Table Mountain National Park
About Table Mountain National Park
The centerpiece of Table Mountain National Park is of course the iconic mountain itself, but this top attraction is only one of the delights contained within this protected area.
These 220 square kilometers of protected space contains the world’s richest selection of diverse vegetation, and impressive geological landscapes with a few unique creatures thrown into the mix. The park offers a range of activities and experiences for nature lovers in Cape Town.
Table Mountain National Park is also considered a vitally important conservation area and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Table Mountain National Park does not encompass one massive chunk of land, instead it is made up of a number of undeveloped areas interspersed with urban areas. The park runs along the edge of the mountains around Cape Town from Signal hill, past Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, Constantiaberg and Silvermine to the tip of Cape Point.
As such, it contains 3 main sections which are:
Table Mountain Section
This part of the park incorporates Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak, the Twelve Apostles and Orange Kloof as well as Table Mountain itself.
While the upper section of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is maintained as part of the park, the gardens are not officially part of Table Mountain National Park.
This part of the park runs across the Peninsula from the Atlantic to the False Bay coast including Constantiaberg, Steenberg Peak and the Kalk Bay mountains.
Cape Point Section
This southern portion of the Cape Peninsula is contained within this part, including Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, Scarborough, and Simon’s Town.
The call for a protected area around Table Mountain started as early as the 1930s, culminating in the establishment of the Table Mountain Preservation Board in 1952. In 1957, Table Mountain was declared a national monument and a few years later, nature reserves were declared on Table Mountain, Signal Hill, Silvermine and Lion’s Head.
In the 1970s, the ecological state of Table Mountain and the Southern Peninsula were assessed, laying the foundations for the establishment of the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment area in 1989.
After a massive fire ravaged the mountain above the city in 1991, Attorney General Frank Kahn was appointed to set up a plan for managing the CPPNE more effectively. In 1995 it was recommended that SANParks take over the management of the reserves, which it did in 1998. In the same year, President Mandela proclaimed the Cape Peninsula National Park which was later renamed to Table Mountain National Park in 2004.
While Table Mountain National Park is best known as a day visitor’s destination there are a range of accommodation options available in the park. These include:
There are 2 camps offering permanent tents at Smitswinkel and Slangkop. All of them have hot water, electricity, fully equipped communal kitchens and clean ablution blocks. Each camp accommodates a maximum of 12 people, and all of the camps are easily accessible by car with secure parking provided. Guests need to bring their own firewood, but bedding is provided in each tent.
The park also offers the following accommodation options:
Cape of Good Hope Section
Olifantsbos Guest House
This luxury 12-sleeper, solar-powered dwelling, is secluded on the beach in the southern reaches of the park. The cottage has three bedrooms, a full kitchen, bathroom with a gas-fueled geyser and open-plan living spaces with a cozy fireplace. There is an annex with accommodation for 6 people attached to the main house. The spacious patio and braai area overlook the waves.
Eland and Duiker Family Cottages
Located away from the beach, these units are furnished for 6 people with full kitchens, full open plan kitchen/lounge areas, patios and fireplaces.
Table Mountain Section
There are two wonderful options for those who would like to spend time on Cape Town’s iconic mountain. These are:
The Platteklip Washhouses
This camp, located on the slopes of Table Mountain, consists of basic accommodation that sleeps 4 people per room. Each one has a bathroom and a basic kitchen. There is also a function venue onsite that caters for up to 50 people.
The Overseers Cottage
The Overseers Cottage is off the grid and sleeps 16 people in two fully-equipped, self-catering apartments. The cottage is located on top of Table Mountain, so guests need to hike up from the Constantia Nek parking area for their stay. Porters are available.
Children are encouraged to visit Table Mountain National Park and many of the trails are suited to younger visitors. Most children love exploring the wilderness areas of the park and discovering nature up close.
Conferences and events can be arranged at the Platteklip Washhouses.
Table Mountain National Park caters for a wide range of events, but you will need a permit to take part in most of them. These are:
- Day Hikes
- Multi-day Hikes
- Fishing in unrestricted areas
- Dog walking and horse riding in specially zoned areas
- Free guided walks at Cape Point
- Scuba Diving
- Mountain Biking
- Surfing, Windsurfing and Kite Boarding
- Rock Climbing in designated areas
- Hang Gliding and Paragliding at selected spots
- Demarcated walking trails
All of these activities may only be carried out subject to the rules of the park, a copy of these is available from SANParks when you purchase your permit.
Things to See in Table Mountain National Park
This entire park is filled with scenic spots and top tourist attractions. Some of the main ones to tick off your list include:
- The Cape of Good Hope
- Cape Point
- The Flying Dutchman Funicular
- Boulders Penguin Colony
- Table Mountain Cableway and the Tabletop
- Silvermine Dam
- Signal Hill and Lion’s Head
- Glorious beaches at Llandudno, Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Scarborough
Whether you seek action and excitement or a chance to lap up nature with tranquil activities, Table Mountain National Park will not disappoint.
You’ll find a few places to fill up depending on which part of the park you decide to visit.
The Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point features panoramic views over the Atlantic, and a la carte dining.
- Table Mountain Café offers a selection of eats at the top of Table Mountain.
- The Rhodes Memorial Restaurant, is a great spot for breakfast, lunch or tea with a view.
- Feast on locally-inspired dishes at the foot of Table Mountain.
When you visit Table Mountain National Park, you’re never far from a host of Cape Town restaurants on the outskirts of the park too.
Fauna and Flora
Walks and hikes are the best way to make the most of the park’s diverse fauna and flora. During these excursions you could come across a flourishing diversity of species that thrive in certain areas of the park. These include:
Antelope species like klipspringer, grysbok, duikers, grey rhebok, steenbok, red hartebeest, bontebok, eland.
Cape mountain zebra, chacma baboons, small-spotted genets and rock hyraxes are also common while you’ll be lucky to come across a Cape fox, striped polecat or Cape clawless otter.
The diversity of habitats within the park mean that many different kinds of birds are attracted to this area including the rare African black oystercatcher, African goshawk, Rameron pigeons and numerous raptors.
Seabirds are abundant too and include Cape gannets, black-browed albatrosses, sooty shearwaters and giant petrels as well as the colony of African penguins at Boulders.
The flora of this region is legendary with 2 200 species of fynbos occurring. There are more species of plants in the Table Mountain National park than in the entire United Kingdom and it is regarded as one of the world’s six floral biomes on its own.
Dolphins are common year-round, while humpback and southern right whales grace the waters of the Atlantic during the springtime (September to December).
Packing List for visiting South African National Parks
If you’re headed for Table Mountain National Park for the day, be sure to pack the following:
- Sun Protection
- Swimming costume and towels
- Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes
- A map and guidebook
- A torch
- Mosquito repellent
A camera and binoculars are essential, as is all the paraphernalia that goes with them such as memory cards and chargers.
The different gates associated with Table Mountain National Park are easily accessed by train, bus, taxi or rental car.
Many tour operators offer day trips to take in the major sights of Table Mountain National Park, but you can also access the park under your own steam via one of the access points mentioned below.
Directions from Cape Town:
Table Mountain National Park is easily accessible from anywhere in Cape Town, as follows:
- Boulders Beach
From Cape Town, take the M4 towards Simon’s Town, then take the left turn into Seaforth Road. Park at the Seaforth Beach Parking lot and take a stroll along Kleintuin Road to the Penguin Colony.
Alternatively continue to Secluse Road and park at Boulders Beach parking lot. A stroll along the boardwalk brings you to the penguin colony.
- Cape Point
You can reach the Cape Point entrance via the M4, or on the M64 and 65 via Ou Kaapse Weg, Scarborough, Sun Valley and Kommetjie.
The route along the M6 via scenic Chapman’s Peak is sometimes closed after heavy rains, so check before planning your trip.
Take De Waal Drive and then turn left onto Rhodes Drive towards Hout Bay.
You’ll find this entrance between Camp’s Bay and Llandudno on the M6.
Take the M3 to Tokai Road.
Opposite the Silvermine Road turn-off.
- Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head
Take Kloof Nek Road towards Camp’s Bay
For more information on places to go and things to do in South Africa, keep checking our website. We regularly update our pages with the latest information on all of Africa’s most interesting places.
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