Kalk Bay lies between the mountains and the sea on South Africa’s Cape Peninsula. It’s a place to walk cobbled streets and find quirky shops. There’s an arty buzz, with galleries and people selling crafts on street corners. Stop for coffee, browse the bookshop, buy fish fresh from the sea, watch seals at the harbour. Here’s my pick of 10 things to do in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.
Soak up the vibe and admire the architecture, watch the trains rumble past just in front of your nose. Stop to chat to some of the local characters who are a large part of what makes Kalk Bay different from other Cape Town neighbourhoods.
Take the scenic hillside route to Kalk Bay along Boyes Drive, where you’ll see rushing waterfalls in winter and can stop to drink in the view of the harbour from above.
Kalk Bay is a great whale-watching spot, especially when southern right whales visit between June and November. Look out for the whale info board on Boyes Drive, where you can stop for a good view of the bay. Sometimes you can see whales from the train.
3. Explore Kalk Bay Harbour
Visit the working harbour to watch colourful fishing boats come in with their catch. Sniff the tang of the sea as fishermen unload the boats, buy fresh fish to cook for supper. There’s a giant-sized seal who often haunts the harbour when the boats come in, knowing he’ll get a free meal.
Park your car on Boyes Drive and hike (about two hours) to Echo Valley or the Boomslang Caves above Kalk Bay for wonderful views and fynbos. Take a torch if you want to explore inside the caves. To be safe, walk in groups of at least four or six people and be on the alert for dodgy characters who may be looking to mug you (a sad reality of life you need to be aware of).
5. Experience dinner theatre
Enjoy dinner and a show at the Kalk Bay Theatre at the Brass Bell restaurant. Seats in the theatre are unreserved, but if you have dinner at The Brass Bell before the show you get first option of seating from two hours before the show starts at 20:00. All info about the shows and where to book tickets is in the link above.
Enjoy some of the 21 storyboards along the pathway next to the Main Road between Kalk Bay harbour and Muizenberg. Pictures, maps and text tell the stories of people who lived in the area over the past few hundred years. You’ll meet the KhoiSan hunter-gatherers and fisherfolk, learn about old buildings and places of worship, when the railway came in the early 1880s, how the mountains and the sea defined the people who lived here.
7. Admire old buildings
Look up to appreciate the old buildings of Kalk Bay, some of them beautifully restored, others with a patina of neglect. The Holy Trinity church dates back to 1873 and the Dutch Reformed church – now home to the Kalk Bay Theatre – to 1876. The Old Majestic Hotel, built in the 1920s, has been converted into upmarket apartments.
Wander along the Main Road and up some of the narrow alleys, losing yourself among antique and bric-a-brac shops, second-hand bookstores, clothing boutiques, bakeries, ice cream parlours and art galleries. There are also people selling crafts on street corners. Stop and chat to them before you buy; they’re an interesting lot.
Browse the shelves at Kalk Bay Books for a well-chosen mix of nature, history, travel and fiction. You can ask to be added to their mailing list to be alerted to book launches, author signings and other events.
Perhaps my all-time best thing to do is to visit Kalk Bay restaurants and coffee shops for everything from coffee or a drink to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here are some of the perennial favourites:
- Brass Bell Kalk Bay – a few different spaces all situated close to the waves for a really immersive experience. Heavy on the seafood but there are steak and burger options too. It’s a great place for a few drinks but gets really busy on the weekends so if you want to eat you’d better book ahead.
- Cape to Cuba – you’ll probably come for the mojitos or daiquiris but you’ll love it for the jumble of colourful chandeliers, mismatched chairs and clutter, the vibey music redolent of Havana cigar smoke and tango dancers. There’s a tip of the hat to Ernest Hemingway and Che Guevara too. The food flavour is Cuban with a hint of Cajun and a wallop of chilli.
- Olympia Café Kalk Bay – unpretentious and very popular hangout with good coffee, salads, pasta, burgers. You’re welcome to bring your dog. Visit the bakery around the corner for a range of breads and pastries to take home.
- Harbour House Kalk Bay and Live Bait – you won’t find better views than at these two sister restaurants right on the rocks at the harbour. Watch waves crash on the rocks from Live Bait or look down on them and out to sea from Harbour House upstairs. Both offer great seafood options, and Live Bait has the best seafood pasta in Cape Town while the crème brulee at Harbour House would be worth a trip, even if the fish and views weren’t so fab.
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