Lion's Head, Cape Town

Hiking Table Mountain

When we first decided to go to South Africa, but before we had started planning, only one thing was certain – we’d be hiking Table Mountain. As we both love hiking, there was no way we could get to such an iconic mountain and take a cable car to the top.Table Mountain, Cape Town

Then we actually got there and man was it tall. I’m not going to lie, the first 10 minutes or so, I complained pretty much non-stop. I was hot, I was tired, I was sunburnt — bless Gareth for not leaving me behind and only mocking me a little.

Hiking Table Mountain, Cape Town

Then we actually got to the start of the Platteklip Gorge and I was too out of breath to keep complaining! It is steps the whole way up, under the baking sun. About halfway through I was using my arms as well as my legs to get me over each step. It wasn’t easy! (Unless you’re Gareth and then everything is easy!)

Hiking Hiking Table Mountain, Cape TownHiking Table Mountain, Cape Town

We took a lot of beaks, every time we reached shade. Our sun burns from our hike in Storms River and the fact that we were still on Malarone meant that halfway up my arms started to blister, and by the time we reached the top I was seriously concerned about the state of my skin. (I applied factor 50 about every five minutes, it was no match for the sun. Eventually I gave in and wore Gareth’s sweaty shirt.)

Hiking Hiking Table Mountain, Cape Town

so close to the top 🙂

Getting to the top was INCREDIBLE though, and made each difficult step worth it. It took us about two hours (I stopped a lot), and we hung out at the top for about the same amount of time. There’s a cafe/grocery store up there, as well as a little shop with souvenirs. There’s even a mailbox, where I sent myself and my momma a letter!

Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Dassie at the Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town

We took in the views before finding shade, some beverages, and whipping out our trusty cards. It was such a lovely afternoon, marred only by the cable car down, which was too high for my liking. If you’re in relatively good shape, definitely consider climbing to the top. It’s hard but worth it and far more rewarding than standing in a line and letting an elevator do the work for you!

view from Table Mountain, South AfricaLion's Head, Cape Town

More Options

For keen hikers, there are many more options than just the Platteklip Gorge.

  • Lion’s Head offers incredible views of Table Mountain, takes about 90 minutes, and is not terribly difficult.
  • Skeleton Gorge is another path up the eastern side of the mountain that starts in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens. It takes about 4 – 4.5 hours
Betty's Bay, South Africa

Stony Point Nature Reserve – Penguins!

After our incredible day on the wine tram, we woke up early to head to our final destination, Cape Town! However, first we had to stop along the way Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay. We’d decided we weren’t going to make the day trip to The Cape of Good Hope, and you know I wasn’t going to miss penguins.

Betty's Bay, South Africa

Stony Point Nature Reserve

Stony Point Nature Reserve is filled to the brim with penguins, and I had no idea how awkward and hilarious these adorable little birds are.

penguin in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

I could have watched them waddling and hopping around for hours. And Stony Point Nature Reserve is so cute, it would be a lovely place to spend an afternoon.penguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africapenguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South AfricaShipwreck and penguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa   penguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

Alas we only had about twenty minutes with them before we had to get back on the road. Luckily, the drive fromStony Point Nature Reserve is perfectly picturesque — (I MEAN REALLY).

Betty's Bay, South Africa Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

tips

  • There’s free parking (and a restaurant), so no need to worry about amenities
  • Entry is 20R for adults (about 1.15 GBP)
  • If you can, save enough time to pull off the road and jump in the (very inviting) water!
  • If you don’t have time to make it to the Cape of Good Hope, Stony Point Nature Reserve is a great alternative to ensure you get some penguin time. It’s one of the largest penguin breeding colonies of African penguins in the world.

One Week Road Trip through Croatia

Writing about our incredible trip to South Africa over the Easter holiday has reminded me that I haven’t posted about our one week road trip through Croatia during Semana Santa (Easter) last year. We packed a lot in but hit some of the best spots in Croatia (sans islands), and I think it’s time I share that itinerary!

One week Road Trip Itinerary

(croatia and bonus Bosnia)

Zagreb

St. Mark's Church, Zagreb, Croatia
Okay, this is kind of a cheat because I spent my time in Zagreb before our week long road trip started. But Zagreb is SUCH a great little city, and was one of my favorite parts of Croatia. I think some people might skip it and head straight to the coast, but this would be a huge mistake! I spent four days happily exploring Zagreb, and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything! Unfortunately for Gareth, we didn’t know how great Zagreb would be when we were planning (though Lee tried to warn us!), so while I got to spend four days there, he landed at the airport and we immediately set off for the Plitvice lakes.

Plitvice Lakes (Day one)

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

The lakes are beautiful, so plan to spend a few hours walking around and taking pictures. It is visually stunning and not a place to miss.

Zadar (Day one)

Zadar, Croatia

To break up the drive we spent a night in Zadar. Zadar was cute but quite honestly, it was the least exciting of the places we stayed and I think skippable. If we were doing this again, we’d find somewhere else to stay, or just drive straight down to Split.

Krka (day two)

Krka, Croatia

The main reason we needed to break the drive up was so we could stop at Krka National Park, which was gorgeous (and would be even better during the summer months when you can swim!). We preferred this to Plitvice because while Plitvice was beautiful, Krka was more of an adventure.

Split (Days two and three)

Split, Croatia

We spent two nights in Split and could have stayed much longer! The city is gorgeous and full of great food (and such a great bar). Plan to spend at least two days here!

Mostar (Day Four)

Stari Most Bridge, Mostar, Bosnia

We couldn’t be so close to Mostar (another place I once saw in a picture and knew I had to visit), without popping in, and luckily it was (pretty much) on the way. We only spent one night in magical Mostar, but the town is tiny and honestly this felt like enough. However, Mostar is definitely a can’t-miss part of this itinerary.

Dubrovnik (Days five, six, and seven)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

After some trouble getting back into Croatia (some border crossings are only for locals!), we arrived in Dubrovnik for our final three days in the country. We loved Dubrovnik and it was definitely the highlight for us. Had we had more time, or been less in love with Dubrovnik, we discussed doing a day trip into Kotor, Montenegro, but we decided to enjoy as much time in Dubrovnik as we could and do a separate trip to Montenegro some day.

overall

While we would have absolutely loved to spend more time in each place, and to visit some of the islands, given our one week road trip time limit this was the perfect itinerary for us. We moved around a lot but the infrastructure was top notch and the drive one of the most beautiful I’ve ever taken.

Franschhoek Wine Tram

Up until this point in the trip, we had been sleeping in tents, on planes, or roughing it along the Garden Route. We a holiday from our holiday, as annoying people say. Luckily we were on our way to Franschhoek, which is maybe one of the most gorgeous and relaxing places in the world.

Franschhoek Mountains

The drive in was out of this world, actually. The landscape was stunning – it felt a bit like I was back in Spain in the Picos de Europa, but even more gorgeous. The couple we met and ended up spending most of our time with had hiked up these mountains, and they said it was one of the most exhausting hikes they’d ever done, but also one of the most beautiful. It’s easy to understand why.

Buzzing from our drive in, we got to our Airbnb and were pleased to find a big, beautiful space, along with a bottle of local wine, waiting for us. Our host was amazing, even offering us an extra night for free because no one had booked!

Franschhoek Mountains

We took the first night easy, walked into town for a chill one and after a bit of an exploratory wander we decided on pizza at Col’Cacchio Pizzeria. There was live music, good pizza, and a lively vibe. We loved Franschhoek instantly.

franschhoek wine tram

We woke up early the next morning to do what was a huge highlight of the trip – the wine tour on the Franschhoek wine tram! Imagine this… you’re in one of the world’s best wine regions. The sun is shining, the landscape is out of this world gorgeous, and you have nothing to do all day but sip on wine and maybe snack on a cheese board or two. What could make it better? Perhaps a beautiful tram that picks you up and drops you off a new location each hour, ensuring you pack as much into your day as possible without ever having to worry about logistics!

Franschhoek Wine Tram

It lasts for about 6 hours, and be sure to pace yourself – they don’t pour taster sizes and it would be so easy to overindulge. Luckily our group kept it mostly together, and it was an INCREDIBLE way to spend the day. We linked up with another couple from Finland but who were living in the UAE, and had such a great time seeing the absolutely gorgeous wineries and sipping the insanely delicious wine. We brought one bottle back to London with us (it was all we could fit in our bags!) and it’s still there, waiting for us to drink it.

Franschhoek Wine Tram

There are a few different routes, and we chose the Red Line because it focused on wines that are sold in the international market – there’s a chance we could find some of the wines we loved so much right here in London! Our highlights were Eikehof, Chamonix, and Dieu Donne. They all had very different vibes. Leopard’s Leap had the best wine, but was very modern and hotel-y, which was a less charming ambiance than Eikehof which was family run with gorgeous outdoor seating. Dieu Donne had incredible views, and the drive in and out to Rickety Bridge was the best of the trip (it becomes a wine tractor at one point!). We had to skip a few, and missed out on Franschhoek Cellar and Maison. I can’t think of one I’d have swapped out, so I think we made the right plan!

Franschhoek Mountains Wine Tram

Franschhoek Mountains Franschhoek MountainsFranschhoek Mountains

It ends early enough to grab dinner, and we were home with enough time to have a completely relaxing evening full of rehydration and He’s Just Not That Into You, a perfect way to end our time in the wine region.

DETAILS:

  • It cost about £12 per person for the tram, which included a welcome wine at most of the stops.
  • The set tasting menus varied, but you were generally about £5 per winery. While not inexpensive, it doesn’t break the bank!
  • It departs at 10:30 and 11:30 every morning. There are 8 stops and if you leave at 10:30 you can fit in six of them max, and at 11:30, five.
  • Eat a lot of food! Most wineries offer a cheese board, some do a full lunch. Get breakfast at BICCCS which is delicious and has outdoor seating, and we obviously liked Col’Cacchio for a cheap and cheerful dinner.

You can find more details on the tram here here, but trust me that if you enjoy wine, camaraderie and incredible scenery, you do not want to miss this!

Robberg Nature Reserve + other hikes along the Garden Route

While we were in South Africa, there were so many hikes along the Garden Route we had the option of doing, it was overwhelming in the best way! We had planned on doing three: The Waterfall Trail in Tsitsikamma National Park, the Robberg Nature Reserve, and the Wilderness Heritage Trail. We ended up only doing Robberg and if you only have time for one, this is the one. It was stunning!

Before setting out I was quite nervous, as I had read it was fairly difficult and maybe not for beginners. Technically, it was pretty easy. There were two steeper bits where a rope is provided for balance, and one point where you’re climbing up a bit vertically, but if I can do it (me, who is terrified of heights) anyone with a reasonable level of fitness certainly can.

Robber Nature Reserve guide Photo

There are three options, 1, 2, and 3. 3 is the longest, taking you completely around the point, which is around 9.2 km. The first half is much easier than the first, as it’s mostly a well-defined grass/dirt trail. The views are stunning and there are so many families of seals along the way. They smelled terrible but were incredible to see just playing in the surf. The other two are shorter and easier – option 2 brings you around the The Witsand sand dune and gives the option to circle The Island (only accessible during low tide) and is around 5.5 km. Option 1 brings you to The Gap and is only 2.1 km, but still quite beautiful.seals in robberg nature reserveThe second half was for sure more difficult. There’s a long stretch where you’re moving up and down through big rocks, and we had to slow down quite a bit. That said there were a few locals who were running, so I guess how fast you go is just down to confidence!

It was also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The colors of the rocks, the sea, and the land were like a painting. Or like I was living inside an Instagram filter!

About 75% of the way through, we came to a little beach where we had one of the most refreshing swims ever! There weren’t many people around and it felt like we had discovered a hidden treasure. It’s also where I’m the sunburn to end all sunburns happened. Tip: if you are on Malarone, never expose any skin to sun, regardless of the amount of SPF 50 you slather on.

If you’re on the Garden Route and looking for a hike, I highly, highly recommend this one. While there are tons and if we ever go back there are so many more I want to explore, I really do think this was the pinnacle.  If you’re up for an adventure, we passed a little cottage about midway through with an INCREDIBLE view that can be rented for around 55 GBP a night. It’s about a two hour walk to and from, and there’s no electricity, but would be a fairly epic night! You can find more info about that here. (Book way in advance!)

hikes along the Garden Route

There are loads of other amazing hikes along the Garden Route as well. Find a breakdown of the ones I was most interested in below.

wilderness

Half-collared Kingfisher Trail (7.2km, +/- 3hrs)

This one  follows Touw River into the forest, where you take a pontoon across to the eastern bank of the river, where you walk down a 2km boardwalk that leads to a waterfall. We were really sad to miss this one — if you go let me know how it was!

Brown-hooded Kingfisher Trail (5km, 2-3 hrs)

This trail is opposite the eastern bank of Island Lake. You follow along the Duiwe River to a waterfall where there is a natural pool where you can take a dip!

knysna

Harkerville Forest – Perdekop Trail (9.5km, circular, 3-4 hrs)

This hike is another one we were really sad to miss! You pass by a waterfall with another natural swimming pool beneath it, and it’s said to be relatively easy.

Harkerville Forest – Kranshoek Coastal Day Trail (9km, 4-5 hrs)

This hike starts at the top of a tall waterfall and the trail winds down to the bottom gorge, and then goes back up, ending at the Kranshoek  view point. This is a moderate hike with over 200m ascent and descent.

Diepwalle Forest – Elephant Trails  (all circular, 3-4 hours)

There are three routes here of varying difficulty, all along old woodcutter paths and by old yellowwood trees. The Black Trail is the easiest (9km) and passes through the King Edward VII picnic site. The White Trail is moderate (8km) and has a rock pool. The Red Trail (7km) is the most difficult and crosses a small stream about midway through that is ideal for a rest stop.

tsitsikamma

Storms River Mouth Trail (1km, 1 hr)

This easy trail takes you to the suspension bridges, one of Storms River’s claims to fame. They are stunning and you won’t want to miss checking these out!

Lourie Trail (1km, 1hr)

This is an easy trail that will allow you to see the indigenous forest without too much time or effort. After a quick but steep climb up, you’ll emerge at the Agulhas lookout, and then through some gorgeous fynbos and the coastal forest.

Waterfall Trail (6km, 3-4 hours)

For half this trail you’ll be following along the incredibly famous and beautiful Otter Trail (if you have time/interest in multi-day hikes, check out the Otter Trail!).It follows the gorgeous coastline and ends at a stunning (in the rainy season) waterfall.

Overall

We obviously didn’t have time to do all the hikes along the Garden Route, and there were quite a few we were sad to miss. Just another reason to go back! If you end up doing any, please let me know how they were so I can live vicariously through you! You can check out our ascent of Table Mountain in Cape Town here and other fantastic hikes we’ve done here.