Fondly known as The Republic of Hout Bay, this mountain-enclosed neighbourhood doesn’t really feel like part of Cape Town. It’s right on the outskirts, past the vineyards of Constantia, or reached by one of two long, twisting coastal routes. But because of its natural beauty, and the fact that all routes are a real pleasure to drive, Hout Bay remains a big favourite among weekenders!
I lived in Hout Bay for a few months, and got to explore much that the beautiful area has to offer. So, with lots of fun research, I’ve put together all the best things to do here! Whether you’re keen on adventure activities, shopping, food, or wildlife spotting, Hout Bay has it all.
I’ve also included some top cafes and restaurants here, along with a few favourite hiking routes, so that if you have the time, you can really see the most of this incredible place.
12 Wonderful things to do in Hout Bay
Hout Bay is the perfect place to spend a lively weekend, or to visit for a packed day. Particularly in summer, when the sun is warm and all the open-air fun is calling. So, let’s jump into what to do in Hout Bay!
Go snorkeling with the seals
Hout Bay is the perfect place to go snorkeling with the Cape Fur Seals, endemic to our southern coast! If you’re an experienced snorkeler or diver, you can dip in along the coast and see some incredible marine life, very likely to include a few seals. But the surest way to see these sea pups is by joining the local guided tour.
This includes a boat trip to Duiker Island where the seals spend much of their time, all of your snorkeling gear (including booties and gloves, because it is absolutely freezing) and about an hour in the water. We really loved it, watching the young seals twirl and glide about, their giant eyes watching these funny floundering creatures (us)!
The whole experience takes about 2 hours and ends with a hot choccie on the boat back to warm you up. And then you’ll be right at the harbour to continue your day with a visit to the market and a stroll along the pier.
Set off on a trip along Chapman’s Peak
One of Cape Town’s most famous attractions is the fantastically scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive. This winding road starts at the end of Hout Bay, and takes you far above the ocean to offer truly incredible views. You’ll drive through half-tunnels dug into the rock and follow the curve of the mountain, ending the trip in Noordhoek.
There are a number of places to stop so that you can just stand and take it all in. But even just driving the route is wonderful – to the extent that it’s very popular to rent a fancy open-top car and cruise along! Or, for those who want to take it all in at a slower pace, you can join an e-bike ride along Chapman’s Peak.
If you want to go past a certain point, you do have to pay a toll fee to help maintain the route. For a normal car, this is R54, and for a motorcycle, it’s R35.
Embark on a kayaking adventure
If you prefer to be on top of the water rather than below, kayaking is another fantastic excursion. You set out from the harbour and cross the bay to Chapman’s Peak side, where dolphins are often spotted. When we went, we saw a mum and her calf, and they passed right by us a few times!
The kayaking tours are guided by locals – in fact, the man we went with turned out to have known my Hout Bay-born husband since he was a baby! They’re super informative and skilled, so you can know that you’re in great hands.
Kayaks are all tandem, making this perfect for dates and family trips. It’s a good workout, paddling for 1.5 hours, but doing it together makes it a great deal easier, and so does being surrounded by beauty!
Visit the Harbour
Hour Bay Harbour is a really vibrant, really beautiful spot. With brightly coloured boats, seals, fishies and little jellyfish darting about in the water, and a lovely view of Hout Bay and the surrounding mountains, it’s well worth visiting. It’s also always busy, with locals often making music and dancing, and children jumping off the pier and into the water (on the beach side).
There are multiple fish and chips places here, so you can pick which spot suits your budget and style – most of the fish here is freshly caught.
Explore Bay Harbour Market
If you’re visiting Hout Bay over the weekend, don’t miss the Bay Harbour Market! This is one of my favourites in the city, partially because I used to work here some weekends, and it was always good fun.
The market showcases many Capetonian artisans and entrepreneurs, offering clothing, crafts, paintings, recycled creations, and a great deal more. They also usually have live music playing, and the food on offer is just ridiculously good. I would recommend having a light meal, and then a coffee and pastry at various different vendors. That way you get to try out a few of the excellent options!
Ice cream at Ice Dream
Ice Dream is a lovely little gelateria tucked in at the base of Hout Bay, near the beach. My husband grew up in Hout Bay, and whenever he had a difficult day or felt like he’d accomplished a lot, he went and treated himself at Ice Dream.
It’s such a cheerful little spot, with benches outside in the sun (or shade), and delicious flavours to pick from. The gelato is handmade, and the service is always happy. It’s a real local favourite!
Take a hike
Hout Bay has so many wonderful hiking trails, it would take your weeks to tick them all off! The neighbourhood is closed in by mountains on three sides and the ocean on one, so it’s really no wonder that everywhere you look, you’ll find a way up those mountains.
We’ve included some of the best Hout Bay hiking trails below, for those who want to explore. You certainly won’t be disappointed.
Laze on the beach
Hout Bay beach isn’t great for swimming – because the working harbour is right next to it, the water can be a bit mucky. Still, on a warm day, it’s a lovely place to relax and get some sun. You’ll see dogs bounding into the water, and often kids jumping off the pier into the ocean. You may also see a seal or two catching sun too!
Have a waffle at Earthworx nursery
This one is a bit random – why recommend getting a waffle at a nursery? It’s certainly not on the usual tourist track. But this nursery, in addition to having some lovely plants, has the best waffles I’ve ever had.
They’re soft and crispy, and most importantly, topped with a generous portion of seasonal fruits, along with syrup and ice cream. The fruit really breaks the extreme sweetness that most waffles have, and makes you feel like maybe this is actually a healthy breakfast. They’ve also got good coffee, and a children’s playpark so that parents can hang out while the kiddies have fun.
Do some painting at Clay Cafe
Clay Cafe is a wonderful place for families and groups of friends looking to do something different. Local potters make a large variety of crockery and (as well as things like ceramic piggy banks and bunnies); and then you paint it. There is a massive selection of paints, brushes and tools, so that you can really make your piece whatever you want it to be.
The cafe is also beautifully bright and airy, with tasty food and a giant playground for the kids. It’s quite pricey for most South Africans though, so I’d recommend it for a special day or a celebration, rather than just a saturday outing.
Head over to Llandudno Beach
While Llandudno is technically its own suburb, it’s very much linked to Hout Bay – and it has to be, as Llandudno is zoned for residential use only, so they have no shops or services!
Llandudno Beach is one of the most beautiful in the whole world, with perfect soft white sand and giant rocky outcrops, and a horseshoe bay that makes swimming safe. It’s also a top surfing destination, with regularly ideal conditions. I even learnt to stand up on a board for the first time here!
This is the perfect beach for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing, and it’s so aesthetic that you’ll often see photoshoots going on. Just be aware that on a windy day (pretty common to Cape Town in summer) the sand really whips about. It also fills up fast on a sunny weekend.
Visit the World of Birds & Wildlife Sanctuary
This deceptively large sanctuary is a vital part of Hout Bay. They take in hurt and incapacitated birds, monkeys and other creatures, looking after them in reasonably large enclosures. They have over 400 species that you can walk through and see, across 4 hectares of land set against the back of Table Mountain.
It’s a beautiful space, perfect for families and couples. We spent a half-day here on one of our first dates, and it was just lovely!
Best cafes and restaurants in Hout Bay
Hout Bay has quite a number of restaurants to pick from! But these are some local favourites that can’t go wrong.
Dario’s is a Hout Bay institution. The little Italian restaurant serves delicious food at good prices, and always has a cheerful atmosphere and great service. The owner will usually pop over to your table to check that you’re enjoying yourself, and you will be!
With some of the best pizza in the city, Massimo’s is another top restaurant in Hout Bay. During the week they’re only open in the evening, and all day over the weekend. But I love going in the evening, as it has a real Italian feeling, with warm lighting, fun touches, and some stellar tiramisu to end off the night.
Mariner’s Wharf Harbourfront Emporium
This is my favourite seafood spot in Hout Bay! Mariner’s Wharf is right in the harbour, with shaded outdoor seating looking out over the bay and the harbour. It’s relatively cheap and informal, as a fish and chip shop should be.
The ‘slap chips’ are soft and delicious, the crumbed hake is perfectly done, and the calamari is so plentiful and so good that I’ve been craving a trip back to Hout Bay just for that. Also, they make their own fizzy grape juice in glass bottles, and it’s amazing!
Hikes in and from Hout Bay
Hout Bay has some of the best hiking trails in Cape Town. My husband, Glenn, grew up in Hout Bay, and has known these trails his whole life. So he’s written this next section!
Starting from the top of Boskykloof Road, on the Constantia Nek side of Hout Bay, this is my favourite way to get onto the 12 Apostles. The route is a steep uphill through dense, beautiful, and incredibly alive indigenous forest, with a stream that runs down the mossy center of the ravine for most of the year.
The impressive waterfall you see in the rainier months makes a good marker for the transition from the gentler slopes to the proper hike, and the sudden view of the town and surrounding mountains as you rise above the treetops makes the later slog infinitely worthwhile!
The start has you making your way through a fairly open section of tall pines and ground blanketed with pine needles, before taking a small left turn and suddenly plunging into the proper native forest canopying a rocky river crossing (dry in the summer months). After crossing, you can either continue up Myburg, or continue straight onto the contour path.
A much more open hike, Chapman’s Peak corner begins a little past the toll booth. Luckily, you don’t have to pay to get to the hike start with your car – just tell them you want a day pass or that you’re going for a picnic. The start of the hike is marked by the ruins of some old buildings on the left as you come from Hout Bay.
Hiking up the mountains on this side will reward you with a sweeping view of the bay and, if you get high enough, Noordhoek. For those interested in a longer hike, you can continue on over to Silvermine.
My second favourite way to get onto the 12 Apostles! To get there, head to the Suikerbossie Restaurant. Right before the restaurant – after you’ve turned off the main road over to Llandudno – you’ll notice a parking lot on your right. From there the hike begins, initially hugging the back fence of the restaurant’s property, then meandering through the fringe of the pine plantation, and then getting to a fork where you can either turn sharply up and do the actual hike, or continue straight onto the contour path.
Suikerbossie itself winds up through several switchbacks and one fun little scramble aided by metal rungs sunk into the rock (watch out for slipperiness in winter!) until it gets to the flat, beachy top of the very end of the 12 Apostles.
The Contour Path
All over Cape Town’s many mountains you’ll find various contour paths, but for Hout Bay my favourite is the one that links Myburg and Suikerbossie. I mentioned how to get onto it in the sections on Myburg and Suikerbossie, but there are several paths that join up to it from below along the way.
Unlike the other routes in this section, the contour path is almost totally level (it follows a contour), but it is about as long as any of the others, making it a good hike if you’re not feeling too strong just yet!
The path itself is a simple wander along the fynbos-filled mountainside, high above the highest houses and with almost nothing to block the view out into Hout Bay.
If you want to incorporate it into a longer hike (about 5 hours), I’d recommend heading up one of either Myburg or Suikerbossie, across the 12 Apostles, down the other one, and then back to your starting point along the contour path.
Hout Bay, Cape Town
There you have it, all the best hikes, restaurants, and activities in Hout Bay! This neighbourhood is a really special place, and I hope this guide helps you to see the best of it.
If I’ve missed anything you love to do or see when you’re in Hout Bay, let me know! And if you’re thinking of moving to Cape Town, I’d certainly suggest considering this beautiful neighbourhood.