The Best In The South - Cape Town South Africa

Original photo by Scott R

A range of jagged mountains thrusting into the splendid desolation of the southern Atlantic, the Cape Peninsula is one of the world's most beautiful places.

Pristine beaches, sheltered bays and secluded coves encircle the majestic might of Table Mountain, a World Heritage Site and home to some 8,500 species of flower. Between the mountain's looming crags and Table Bay's deep blue sweep lies South Africa's Mother City and the cosmopolitan hub of the Western Cape Province - Cape Town.

The best way to revel in the Peninsula's unrivalled beauty is to travel to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve along one of two coastal drives, each dramatically different. To the west, the famous Chapman's Peak route traverses Sea Point's cosmopolitan seaboard and the natural beauty of Clifton's famed beaches, leading one from the quiet rusticity of Hout Bay over the awe-inspring, cliff-hugging Chapman's Peak Drive to the endless, white expanse of Noordhoek's Long Beach. The False Bay road heads north, hugging the mountains, snaking past Fish Hoek, a popular family beach, Kalk Bay, a fishing village imbued with character and colour, and Muizenberg, renowned for its safe swimming and excellent surfing.

Life in the City Bowl centres around the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a pulsating waterfront Mecca, historical site and working harbour offering everything from upmarket shopping malls, arts and crafts markets, theatres and live music to entertainment showpieces including the Telkom Exploratorium and the awe-inspiring Two Oceans Aquarium.

From the Waterfront, it's a short boat ride to Robben Island, one of the most significant historical sites in South Africa. First used by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a victualling station, it became an asylum and leper colony. Later, it fell under the Army and Navy and, in 1960, under the Department of Correctional Services. It gained notoriety as a prison housing , for more than two decades, former President Nelson Mandela.

Museums and art galleries abound and South Africa's oldest building, the Castle of Good Hope, is in the city centre. The cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap with their delightful old buildings and the first mosque in South Africa stand in cultural contrast to the buildings of the oldest homestead and wine farm in the Cape, Groot Constantia. On the Constantia wine route, Groot Constantia is tied by history and the vine to estates in the Helderberg and Durbanville.

A short drive from the theme parks, malls, cineplexes and entertainment centres of Century City, the energetic, and those wanting to explore the abundance of the Cape Floral Kingdom's fauna and flora, can take to the hills, choosing from myriad walks and climbs: up Table Mountain or Lion's Head, through the Silvermine or Tygerberg Nature Reserves, Newlands Forest, the Cape of Good Hope or Helderberg Nature Reserves, or one of several other inner-city wildlife areas.