20 things to do in Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 13 September 2016 Tags:,

There has always been this great divide between the Southern and Northern suburbs, with most Southern suburbs folk going into a cold sweat the minute they have to cross the invisible border (which is by Century City apparently) and go beyond “The Boerewors Curtain”.

This is definitely true for myself who considers a drive to the Northern Suburbs as a mini roadtrip and one where I am likely to get lost and go into a panic. So when I was given the challenge of going to find out exactly what happens beyond this invisible curtain, I made sure my phone was fully charged so I could consult Google Maps and set out feeling much like the voortrekkers must’ve felt when they left Cape Town for Stellenbosch.


Photo by Rachel Robinson

Grab a boerewors roll at Stodels in Bellville.

It turns out that the Northern Suburbs has a lot to offer and, apart from the white bakkies who try run you down while you are trying to find your way to a langarm jol, it’s really not that scary. Everyone was friendly and helpful and I had a great time. So much so that a mini-roadtrip beyond Jip De Jager Drive may become a more frequent affair. Here are 20 things that Southern Suburbanites should do if you decide to follow in my shoes.


1. Go dancing

“When in Rome,” as the saying goes… One should always try out local traditions and a popular local tradition on this side of the world is a night out langarming. It’s not for the faint-hearted or for those with two left feet (like me), but even as a spectator it makes for a good night out. What fascinated me the most was how big the dance floors are (disco ice skating rinks if you will) and how nobody ever seems to bump into one another – it’s the best non-choreographed dancing show I have ever seen! The other thing that I really admired was that in the three places I visited, hardly anyone was peering into their phones, which just goes to show how wonderfully social langarming is.

There are plenty of langarm spots to choose from, but I went to Nikita’s (best priced drinks and a shooter bar with some interesting shooters, along with homemade hamburgers and boerewors rolls available for the midnight munchies), Klipwerf (quiet on Fridays, but very popular on Saturday nights with what seemed a slightly older crowd) and Danskraal (biggest and most crowded with a wide variety of music from 80s to hiphop and Afrikaans pop).

By the way, many langarm jols allow you to bring your own drinks, so pack in your bottles of brandy and some 2-litre Cokes and prepare to dance the night away! Read this blog if you are looking for a place to go – it’s a brilliant and amusing guide.


2. Visit a garden centre

These days, garden centres are not just places to buy plants and fertiliser. Now you can have something to eat, browse shops and let the kids enjoy themselves on the jungle gym. Stodels in Bellville has a café with reasonably priced meals and plenty of activities for the little ones, including play areas (conveniently near the café so parents can keep an eye), sand art, an animal farm, mini-tractor rides and giant water balls. There’s also a pet centre and a snake park (entrance fee R25) with 50 different reptiles on display. The craft shop is also worth a stop as it’s filled with all sorts of handmade goodies and art pieces that are tempting to take home.
Contact: Tel 0219191106, stodels.com

A little further afield in Joostenbergvlakte is the Cape Garden Centre, which is next door to Bugz Play Centre and the Motor Museum. The Village Centre has an assortment of shops, including a beauty salon, an art gallery, a wine cellar, a pet supply story, knickknack and craft shops, coffee brewers and a local goods store. If you are feeling peckish after getting through all that (nevermind all the plants for sale), the Bamboo Garden restaurant (pet-friendly) serves light meals and refreshments, with pensioners deals on a Wednesday. On the weekends you can grab a quick snack or an ice cream from the kiosk outside.
Contact: Tel 0219884137, capegardencentre.co.za


Photos by Rachel Robinson

Clockwise from left: The Bamboo Cafe at Cape Garden Centre is pet-friendly; the playground and mini train at Stodels in Bellville will keep kids occupied for hours.


3. Go for a hike

The Tygerberg Nature Reserve covers an area of 309 hectares and boasts 562 different plant species as well as supporting one of the last remnants of the critically endangered Swartland shale renosterveld vegetation type. Hikers, trail runners and nature lovers can enjoy various trails (ranging from easy to more difficult as well as having different lengths) and beautiful views over the entire Peninsula. Those who don’t wish to run or hike can enjoy birdwatching (there are 137 species of birds to look out for), have a picnic at one of the picnic sites, or simply relax and take in the panoramic views. There’s also wheelchair access to the lookout point and a wheelchair-friendly picnic table, so everyone can enjoy a day out. There are two entrances to the nature reserve, one in Totius Street (most of the trails start from here) and the other in Meyboom Avenue. Entrance is R15 for adults and R8 for pensioners and children (3-17 years).


4. Get on your bike

There are over 70 kilometres of flowing single track that run through the wine farms in the Durbanville Wine Valley and alongside the Tygerberg Nature Reserve, with plenty of options for beginners through to serious bikers. The Meerendal cycle route (21km) is suitable for beginners and will take you through vineyards and fynbos and, alongside dams and blue gum forests. Bloemendal’s cycle route is short, but suitable for all levels of fitness. You can enjoy a wine tasting (they are generous with their tastings here) or perhaps some sushi afterwards. Hillcrest Farm’s cycle trail (7.6km) serves as a hub to the outlying trails of Contermanskloof, Majik Forest and Meerendal. Starting at the parking area, the trail takes you around the top of a quarry before heading up through fruit orchards, and then into vineyards along the slopes. The Durbanville Hills cycle route (40km) starts at D’Aria and is a little more strenuous, involving a lot of climbing, but you can you can take your mind off the strain by enjoying the birdlife and rare plants along this scenic route.

The Tygerberg Mountain Biking Club will be able to assist with information on the various routes in the area.
Contact: Tel 0796933177, tygerbergmtb.co.za


5. Be creative

Originally built as a prison and police headquarters in the 1840s, Rust-en-Vrede was declared a National Monument in 1984 and is now home to the The Durbanville Cultural Society who promotes art and culture. The building and grounds are beautiful and inside you’ll find an art gallery, a clay museum, a ceramics gallery, a florist and jewellery makers. You can also sign up for art classes and mosaic classes, or simply enjoy a quiet cup of tea (or glass of wine) with a delicious meal in the café, while listening to classical music. This was my favourite find in the Northern Suburbs and I intend to go back – I may even sign up for mosaic classes! Tip: It’s best to park in the parking provided at Rust-en-Vrede off Church Street.
Contact: Tel 0219764691, rust-en-vrede.com


Photos by Rachel Robinson

Rust-En-Vrede in Durbanville has plenty to offer if you arts and crafts.


6. Learn to cook

The Little Pink Chef offers a wide variety of cooking classes, from Moroccan to Mexican, sushi to Thai and Indian to Italian. The classes generally include a starter, mains and a dessert, along with a variety of sauces. Take along your own wine and learn a new culinary skill! Cooking classes take place at their cooking studio in Durbanville and booking is essential as numbers are limited (maximum 12 per class).
Contact: Tel 0219753702, tlpchef.co.za


7. Go to a show

The Barnyard Theatre is a cheerful and affordable spot to go watch a show in the Willowbridge Centre in Tyger Valley. Most of the shows are musical, with talented local musicians performing anything from Queen to Billy Joel, Grease to Hollywood hits from the movies, along with the occasional performance by a local band or comedian. You are welcome to bring your own picnic basket and food, but pizzas and party platters are available for a very reasonable price and these can be ordered before the show. There’s also a drinks bar and coffee bar on the premises.
Contact: Tel 0219148898, barnyardtheatre.co.za


8. Have a pint

There are plenty of watering holes in the Northern Suburbs, with The Hollow Tree chain being one of the most well-known (the Old Oak branch serves the best Eisbein, according to a local), but the three I visited seemed a little more interesting. The Palms in Brackenfell is a massive venue where you can braai (braai packs available), eat in the restaurant, order a pizza at the bar while watching the rugby on big screens, or enjoy live music by local bands. It’s also extremely family-friendly which is probably why it’s so popular. I loved The Speakeasy Saloon in Durbanville with its fun décor and interesting information on the Prohibition. They have a huge menu, including tapas, burgers, steaks and pizzas. They also happen to serve Snakebite (a combination of cider and lager) which I haven’t seen since my days in London – word from the wise, take it easy with that beverage! Alternative and 80s rock fans will love The Rabbit Hole, who host regular live music nights, pool competitions, Open Mic nights and Tequila Tuesdays.

Photos by Rachel Robinson

Clockwise from left: Speakeasy Saloon; The Palms; The Rabbit Hole.


9. Go birdwatching

Brian Vanderwalt hails from Durbanville and is not only an avid birder and tour guide, he’s also the Honourary President of the Tygerberg Bird Club and Committee Member at the Tygerberg Advisory Council, overseeing environmental affairs pertaining to the Tygerberg range of hills. Brian’s Birding Tours can take you on day trips to Rooi-Els and Betty’s Bay, the West Coast and Langebaan, along with trips around the Cape Peninsula and coastal and wetland habitats. You can also do overnight trips to the Kalahari, Tankwa Karoo and the Overberg. Aside from a passion for birds, Brian has a keen interest in insects, amphibians and rock art, so expect to learn interesting facts about the flora and fauna at the same time.
Contact: Tel 0219192192, brians-birding.co.za


10. Hang out with horses

It’s all about horses and equestrian activities at The Fat Pony Riding Centre in Joostenbergvlakte (just down the road from the Cape Garden Centre). This rustic smallholding is home to ten horses and ponies and five rescue dogs, who all get along happily together. Lorna teaches a classical English riding and students go on to take part in shows, including jumping and dressage. Lessons cost R170 with riders also getting to learn to groom and tack up their steeds. Day camp for little ones costs R350 with two riding lessons and lessons in feeding and grooming. A three-day camp for horse-loving youngsters costs R400 a day with home-cooked meals and two nights in the backpackers. The resident chef on the property, Munir, hails from Pakistan and he cooks only Indian meals using spices from Pakistan. I can confirm that his rotis are superb! Backpacker facilities are also available for travellers, from R180 a night for a dorm room.
Contact: Tel 0848253847, or find them on Facebook


Photos by Rachel Robinson

The Fat Pony Riding Centre is everything equestrian and kids will especially love it.


11. Get some action

Brackenfell Action Arena is home to several all-weather sports arenas where you can take part in Action Football, Action Cricket and Action Netball. Recreational, social competitive and international games are played for all ages, genders and levels. Take along some of your friends or colleagues to the arena for a social gathering with a difference! Action Cricket costs R1 200 for 16 people, while Action Soccer and Netball costs R700 per team. Party packages are also available for kiddies’ parties and include sports time, umpires, equipment and various catering options.
Contact: Tel 0219816100, brackenfellarena.co.za


12. Watch an outdoor movie

During the summer months (November to April), the Galileo Open Air Cinema hosts outdoor movie nights at Hillcrest Quarry, Century City and Meerendal Wine Estate where you can take your seat under the stars and enjoy a night movies, artisanal food, beverages, interactive games, music and fun. It’s perfect for both date night and for families!
Contact: Tel 0714718728, thegalileo.co.za


13. Go for a run

Park Runs take place in the Jack Muller/Danie Uys Park in Bellville and at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville on Saturdays. The Jack Muller/Dani Uys Park has undergone a revamp and I enjoyed my stroll (no running here!) along the pathways past picnic benches, trees and guinea fowl, while watching people walk their dogs on leashes. It felt safe with plenty of other people enjoying an afternoon in the park. There is also gym equipment for free use and a large jungle gym for the littlies.

The course at Meerendal consists of a loop around the lower vineyards then a short grass section below the bird-filled dam, to the upper vineyards and returns again to the lower vineyards, finishing close to the restaurant where you can enjoy a well-deserved cappuccino and breakfast. (Note that no dogs are allowed at this Park Run.)
Contact: parkrun.co.za


Photos by Rachel Robinson

Clockwise from left: Many pathways to follow at the  Jack Muller/Danie Uys Park; picnic tables at the Jack Muller/Danie Uys Park; view from Carlucci’s at Meerendal.


14. Hunt for bargains

Voortrekker Road is synonymous with car dealerships (I even bought my first car there), but it’s also got plenty of other bargains from Chinese markets to hat shops, to toys, second-hand furniture and plastics. You can even get a tattoo and have your hair and nails done (R45 for the ‘Matric Package’, including hair, nails, toes and eyebrows!) Of course the motor trade still rules, so if you are looking for a bargain exhaust pipe or a new set of tyres, then Voortrekker Road is where you should go.

Interestingly, I drove down Voortrekker Road during Cape Town’s rush hour (between 16:00-17:00) and there were hardly any cars. I took my time and didn’t get half as disgruntled as I am sure my fellow city folk were on the N1 running parallel. So if there’s too much traffic to handle between Century City and Durban Road, opt for Voortrekker Road. You could even stop at the new Food Inn (same owner as the Eastern Bazaar in town) and grab a naan bread and a curry for dinner.

Sadly I couldn’t find the Twelve-Mile Rockstone on the corner of Durban and Voortrekker Road (unless it was a black stone resembling a pointy gravestone and now covered in stickers advertising a local clinic), but know that when you are cruising this road, you are going the same route as those in oxwagons who used to outspan here en-route to Stellenbosch.


15. Less braai, more sushi

According to the sushi chef at Yuz Sushi, the Northern Suburbs people are really starting to get into sushi as he’s noticed more and customers entering the restaurant over the past few months. Yuz Sushi in Bellville is one of the more popular sushi spots and although most patrons opt for takeaways, they have a clean and simple dining area if you’d prefer to eat in. They serve a fine miso soup and I can recommend their plum wine, if you like dessert-style wines.
Contact: Tel 0219101102 or visit their Facebook page.

Conveyor-belt sushi can be found at Yummy Zone, on the border of Bellville and Durbanville, who have lunch-time specials from Monday to Friday where all conveyor belt dishes are R25, along with all-you-can-eat sushi and Chinese food for R149 per person, from Monday to Sunday. They also have a bar serving a wide range of drinks.
Contact: Tel 0219104767 or visit their Facebook page.

Photos by Rachel Robinson

Clockwise from left: Comfortable seating at Yummy Zone; conveyor-belt sushi at Yummy Zone; the best miso soup and tasty sushi at Yuz Sushi.


16. Play golf

Dating back to 1958, the 18-hole Bellville Golf Course is set in a sheltered valley with panoramic views of the Hottentots Holland mountains and has canals, dams and trees, along with well-placed water hazards and deceptive bunkers to keep you on your toes, or tees! Club facilities include a Pro Shop, a bar, a restaurant, a large practice area and putting green, motorised carts and professional caddies. Visitor fees start at R190 for 9 holes and R285 for 18 holes.
Contact: Tel 0219133100, bellvillegolf.co.za

Originally hacked out of Port Jackson, bush and shrubs in 1976, the Parow Golf Cours is a gentle and forgiving 18-hole parklands course, with a variety of water features and an abundance of bird-life. Facilities include a Pro Shop, a halfway house, a practice putting green, a chipping area and a practice bunker next to the 10th tee, along with well-stocked bars and a lounge with magnificent views of the Tygerberg Hills and Table Mountain. On Mondays and Tuesdays, visitors can play 18 holes for R155 (excluding public holidays), otherwise fees start at R155 for 9 holes and R260 for 18 holes.
Contact: Tel 0219302160, parowgolfclub.co.za


17. More than gambling at the casino

GrandWest Casino is not only for those who like a flutter. Most of us have been to a concert there (although they have a terrible bar service at those concerts!) and anyone with children is likely to have visited the ice skating rink or the bowling alley. There’s also a theatre, movie shows and heaps of restaurants, from the family-friendly Spur to Indian and Asian cuisine, along with affordable fare and snacks at The Food Court. Apart from the skating rink, almost everything is open 24 hours a day.
Contact: Tel 0215057777, suninternational.com/grandwest/


18. Quaff some wine

The Durbanville Wine Valley is a mere 20 minute drive from the city, but once you are there you will feel miles away, surrounded by rolling hills, vineyards and lush scenery. There are 12 wine farms in the valley, with each one providing their own unique offering, including wine tastings in a “cave” or in an old chicken coop! Most of the farms have restaurants where you can enjoy a farmhouse breakfast, tuck into tapas, scoff sushi or indulge in fine dining with a view.
Contact: Tel 0833101228, durbanvillewine.co.za

Photos by Rachel Robinson

There’s plenty to explore in the Durbanville Wine Valley – only 20 minutes from the city.


19. Try toboganning

Almost everybody knows Cool Runnings Toboggan Park which opened its doors in 2007. But in case you don’t know about Africa’s first toboggan track, it involves a sled, a lever and a stainless steel track, where you can reach speeds of up to 40 kilometres an hour. The park also has a large terrace with food and drink facilities, including a liquor licence. It’s open every day of the week and only closes if it’s raining. Rides start at R40 for kids (3-14 years old) and R45 for adults, with various packages available including combo rides and day passes.
Contact: Tel 0219494439, coolrunnings.capetown


20. Smell the roses

The 3.5 hectare Durbanville Rose Garden on Durbanville Avenue has over 500 varieties of roses with approximately 5000 rose bushes. The best time to visit is from October to May when the roses are in full bloom and you can enjoy enjoy tea served by various charity organisations in the tearoom on Sunday afternoons.


Photos by Rachel Robinson

The Durbanville Rose Garden is best visited from October to May when the roses are in full bloom.

Please note that I am aware that these are definitely not the only things to do in the Northern Suburbs. If you are a local (or not) and know of something cool that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below. I would like to check them out on my next visit!