The coastal village of Kalk Bay is a beautiful place to spend the day – or weekend – with unique thrift stores, splendid hikes, fantastic food and a number of ocean activities.
While it is a part of Cape Town, Kalk Bay can only be reached by a number of beautiful drives, or a train trip from the city center. It’s kind of the gateway to our Deep South! This sense of isolation makes you really feel like you’re visiting a little village. And so does its small town vibe!
I’ve been visiting Kalk Bay through much of my childhood and as a university student desperate to get out of the city. And so, I’ve put together a guide on all the best things to do in Kalk Bay, whether you’re interested in adventures, shopping, exploring or eating. And if you tick them all off, you’ll find that you definitely want to come back and do it all again soon.
Things to do in Kalk Bay
Wondering what to do in Kalk Bay? I’ve got you covered! Let’s jump right into everything you can enjoy here, whether you’re exploring solo, with friends, or with your kids.
Take a dip in the tidal pool
Dalebrook Tidal Pool is one of the best in Cape Town, providing a lovely place to swim without concern for the currents. It’s a large oceanside pool with waves crashing over its side at high tide. The water is very chilly here, but a frigid dip is very worthwhile! It’s surrounded by lots of rocks to sun yourself on, so you’ll be able to warm yourself back up.
The tidal pool is also nicely secluded despite being right beside the main road, because you have to cross under the rail line to reach it, and it’s right at the edge of the road’s busy section. So it’s pretty ideal!
Explore the harbour
Kalk Bay’s harbour is particularly interesting, with fishermen often lining the one side, seals lazing in the sun, and waves soaking the incautious tourist! It’s lovely, particularly on sunny days. You’ll pass fish being skinned and cut by locals, so the air is thick with fishy smells, but it’s part of the experience.
Stroll along to the end of the pier and look back at beautiful Kalk Bay. Peer over and see if you can see the fish and seals swimming about, and watch the activity on and off the boats in harbour. It’s such a vibrant, lively scene. The thin spray that often curls over the pier will leave you a bit salty-sticky, and if the sun is bright, it feels like the whole village can’t possibly have a care in the world.
Get fish and chips at Kalkys
Kalkys is a fish and chips institution! I remember regular trips here throughout my childhood and we always went to Kalkys – although it took me many years to learn that it wasn’t called Corkies.
Kalkys is a no-nonsense, budget fish and chips restaurant right on the harbour, with lovely views, simple good food, and a uniquely South African atmosphere. The type that’s always full and bustling, where they shout your number and the tomato sauce comes in any bottle they could find.
Go thrift store shopping
This is one of the main things to do in Kalk Bay! The seaside village has so many fantastic thrift stores, vintage markets, and old bookstores. It’s a haven for thrift shoppers looking for something unusual and interesting.
You’ll also find a great deal of the old ceramics that were very popular in South Africa’s past – particularly Dutch and Afrikaans pieces – and give you a peek into the homes and lives of past Saffas.
The books, too, are a throwback to South Africa’s past, and you can find some really special works here. Especially at Quagga Rare Books and Art! You can also buy old maps and artworks – but they have a price tag to match their rarity.
Join a beading workshop
If you’re in the mood to take it easy, enjoy a beautiful view, and get creative with your friends, head to Soul. The beautiful store, filled with intricate, hand-crafted jewellery, is only the beginning. Soul, which focuses on African-made crafts and sustainable jewellery, has a secret spot around the corner.
Take the few steps up, and you’ll enter a lovely little workshop space. Here you can bead your own bracelets, with a plethora of colourful, quality beads before you. This isn’t a workshop in the sense of being taught and led through the beading process. Rather, one of the ladies will explain what to do and the hand-crafted brass ornaments that you can add to your bracelet, before bringing you tea and cookies (or gin and tonic, depending on your mood).
We thoroughly enjoyed picking out various colourful beads, and stringing them together while listening to Edith Pfiaf and chatting through our weeks. The space is private, has a gorgeous view, and is really ideal for a get-together with friends, a crafty birthday, or a girls’ day out. Best of all, you get to take home your beautiful creations, which are sized perfectly to your wrist. I haven’t taken mine off.
Find some special treasures
While Kalk Bay Is famous for its thrift stores, the little neighbourhood also has some really lovely contemporary shops. And in particular, shops showcasing local small businesses’ work, from knitted jerseys and handcrafted ceramics to organic, sustainable produce, skincare, and household products. There are some real treasures to be found!
Pick your favourite flavours at Ice Cafe
Another big favourite (for anyone who’s ever been here) is Ice Cafe. Located right in the center of Kalk Bay’s main street, you can’t miss it. The flavours are fantastic, and there’s something new every time I’ve been. You can sit on the bench outside and enjoy your ice cream, or bring it along with you to the beach, where you can finish it off with a view. Of course, this bit of fun is best in summer!
Set off on a hike
There are a number of hikes above Kalk Bay, and all of them are really beautiful, with views over the bay and the shining blue ocean. As well as indigenous forest and scrub along the trails, and some impressively monolithic rocks.
The Spes Bona and Echo Valley trails are both easy to intermediate, and easy enough for the kids to join. Or if you want to see a bit of Boomslang Cave, the trail goes by the same name, and is an equally fantastic hike!
Go spelunking at Boomslang Cave
One of the coolest adventure activities in Cape Town, this bit of caving is not for the faint of heart. It’s much better to go with a guide, as some sections of the cave are narrow with a steep drop below you, so it can get super intimidating if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
The caves are thrilling, with low-ceilinged sections filled with sleeping bats you don’t want to disturb, narrow crevices, and huge caverns. Whether or not you do go with a guide, be sure to bring a strong head torch, something warm, and a good amount of water – you’ll be underground for up to 2 hours! It’s also best to wear long pants and shirt, as you’ll be slipping and scraping along a good bit. And most importantly, enjoy the adventure!
Grab something tasty at Olympia Cafe and Bakery
Now, I know that it’s hard to fit ice cream, fish and chips, and a trip to Olympia into one day. But if you can wangle it that you start your day with a trip to Olympia, and then following a nice tiring hike, you have your fish and then ice cream, I think you’re in for a perfect food day.
If not, you may have to get some goodies at the bakery and assure yourself you’ll come back for the cafe later! Olympia is just something special, with phenomenal food and a great vibe to match – I’ve been blown away the few times I’ve been here. Their bakery is as impressive as their kitchen, and you’ll be really pressed to decide amongst all the fabulous options. But don’t let that deter you! Two of my top recommendations here are the nutty triangles and the cinnamon sticks – incredible.
Buy some books
There are a few fantastic bookstores in Kalk Bay, including second-hand, antique, and new. So you’re really spoiled for choice. But perhaps the best of them is the street vendor outside Olympia Cafe. His selection is the best I’ve ever seen, and I walked away with seven new books – my biggest haul ever, and all novels I’d been looking for for years. He’s also a great person to chat to about books, and can give some fantastic recommendations!
Enjoy cocktails at Cape to Cuba
If you’re spending the evening in Kalk Bay, I’d definitely include a stop at Cape to Cuba. It’s quite pricey, so not for everyone, but its beach hut vibe, colourful decor, and Latin music certainly makes it memorable. Not to mention the drinks!
Catch a train back to the city
We usually catch a train to and from Kalk Bay, as it’s such a cheap and easy way to get here, and you have lovely views over the coast for much of the trip. Of course, our trains in Cape Town are a bit of a mess, with ripped seats and graffiti. Still, it’s an adventure made no less so by the train’s conditions, and you’ll be looking out the open windows most of the time.
Some people are concerned about safety levels on trains, but as long as you pick a carriage that has a few other people in it, and don’t travel past 6pm (5pm in winter), and practice normal safety precautions, you should be all good! I used to take the train a few times a week, and it was just a cheap and easy means of transport.
I wrote an informational post on safety tips and resources in Cape Town, including the different public transport options, if you want to check that out!
Where to stay in Kalk Bay
While you can spend a day exploring Kalk Bay and love it, a weekend is better, and a week brilliant! However, Kalk Bay itself is a tiny neighbourhood, so these accommodation options are as near as I could find them! They too, are positioned in some beautiful neighbourhoods of their own.
Budget: Admiralty Bed & Breakfast
Admiralty sits right on the water’s edge of Sandvlei Lake. It has a lovely deck with towels, braai facilities and binoculars to enjoy a relaxing, fun family vacation. It’s located in Muizenberg, a nature lover’s paradise a short drive from Kalk Bay.
Mid-range: A Boat House
With balconies overlooking False Bay and the stretching ocean, A Boat House is a fantastic guest house for couples and families! The breakfast, friendly host, and prime location five minutes from the penguins of Boulders Beach all make it even better.
Luxury: Steenberg Hotel & Spa
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, Steenberg ticks all the boxes beautifully. It has a spa center and a championship golf course, a winery and a fine dining restaurant. It’s a fantastically luxurious hotel you’re sure to adore.
Kalk Bay, Cape Town
That concludes all of my all-time favourite things to do in Kalk Bay! Of course, there are a number of other restaurants and cafes that are well worth visiting, and if you explore the lanes that branch off the main stretch, you’re bound to find even more wonderfulness that’s difficult to add to a list.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything that you love to see or do in Kalk Bay! I’m always looking for a reason to make the trip again. And if you’re moving on from Kalk Bay to your next Cape Town adventure, I’d recommend crossing Silvermine area and Chapman’s Peak to Hout Bay. It’s a perfect drive, and you’ll land in another of our city’s great coastal neighbourhoods.