Cape Town is such a beautiful city to visit any time of year! But of course, the kind of holiday you’re looking to have is affected by the seasons. Summer is windy but dreamy, the favourite for most tourists. However, winter is much better for surfing and snorkelling. Spring is perfect for whale watching and wildflowers. And Autumn is a daily surprise, at least weather-wise!
I’ve put together all the pros and cons of each season, and what kind of holiday best suits the different times of year. So read on to plan your perfect holiday at the foot of Table Mountain.
Weather in Cape Town
Precipitation: Cape Town’s rainy season in winter, so you’re much more likely to experience proper rainfall between the months of May and August. The warmer months experience little to none.
Wind: Cape Town is also known as the windy city – it’s the one aspect of our weather the locals complain about! The worst season for wind speeds is summer, so you might experience some flying sand with your beach days. Our windiest months are December and January.
Temperature: Our hottest month is February, with temperatures averaging 22℃ (72℉) but reaching heights of 40℃. The coldest month is July, averaging 13℃ (55℉).
When to visit Cape Town
Capetonians often joke about experiencing four seasons in one day. And it’s true, one day can be cloudy with drizzle, and then turn perfect without a cloud in the sky. And then go right back to grey after the fast winds shuffle the clouds back over us. So whatever season you do visit, bring layers!
Now, let’s jump right into the seasons of Cape Town, and the best time of year for you to visit.
Spring – September to November
Spring is such a beautiful season everywhere, but considering the unique biosphere we live amongst here, it can feel extra special in Cape Town. Spring is the best season for hiking phenomenal Table Mountain, as you’ll see such a bright, colourful array of wildflowers.
The flower season is the best time to visit Cape Town for those who are looking to avoid the summer crowds. The city is busiest in December and January, so coming to Cape Town in November, when it’s warm enough for ocean dips, but you’re mostly surrounded by locals, can really be the sweet spot.
Finally, Spring is the season for whale watching! The southern tip of Africa is the mating and calving grounds of the southern right whale, so we’re lucky enough to spot them close up throughout the season! If you join a whale watching boat trip in Hermanus between August and November, you’re almost guaranteed a sighting of these incredible animals.
Best things to do in Spring
Flower season on the West Coast – The West Coast National Park has rolling fields of wildflowers, flitting birds and striking coastal scenes. It’s exquisite in Spring, particularly late August and September. Just keep in mind that on sunny weekends during this period, everyone will have the same idea. So weekdays are best if you can arrange that!
Whale watching – The whale watching, especially in the nearby town of Hermanus, is dreamy! If you’re working with a smaller budget, you can also go kayaking (we saw a dolphin mother and calf on this experience).
Summer – December to February
Summer is, like for most of us, my absolute favourite season. And Cape Town does summer so well! It rarely gets unbearably hot, and when it does you’ve got beaches all over the place to go cool off. It is windy quite often, as our sunny season is unfortunately also our windy one. But the wind clears away the city pollution and leaves us with perfect views and impeccable sunsets.
My top recommendation for summer is a whole bunch of beach days. But much more than that, you can also go snorkeling – like this seal snorkeling tour in Hout Bay – and kayaking. Summer in Cape Town is also the best time of year to go wine tasting in Constantia or in Stellenbosch, because sunny days and good wine go so well together.
Finally, summer is also the most popular time to visit Cape Town because it’s when the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing winter! So it’s the perfect breakaway from grey days.
Best things to do in Summer
Beach days – While Cape Town never really gets freezing, our beautiful beaches are certainly a lot more exciting when you can really soak in the warmth before dipping into our very cold water!
Christmas markets – Like most other parts of the world, Cape Town has some lovely Christmas markets! They tend to be day markets, and they’re a lovely place to find special locally made pieces and fun presents.
Sunset cruise – You can do this any day of the year, but a boat trip can get really chilly, so summer is the best season for it. You’re also more likely to spot dolphins and other marine life.
Try windsurfing – From November through March, windsurfing along the far-stretching Muizenberg and Blouberg beaches is super popular. I’ve seen people fly through the air five meters up, with dozens of brightly coloured sails dotting the coastline, all through the summer season.
Autumn – March to May
Honestly, Autumn feels like such a narrow sliver in Cape Town that I hardly consider it a season. March still feels like the last days of summer, and May is winter creeping in. Many of our trees are evergreen, so the environment doesn’t undergo a great change.
Still, Autumn has it’s draws! The tourist crowds are far smaller than in summer, the weather is still sweet but without those occasional boiling hot days. The days are perfect for hiking, snorkeling, and a number of other adventure sports. Autumn is also the season for our Two Oceans Marathon, the Cape Town Cycle Tour!
Best things to do in Autumn
Wine tasting – Autumn is harvest season, so it’s the best time to go wine tasting not only for the wine, but the experience! We have so many wineries, and many of them encourage visitors to come and participate in the harvest and process, making for a very fun day out.
Go camping – early Autumn is the best time to go camping around Cape Town! You’ll share the campsites with few others, and it’s still plenty warm to go swimming and exploring. Two top recommendations are Beaverlac for tented camping and Kogelberg Nature Reserve for cabins.
Go climbing – Now this isn’t something for everybody, but if you’re a climber you’ll know that the mountains around Cape Town are great for top rope climbing. The chillier seasons are perfect for this fantastically fun activity, as you’ll be sweating less, which means better grip!
Winter – June to August
Winter is, surprisingly, the best season for ocean sports. Because the season is far less windy, underwater visibility is better for snorkelling and scuba diving. The calmer waters also combine with greater swells and a smaller temperature shock for surfers. We have some of the best waves for surfing here in Cape Town, so you’ll see a board on every wave in the chilly season!
Winter is also a great season for hikers, as you can gain the steep mountaintops without sweating out half your body weight under the hot summer sun.
Because the wind dies down so nicely in winter, locals actually really enjoy the season. It seldom gets very cold (unlike further inland, like my temperature-extreme hometown of Oudtshoorn), and the sun is out as often as not. There are also plenty of snug cafes and indoor things to do on rainy days.
Best things to do in Winter
Go surfing – As I mentioned, winter is the best season for surfers, as the swells are better, the water’s warmer, and the wind is low.
Visit some of Cape Town’s museums – One of the best things to do during a rainy day is to visit an interesting museum or gallery. We have a number of them in the city center. I’d recommend the National Gallery, the Zeits Mocca, and the Iziko Slave Lodge, where you can learn about our history of Apartheid and beyond.
So, what’s the official best time to go to Cape Town?
As you’ll have seen, there really is no wrong time to go to Cape Town. The weather is mild and enjoyable, and there are so many adventures to be had in every season! It just depends on what you’re looking for.
Many people’s favourite season, though, is summer, and Cape Town is the perfect place to be for it. The balmy weather, beach days, clear skies (thanks to the wind) and general vibe of summer is just unbeatable. You’ll also find more festivals and music nights, more open-air events, and a general feeling of South African gees. Just be prepared to be blown away by the wind every now and then!