Sailing the Greek Islands with Bearing True South: Part One

We found Bearing True South through the Clymb ( in their travel section. We contacted the company to get more details and then proceeded to book our trip. We found two other couples to come with us. In total we had a group of 6 plus our guide, Stav and skipper, Andreas on the boat. We sailed for a week, leaving from Athens on a Saturday afternoon and arriving back in Athens on Friday evening. Each couple had their own cabin on the sailboat and there was a separate cabin for our guide and skipper. You can be as involved in the sailing (or not involved) as you want. Our group was pretty eager to learn so both Stav and Andreas answered all our questions and explained to us what they were doing as we sailed all week long. For the most part we did also use the motor during our trip to help us get to all of our destinations in a weeks time. We intended to do the Western Cyclades trip as it is outlined on Bearing True South’s website. When sailing or doing any kind of boating plans sometimes have to change because of the weather! There happened to be a storm coming midweek during our trip so Stav and Andreas suggested that we hit a few islands in the Cyclades then cross over to another set of islands in the Saronic gulf which was more protected from the storm. We went with this suggestion in order to make sure we got to see as many islands as we could and to ensure we were sailing through smoother water to avoid anyone in the group getting sea sick. We were all very happy with this decision and ended up getting to see a lot more variety than our original trip would have offered us. We took this trip in early September, the water everywhere was very warm (low 80s) and the weather was perfect.
We would highly recommend Bearing True South! Our guide Stav and our skipper Andreas were both awesome! Stav emailed and skyped with us before we left so that he had a good idea of what we wanted to see and do during our trip. They both made sure everything went smoothly all week.  We felt safe and taken care of the entire trip. Stav is a huge foodie which worked out great for us. We ate very well all week. We ate at small, family run restaurants on the islands where Stav knew the owners each time. We were frequently shown the fresh seafood of the day before ordering so we knew what was freshly caught that morning and recommended by the chef. In one restaurant we were even taken to the back to see the kitchen, the entire fresh seafood selection and wine selection before taken back to our table to place our order! Here is the link to Bearing True South’s website. if you are considering a sailing trip through the Greek Islands definitely seek them out!
Here is where we went and what we did. This post includes the first half of our trip (the time spent in the Cyclades).
Departing Athens
We arrived to the Alimos Marina in the early afternoon with all of our luggage, and waited at the marina’s restaurant. It’s a massive marina and we were one of hundreds of boats that needed to leave so we needed to get cleared by the dock master. Stav met us at the restaurant to get to know us as the skipper finished getting the boat ready for us – these guys turn the boat around in only a few hours between the previous guests leaving and us getting on. We got cleared for departure around 3:30 and were able to load up our gear and get going. We had a 6-7 hour sail the first day to get to Kythnos where we were going to sleep. We got to pass the temple of Poseidon and a great sunset.
Kythnos Island
Kolona Bay
We sailed right from Athens to the Kolona double bays on Kythnos, the took about 6  hours so it was after dark when we arrived. We anchored for the night in one of the bays The skies were clear and you could clearly see the Milky Way above. There is no town or city within view, only a coffee shop/cafe and a couple houses. When we woke up in the morning we spent several hours in the morning swimming, snorkeling and walking around the area. There is a small strip of sand in-between the bays, the coffee shop is on one side of this small beach. From the beach there is a path that leads up to a small church on the top of a hill overlooking the bay. The church was locked the day we were there but we could see inside the front windows and the view of the bays from up there is a must see! Early in the morning there is a herd of mountain goats that frequently grazes up by the church so if you get up early you can probably see them as you walk around.  You can also find sea urchins stuck to rocks in the shallow waters along the edge of the bays. Our guide got several for us all to try. Nobody in our group had ever tried them before and we had always heard they were very good. They taste somewhat sweet and very fresh and salty like the ocean. They have a somewhat similar taste to shrimp.
Port Town on Kythnos – Loutra
From Kolona beach we sailed to the small port town of Loutra where we stayed the night in the marina. This is a very small town but it has a lot to offer. We ate lunch and dinner at a family run restaurant across the street from the beach- ΕΣΤΙΑΤΟΡΙΟ, ΚΑΦΕ, ΜΠΑΡ “ΞΕΡΟΛΙΘΙΑ”, ΛΑΧΑΝΟΥ ΑΛΚΗΣΤΙΣ. There are several restaurants on the beach as well. We went to this place because our guide knew the owner and knew the food was good (order the baby squid and the roasted goat leg!). We ate seafood for lunch and meat dishes for dinner. Everything was excellent and we would highly recommend this place. There are tables outside in the front of the restaurant and a small courtyard next to the restaurant with tables and string lights that hang from above. These are lit up at night giving the place a great atmosphere. After dinner we were each brought a shot of Chios Mastiha which is a liqueur that comes from the Greek island of Chios. The mastic tree does not grow anywhere else so this is something unique to Greece. The name Chios Mastiha has protected designation of origin status with the EU meaning to be labeled as Chios Mastiha it must be made in the traditional methods and must be produced on Chios. It does have a licorice taste similar to Ouzo but that flavor is much less strong and is sweeter with herbal notes.

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From lunch we headed to Ιαματικές Πηγές – Thermal Springs. Don’t expect a luxury spa experience. This place is very simply a small spa with several bathrooms, each with a marble tub that is filled with water from the thermal hot springs in the area. They fill it for you and then you sit/lay in the tub for approximately 20 minutes. They will come get you when the time is up and drain the tub. The minerals in the water are supposed to be very good for you. We enjoyed this experience and it was something different that we hadn’t done before. If your in the area it is worth a visit for the afternoon and it won’t take up too much of your day (I think it was around 15 Euro per person). The other interesting thing to do in this area is on the beach where the water from the hot springs flows into the sea. Locals have build up a “wall” of large boulders keeping the warm water from the hot spring in this small natural “hot tub” area. As the waves roll in towards the beach water from the sea enters to tub. If you sit further from the sea you will be in warmer water where the hot spring flows in. If you get too hot you can move closer to the sea where the water will be cooler.

Kythnos Main Town – Chora

After spending the afternoon in the port town we took a cab up to the main town of Chora. This small village is up on the top of a hill. It is full of small winding roads, white buildings with royal blue accents, it has all the beautfiul things you always seen in photos of the Cyclades but without all the tourists. As we wandered the streets exploring we didn’t see any other tourists. People are very proud of their homes in this village so we saw many people out painting their houses or tending to their gardens. Many people were growing fresh herbs in their small gardens so you can smell basil and oregano in the air as you walk by. We intended to eat dinner up here at another restaurant recommended by our guide but the restaurant was closed because the owner’s daughter had gotten married that weekend. Our guide also recommended we try some traditional greek desserts from the Chora Pastry Shop. Everything we tried here was wonderful- we would recommend the baklava and the cream filled pastry but try whatever looks good to you, it was all delicious! The owners were very friendly and explained to us what everything was. They were also willing to pack stuff up and hold it for us until we had finished our walk through the village.

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Serifos Island

From Kythnos we sailed to Serifos. We arrived there in the afternoon after roughly 3-4 hours of sailing. We sailed along the Eastern coast of Kythnos and passed Little Pepper Island, then continued down to the Southeastern corner of Serifos where the main town is. On our way in, we stopped at a bay for a swim and saw a ton of fish and urchins.

Serifos Port Town – Livadi                                                                                                                              Livadi is the port town on Serifos where we stayed. After we arrived we spent the afternoon wandering around this small town for the afternoon before heading up to the main town in the evening. Livadi is full of small shops and restaurants along the beach and a few narrow streets with some houses. There is not a lot there but it is a nice place to relax.  After heading up the the main town to explore we came back to Livadi and had dinner on the beach at restaurant TAKIS. Our guide knew the owner of this restaurant as well so he graciously took us to the back of the restaurant to show us all of the fresh seafood available as well as the kitchen and the wine selection. We took his recommendation for a white wine made locally on the island. Our table was right on the water and the beach happened to be full of cats and a few small kittens all walking the beach and trying to catch the minnows swimming in the shallow water along the beach. They didn’t catch any fish while we watched but it did add entertainment to our dinner!

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After dinner we walked down the beach to a small cafe for ice cream. We tried Mastiha flavored ice cream (the liqueur we had tried on Kythnos). You can find all kinds of products made from the Mastiha tree in Greece. Although it wasn’t our favorite ice cream flavor it was fun to try something new that you can’t find everywhere.

Serifos Main Town – Hora                                                                                                                               We took the bus from the port up to the main town, Hora. The main town is up on the top of a hill so the bus ride up is on pretty windy, narrow roads but is only about a 5-10 minute ride. There is also a path to walk up if you are looking for a workout. There are two churches in the town that offer spectacular views of the water and the town. You do have to walk up a fairly steep hill to get to the first church which sets up above the town on the hill. From this church there is another church up several steps to an even higher point on the hill. One warning, it is very windy up here. I wore a sun dress and spent the entire time up by the churches holding in in place (wear shorts and a t-shirt).


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After walking up to the churches we headed back into town. We sat outside at Tavern Louis for some homemade sour cherry juice and lemonade. From this Tavern you get great views of yet another church built in the traditional Cycladic style architecture. The tavern is in a small square at the center of town,  there are a few other restaurants/cafes around and a few small shops. We stopped into one of the shops nearby that was selling clothing and some souvenirs. The store owner was very nice and helpful but was not pushy like you find in some more heavily touristed areas where you feel pressured to buy something when you walk in. We purchased a small clay coin with a frog on it. The Serifos frog was printed on the first currency of the island.


You can read more about the second half of our trip here



Making the Most of Two Days in Athens

We went to Athens as the starting point of a week long sailing trip around the Western Cyclades and Saronic Gulf. We had about two days in Athens before we left the city. There is a lot to see in Athens so we did not get to everything. Here is what we did get to in our short time in the city and some recommendations for food to try.

We stayed near the Plaka district in the middle of the city. This is the oldest part of the city and very close to the Acropolis. It is a bit touristy with lots of shops and some more touristy restaurants but the neighborhood is beautiful and you can still find some good, authentic restaurants within walking distance. You will also be within walking distance to the acropolis and a lot of the ruins.

Changing of the guards: We had never seen a changing of the guards ceremony before so we decided to check it out. There is a ceremony every half hour at the Parliament building near Plaka. It does draw a lot of tourists so we did have to squeeze our way towards the front of the group of people watching in order to get a good view. The ceremony is fun to see if you haven’t seen one before however we did feel it was a bit drawn out so we did not stay for the entire ceremony. After about 10 minutes we felt we got the gist of it and went on with out busy day (we were trying to pack a lot of sight seeing into our short time in Athens).


Monastiraki Square: This is a busy area near the Acropolis hill. The square itself has some beautiful old buildings including the Pantanassas Byzantine Church which you can go inside and take photos of. There is also a large flee market full of shops selling clothing, olive oil and other greek food items and souvenirs. Souvenir tip – 98% of the shops are selling the same stuff. As a rule, we try not to buy anything on the first day of a trip when everything is new and you don’t have a point of reference. If you buy something in Plaka it will likely be a bit more expensive so shop around to find the best price before purchasing. There are several restaurants and bars in this area that offer great views of the Acropolis.

Anafiotika Neighborhood: As you wander around the acropolis hill you will stumble upon a little neighborhood full of white buildings, tiny streets, beautiful flowers and lots of cats! You get the feeling of being on one of the islands in the Cyclades without actually leaving the city. Do be mindful as you are wandering through that people do live in these houses so be respectful when photographing.

Acropolis Hill and Museum: We toured the Acropolis museum and the Acropolis hill with a guide, Eva. She was recommended to us by Bearing True South (the company we sailed around the Islands with) Here is a link to her instagram account- from there you can call or email her to set up a tour: The museum is extremely well done! It is very helpful to have someone who knows what all the ruins and artifacts are to explain in more detail to you as you walk through. As you enter, you will walk over the old ruins that the museum was built over. Since there is so much history in Athens, it is impossible to build something without hitting some sort of ruins. You will have to check your bags at the entrance, and flash photography is limited to a few areas in the museum. On the top floor you will realize that the layout is designed to represent the top of the Parthenon: the carved marble around the sides and the marble statues at either end. There are signs and explanations of each artifact in the museum so it certainly isn’t necessary to have a guide if you’d rather walk through on your own.  From the museum we headed up to the top of Acropolis hill. We were up at the top at sunset and stayed to take photos until it closed. It is beautiful to be up there at sunset but it is very crowded so it is nearly impossible to get a photo of any of the ruins without other tourists in the background. I suspect it is very busy at all times of day unless you arrive right when it opens in the morning. Of course the Parthenon is the largest building at the top which most people know about. You can also see the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea (the gateway or entrance to the Acropolis).

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Odeon of Herodes Atticus: This stone theater is located on the slope of the Acropolis hill so you can’t miss it as you walk to the top. It is a beautiful theater and it is actually still used today. We weren’t in Athens long enough to see a performance here but there was a singer rehearsing as we walked by and stopped for photos.


Panathenaic Stadium: The stadium is the site of the first modern Olympic games. It is made entirely out of marble. You can pay a fee to go in and walk around the track and up into the seats. We did not do this as you can get a great view of the stadium from the gate.


Roman Agora: This is the ancient Roman Market Place. You will see these ruins as you walk around the Plaka neighborhood. You can pay an entrance fee to walk in and get closer to them. We did not as our time was limited and you can get a good view of the ruins from outside the gates (you can pretty much walk all the way around them).

Greek Agora: This is the ancient Greek marketplace. You can see this in the distance from the Acropolis, we did not walk over to see it close up but that is an option if you have more time.

Temple of Zeus:  We only saw this on our drive out of the city on our way to the marina for our sailing trip. The temple is very impressive and if we had more time we would have loved to walk around more closely. The temple consists of large columns similar to the Parthenon. We did not get any good pictures since we only saw it as we drove by.

What and Where to Eat:

  • Dinner at Seychelles: This place was within walking distance of our Air B & B in Plaka. It was small restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. We arrived around 7:30 and we were the only ones in the restaurant. We were worried about this at first but then we realized that Greeks eat later than we do in the U.S. As we sat and enjoyed appetizers and our dinner the placed started to fill up! We would recommend the dolmas and the octopus appetizers and the Rooster with pasta in a red wine sauce for the main course. Everything was delicious. They also had a good selection of Greek wine on the wine list, we don’t know a lot about Greek wine believe it or not! There are a lot of grapes that don’t grown in other places so we just picked randomly or asked our waiter for a recommendation when we wanted to order wine.

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  • Central Municipal Market: We are foodies so we always enjoy wandering through the markets when we travel. It gives you a glimpse into how the locals shop and eat! The central market is where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies, meat and fresh seafood. The market itself is full of locals buying food. Around the market there are shops selling spices, olives and olive oil, cheeses and other Greek goods. There are several small restaurants around the market where you can enjoy a coffee, a gyro or slouvlaki wrap or a pie (cheese and spinach would be our recommendations).
  • Restaurant Attolos: We walked to this place after our tour of the Acropolis. The road it is on has a ton of popular restaurants that were all crowded. This one was recommended by our sailing guide and we were able to sit outside with great clear views of the Acropolis. The food was very good and they had good Greek wine (that we couldn’t pronounce). We had a Greek salad, chicken souvlaki, and grilled sea bass. The food was very good and the views were awesome.

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  •  IceRoll near Monastiraki Square: This is an ice cream shop where you chose your base flavor and any fruits, nuts or more chocolate or caramel that you want added to your ice cream. They pour the base cream onto a cold counter top, add in whatever you would like then mix it together and the mixing on the cold countertop turns it into ice cream! They roll it into several individual rolls and serve it in a large cup. the ice cream itself is delicious and it is a fun to watch them make it right in front of you!
  • Kappari: We had fig salad, pork leg in a honey glaze which says it is for two but really could easily feed closer to 4 people. The orange pie dessert was also amazing!

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Wine Tasting in Franschhoek South Africa

Stellenbosch gets most of the attention for wine regions in South Africa, known especially for their Pinotage wines. There is a lesser known region just a half hour away from Stellenbosch called Franschoek (French Corner). We set out from Cape Town for a weekend of wine tasting in Franschhoek with friends. Along the way we stopped in Stellenbosch at the Stellenbosch Slow Market which is open on Saturday mornings. This market is full of venders selling coffee, beer, baked goods, all kinds of different food, as well as crafts and some really wonderful art. There are picnic style tables in the center so you can eat whatever you decide on. We picked up some biltong and droëwors to snack (inspired this recipe!) on during the day and ate at a Turkish food stall for breakfast/lunch before heading out.


Wine Tram in Franschhoek:

In Franschhoek there is a wine tram which you can purchase tickets and take for the day. The tram has several lines so you can choose which line you want and that will determine which wineries you can stop at. You can hop on and off the tram depending on which wineries you want to go to. The mountains around the wineries are beautiful and the tram has an open air area which was great for taking pictures along the way. One thing to be mindful of is that the tram is on a schedule so it drops you off and comes back to pick you up approximately 45 minutes later.  If the winery is full or a large group gets off the tram with you if may take a while to get through your tasting. The wineries do tend to pour one wine at a time vs pouring all your tastings out for you when you arrive. It normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but for us it meant rushing the last few to make sure we didn’t miss the tram. The tasting portions were generous at all the stops we made.  There are eight hop on, hop off lines you can chose from. Here is the link for the website for more information:

We chose the orange line and stopped at the following wineries:


Noble Hill: This was our first stop of the day. We were one of the only small groups there during our tasting. we sat outside on the patio for our tasting. This is a great place to relax, enjoy your tasting or a glass of wine and take in the views of the surrounding Simonsberg mountains. The winery also has two Rhodesian Ridgeback winery dogs. These dogs are very friendly but also very large. they won’t bother you if you aren’t a dog lover but if you are they are more than happy to let you pet them!

Babylonstoren: This winery is a traditional Cape Dutch farm. The winery and restaurant is a combination of Cape Dutch architecture and more contemporary features. The restaurant has large floor to ceiling glass windows all around it which show off the views of the surrounding vines and mountains. We took more time at this stop so we could have a small lunch as well as our tasting. We particularly enjoyed the Shiraz and the Viognier.


Plaisir de Merle: This wine tasting was in a beautiful old farmhouse. The wine was good, but the service wasn’t awesome – we waited a while to be served and then we were very rushed in order to make the tram. The server also didn’t give any details about the wine, just poured and left. I would go back, but it wasn’t the best one we went to.


Allee Bleue: Our last stop of the day. We particularly loved their Brut Rose and all of their reds were also very good. This was also the only winery we went to that had Pinotage believe it or not. It is apparently more of a Stellenbosch varietal. We really liked their Pinotage and actually left with a bottle.

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We spent the night at a hostel in town and then in the morning we went to one more winery before heading back to Cape Town. We stopped at the Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons Winery which had wonderful reds and was fun for us since we had been to the Rothschild family owned winery in Chile so we now have a bottle from each trip in our cellar at home. We left with a bottle of Baron Edmond which is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. The winery has nice patio area as well as a very large and beautifully decorated, modern tasting room. We also got to taste the Flechas De Los Andes Gran Corte 2011 which is a Malbec, Syrah (Shiraz if your one of THOSE people :-)), Cabernet Sauvignon blend from the Rothschild winery in Argentina. This wine was not for sale at the winery in Franschhoek but we would definitely recommend it or if you can find it for sale in the U.S.


Here are links to our other South Africa posts:


Road Trip – Cape Peninsula South Africa

These places where some of our favorites during our trip to South Africa. We would highly recommend all of these stops. This part of the trip you would need a car for. We rented a car to do the Chapeman’s peak drive and kept it for the day. We had a driver through our volunteer program who drove us to Boulder’s beach and Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope. Due to our schedule we split it into two days, but you could do everything below in one full day.

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope:
This was the highlight of the trip for both of us. We had a driver through our volunteer program that drove us and stayed while we explored, but if you have a rental car you can go at your own pace. Cell service there is not that great so having an Uber or taxi driver drop you off and then planning to get another ride back will probably not work out (it also costs money to enter the park, so taxis don’t sit around in there). As you drive through the park you can see several different types of animals. We saw baboons, bontebok and elands.

Our driver was great at pointing these animals out to us as we drove. You can also see wild ostrich in the park which we did not but our driver did drive us by an ostrich farm just outside the park so we could at least see them up close.
We walked up to the lighthouse at Cape Point where you have a great view of where the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean meet. You can see the currents in the water, as they mix it looks like a perpetual wave way out in the water. The day we visited it was sunny in Cape Town when we left but as you get closer to Cape Point the breeze off the oceans hit land and it gets cloudier and more humid.

From Cape Point you can take a path which leads you along the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. This walk was beautiful and only takes about 30-45 minutes. if you have the time we would highly recommend this trail. It is a well marked and well maintained trail the entire way. It takes you along the mountain with views of secluded beaches below and waves crashing on the rocks. You walk up a small hill to get a panoramic view of the Cape of Good Hope before finally heading down to the beach where there is a parking lot so our driver was able to pick us up from here after our walk. This is where the iconic sign marking the Southwestern most point of Africa is located so you can take your photo before heading out.

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Boulders Beach:

This is where the penguin colony is and there are penguins everywhere! You do need to pay an admissions fee to enter. Once you are in there are several look out decks where you can watch the penguins swim and walk along the beach. Outside of the park there is a public beach access that you can sunbathe and swim. It is known because you can swim with the penguins (and it’s completely free. We did not swim but stood on the rocks in the water and stood in the shallow water near the shore and had penguins swim around our feet.


Chapman’s Peak drive:

This is one of the most scenic drives in the world. It is a toll road that goes between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Atlantic Coast. You do need to make sure the road is open as it may close due to weather conditions. Along the way there are multiple places you can pull over and stop to take in the view and take pictures. The views along the way are spectacular, we stopped at just about every place we could pull over to take pictures. Definitely worth the drive as you work your way around the peninsula.


Here are links to our other South Africa posts:


Cape Town Essentials

These are our recommended must see and do items within Cape Town. This post focuses on the City itself. You could see/do all of these things without having to rent a car if you are staying in the city or nearby. We used Uber throughout our trip. It was inexpensive and we never had a problem, all the drivers were friendly and very knowledgable about the area.



Table Mountain:

Table Mountain is a major presence from anywhere within Cape Town. It towers over the city and offers incredible views of the city and surrounding ocean. If you want to take in the views from the top there are a few options. There is a cable car you can take, or you can go up one of the many paths to the top. There was only one day that worked with our volunteering schedule, so I decided to hike up then take the cable car down. One of the other volunteers we were staying with started the hike but quickly turned around due to the heat and pace in order to make it in time. She turned around and decided to take the cable car up to meet me at the top. The hike is steep and it was an extremely hot day (unusually hot for December). I decided on the Platteklip Gorge hike as it seemed to be the most direct and fastest to the top. If you are going to climb Table mountain be prepared that it is quite a hike, be prepared with sun protection, water, and enough time. The Platteklip Gorge hike took me just under 2 hours, but I was moving pretty quick. The sign said 2.5 hours from the start to the cable car so make sure you plan accordingly. The climb itself was not too technical, it was basically like walking up stairs for 2 hours. I went up in the late afternoon so the final 1/3 of the hike was in the shade which was an incredible relief. At the top, it feels like you are on a different planet, to the South you see the Twelve Apostles – the mountain range parallel to the Atlantic and directly below you are the Clifton beaches (there are 4 of them). If you walk towards the cable car, you will get some of the best views of Cape town and Lions Head with the Atlantic and Robben Island in the distance. You can get a one way ticket down the cable car in the gift shop if you don’t want to climb back down. There is also a cafe at the top and drinking fountains.

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V & A Waterfront:

The waterfront area is a great place to walk around. This is where the V & A Food Market is located where you can find lots of different food options. We would highly recommend trying some biltong and droëwors. Biltong is similar to jerky, it is a cured meat (usually game of some kind) sliced very thin. Droëwors is a dried sausage. Both are great snacks. Watershed market is also worth walking through. It is full of stalls selling art, clothing and jewelry. There are several restaurants in this area as well, it is a more touristy area but it does offer great views of the water and of table mountain. We ate dinner here the last night of our trip  and got a table with a great view of the water and of Table Mountain. We were able to watch the tablecloth (the clouds) flowing over the mountain as we ate.

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Bo-Kaap Neighborhood:

This is a former township within the city. It is traditionally a primarily Muslim neighborhood which is known for its colorful houses. It is worth wandering through as you are walking around the city. There are several streets lined with brightly colored houses which are beautiful to see. There were lots of other tourists walking through taking photos while we were there. Do be mindful when taking photos that these are peoples homes so do be respectful of that.


Clifton Beach:
Clifton is an affluent neighborhood within Cape Town. Clifton beach is a series of four beaches, somewhat separated by large boulders. Clifton Four is the most popular beach, the other three are slightly less crowded. We spend a few hours one afternoon relaxing at the beach. There are vendors selling drinks and snacks and umbrellas along the beach. As you walk to beaches three, two and one it becomes progressively less crowded. All the beaches are beautiful and offer amazing views. You can see the Twelve Apostles mountains from anywhere on the beach. This area is lined with apartments, hotels and is a very crowded area, if you drive yourself be prepared that parking is difficult to find near the beach. There are parking lots but they fill up fast.


Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens:
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a beautiful area. There are lots of open spaces where you can have a picnic or just relax and enjoy the park. There are concerts in the park but we did not make it to a concert during our trip. There are two restaurants in the park. One is a tea garden with Mediterranean food, the other serves traditional African food and is more expensive. There is an aerial walkway that winds through the tree tops and provides excellent views of the park and of the city surrounding it. The park is at the base of Table Mountain and there is access to the mountain if you want to hike. We hiked up part way through Skeleton’s Gorge. This side of the mountain is forested with large trees, small streams and waterfalls which you will pass along the way up. This path is also mostly shaded since you are in more of forest than the other side of the mountain where the cable car is.


Gin and Tonics in Cape Town:

If you are a Gin and Tonic fan (or even if you aren’t) Cape Town will not disappoint! There are multiple gin bars downtown and you can find great gin and tonics at most bars and restaurants downtown. There are some very unique gins in the area because of all to botanicals grown on table mountain. This is something we did not know before our trip but we were very happy with the gin and tonics we had at each place we went downtown!

Long street is the main party street downtown. This street is full of bars and restaurants and lots of people! This is definitely a place to watch your personal belongings and be mindful of pickpockets. While this is not really our scene we did find some awesome street meat on long street. There are multiple vendors selling homemade sausage similar to a brat in the U. S. We were taken by our friends who were living in Cape Town to find an older man who has been selling on Long Street for years. He was working alone, grilling up sausage and onions and offered multiple sauces and toppings you could add on. You can smell the onions grilling as you walk towards his stand. This is a great late night snack after walking around and enjoying your gin and tonics!

Cheetah Outreach:

Just as a warning, you would need a car to get to the Cheetah Outreach. Their primary goal is promoting the survival of the South African Cheetah through environmental education and conservation initiatives. This place is about a half hour outside the city. One of our friends who was living in Cape Town at the time of our trip was volunteering at the Cheetah Outreach Nature Preserve. As a visitor you can walk through and see all the animals. They have fox, jackals, meerkats and several other smaller cats. Also you can pay an additional fee to enter with a volunteer and handler and pet the Cheetahs while you’re there. You can give them your camera and they will take pictures of you with the animals. Make sure you bring cash for this because credit cards are not accepted.


View our other South Africa posts below:




Muizenberg and Kalk Bay – Beach Towns in the Western Cape South Africa

We stayed in Muizenberg for most of our trip to South Africa as we were doing the IVHQ surfing volunteer program (see our IVHQ post for more info on the surfing program) . Muizenberg is about 20-30 minutes south of Cape Town and it is known for its surfing. It is a small beach town with a few surf shops and restaurants. The beach is always packed with people surfing at all times of the day. Along the beach there is a long line of colorful beach huts which are iconic to the town.

Muizenberg has a great, relaxed beach town feel to it. People are always walking into the shops and restaurants right off the beach in wet suits, swim suits and flip flops. You can see the Muizenberg mountains from the beach and from pretty much wherever you are in the town. Since you are on the coast the weather is much cooler in Muizenberg than in Cape Town and there is always a pretty strong breeze. Although it is a bit of a drive outside of Cape Town it is a nice place to stay for a few days, especially if you are looking to surf.


Surfing in Muizenberg

We surfed twice per day while we were volunteering with IVHQ, but if you are just there for a visit you can rent boards just across the street from the beach. Multiple surf shops in the town rent for pretty reasonable rates (wetsuits and boards). One thing to note is that there are Great White sharks in the bay and while sightings in the surfing area is rare it can happen. There is an organization called Shark Spotters: that keep a look out from the mountains and there is a flag and siren warning system to communicate conditions to the surfers/swimmers. There were no warnings the whole week we were there and honestly once you’re in the water you kind of forget about it.


Places to Eat & Drink in Muizenberg:

  • Live Bait for a nice seafood dinner and a view of the beach. This restaurant is on the second story of a building along the beach so it offers great views from the large windows in the dining room.
  • Tiger’s milk for sit down burgers/pub food
  • Easy Tiger for more fast food/quick burgers on the go
  • Bootlegger Coffee Company for the best espresso in the mornings. We walked here every morning and then sat on the beach to watch the waves while drinking our coffee.
  • Lagerchinos – inexpensive drinks and pub food. Nice outdoor seating for a beer after a day on the waves
  • The Striped Horse – Bar with good live music
  • Rolling Wood Surf & Skate – This is a place that was introduced to us by another volunteer the first day. It is a little surf shop that sells really cool boards but also has coffee and some of the best carrot cake we’ve ever had – don’t miss it!
  • Blue Bird Garage & Food Market- we headed to this market with some of the other volunteers on the first day we arrived. It is full of people selling crafts and food/drink venders selling some amazing food! The market is open every Sunday.


About 10-15 minutes from Muizenberg is Kalk Bay. This is a small beach town with more shops and restaurants- more of a vacation town feel than Muizenberg with a lot more shopping if that’s what your looking for. The streets are lined with small shops selling clothing, crafts, furniture and antiques.


Places to Eat & Drink in Kalk Bay:

  • Olympia Cafe- great coffee and great food. We recommend trying the mussels. They were some of the largest mussels we have ever had!
  • The Brass Bell- this place has a wonderful beach view and a small walled off tidal “pool” area where you can swim in the ocean. This is surrounded by large boulders that you can walk out on when the tide is low. We ate here twice just for the view and the food was also great. On Wednesday nights this restaurant turns into a huge Karaoke bar. We did go to Karaoke night with the other volunteers one night at the Brass Bell (the IVHQ volunteers go every week). Be prepared for a crazy, college bar night experience if you go on Wednesday night.


Links to our other South Africa posts:


IVHQ Surf Outreach: Volunteer Program in Muizenberg South Africa

We were first drawn to Cape Town because we had friends who were living there at the time and wanted to visit before they moved back to the U.S. After doing some research we found a surf outreach volunteer program in the Cape Town area through IVHQ.  As a volunteer your time is spent teaching and supervising kids as they are participating in an after school surf program. We decided to volunteer for a week and then give ourselves a few days after our volunteer program to visit our friends, explore more of Cape Town and to of course do some wine tasting.


IVHQ/Dreams to Reality Surf Program

The surf program is based in Muizenberg which is about 20-30 minutes south of Cape Town. Muizenberg is a small beach town known for its surfing. The local organization in the Cape Town area is called Dreams to Reality. There are several volunteer programs offered in the Cape Town area; other programs included childcare, teaching, and sports development. We thought Dreams to Reality was a very well run organization that did a good job focusing on the relationships between the kids and volunteers. When we arrived we were picked up at the airport by another volunteer and taken to the house we would be staying at. There are several bedrooms in the volunteer house, each with 4-5 beds. We had people from several of the other volunteer programs in our house. There are several volunteer houses in Muizenberg, all within walking distance of each other so you get a chance to meet a lot of the other volunteers. The other volunteers are awesome. This program was a great way to meet a bunch of people from around the world some of whom we still stay in touch with.


The first full day we were provided a walking tour of Muizenberg to help familiarize us with the area. We were also given a walking tour of Cape Town and offered several tours through a local tour company- CapeXtreme. We did not book any tours with them so cannot recommend or not recommend them. They did do a nice job of showing us around Cape Town for the afternoon. The tour was more of a brief overview of the city, nothing very in-depth.  We chose to stay after the tour was over and explore more on our own. You can read our Cape Town Essentials post for more details on what to do in the City.


Before this trip Erika had never surfed and Ryan had done one lesson. You do not have to know how to surf to join this program but you do need to know how to swim. Both of us swam in college so we figured this program would be a good fit for us. The first day you are given a quick surfing lesson by the instructor and given time to work on your surfing. Each day consists of two sessions, one AM session where you get to surf with the other volunteers. The afternoon session is when the kids come and they get to surf. Most of the kids in the program while we were there were already very good at surfing. As a volunteer your job is to help the kids get their wet suits on and walk to the beach. Once everyone is at the beach your job is to help keep an eye on all the kids and help out wherever needed. That may mean you get to help push the kids into the bigger waves, help some of the younger kids learn to surf or just play in the water. After surfing everyone walks back to the surf shop and the kids get a meal. Some of the volunteers will be helping kids clean and hang up the wet suits, others will be serving up a simple meal. After the kids eat the volunteers clean up and the kids are picked up and brought home. The program is working to give kids from a local township a good activity to do after school, to learn social skills and responsibility. The leader of the Surf program did a really nice job of relating to the kids and served as a great role model for the program.

When the kids aren’t in school (during holiday break for example) the times the kids come in may change and on some days they may go to a local park and play basketball or play beach games pending weather conditions and the conditions of the waves.


Check out the IVHQ website for the most up to date lists of programs they offer as they are always adding new opportunities. We would strongly recommend if you do a volunteer trip that you volunteer for more than one week. We are lucky that one week was the minimum requirement needed so that we could do this trip since our time off was limited but it is really difficult to really get to know the kids when you only volunteer for one week. The first day of the week you do spend all day in an orientation so you actually only get to volunteer 4 days if you are there for a week. At the bare minimum two weeks would be our recommendation so you can do orientation, get your bearings and also have some time to actually connect with the kids you are there to help.

Link to the IVHQ website:

Here is the link to our other South Africa posts