21 awesome things to do in Cape Town in Winter

Private Property South Africa
Carmel Woodman

Don’t let the winter chill deter you from getting out and enjoying what Cape Town and surrounds have to offer. Here are 21 great things to do on an icy winter’s day in Cape Town and the Western Cape.

1. Surfing

Surfing in Cape Town

Winter storms cause bigger swells, meaning large waves occur in the months of June to August along the West Coast. These wind conditions and warmer sea temperatures make for the perfect surfing conditions in many towns along this coast. Put that wetsuit on and hit the ocean in Muizenberg, Long Beach, Llandudno, Glen Beach, Big Bay, Scarborough Beach or Off The Wall.

2. Shark cage diving

Shark cage diving in Cape Town

Winter is prime time to spot great white sharks in the Gansbaai and False Bay areas. Shark cage diving tours boast a 99% sightings success rate from June to September. An abundance of seals in these areas provides ample hunting opportunities for sharks, and ocean visibility is clearer in winter. If adrenaline is what you’re after, take to the open waters and see one of nature’s most majestic predators up close.

3. Cosy eating

Enjoy a warm, cosy meal from one of many restaurants with fireplaces, good winter deals and beautiful views. Various indoor markets in and around the city make for a great winters’ day outing to enjoy a variety of food or a warm beverage. Some toasty restaurants to fill your tummy in Cape Town are Arcade restaurant, Kloof Street house, Aubergine Restaurant and Societi Bistro.

4. Whale watching

July to September is peak calving season for whales, meaning that you’re guaranteed to spot whales around False Bay or Hermanus. However, whales can be seen throughout winter, along the Cape south coast. Whether you prefer to watch from the safety of the shore, or you’d like to brave the water in a kayak, the southern right whale can be observed from many places. The annual Hermanus Whale festival takes place in September, where the legendary whale caller of Hermanus summons whales.

5. Flower season

August and September in the Western Cape is when millions of beautiful wild African flowers bloom ahead of Spring. One hour north of the City Bowl is the South African floral region, a World Heritage site, where hectares of pink, white, orange and yellow flowers make their glorious appearance. Get your camera and take a trip north to the West Coast National Park to experience this explosion of nature’s beauty.

6. Wine tasting

Wine tasting in Cape Town

Visit one of the many world-class wine farms for a wintery wine tasting experience. Constantia, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have some of the oldest wine farms in South Africa, with a variety of tastings and pairings available for every pallet. Tuck in next to the fireplace at one of these spectacular farms and enjoy South Africa’s finest wines amongst the most beautiful scenery in the country.

7. Christmas in June

Head over to Tulbagh in June for a festive winter weekend of Christmas fun. If you’ve got a longing for a winter Christmas, this is your chance to indulge in roasts, mince pies and gluhwein. The festival includes free entry into the town’s museums, along with wine tastings at the valley’s wine estates. Why not celebrate Christmas twice in one year with all the trimmings?

8. Catch a rugby game

Head over to the Newlands Stadium to catch the Stormers rugby team taking on one of the teams from Australia, New Zealand or Argentina in the Super Rugby tournament. Or watch a local game in the Currie Cup, where provincial rugby teams battle it out for the top spot. Either way the winter months are time to get your local rugby fix and support the boys.

9. Theatre

The Fugard theatre is a great way to explore the dramatic arts that Cape Town has to offer, in the form of productions like the Rocky Horror Show. Head over to the Baxter theatre for local and international productions of the drama, music, ballet and comedy variety. Winter is a great time to enjoy live performances and indulge your appreciation of the performing arts.

10. Two Oceans Aquarium

The whole family can marvel at the many wonders of the deep blue sea, in one of the exhibits at the Two Oceans Aquarium. The aquarium is a great way to escape the winter chill and be entertained and enthralled by nature’s most interesting underwater species.

11. Butterfly world

Butterflies in Cape Town

Take a trip through this mesmerizing world of butterflies, marmoset monkeys, vibrant parrots and more. For a unique winter experience near Klapmuts, lose yourself in this 1000 square metre greenhouse, with thousands of tropical butterflies and plants, then pay a visit to the aviary, the meerkat enclosure and feed the ducks.

12. V&A Market on the Wharf

This haven for foodies is guaranteed to be open on the coldest and most rainy days of winter. With a little bit of something for everyone, the market boasts a wide variety of foods to suit every taste bud. Food prices vary but you can probably fill your belly for about R40. During the rainy season, the market is open from 10am-6pm, Monday to Sunday.

13. Hint Hunt

When the winter cabin fever sets in, take a trip to the Old Biscuit Mill. Here you’ll find a fun live escape game for the whole family called Hint Hunt. Take a group of 3 to 5 people and work out puzzles and mysteries to release yourself from a room. The goal is simple - get out of the room within 60 minutes. Get your thinking cap on and tap into your inner Sherlock Holmes to solve this challenge.

14. The Science Centre

Learn something new and experience what’s hot in the world of science, technology, mathematics and engineering. It’s great educational fun for the whole family, with more than 250 interactive exhibitions and mind-boggling puzzles. Break free from the house and expand your mind by discovering the wonders that the Cape Town Science Centre has to offer.

15. Kalk Bay

Take the train to Kalk Bay for lunch, then amble around the quirky shops and the wharf. You can experience a holiday atmosphere, that’s just a train ride away. Check with the locals for their preferred places to eat, there are some hidden gems that many don’t know about. Whether it’s food, art or adventure, this seaside village has an eclectic mix of things to do.

16. Pub Quiz

Test your general knowledge at a pub quiz in one of many bars in Cape Town. On a cold winter’s weekday evening, warm up your body and your mind at pubs like Oblivion, Foreign Exchange, the Royal Oak, Fireman’s Arms and many more. The quizzes offer great prizes and have little or no entry fees.

17. The great outdoors

The nature scene in Cape Town comes to life after the first winter rains, so put on those hiking boots, grab a camera and go for a walk or hike in and around the city. Experience waterfalls and streams on the mountain slopes, lush forests and many parks – including Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

18. Brewery Tours

Drinking beer in Cape Town

Go on a brewery tour of one of the many beer halls or microbreweries situated in and around Cape Town City Bowl. From a contemporary beer hall on Long Street, to the first brewing estate in the southern hemisphere near Stanford - you’re sure to find something that interests your hops and barley taste buds.

19. Rock climbing

Get active and go climbing at CityROCK or HangTime Climbing Gym. Get a new perspective on things, from atop one of these fun climbing walls. Indoor rock climbing is a great family outing and is perfect for a chilly winters day, to warm up.

20. Afternoon tea

Sip on a world-class afternoon tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, known by locals as the Pink Palace. It boasts the best afternoon tea in the world, with a variety of international foodies and writers coming together to decide on this. Enjoy delectable snacks and warm treats in winter, along with your choice of delightful tea and a sneaky glass of French champagne.

21. Coffee with a view

Serious caffeine fanatics would list Truth Coffee as the top roaster and coffee shop in the Mother City, however it has in fact been rated the best coffee shop in the world. At Truth Coffee, tables overlook the huge retro-roaster and offer visitors a steampunk-inspired experience. Other popular coffee haunts include Empire Café, Cafeen and Newport Market & Deli.

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