food is good and vegetarians can even get a veggie sausage with their pap 'n sous. For bookings, call 0216381355.


The best way to get your Christmas shopping done in one swoop (without missing any hours on the beach) is to stop by a designer night market. The Freeworld Design Centre Christmas Market (71 Waterkant Street; www.freeworlddesigncentre.com) hand picks the best local designers to show off their stuff from tea towels to ceramics at their evening market on December 14 and 15. Expect original, quality gifts, lots of carols and things to eat. Oh, and the Neighbourgoods Christmas Night Market in Woodstock, fuelled by fine food and artisanal beer, is on its way to becoming an institution. Dates to be announced on www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za.


Fancy talking funny, making obscure references to parrots, rum and doubloons? Then take your kids aboard the Jolly Roger for a sunset cruise. Swashbuckle around South Africa's only authentic pirate ship as it sails daily from Quay 5 at the V&A Waterfront. Check www.pirateboat.co.za.

If you prefer to perch your bronzed bod on something sleeker and just a champagne cork pop from Clifton's beaches, then splash out on a catamaran cruise (there are a number at the V&A Waterfront to choose from). For the ultimate in luxury, stay at the Cape Grace and hire their Spirit of the Cape: 56 feet of Italian-made yacht should get the paparazzi's attention. See www.capegrace.com.


Pray for good weather and celebrate New Year's Eve on the top of Table Mountain for the best possible view of any fireworks. In the spirit of celebration, the cableway offers half-price trips on New Year's Eve so you don't need to stumble down the mountain in the dark, brimming with bubbly. The last trip up is at 11pm and down is at 1am. Check tablemountain.net for details or phone 0214248181.