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There’s a whole lot more to do at the V&A Waterfront than shopping for designer labels and watching movies. Here are 12 things to keep you busy at Cape Town‘s famous shopping mall, the V&A Waterfront, and none of them will break the bank.

1. Cruise the canals

There is no public access to the marina so a Canal Cruise at the V&A Waterfront is the only way to see the multi-million Rand apartments owned by the likes of Elton John, Madonna and David Beckham. The canal boats are used as a means of transport between the One & Only, City Lodge, Westin Grand, Harbour Bridge Hotel and the CTICC. Glide along water that is recycled every three days and look out for the only working lock inAfrica. If you are lucky you may spot a pyjama shark. The best part – it only costs R20 and you can hop on and off all day! Remember to take your tour headphones with you, apparently they work well with a Blackberry phone.

Cruises are half an hour long and leave every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour between 09h00 and 17h00.  Tel 021-511-6000.

If you buy a two-day City Sightseeing Tour on the red bus for R210, the Canal Cruise is included.

2. Go on a diamond tour

Diamonds have never held as much appeal to me as other precious stones, but things changed when I had the million Rand “My Girl” diamond ring on my finger at the Cape Diamond Museum! Apart from drooling over diamonds that are worth as much as an entire small country, this fascinating tour will take you through the history of the world’s oldest and most desirable treasure. Find out how the engagement ring came to be, watch diamond cutters creating masterpieces and see replicas of famous diamonds such as The Cullinan, The Hope and The Taylor Burton. The best part? A diamond ring may empty your bank account, but the tour is for free! The museum is open from 09h00 to 21h00 every day and you’ll find it The Clock Tower.

Tours to be booked in advance, especially for large groups.
Tel 021-421-2488.

Did you know?
During the 19th century, South Africa produced most of the world’s diamonds.

3. Take a walk and learn some history

Did you know that Ferrymans Tavern and Mitchell’s Brewery are housed in buildings that were originally locomotive sheds? Think about that the next time you enjoy a pint at one of these pubs at the V&A Waterfront. TheVictoria &AlfredHotel was originally a warehouse and the marina that is now home to expensive yachts was the original quarry where criminals dug up the stones used to build the Waterfront.  If this interests you, take a Historical Walking Tour from the Chavonnes Battery Museum next to The Clock Tower. You’ll see a treadmill used as punishment for prisoners at the Breakwater Prison, learn about the Penny Ferry and feel the ancient grooves left in the capstons from years of pulling up ships’ anchors. Willem Steenkamp is a born storyteller and for R50 you’ll see this working harbour in a whole new light. Tours leave daily at 11h00, with a minimum of four people are required to take the tour and 24 hours notice must be given.
Tel 021-408-7600.

Did you know?
The Waterfront had electricity 10 years before the rest of Cape Town.

4 Take a cycle tour with AWOL Tours

Explore the Mother City on a Dutch bicycle led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides. The tour lasts three hours and takes you from the V&A Waterfront through the historical Bo-Kaap, the Company’s Gardens, past the flower sellers in Adderley Street, to the Stadium and through Green Point Park. It’s a fun and fascinating way to see the city, even if you haven’t cycled for a while. Learn more by reading this first hand experience of touring Cape Town on a bicycle.

The tour costs R300 a person and leave at 10h00 every day. Tel 021-418-3803.

Did you know?
Dutch bicycles have no brakes on the handlebars. Instead you have to peddle backwards to brake.

5. Scratch for gems or play golf in a cave

Children will really enjoy scratching about for brightly coloured stones. It’ll keep them occupied for hours and there is no time limit. There are almost 100 different semi-precious stones and bags cost between R15 – R90. The Scratch Patch is open every day (except Christmas day) between 09h00 to 15h30. When everyone tires of hunting for gemstones, right next door is Cave Golf for R18 a round. Operating hours 9:00 to 17:30, last round at 16:30. Tel 021-419-9429.

Did you know?
Rose quartz is known as the love gemstone and is said to have healing properties.

6. Visit the aquarium

Most people know about the aquarium, but few are aware that a year’s membership only costs R243 (online) or R270 (ticket office)? You can visit the 3 000 inhabitants as many times as you want during the year and after only two visits the membership would’ve paid for itself.  Go diving with sharks or feed the fish in the kelp forest and interact with penguins.

The aquarium is open between 09h00 to 18h00. Keep a look out for special activities and sleep-overs for children. Tel 021-418-3823.

Did you know?
The Kelp Forest Exhibit is one of only two kelp forests on display in the world.

7. Have the lunch at Reuben’s at One & Only

Reuben Riffel is one of South Africa’s most loved chefs and his restaurants are known for serving generous portions of wholesome fare that comes beautifully plated. For R99 you can enjoy his Dish of the Day, including a glass of wine. Previous dishes have included Chicken Supreme and Beef Guinness Goulash (both served with roast vegetables and mash). The dish of the day is served Monday to Friday, from 12h30 to 15h00 (walk-in’s only, no reservations). There are also set menus from R195 for three courses as well as a Sunday buffet for R225 a person.

Tel 021-431-4511

8. Take to the seas on a Marine Eco Tour

Next time you curse the South Easter, think of this … the plankton in Table Bay thrive because of this wind and as plankton is a very important part of the food chain, it means that there is food for everyone.  For R180 (adults) and R90 (kids) you can enjoy a boat cruise on the Ocean Adventurer and learn more about the ocean and its inhabitants from qualified Marine Biologists. You may even be lucky enough to see dolphins and seals. Whales can be spotted in season and considering that theWestern Cape coast has the largest Great White population in the world, you may catch a fin gliding past too. A little secret – there are generally more sightings of dolphins in the morning. There are four to five trips out to sea a day and there is a cash bar available. Phone 021-421-5565.

Did you know?
Seals don’t clap their fins or “wave” at you – they are merely cooling themselves down!

9. Have high-tea at The One & Only

Not many of us can afford to spend a night at The One & Only, but you can experience the grandeur of this hotel at high tea between 14h30 and 17h00 every day. For R145 you can enjoy the view from one of the plush couches while you scoff peanut cookies, buttermilk panacotta, cupcakes, macaroons, meringues, banana loaf, biscotti and baked vanilla bean cheesecake. Of course there are egg mayonnaise and cucumber sandwiches too. A tea fit for a queen indeed! Reservations are essential. Tel 021-431-5800.

Did you know?
The British tradition of High Tea began in the mid 1700s as an afternoon meal usually served between 3 and 4 o’clock.

10. Watch the sun set from a ferris wheel

Take in the city skyline on the first giant ferris wheel in South Africa. Sit in an enclosed cabin on the Wheel of Excellence and enjoy a 15 minute ride (4 revolutions) that’ll give you a bird’s eye view of the Mother City, Table Mountain, Robben Island and Paarl. For a real treat, spend R800 (four adults and one child) and get an hour and a half on the wheel with a bottle of sparkling wine. If that’s a bit too lavish (or you have no children), a normal ride will cost you R80 (adults) and R40 (kids between 4-12 years) and afterwards you can enjoy a meal and a pint at Ferryman’s .

Did you know?
You can get married on the Wheel of Excellence too!

11. Go for a ride on a Venetian carousel

Nothing is more enchanting to children (and some adults, like me) than a fairground carousel and this hand-made carousel is a beautiful sight to behold. You’ll be mesmerised by the hand-painted intricate murals, the two floors of horses that move up and down, the swaying dolphin chariots and twirling teacups. The whole affair is brought to life by 1 800 lights and your children will be begging you to let them have a ride for R10. You may even end up joining them. The carousel can be found by The Clock Tower and it is open for rides between 09h00 to 21h00.

Look for the “Lead Horse” on the carousel. It’s usually the most decorated one on the outside row, and may have the markings or initials of the manufacturer somewhere in its trappings.

12. Have dinner in the secret tunnel

This tunnel is so secret that not even I know where it is. But there is one and you can have dinner in it. When I find out, I might tell you – if they let me. But if you find out before me, do let me know! Some secrets really should be shared.

Did you know?
The tunnel next to the Ulundi parking garage was built to move stone from the quarry to the breakwater for building.

Parking at the V&A Waterfront

You can park in any of the garages for only R10 between 18h00 and 22h00. Now there’s no excuse for not getting out to enjoy a meal or a pint, a game of cave golf or a ride on a giant ferris wheel.


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