South Africa

Paternoster Photo: Catharina Stålnacke

Cape Town

Anointed the 2014 World Design Capital, Cape Town is buzzing with civic-minded initiatives these days (the Safe Township Lighting project, for example, is hoping to bring electricity to thousands of settlement shacks). These efforts go hand in hand with a decade-in-the-making effort to bolster formerly down-and-out neighborhoods: The once crime-ridden Woodstock has been reinvented as the city’s creative center; the formerly snoozy ­Central Business District is peppered with stylish new bars like the Crypt jazz lounge and offbeat restaurants like the Laundromat-meets-dim-sum-parlor I Love My Laundry. Enjoy the energy from the posh new Marly Hotel (from $336;, featuring 11 white-and-gray rooms with views onto ritzy Camps Bay.


For years the quaint fishing village of Paternoster (an easy, scenic hour-and-a-half drive from Cape Town; rent a car and stop to ogle the wildflowers at the West Coast National Park) was one of the area’s best-kept secrets, a weekend getaway known for its whitewashed cottages and laid-back, shoes-optional vibe. The word, however, is spreading, thanks in part to the arrival of world-class chefs—lured by the west coast’s wealth of fresh mussels, crayfish, and wild herbs—who’ve opened casual beachside ­restaurants here in recent years. There’s Noisy Oyster, where stacks of Trivial Pursuit cards keep diners busy between bites of fish cakes and seafood laksa. Kobus van der Merwe’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Oep ve Koep is a shack where the chef gets creative with ingredients he forages in the dunes. And this past September, one of the country’s best-known chefs, Reuben Riffel, opened a seafood-focused modern South African restaurant in the Abalone House & Spa (from $100; ­, an eclectic hotel decorated with Persian rugs and mismatched antiques. Of course, the beaches are really the main draw here; walk 200 meters from the hotel down a footpath to the soft white sands of Kliprug Beach—which is less windy and crowded than the village’s main beach—where the hotel can set up a “beachnic”: a private high tea on a secluded cove at ocean’s edge.


1 hour: Bypass the better-known wine regions of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and head to the Riebeek Valley, which has been making a name for itself as a serious emerging wine region. Stay at Bartholomeus Klip (from $220;, a lovely Victorian-country-house retreat with a colonial feel—antique furniture, claw-foot tubs, and a proper high tea.

2 hours: Check out the lesser-known “Marine Big Five” at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve (from $184;, a sprawling spread that’s home to sharks, whales, seals, penguins, and dolphins.

4 hours: One of the few luxury safari lodges within driving distance of Cape Town, Gondwana Private Game Reserve (from $230 a night; offers 11 stand-alone villas from which to spot the traditional Big Five.

South Africa