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I was also invited to spend two nights at the Hout Bay Manor.
Where to stay in Cape Town is a question first-time and repeat visitors frequently face whether they are here for a weekend or a month. It needs to convenient, preferable close to the ocean and all the cool restaurants, and most of all safe.
Because I hear this question so often I recently put together a guide with my favorite accommodation options and advice on where to stay in Cape Town.
However, today I wanted to let you in on a little secret because if I am honest, my favorite area of the city usually flies somewhat under the radar which I think is a pity. So if you are looking for an area to visit and stay at in Cape Town that is not flooded by tourists yet I will introduce you to the perfect spot, let me introduce you to Hout Bay, Cape Town.
Hout Bay, Cape Town
Hout Bay is an area that I spend a lot of time when I am in South Africa because my cousin and her family lives there as well as one of my best friends. It is local and lekker (a South African term for anything yummy or good) and has a really chilled vibe.
It is a bay and community towards the Cape Peninsula and its name derives from the Afrikaans word ‘houtbaai’ which means ‘wood bay’ as the area is incredibly green and foresty. There are three roads leading into Hout Bay and chances are if you are coming from town you will be taking Victoria Road from Camps Bay, one of my all-time favorite coastal roads. After the turn-off for Llandudno, you will pass a mountain called Little Lion’s Head and head down a hill called Suikerbossie and you have made it.
If you pay attention on your drive you will see a sign welcoming you to the “Republic of Hout Bay”, the leftover of a marketing initiative from the 80s to attract tourists which created an anthem, a flag, and even Hout Bay passports.
From the city center it will take you about 25 minutes drive to get to Hout Bay, Cape Town if there is no traffic. Your best way to get around is a rental car or an Uber though at times you may struggle to find one as some consider it quite out of their way. A great alternative is the MyCiti bus that has stops in Hout Bay and of course, the hop-on-hop-off bus though that is not really a viable mode of transport for longer than a day.
Things to do in Hout Bay, Cape Town
To say Hout Bay is sleepy wouldn’t be correct but since it is a mainly residential area there are not many events or cultural highlights to attend. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do and you can definitely explore the bay area as well as the surroundings for a couple of days.
Hout Bay Beach & Harbor
The heart of Hout Bay is its beach and the harbor, one of the busiest harbors in the Western Cape. It is not the ideal beach to get your tan on or go swimming but the long bay is perfect for a walk on the beach and one of the few beaches were dogs are welcome too.
The harbor is a hub of activities for both commercial fishers and tourist enterprises as well as home to the Hout Bay Yacht Club. It is also a great place to get some fish ‘n chips or even better visit Fish for Africa and buy fresh, inexpensive seafood to make a fish braai (braai = South African for BBQ but also a way of life here).
There are always some resident seals you can pose for pictures with and if you want to get even closer this is the place to catch a boat to go snorkeling with them. Many small cruises leave from here and head to Duiker Island, also known as Seal Island which is off the shore of Hout Bay – an incredible albeit stinky experience to get close to these beautiful, fun creatures.
Take a drive on Chapman’s Peak
Chapman’s Peak also called “Chappies” is one of the major coastal drives in the Western Cape and connects Hout Bay to Noordhoek. All around Hout Bay, you will see signs leading up to Chappies which will tell you the toll prices and most importantly whether it is open or not. In bad weather chances are Champman’s Peak will be closed as the roads are narrow and steep and there is always the danger of rockfall.
But if the conditions are fair, Chapman’s Peak makes for a beautiful coastal drive with lots of opportunities to stop for pictures. Once you made it to Noordhoek one of the best restaurants in the world, the Foodbarn, and a neverending beach await.
Surfing in Llandudno
While Hout Bay beach is objectively not the most stunning beach in Cape Town, luckily you are super close to Llandudno if you are staying in Hout Bay. Llandudno is a little community that is exclusively residential and doesn’t have any shops or businesses but is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Western Cape.
Not only is it great to soak up the sun and take a dip in the freezing cold water (turquoise and clear but freezing) with lifeguards on duty but it is also one of the best surfing beaches in Cape Town on the Atlantic Coast. Since I am not a surfer myself I am not an expert on waves but was told that Llandudno offers some great ones for various levels.
If you are a pro you will also find the infamous Dungeons off the coast of Hout Bay. Especially in winter, this area offers some of the biggest surfable waves in the world.
Sandy Bay Dunes
Sandy Bay is one of the only nudist beaches in Cape Town and well-loved for this reason, especially in the gay community. Even if you are not in the mood to bare it all, the area around is great for a hike as there are stunning dunes leading from Hout Bay to the beach.
In addition, if you are looking for a photo backdrop with dunes – this is the place to go. If this is not enough, you can always borrow a dog and play fetch while running up and down the dunes for a good workout or take a sandboard.
Sundowners in Hout Bay
Hout Bay, Cape Town doesn’t really have a great bar scene or options for nightlife as you can imagine this being a residential area. However, sundowners are a must here because Hout Bay does some of the best sunsets I have seen. For a sundowner with a great view head to Dunes which is right on the beach or for a slightly more elegant option head to the Chapman’s Peak Hotel.
Bay Harbor Market
If you are in Hout Bay and want to head to a fun weekend market there is no need to go all the way to the Neighborgoods Market in Woodstock, because Hout Bay has its very own: the Bay Harbor Market. It is open from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon and is one of the places where locals and visitors alike will meet and mingle. Crafts, music, food, and drinks are on offer in a fun setting by the Hout Bay harbor.
Check out the opening hours here and come early enough to get a table or alternatively just make your way through the crowds and enjoy the atmosphere.
Shopping in Hout Bay
There are, of course, a few shops in Hout Bay and on Princess Avenue you will even find a small mall complex. Here you have Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay, a liquor shop, a drugstore, ATMs, and cell phone stores. Great if you need to shop for any basics albeit not very exciting if you wanted to buy souvenirs.
One shop called Nap is great for jewelry, beautiful home decor and some of the softest pyjamas but if you want to find a truly unique gift with a charitable component head to T Bag Designs at Kronendal. This shop makes products out of used teabags which are crafted by locals from Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay’s informal settlement.
For great souvenirs, there is a stand on top of Suikerbossie before the Llandudno turnoff on the side of the road which sells South African crafts and wooden figurines.
Okay, so technically you will need to head to Constantia to go wine tasting but I will still say it counts because there are so many great wine farms that are super close to Hout Bay if not in Hout Bay.
Drive up to Constantia Nek and you will find the first one Silvermist on your right, and once you get to the top you (ignore La Parada please!) you will find a local favorite – Beau Constantia. This is not only home to some delicious wines which you can enjoy with the amazing views over the valley but also to one of the best restaurants in Cape Town – Chef’s Warehouse.
After you have crossed the Nek you are officially in Constantia and the options are quite endless here. Note that most wine farms in Cape Town have a late afternoon cut off time for tasting and of course, be responsible and take an Uber or a designated driver if you are wine tasting.
Hout Bay Accommodation
Since Hout Bay is a mainly residential area there are fewer hotels and accommodation options here than in the rest of the city. As you know I am super picky when it comes to accommodation and so I was really excited to come across the Hout Bay Manor which invited me to spent my last two nights before I flew home with them.
The Hout Bay Manor sits tucked away from all the main action and is surrounded by greenery. Outside you will find a big terrace, a pool area and the outdoor dining part of the restaurant. Inside you will find a comfortable TV room, lobby and the bar, perfect for a few glasses especially when winter comes and they use the fireplace.
Rooms offer a lovely mix between traditional South African arts and crafts and modern pops of color. While I am not a bath lover, I did like the old fashioned bathtub in my room and used it as you can see below just as I like it. While the water crisis in Cape Town is mainly under control a lot of hotels still remove plugs from their bathtubs to encourage water saving and I didn’t mind having a chat with the duckie and stay dry.
You get a minibar stocked with complimentary juices and waters which is always appreciated (though I do wish they would just offer chilled tap water) and you get the cutest kikoys (the South African version of a sarong) to use while you are staying there.
In addition to a very comfy bed where I put my very hungover head one night (thanks to the lovely waiters downstairs who kept the bar open really late for my friend and me), they also offer a great breakfast spread. Since I am usually not a huge fan of breakfast, I tend to not judge a hotel by its offers in the morning but I did notice that they had a lovely but small buffet selection and some great a la carte dishes. Of course, this being South Africa it included avo smash with poached eggs on bread and some killer coffee.
Last but not least, different to many other accommodation options which are solely geared towards travelers, it is a great Hout Bay hotel if you actually want to meet some locals because the hotel frequently hosts events and evenings with live music which are super popular with Hout Bay residents.
Hout Bay Restaurants
Once traffic is done, it is easy to get from Hout Bay to the city center or to Constantia by Uber where you will find some of the best fine dining in Cape Town. However, if you don’t care to venture far, Hout Bay also has a few great dining options on its own.
Cheyne Moresby started as a chef to rock stars all over the world but eventually returned to his roots in South Africa. For a few years now he has been master of a small empire that includes his main Hout Bay restaurant Cheyne’s, two branches of Lucky Bao and Shio in the Waterkant.
A meal at Cheyne’s is definitely worth a trip even if you are coming from town and luckily it has recently moved into a bigger venue on Hout Bay Main road so there is no fighting over seats.
The menu calls itself Pacific Rim and serves small dishes tapas style, divided by fish and seafood, meat, vegetarian, and sweets. They always have a special deal for 4 dishes that you can just mix and match to your liking. Alternatively, you can have individual dishes if you are not that hungry because while the portions are small, four dishes will leave you nice and full. I’d definitely pay the surcharge to get the crayfish baos – they are delicious!
In addition, they have a great cocktail menu and some of the nicest service in town.
If you are looking for a quick dinner head to Lucky Bao which is connected to Cheyne’s. Baos (steamed Chinese buns which are filled) are the star of the menu and they offer various fillings. Don’t be fooled – the tofu bao is actually their best! Lately, they have been serving their baos in sets of 2 but if you ask nicely they will let you mix and match.
In addition, they have great gyoza, a wagyu burger, and ramen. Since they share all facilities with Cheyne’s you can even ask for his signature peanut butter milkshake as dessert and the waiter may indulge you.
Massimo’s is still one of my favorite eateries in Cape Town and worth the trip to Hout Bay in my books. Their pizza is incredible and you will be so spoiled for choice. Not only do they have a gazillion toppings but two different doughs for people who are gluten intolerant.
In addition, the service is one of the best I have come across in town – competent and incredibly friendly – and they frequently donate some of their pizza profits to local charities in Hout Bay. It will usually say on the menu which pizza donates to what charity.
For dessert – even if you are not a dessert fan – you must have their chocolate liquors. You get three which are served in tiny chocolate thimbles, one white, one milk, one dark, and you can choose which liquor (they usually have orange, chili, mint and regular) goes into which thimble.
Eat – Restaurant at Hout Bay Manor
The restaurant at the Hout Bay Manor, Eat, is also open to non-hotel guests and a great option to eat out in Hout Bay. In summer you will get seated next to their pool on the patio which is leafy and lovely and when it gets colder their inside restaurant is a chic venue for a night out.
The menu offers South African classics which are cooked to perfection. Think springbok carpaccio to start with, open mushroom lasagne and of course, some great pieces of meat as you would expect from a South African restaurant.
There is obviously a myriad of other cafes and little restaurants (I do like Spiro’s and Thai Cafe) but the ones above are definitely my favorites. If you are in it for a quick snack on the beach, head to Mariner’s Warf. Even if they get too busy there is plenty of other fish (‘n chips) in the sea for a quick, cheap and yummy meal that you can spend in company of the resident sea lion.
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