Cape Town: Paradise in the Rainbow Nation

Fri. May 4, 2012 12:00 AM

South Africa is a country that celebrates diversity. It's the only country in Africa that allows same-sex couples to marry. Cape Town, the second-largest city in the "Rainbow Nation," is one of the most popular tourist destinations for straight and gay vacationers alike.

What makes Cape Town so appealing is the combination of a well-developed infrastructure, amazing climate and natural beauty. Several popular tourist attractions are located in "The Mother City," including Table Mountain National Park and Boulders Beach. Whether you enjoy gazing at bronzed hotties on the beach, crave an ideal wine tasting experience or have a penchant for adventure and want to bungee jump or shark-cage dive, you'll love this city!

Cape Town has a lot to offer LGBT travelers. There are gay beaches, gayborhoods and several LGBT-friendly hotels and businesses. Tourism is a major industry and many business-owners are happy to accept the coveted pink dollar.

Most of Cape Town's gay scene is divided between the Waterkant and Sea Point neighborhoods. Waterkant, situated northwest of downtown, is a haven for young queer professionals and a great place to find hip, eclectic restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. Many of the most popular gay clubs can be found on Somerset Road. Bronx is always a blast if you love to dance and watch hot go-go boys. Beaulah, also on Somerset, is known as a lesbian bar, but it also attracts a lot of gay men. In addition to great music and dancing, the venue also offers regular comedy nights and other live performances. If you're into leather, head down to Bar Code on Cobern Street. This joint enforces a strict dress code, so if you're not weather leather, rubber, a uniform or jeans, you won't get in.

Cape Town is a melting pot and the ideal destination if you want to experience diverse and exotic cuisine. There's a variety of gay-friendly restaurants sprinkled throughout the city. In Waterkant, Cafe Manhattan is a staple of LGBT life. The restaurant was established in 1994, the same year South Africa adopted its democratic constitution. Highlights include mouth-watering burgers, a full bar and live entertainment. Andiamo is a popular venue offering a Mediterranean/California-influenced menu. There's also a deli if you want to take a dish to go.

City Bowl is also a great area to grab a bite. Savoy Cabbage is an upscale, bistro-style restaurant where it's common to see affectionate gay couples sharing a meal. The vegetarian and seasonal entrees are out of this world.

Most of the locals are warm and welcoming but it must be noted that crime is still a major issue in Cape Town. If you use common sense, you shouldn't have a problem. Don't wear a camera or other valuables slung around your neck or strapped to your waist. Also, avoid traveling alone on deserted city streets at night. If you plan on visiting one of the townships, do so during daylight hours on a guided tour. These are areas where you'll find the most extreme poverty and where tourists are the most vulnerable. Visiting a gay beach is a must-do when you're in Cape Town. Sandy Bay is the most popular, located about a half-hour away from downtown. It's clothing-optional but if you want to swim keep in mind the water is very cold most of the year. If you're planning a trip to Sandy Bay, head there early because parking is extremely limited. Clifton 3rd is less windy than Sandy Day and attracts a mostly gay crowd. If you're looking to experience a beautiful sunset, this is an ideal spot.

There are many similarities between Cape Town and California, and they don't begin and end at the beautiful beaches. Looking for another great day excursion? Go wine tasting in Stellenbosch. The towering mountains serve as the perfect backdrop for a glorious day in the vineyards. This is also a great spot to go horseback riding or hiking. There are great LGBT events happening no matter what time of year you plan to visit. Cape Town Pride takes place at the end of February and lasts until early March. Pink Loerie, which is held in April, is the only Mardi Gras event in Africa. There are several highlights during Pink Loerie including the Mardi Gras Street Parade, which draws thousands of revelers. The event was first held more than a decade ago and serves as a fundraiser for HIV/AIDS charities. Free HIV testing is also offered during Pride and Pink Loerie.

Cape Town is a place like no other on earth! It's a city of extremes where the ridiculously wealthy live a stone's throw away from the most destitute. Unspoiled natural beauty can be found next to state-of-the-art buildings and luxury hotels. It's the contradictions, as well as the blending of cultures that make the jewel of South Africa the most intriguing, alluring city on the continent.


Author: Jon Fairbanks - Gay Travel Team Member - Images courtesy of ©WESGRO