Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, the warm, dryish summers balanced by cool wet winters. The best time to visit Cape Town depends on the kind of trip you’re planning; come prepared for hot days in winter and cold snaps in summer, and always pack a jumper and jacket.
For sun and swimming, the best time to visit is from October to mid-December and mid-January to Easter, when it’s light long into the evening and there’s an average of ten hours of sunshine a day.
Between mid-December and mid-January, the whole region becomes congested as the nation takes its annual seaside holiday. In Cape Town, this is serious party time, with plenty of major festivals and events; if this is when you plan to visit, arrange accommodation and transport well in advance, and expect to pay considerably more for your bed than during the rest of the year.
Despite its shorter daylight hours, the autumn period, from April to mid-May, has a lot going for it: the southeaster drops and air temperatures remain pleasantly warm and the light is sharp and bright. For similar reasons the spring month of September can be very agreeable, with the added attraction that following the winter rains the peninsula tends to be at its greenest.
Although spells of heavy rain occur in winter (June and July), it tends to be relatively mild, with temperatures rarely falling below 6˚C. Glorious sunny days with crisp blue skies are common, and you won’t see bare wintry trees either: indigenous vegetation is evergreen and gardens flower year-round. It’s also in July that the first migrating whales begin to appear along the southern Cape coast, usually staying till the end of November.
The southeaster, the cool summer wind that blows in across False Bay, forms a major obsession for Capetonians. Its fickle moods can singlehandedly determine what kind of day you’re going to have, and when it gusts at over 60kph you won’t want to be outdoors, let alone on the beach. Conversely, its gentler incarnation as the so-called Cape Doctor brings welcome relief on humid summer days, and lays the famous cloudy tablecloth on top of Table Mountain.