Cape Town is a geographically striking city that lies in the very lower tip of the African continent in the country of South Africa, upon the Cape Peninsula. The resort is surrounded by national parks and incredible coastline that would entice any visitor outdoors on a sunny day. Luckily, for most of the year the weather in Cape Town is conducive to getting outside and exploring.
Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa in terms of population and is famed for its beautiful harbor and dramatic mountainous topography. Cape Town is quite a large city and spans across a reasonably large expanse- resulting in population density being quite low for a city of over 3 million.
The spectacular, 3,300 ft Table Mountain creates an extraordinary backdrop to this trendy city. Table Mountain is perhaps the most famous landmark in Cape Town, due in part to its unusually flat top and almost vertical cliffs at its sides. Two of these cliffs, Devils Peak and Lion’s Head are popular with visitors because of the views over the city and across the Atlantic Ocean. On certain days a bizarre thin layer of cloud will form on the top of Table Mountain, which has become known locally as the ‘tablecloth.’
Along the Cape Peninsula runs a spine of mountain ranges, which is the main reason why precipitation varies so much as you move around the entirety of Cape Town. Due to the varying elevation, some parts of the city receive around 500mm precipitation annually, whereas other parts will receive in excess of 1,000 mm.
Within the official borders of Cape Town alone you will find 70 mountains over 1,000 feet high, so as you can imagine rainfall varies quite dramatically from area to area- with the coastal plains measuring about 515 mm average precipitation annually, compared with 1500 mm in the mountains.
The suburb of Newlands, which lies in the southern realms of the city, is the wettest place in all of South Africa. In saying this, the wettest time of the year is the winter months- which run from May through until September, and the summer months experience drier- conditions that are typical of a Mediterranean climate.
November to March is summer in Cape Town, though because of its coastal location and its position in the path of many local prevailing winds, summers here can be relatively mild. The hottest month of the year is February, with an average high temperature of 29°C (84°F), which is hot but not uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the overnight temperatures can drop significantly when the strong sun goes down. The average low temperature for the month of December, for example, is 15°C (59°F), while the average high temperature for that same month is 25°C (77°F).
Often even the warmest summer days are cooled by a South Easterly wind, which is known locally as the ‘Cape Doctor.’ As the Cape Doctor blows across the city it rids the area of heavy pollution and brings clean air and cooler temperatures. The strong wind on the warm days of January or February can bring relief to beachgoers but be hazardous to those out on the water.
Sometimes in the year, generally in February or March, there may be bouts of uncomfortable high temperatures when the ‘Berg Wind’ (mountain wind) blows from the interior and brings with it high temperatures for a few weeks.
The Atlantic Ocean can be cold all year long off the South African coast, but there are still bays and inlets that become quite warm during the summer. Many visitors come during the months of December, January and February to seek some sun in the southern hemisphere, and the beaches outside Cape Town are truly stunning.
February has the warmest seawater, after the stronger summer sun has beat down on the ocean all summer long. During February the average sea temperature rises to 21°C (70°F), which is definitely warm enough for swimming and water sports. The coldest seawater temperatures occur in the winter months of July, August and September when the Atlantic Ocean is on average a crisp 16°C (61°F).
Cape Town’s location in the southern hemisphere means winter lasts from early April through October. The months of April and May sometimes exhibit autumn temperatures and precipitation, characterised by consistently dropping temperatures and increased precipitation. Likewise, the months of September and October can feel like a mild spring, where the days finally begin to lengthen and the average hours of daily sunlight increase.
Although wet, winters in Cape Town are still fairly mild, the average daily temperature in Cape Town’s coldest month, July, is 13°C (55°F), while the average low temperature during this month is a balmy, but not freezing, 7°C (45°F). While visitors will need a jacket to keep warm, it is certainly not unbearable. The average high temperature in the early winter months, such as April at 23°C (73°F), are quite comfortable for exploring the city and surrounding areas.
As mentioned earlier, winter is the wettest time of the year in Cape Town, so be sure to pack an umbrella and be prepared for downfalls. The month of June sees an average 90 mm of rainfall, while the month of July historically received an average 100 mm. There are also a number of rainy days throughout the winter months. In each of June, July and August there are an average 14 wet days. The number of rainy days drops only slightly in September, with an average 12 rainy days.
When the wind and rain combine during the winter months it can be hazardous to visitors who want to explore Cape Town’s nearby national parks and awesome views. There are certain days in June, July and August each year where the wind forces one of Cape Town’s most popular attractions, the Table Mountain Arial Cableway, to close, leaving visitors to explore the city itself.
With winters that are cool, but not unbearable or freezing, it is easy to see why Cape Town is a popular destination all year round. Plus, with a number of museums, galleries and eateries to explore even the days that are not filled with bright sunshine can be interesting and fun filled while on holiday in this trendy and sophisticated city.