There’s plenty to do in the Western Cape and not all of it need cost you a cent. We’ve rounded up some free stuff you can do when money’s tight.
1. Learn about the stars at the Astronomical Observatory
Take in the night skies on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month at 20h00, when the South African Astronomical Observatory opens its doors to the public for a 45-minute presentation. If the weather plays along, you’ll be able to view the night sky through various telescopes. Topics are advertised in advance on www.saao.ac.za.
2. Sip ‘n swirl at a wine farm
Many wine farms in the Cape offer free tastings, but Steenberg Vineyards is special. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling of the tasting room and couches are set around fireplaces or overlooking rim-flow pools. The free tasting includes six wines from the Premium and Super Premium ranges. Tel 021-713-2211, www.steenberg-vineyards.co.za.
3. Taste wine in Cape Town city
Don’t feel like heading into the winelands? Wine Concepts in Newlands and in Kloof Street holds regular free tastings, often featuring lesser-known brands. Keep a look out on the website for details. www.wineconcepts.co.za.
4. Feed the ducks in Durbanville
Take the kids to feed the ducks at Sonstraal Dam in Durbanville. Picnics can be enjoyed on the lawns and there’s a path for walking and cycling.
5. Browse and nibble at the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay
The Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay is a new favourite among foodies. Craft and food stalls are housed in an old fish factory on the water’s edge. Sample some of the delicious produce on offer, including sweet treats and meat. www.bayharbour.co.za.
6. Take a Diamond Tour at the V&A Waterfront
Take a Shimansky Diamond Tour at the Clock Tower in the V&A Waterfront and watch how rough diamonds are transformed into creations of fire and light and set into gold and platinum masterpieces in the Jewellery Manufacturing Factory. Then wander through the Diamond Museum. Book at www.shimanskytours.com.
7. Go for a beach walk in The Garden Route
Walk along Keurbooms Beach to Arch Rock, near Plettenberg Bay, and follow the trails along the coastal bush. Watch seals, dolphins and whales playing in the ocean while you enjoy the sunsets over Robberg. – suggested by one of our readers, Patsy Tatham.
8. Appreciate art at the South African National Gallery
Get a dose of culture at the South African National Gallery. Bordering the Company’s Garden in the CBD, the gallery is home to collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art. Tel 021-481-3970, www.iziko.org.za.
9. Take a walk through the Company’s Garden
Once you’re done browsing these beautiful works of art, take a selfguided walk through the Company’s Garden, have a picnic and feed the squirrels. The aviary is a favourite with children and don’t miss the oldest cultivated pear tree in SA, planted in 1652.
10. Use the cableway on your birthday
Although a return ticket for the Table Mountain cableway usually costs R195, on your birthday it’s free! And remember that putting on your walking shoes and hiking up one of the many trails doesn’t cost a cent. www.tablemountain.net.
11. Sip sundowners on Lion’s Head
Locals know there aren’t many sundowner spots better than the top of Lion’s Head. Hike up one of the wellmarked trails to arrive just in time to watch the sun set and soak up views of the city, ocean and mountains.
12. Fly a kite at Bloubergstrand
Fly a kite on Bloubergstrand’s beachfront. Or, if you don’t own a kite, just watch the sky fill with an array of shapes and sizes. Then pop over the and see the kitesurfers defy gravity with one of the best views of Table Mountain as a backdrop.
13. Watch a music concert at the Baxter
Attend a UCT Music School performers’ class or lunchtime concert at the Baxter Theatre. These take place Wednesdays at 14h00 and Thursdays at 13h00 during the academic term and fit neatly into an hour. www.baxter.co.za.
14. Visit the Karoo Gardens
While most of our national botanical gardens charge an admission fee, this isn’t the case for the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, near Worcester. Entry is free between 1 November and 31 July, outside flower season. As you’d expect, a wide range of desert and semi-desert plants are cultivated here. Tel 023-347-0785, www.sanbi.org.
15. Visit parliament
Attend a debate of the National Assembly or National Council of Provinces, or go on a guided tour of parliament. For a tour, tel 021-403-2266. To attend a debate, tel 021-403-2197.
16. Say cheese in Prince Albert
Visit Gay’s Guernsey Dairy in Prince Albert and taste the award-winning cheeses. (Warning: it will be difficult to leave without buying some of Gay’s delicious yoghurts.) Tel 023-541-1274.
17. Witness ocean nightlife in Sedgfield
Explore the puddles at Gericke’s Point, near Sedgefield, under the full moon. The tidal pools teem with marine life and by the light of the full moon you’ll get to witness the ocean nightlife. – suggested by one of our readers, Laetitia Wolmarans.
18. Go whale watching in Hermanus
Stroll along Hermanus’ famous Cliff Path, a 10-kilometre trail from New Harbour to the mouth of the Klein River. Look out for Fick’s Pool, Bientang’s Cave, Roman Rock and, of course, whales. www.fernkloof.com.