Newlands Forest is one of the most beautiful green spaces in Cape Town – and the most central, too. It’s a lovely forest with various marked trails, and a great deal more unmarked ones branching off from the main routes. You could spend months exploring all the different trails. Many do!
A visit to Newlands Forest is one of the best cheap things to do in Cape Town. You’ll be immersed in nature, surrounded by the sounds of the forest. And you can make a day of it with friends, bringing a picnic or some art supplies.
Finally, Newlands Forest is the starting point of multiple hiking trails up Table Mountain, if you’re up for a challenge!
Quick info on visiting Newlands Forest
Starting point: Newlands Forest Car Park
Cost: Free | Parking costs R25, but there are quite a lot of nearby parking spaces, too
Pet friendly: Yes! It’s a fantastic place to walk your dog; they can roam off-leash once you’ve reached the top of the tar road
Safety: Good, while the sun is up – if you want to watch the sunset, go in a group; if you want to explore solo, it’s best to do it over the weekend during peak hours
Braai and picnic facilities: Yes
What to bring
- Sunblock and a hat
- Solid walking/running shoes
- A charged cellphone
- Water bottle
- A camera if you have one
- Cash if you want to park
Newlands sits at the transition zone between Granite Fynbos and Peninsula Shale Fynbos. It’s also historically home to an indigenous forest. It was largely cleared of its indigenous plant life in the 1800s and replanted with commercial pine and gum.
Indigenous plant life has returned to diversify the forest vegetation once again – although you’ll still find plenty of pines. The City Parks Nursery, which is located within the forest boundary, is also growing and replanting indigenous flora to further rehabilitate the original greenery of the forest, so unique to the area.
Hiking trails in Newlands Forest
One of the best things about Newlands is how difficult it is to get lost – the mountain is above you, the street below. So you can dart onto little paths, walk along the riverbed, rock-hopping, or stick to the main trails. Any way you choose, you’ll know that heading away from the mountain takes you out of the forest.
Newlands Forest is a great way to reach some of the best hiking trails on Table Mountain – just follow the markers and move upwards.
But, if you prefer to stick to marked trails, these are some of the best!
The Newlands Contour Path is a beautiful, moderate route with fantastic views. It’s dog and child-friendly, with a wooden boardwalk over the more difficult terrain. The carousel picnic area, located on the contour path, is a fantastic spot to stop.
You’ll reach the Contour Path by following Newlands Ravine trail upwards – which is tiring, but well worth it! And if you turn right on reaching the Contour Path, you’ll eventually reach Rhodes Memorial, a very popular stop with fantastic city views.
This moderate route takes you through all the best Newlands has to offer – specifically, the trail shifts from wide gravel road to shaded forest path, with rocks, roots, clay-soil, and pine needles underfoot. You’ll have views of the city, and the plant life around you shifts too, from pine to indigenous forest and then again to fynbos. A beautiful route!
Other trails to look out for
If you’re looking for smaller, less popular (and very beautiful) routes, these are some to look out for!
- Fernwood trail
- Woodcutters trail
- Littlewort trail
Trail running in Newlands
Newlands Forest trails are fantastic for running – if you’re an inexperienced trail runner, it’s best to stick to the larger trails, as the roots and rocks on the smaller paths are real ankle twisters.
If you’re keen to run with a group, check out Tuesday Trails – they’re a bunch of runners who get together once a week (on Tuesday afternoons), and run in four different fitness/skill groups.
Newlands Forest also has some of the best mountain biking routes in Cape Town!
Spaces to relax
Visiting on a beautiful weekend day, you’ll find people scattered all over the forest, sitting solo by the river, chatting among friends on logs and pipes and mossy rocks. The forest has so many trails and spots, you’re sure to find a place to relax even on the busiest day.
If you’re looking to braai at Newlands, you’ll find a designated braai area near the park entrance. You need to bring your own grill and wood – a braai space and seating is provided. A fantastic spot to spend the day with family or friends! Do note, though, that while dogs are welcome in Newlands Forest, they aren’t allowed in the braai area.
Explore Newlands Forest
Now you have everything you need to know about the stunning Newlands Forest. It’s really a fantastic place to spend an afternoon, whether you’re looking for a little exercise, a lot of exercise, or a relaxed, nature-immersed time!
The closer attention you pay to your Forest surroundings, the more you’ll love them. Peek under fallen trees to find mushrooms, watch the gurgling river flow, listen to the birdsong high among the trees, and admire the rich red clay soil. It’s a place that inspires and invigorates, and one I’d highly recommend to anyone considering a visit.