Newsletter of Horizon Holiday Cottages - Winter 2010.
Cape Town’s Secret Season
Cape Town has become a highly acclaimed international destination and is the most popular destination for a South African holiday for international tourists. Because our summer coincides with winter in the Northern hemisphere; masses of tourists flock to Cape Town during December /January to enjoy the wonderful beaches, amazing scenery, and host of interesting attractions. This is also the peak holiday period in South Africa too, so Cape Town becomes inundated with local holidaymakers during the same period. The result is one of difficulty in securing affordable holiday accommodation, high prices; traffic jammed roads and packed facilities.
Winter in Cape Town is known as the “secret season” stretching from late Autumn (May) to Spring (October). Astute tourists and visitors know that during the winter months the Cape is not very busy and it is the Green season. Outside of peak working hours there is little traffic and restaurateurs are genuinely pleased to have you visit their establishment. This is the season where you can enjoy the lowest Cape Town accommodation rates, and negotiate even lower rates for longer stays. Many restaurants offer winter specials to entice clients and car hire rates will be at the cheapest.
There seems to be an impression that it is always cold in winter in Cape Town, but this is not always true. The average daytime temperature usually ranges from 10 to 18 degrees C, but there are many warm and windless days where the temperature rises to the 20’s. (70 degrees F). Cape Town really is fortunate to enjoy mild winters, and the days during this time can be magnificent. Cape Town is a winter rainfall area, but recent climatic changes seem to have reduced the winter rainfall. This current winter, for example, there have been many weeks with no rain at all and many lovely, sunny days. On the other hand, it can rain for several days on end.
Winter is when the Cape is visited by the annual Whale migration, and many whales are to be seen in False Bay from July to October. In September the self proclaimed Whale capital of South Africa, Hermanus, hosts the eagerly anticipated Whales and Wheels festival - being able to see these huge creature close up makes a holiday in the” Secret Season” worthwhile. For more details see our page: http://www.horizoncottages.co.za/cape-town-whale-watching.htm
So what does one do with your family when the sunny day is replaced by a cold, blustery, wet day?
There are too many indoor attractions for adults to list here, but I hope that families will find this list of chid friendly activities useful for the odd rainy day.
Close to Horizon Holiday Cottages are 2 well loved attractions for kids, but which are equally enjoyable for adults
The first is the Warrior Toy Museum in Simonstown. Kids and collectors of toys, particularly model cars, should not miss this museum. It has a permanent exhibition of toys, dolls, Meccano sets, model cars, boats, trains, soldiers, airplanes and other toys. Kids love to watch the trains in the working display chuffing in and out of the stations. The toy museum also offers a wide range of scale model cars and other toys for sale.
Scratch Patch, Dido Valley Road, Simonstown. This is a gemstone factory producing and offering for sale high quality semi-precious gem stones and artworks, and has a small restaurant and coffee shop. The whole lower section comprises a garden stream and an huge cave with the floor strewn with polished semi-precious gem stones. For a small cost your little one can fill a cup or a pail with gemstones to take home. Kids can while away an hour or 2 as they scrabble away looking for that real gem to take home.
Castle of Good Hope: Kids love a castle, and our Castle will delight both children and adults on holiday in Cape Town. This massive and impressive stone fort with its iconic pentagram shape was built by the first Dutch settlers between 1666 and 1679. Guided tours are available but are free to just wander around on your own. The attractions include the dungeons, military and nautical exhibits of past eras and a massive collection of historic art and artworks. In days of yore the castle was built on the seafront, but reclamation of land has placed it far from the sea.
Cape Town Museums - see website: www.iziko.org.za
Cape Town has many museums. The most popular with kids will the South African Museum located in the Company gardens at the top of the city. They are sure to be awed by a huge skeleton of a herbivorous dinosaur, as well as the massive skull of a carnivorous dinosaur. The exhibition includes other dinosaur skeletons as well as beautifully crafted dinosaur scenes.
There is a collection of whale and skeletons, to be seen from all floors, which includes a 20.5 metre blue whale skeleton, and casts of Killer and other whales.
The museum’s Shark World exhibit is one of the world's best and most comprehensive exhibits. A key attraction is the life-size, 2+ meter high model of the jaws of the Megatooth Shark, probably the largest predator the world has ever known.
Close by is The Slave Lodge museum is situated in one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town, which provides visitors with an overview of the history of slavery at the Cape.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (V&A Waterfront) is the most popular attraction of Cape Town. On a bright sunny day there is much for kids to see and do including a trip on a pirate sailing ship. For the rainy days there is also a Scratch Patch here, but the highlight for kids is undoubtedly the Two Oceans Aquarium. There are many fascinating and colourful fish exhibits in tanks, but kids love to watch the shoals of fish and sharks swimming past the glass sides of the ocean exhibit. Equally enjoyable are the penguin feedings and river walks.
The Cape Town Planetarium is an interesting place to visit when it's rainy and cold. It's cheaper than a movie (R20 entrance fee) and more educational, in a fun way. There is a great show on about Table Mountain. The show explores the geology of Table Mountain and the southern skies centered on its celestial counterpart. It's on every day at either 14h00 or 14h30.
Canal Walk is a great place to spend the day for both Kids and adults; just a short drive toward the West Coast highway from Cape Town. Let it rain all day- no one will mind or notice. Firstly there is the MTN Science Centre; South Africa's first world-class interactive science centre. It is a place where kids can have fun, while learning about scientific discoveries and technological innovations. Packed with over 300 interactive displays, the “Sciencentre” at Canal Walk is great place for hands-on learning, and you don’t have to keep saying, ‘don’t touch’ as everything is there for that very purpose.
Canal Walk is the largest regional shopping mall in Africa, with an enormous range of shops, restaurants, cinemas and a superb bird conservation area known as Intaka Island; it can easily keep your family occupied for the entire day. Kids will head for the Place of Play, the largest indoor and outdoor play park in South Africa. It has every fun thing under the sun, from a huge jungle gym and laser beam room, right down to a teddy bear stuffing machine. Plus, everything is in strict accordance with international standards of safety, security and cleanliness.
Groot Constantia is another enjoyable place to take the family. This beautiful estate with it 30 year old manor house offers occasional Treasure hunts give kids the opportunity to explore and learn more about this historical Estate, and popular Cellar Tours, with juice for younger visitors. Entrance to the manor house is inexpensive and will enable you to view this magnificent example of Cape Dutch architecture, which houses a fine collection of period furniture and ceramics, with the emphasis on Cape Furniture.
By the time that your family has got through only half of these activities the sun will be shining again, and they can take to the wonderful outdoors, see our list of Things To Do for more ideas.
We often joke that Cape Town has no climate - just weather - and one can experience all 4 seasons in one day.
Book accommodation on line now to suit your budget by taking advantage of our low winter special rates.
For more information on the Secret season see our Blog post: