There's a reason the Cape of Good Hope was originally called the Cape of Storms: when winter descends in full force on Cape Town, it can be your soggiest nightmare. The driving rains feel like an icy cold monsoon, and I typically spend the months between May and September surrounded by space heaters and electric blankets to keep me warm. But compared to what some folks have been contending with in the U.S., winter here really isn't so bad, a few gloomy, torrential days interspersed with lovely sunny 70-degree weather from time to time—no polar vortex here! Even when the rains are at their worst, Cape Town has plenty of events and activities to keep you occupied till summer returns in all its glory. From indoor animal-spotting to numerous different festivals and even some outdoor activities, here are some ideas if you find yourself in the Mother City next winter.
Two Oceans Aquarium
More than 3,000 sea creatures call the V&A Waterfront home, with their residence at the popular Two Oceans Aquarium. You'll find separate galleries for Atlantic and Indian Ocean animals, and you can interact with penguins and—if you have scuba certification—dive in the predator tank alongside the ragged-tooth sharks. There's even a café on site, so you never have to venture out into the weather.
Franscchoek Literary Festival
Each May, global and local literary stars descend upon the lovely Winelands burg of Franschhoek for a world-class book-lover's affair. The festival is a great opportunity to both hear some of your favorite authors (past speakers have included Anthony Horowitz and Alexander McCall Smith) and discover South Africa’s new talent.
Franschhoek Bastille Festival
Franschhoek was founded by a small band of French Huguenot refugees in the late 17th century, and more than 300 years later, its Gallic influence remains strong. Case in point: The biggest celebration of the year is the annual Bastille Day festival every July, where locals don red, white, and blue and participate in a parade, boules tournaments, barrel-rolling competitions, and more.
Deep within the Iziko South African Museum in the Company's Garden, this dome-shaped auditorium offers visitors a celestial experience. So what if the weather outside is cold and the sky is ominous? Keep warm and stay dry in the Planetarium, where the sky is always clear. Still waiting for the storm to pass? Check out the nearby display of iron meteorites.
You're going to get at least a little wet no matter what, so why not get a LOT wet? The waves off Muizenberg, the most popular surfing beach in Cape Town (and perhaps even the country) are at their peak in the winter, and true surfers know that this is prime time to catch the waves. Don your warmest wet suit and head to Gary's Surf School for a lesson.