Cape Point is the treacherous promontory of rocks, winds and swells braved by navigators since the Portuguese first “rounded the Cape” in the fifteenth century. Plenty of wrecks lie submerged off its coast, and at Olifantsbos on the west side you can walk to a US ship sunk in 1942, and a South African coaster that ran aground in 1965. The Old Lighthouse, built in 1860, was too often dangerously shrouded in cloud, and failed to keep ships off the rocks, so another was built lower down in 1914. It’s not always successful in averting disasters, but is still the most powerful light beaming onto the sea from South Africa.
Most visitors make a beeline for Cape Point, seeing the rest of the reserve through a vehicle window, but walking is the best way to appreciate the dramatic landscape and flora.
There are several waymarked walks in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. If you’re planning a big hike it’s best to set out early, and take plenty of water, as shade is rare and the wind can be foul. One of the most straightforward hiking routes is the signposted forty-minute trek from the car park at Cape Point to the more westerly Cape of Good Hope. For exploring the shoreline, a clear path runs down the Atlantic side, which you can join at Gifkommetjie, signposted off Cape Point Road. From the car park, several sandy tracks drop quite steeply down the slope across rocks, and through bushes and milkwood trees to the shore, along which you can walk in either direction. The Hoerikwaggo Table Mountain Trail is a popular four-day, five-night hike from Table Mountain to Cape Point along the Peninsula spine. There are overnight huts along the way and you can do just one or more of the 17–18km sections (from R42/person a night; 021 683 7826, www.hoerikwaggotrail.org).
A single main road runs from the Cape Point entrance to the car park, restaurant and funicular. A number of roads branch off this, each leading to one of the series of beaches on either side of the peninsula. The sea is too dangerous for swimming, but there are safe tidal pools at the Buffels Bay and Bordjiesrif beaches, which are adjacent to each other, midway along the east shore. Both have braai stands, but more southerly Buffels Bay is the nicer, with big lawned areas and some sheltered spots to have a picnic.