Paarl Rock are three granite outcrops, second biggest on earth, which are more than 500 million years old. It was declared a Nature Reserve in 1977.
It’s a great destination all year round, but it should be sunny or at least dry. The rocks are utterly exposed, it can be windy and it’s not pleasant with rain. In September and October, beautiful proteas and wildflowers are in bloom.
Paarl Rock is still a "hidden" gem and more known by the South Africans. Therefore, on weekends and public holidays, it’s a little busy especially the braai (BBQ) areas but far away from crowded. At weekdays enjoy the tranquility on top of the rocks.
The “dry” season lasts from November to March. In summer it can get hot around midday. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Most rainfall from May to September with its peak in June. In winter temperatures range from 8 to about 20°C during summer temps are often above 30°C.
Opening Hours of the Paarl Rock Nature Reserve
- Summer: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. (1 Oct – 31 March)
- Winter: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. (1 April – 30 Sept)
- Last entry 1 hour before closure times.
The awe-inspiring Table Mountain, one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature, estimated to be 240 million years old the rocks even 600 million years.
Table Mountain is truly magnificent and it’s a must to get to the top when in Cape Town, South Africa. The iconic landmark offers stunning views of Cape Town and its surroundings. For a spectacular view of Table Mountain hike to the top of Lion’s Head. Table Mountain can be visited year-round. However, we are happy to provide you with the best daytime, tips, and details about the best months. [This guide was updated in March 2020 after our fifth visit]
When to Go
The best time to visit Table Mountain is from October to March. Those are the driest months, as most rain falls between May and September. The perfect time of day to go up is in the morning before it gets busy and too hot. Either take the first cable car (8:00 am / 8:30) or start hiking early. I also love the evening for a stunning sunset from the top.
Read more details below about the cable car operating times, time of day tips, getting to the top, weather, and why we would visit in the winter months as well.
Opening Times - Cable Car Operating Hours
Table Mountain is 'open' and accessible 24 hours each day throughout the year. However, don't hike in darkness - safety first! But you can spend a night on top of the plateau of table mountain. More about it in the description below. The aerial cableway starts to operate after sunrise but always until sunset. Either take the cable car up and down or what we prefer; hike up, watch the sunset and take the last ride down. Below are the operating hours but keep in mind that during poor weather, especially strong wind the cable car won't operate. If you aren't sure about the weather conditions on a certain day and if the cableway is running call the hotline: 021 424 8181
Cable Car Operating Hours 2019/2020
|First Cable Car up||Last Cable Car up||Last Cable Car down|
|16 Dec - 15 Jan||8:00||20:30||21:30|
|16 Jan - 31 Jan||8:00||19:30||20:30|
|1 Feb - 31 Mar||8:00||19:00||20:00|
|1 Apr - 30 Apr||8:00||18:30||19:30|
|1 May - 31 Aug||8:30||17:00||18:00|
Detailed Time of Day Tips
- If you plan to hike to the summit via Platteklip Gorge, start early in the morning. That way you'll avoid busy areas and dodge the heat as well in the summer months.
- If you use the cable car to get to the top, also be there early. Arrive as soon as they start operating in the morning. That way, you'll avoid long waiting lines of 1.5 hours during midday. For operating times, fee for the cable car, and buy ticket online; click the official link (then scroll down): Cableway - Rates - Hours
Getting to the Top | Hiking Trails and Cable Car
- Cable Car (Cable Way): You can get up and down via cableway. Please keep in mind, that it doesn't operate when the weather is bad, the visibility poor, or the wind is too strong. Find rates and operating times here: Cable Car Table Mountain - Official Site. Getting to the cable car itself is not difficult: Cableway - Getting There | Official Site. The easiest way is to book the combo tour (see the tours section below).
- Hiking: An even better experience is hiking. There are many different routes to get to the plateau of Table Mountain. However, most visitors choose to hike up and then take the cable car down or vise versa. If you plan to hike up and take the gondola down check the wind forecast first. You can find a detailed description of our 5 favourite hiking trails around the Table below. There are two alternative routes for hiking if the cable car is closed; Platteklip Gorge and India Venster. Both hiking trails are spectacular taking 1.5 up to 2 hours. The first one is more challenging and well maintained, the second one more strenuous and not marked. The best choice hike one way up and the other down. Never hike alone due to safety reasons!! During quieter times security is lacking.
Weather and Seasons in Cape Town
November feels already like summer reaching 25°C. January and February are the hottest months with almost 30°C. March is still warm and dry. Nights are refreshing cool ranging between 15°C to 17°C. The summertime is the driest time of the year with 9-11 sunshine hours daily. The sea is refreshing at 20°C from January to March. During summer, the southeaster, often called "Cape Doctor" by the locals, can blow for days on end. Always bring a suitable jacket or layer of clothes. However, showers occur even during this season. The Table is also famous for endemic flowers and plants like the pride of Table Mountain. The "disa uniflora" is an orchid that blooms from January to March at waterfalls and streams of the plateau and the Twelve Apostles. December to February is the busiest season; prices for accommodation are the highest, especially during the Christmas Holidays. Advanced booking is recommended.
Decreasing rainfall in April but still warm during the day around 25°C. May though a little cooler but pleasant above 20°C. Nights are colder, on average 15°C and below. May experiences already rain on nine days on average. Therefore, it’s less busy in Cape Town; more accommodations are available.
You won't experience any extremes, which results in a mild winter. That means winter isn't a bad time to visit Cape Town! But keep in mind that it's colder at the top of the Table and windier. Day temps are still around 20°C and nights, on average above 10°C. Most rainfall (almost 80%) throughout the year happens from May until September though June to August are the wettest; expect precipitation on average on ten days. A little snow can occur on the Table but already melts away during the day. Usually, winter is the low season, but during the summer holidays in Europe, it’s a little busier. Plenty of accommodations are available, and some are closed for maintenance.
Rainfall decreases in September, temps are pleasant above 20°C; for me, the best time of the year. Roughly mid-August starts the flowering season along the coast and in the desert. Southern Right Whales are here with its peak from July to October. October is already warm, and rain is still decreasing. It’s not too crowded in Cape Town, hikes around Table, and the cable car are still not super busy.
Accommodations (Hotels, Lodges, B&Bs) - Our Top Tip
There are tons of lodges, cottages, private houses, B&Bs, and hotels in Cape Town. It's rare that Cape Town is fully booked. However, we always book these accommodations in advance. First, rates are lower and we only choose the safe and better rated self-catering cottages or B&Bs. Usually, 80% of the accommodations are already booked a couple of weeks before during the peak season. Check out booking.com for the best rates and read the recommendations first. Bookmark the link for the lowest prices. If you click on the picture above you get to our last accommodation close to Cape Town in Hout Bay on Mount Bay in summer 2020. The view was fantastic, the sunrise spectacular, and even a gas BBQ was available.
Simon’s Town is home to the South African Navy's Naval Base.
The Boulders Penguin Colony is a stunning year-round destination, not only during the breeding/feeding season. It is one of the best spots in the world to get close to penguins in the wild. Although, it is called Boulders Beach, most African Penguins nest at Foxy Beach. The beaches are often busy; however, during the best time of the day, it is usually quieter. Continue reading for an exceptional visit to Cape Town.
Nearby Tip: Visit the breathtaking Table Mountain at Cape Town. We just updated our Table Mountain Guide (the link takes you to our article) with great tips you should know, as well as tour suggestions.
The best time to visit Boulders Beach full of penguins is during the peak of the breeding season from February to May; in the late afternoon roughly from 4 pm onwards when the penguins come back to their nests. If you want to dodge the crowds, April and May are less busy, except Holy Week. In the late afternoon, crowds thin out as well.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The busy months are November until March; worst in December and January. However, it can be crowded in the shoulder and off-season as well, especially on the weekends and in the daytime. To beat the crowds and increase the chance of a parking lot, be there very early in the morning as soon as they open but, there are fewer penguins around. An alternative and our favourite time is late afternoon: roughly 2-3 hours before they close, depending on the season. You'll see many more penguins compared to the morning. We spent here already several afternoons until closure in March 2020. During the last hour, we were always almost alone. What a wonderful experience to watch hundreds of penguins arriving from their daily foraging.
In general, you'll spot more penguins in the breeding season than at other times. The breeding season starts roughly in February and lasts until August: It peaks from March to May. It's fascinating when the penguins return from hunting. We watched this spectacle a couple of times. First, you see them in the far distance, jumping and swimming. When they reach the beach, waddle up to the nests, and feed the chicks that's an unforgettable experience. The babies get fed for about two months in the late afternoon. In March and April, you see already chicks, some in juvenile plumage, penguins breeding with one or two eggs, and mating ones as well. They are so graceful when swimming in the water. Seeing them gawky waddle on land is always funny.
Opening Hours and Map
The closure time depends on the available daylight. The shop, the visitor center, Boulders Beach, and Foxy Beach get closed at the mentioned time below.
- Summer: December - January 07:00 - 19:30
- February - March 08:00 - 18:30
- October - November 08:00 - 18:30
- Winter: April - September 08:00 - 17:00
January: Juveniles are moulting, adults feeding up for the breeding season.
February - August: Mating and breeding season with most penguins at the beach; peak March to May
September - October: Penguins foraging at sea for the moulting season. Fewer penguins are at the beach.
November - December: Moulting season, means losing their waterproof plumage -getting new feathers. It lasts for roughly three weeks. At this time, penguins don't have the capability to stay warm in the cold sea. The stay either at the beach or hide in the bush.
Most pleasant weather from October-March. Day temps are always above 20°C. Rain showers can occur but on a couple of days only. During winter it’s much quieter but also colder. There is often a light breeze or even strong wind. Be prepared and bring a windbreaker.
Decreasing rainfall from September onwards. Day temps are on average around 20°C and nights around 13°C. It’s often partly cloudy and occasionally overcast.
January and February are the driest months of the year. Day temps are on average around 24°C and can climb up to 30°C. Night temps are on average around 15°C. Usually, it’s often sunny and partly cloudy. Due to the light breeze, it doesn’t get too hot. Also, the southeaster, often called "Cape Doctor" by the locals, can blow for days on end during summer. On our first visit, I got a cold due to the strong wind. The water temperature is around 18°C cold.
March is still dry, increasing rainfall from April onwards. It is still pleasant on average above 20°C. Nights are cool around 13°C. It’s often sunny and partly cloudy. Mist can occur in the morning.
During winter, it is a mixture of sunny, partly cloudy, and overcast days. More precipitation in winter around 90 mm each month. Usually, June is the wettest month of the year. Day temps are on average around 18°C and 10°C during the night.
Our 5 Top Tips for an Exceptional Visit
- There are two parking lots; one at Seaforth Square and one at Bellevue Road: Seaforth Square is bigger and open 24 hours while Bellevue Road is smaller and closes earlier. Ask the car-park attendant when the gate gets closed! To dodge the crowds come either in the morning or late afternoon what we recommend. Expect to pay a tip when leaving the car park.
- The best spot to watch a high number of penguins is Foxy Beach, where boardwalks lead to. There is the main boardwalk and a smaller one. To get to the smaller one, turn immediately right after the entry. It’s a little quieter, but the view is best from the main boardwalk.
- The entrance fee for foreign visitors is high ZAR 160 per adult and 80 per child, but it’s also used for the conservation of the penguins. In my opinion, it’s utterly worth it. Price: ZAR 160 is less than 10€/10$/16AUD/8GBP
- Boulders Beach itself is a 7-8 minutes walk from the main entrance. During the peak season, you can enter the beach with your ticket only. It’s a sheltered bay and beach and ideal for swimming. Here are only a few penguins. If it gets too crowded the ranger close the beach for additional visitors. More space on the beach during low tide. Tide Times Boulders Beach
- Usually, you can also see penguins at Water's Edge Beach and Seaforth as well but in smaller numbers. The beaches are within walking distance. From Bellevue parking, you get to another spot called Burgers' Walk to watch penguins. This path leads along the neighborhood houses. You don’t have to pay a fee for these spots, but none is as fantastic as Foxy Beach.
Please, respect the requested 3 meters distance to the penguins. If they get disturbed they may disappear. None of your social media posts is worth doing so! As you can see in the picture below; this is a bad example of taking pictures from these endangered birds. Our pictures were taken with Olympus OMD 10 II