Whether you're fresh off a plane or finishing up a safari on the last leg of your trip, Cape Town is the perfect South African honeymoon destination. The vibrant coastal city is home to many culturally significant sites, romantic eateries, and trendy shops. And we visited the best ones. So, consider this your unofficial romantic honeymoon itinerary in the Cape Peninsula!
Where to Eat
If you're looking to mix-and-mingle with Cape Town's hip millennial set, head to Asoka, a buzz-worthy lounge and bar just a few blocks from the Mount Nelson Hotel (see below), on Kloof Street. Tuesday nights are especially poppy, with live music providing a rhythmic backdrop for Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes like miso-cured Norwegian salmon, Chermoula chicken skewers, and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with green tahini dressing. If your reservation is early, hang by the bar until 10 p.m., when the lights dim, the DJ comes on, and the outdoor patio fills up with well-heeled locals.
Where to Shop
Cape Town is admittedly known for its tourist traps more so than its stylish boutiques, but the Watershed, located on the bustling Victoria & Albert Waterfront, is surprisingly chic. The mixed-use space has a second-floor wellness center and an eclectic mix of ground-floor stalls by local designers like August (ideal for beach cover-ups and easy-to-wear tunics), Pichulik (for colorful jewelry and made-to-measure sandals), and Ballo (for stylish wood-framed sunglasses).
Photo: Katie James
Where to Stay
When it comes to luxury hotels in Cape Town, look no further than Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. The pink-hued, colonial-era property is perched on a secluded hillside that overlooks the Company's Garden, a 17th-century public park adjacent to Parliament and the office of the president.
Guest rooms recently underwent a chic redesign at the hands of Lisbon-born, New York City-based interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud. The stylish result is most evident in the top-floor Deluxe Junior Suites, which feature plush upholstered furnishings in a soothing blue palette and en-suite balconies with picture-perfect views of Table Mountain. And while there are plenty of sites to enjoy within walking distance of the hotel, be sure to make it back for afternoon high tea, when the lobby and outdoor patio are as packed with jet-setters (and maybe even a celeb or two) as they are with Instagram-worthy desserts (dark chocolate cake, lemon meringue tarts, and macaroons in every imaginable hue).
Photo: Katie James
What to Do
If you're an adventurous pair, grab an Uber and make the scenic 40-minute drive south to Simon's Town, a waterfront enclave that's home to the city's premier scuba outposts. The experts at Shark Explorers can tailor a half- or full-day excursion to your interests, be it an offshore cage dive with white sharks or a less panic-inducing swim with the inshore sea creatures. For a unique experience, consider a two-tank dive that pairs a search for the elusive Sevengill cow shark (less is known about the species than white sharks) with 30 minutes of fun swimming among Cape fur seals (pack an underwater camera to capture their goofy yet lithe movements).
Post-dive, Shark Explorers can arrange private transfer back to the city that includes a scenic drive through the Cape Peninsula and a stop at nearby Boulder's Beach—to snap a selfie with the local colony of African penguins, natch.
For an Overnight Trip
To maximize your time in the wine lands, spend a night or two at Franschhoek's historic Le Quartier Français, a newly minted member of the Leeu Collection (which is quietly putting its stamp on the region, through the Swartland-based Mullineux & Leeu wine portfolio and the recently debuted flagship property, Leeu House).
Foodies should book in early at the Tasting Room, Le Quartier's main on-site restaurant, which offers a surprise eight-course tasting-menu, crafted nightly by Netherlands-born executive chef Margo Janse. The more faint-of-stomach can have an equally satisfying tapas-style meal at the Living Room, located next door. But regardless of your culinary disposition, guests at Le Quartier are sure to enjoy the en-suite fireplaces (lit by the staff at your request—a must for cold evenings), the state-of-the-art gym (to burn off those indulgent tastings), and the perfectly situated pool (for lazy afternoon sun-bathing).
Photo: Katie James
For a Day Trip
After all that excitement, you and your new partner will need some major R&R, so request a private, escorted tour of the Cape wine lands with local operator Ilios Travel. Ask for Elle, a wine-industry vet who can arrange tastings at the top vineyards in Stellenbosch—the founding wine-making region in South Africa—like Waterford Estate (be sure to bring home a bottle of the Rose-Mary rosé wine) and Delaire Graff Estate (owned by the namesake luxury diamond dealer), followed by a scenic lunch overlooking the vines at Tokara Wine Estate.
For a Wine Tour
Cap your itinerary with a visit to Babylonstoren, a 500-acre estate and hotel set on one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in the region. Book a tour of the estate's gardens, which boast more than 300 varieties of edible plants (guests are encouraged to pluck ripe fruits and veggies as they go). All that sampling will work up your appetite, so plan on a sandwich or salad at the Greenhouse, where bread is baked daily in a wood-fired oven, or at the newly reopened flagship restaurant, Babel.
Afterward, sample the estate's varietals at the brand-new, glass-enclosed tasting room (an architectural marvel set among the vines), and shop for sweet-smelling candles and soaps (whose ingredients are harvested directly from the garden). And since the vintages are hard to find stateside, don't forget to bring a bottle home with you. Our pick? The Nebukadnesar 2013, a stunning Bordeaux blend, aged for 24 months in French oak, that will hold for three to five years in the bottle—making it the perfect anniversary-occasion wine.