‘The tourist who moves about to see and hear and open himself to all the influences of the places which condense centuries of human greatness is only a man in search of excellence.’Max Lerner; journalist and educator, 1902 – 1992
An article in the local news this week has pointed out that attendance at the V&A Waterfront has dropped. This is probably self-evident, given that the entire world has been under the cosh of Covid-19, but the reality is that life is now returning to normal. Slowly, but with increased vaccinations and sensible protocols in place, the scourge is being defeated. We commented last week on the wonderful sight of crowds at international sporting and other events, and if South Africans would take heed en masse of the benefits of ‘herd immunity’, it won’t take long before we, too, will be able to gather – safely – in large groups and pursue our favourite occupations and pleasurable activities.
The V&A Waterfront is one of the world’s iconic attractions, and although international travel is still a bit dubious and lacking the numbers of pre-virus years, there is no reason why locals – Capetonians and all South Africans alike – should not be taking in the sights, sounds and magic that is the thriving harbour-based world. Prior to the lockdown, the V&A was South Africa’s most visited destination, with over 24 million people per annum marvelling at its attractions. It’s unique characteristics give it a wide-ranging spectrum of charms, and there is lots to appeal to all age-groups and an enormous variety of wishes. Possibly the most well-known aspect is the magnificent shopping centre, but the V&A does in fact comprises five shopping districts: Victoria Wharf, the Watershed, The Alfred Mall and Pierhead, The Clock Tower, and Breakwater Point, each with their own special features, history and appeal, covering an area of over 123 hectares. As Cape Town Tourism point out gleefully, that’s the equivalent of 180 football fields: a tip – don’t wear high-heels when you shop the V&A. There are over 450 different shops, ranging from internationally acclaimed brands to eclectic stalls and specialist emporiums. Something for everyone.
The V&A Waterfront is so much more than just a shopping adventure, of course. For those of a culinary bent, there is a selection of restaurants that will appeal to every taste under the sun (or stars.) The gastronomically curious will find everything from top-notch burgers to avant-garde seafood; sushi to sublime steaks, and pizza to pies. For thirsty patrons, fastidious oenophiles and the cocktail set there are numerous establishments that offer not only delicious drinks, but unbeatable views too. From wine by the glass (for those oenophiles, if you were scratching your head) to rainbow coloured glasses of thirst-quenching delight, visitors are spoilt for choice.
Then there is the other sides of the V&A: the historical, the artistic and the quirky. For quirky, not much beats the idea of a famous lock-up, the Breakwater Prison, now converted to a small hotel. Or the Robinson Dry Dock, which normally has a selection of varied vessels large and small parked on wooden bricks, getting their hulls scraped. When it comes to history, well, there are no less than 22 landmarks in the V&A area, with the oldest, the Chavonnes Battery Museum, dating back to 1725. There are historical walking tours, both guided and self-guided, that will give you a flavour of what life was like in the early days of Cape history. The sights may not have the ancient heritage of the Greek ruins or the Egyptian pyramids, but there is the personal experience of feeling that the history is not dead; in the Waterfront area the past is palpable and can be very moving. There are art galleries and museums too, of course, and no description of the V&A Waterfront would be complete without a mention of the Two Oceans Aquarium, a visit to which will enthral old and young alike; no matter how familiar you are with the oceans around our city, you will be fascinated by the incredible exhibits.
And finally, there is one of the V&A Waterfronts most durable and best-loved attractions: Waterfront Charters. Yup, that’s us, and we have been here since the very early days when you still had to pass through customs to have a meal at the Harbour Café. We saw Bertie’s Landing take pride of place; we were here when the shopping precinct was built. And with the V&A Waterfront, we have grown too. Over the three decades we have built our fleet to the current seven vessels; our three luxurious catamarans, our original and much-loved double-decker Southern Cross; the iconic sailing schooner Esperance; and our two powerful outboard-driven RIBs for ocean safaris. We have formed wonderful alliances with partners in the V&A, and our Cruise and Dine experiences are one of the most popular attractions for guests looking for a relaxed cruise followed by a gourmet meal.
We could go on and on, but the full list of cruises is set out perfectly on the website; designed for ease of viewing and booking. So: South Africans – come back to the wonderful V&A Waterfront to take in the spectacle of a world-famous attraction, and make sure you put the cherry on top of your experience with a Waterfront Charters ocean adventure. After all these years we are getting pretty good at making our guests very happy…