Paris has the Left Bank, Sydney has the Opera House, and San Francisco has the Bay. But with two oceans, steep mountains, long white beaches, and a World Heritage–designated floral kingdom where wild zebras roam, Cape Town takes first place on my personal list of the world’s most spectacular cities. And Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa is the perfect base camp (doubles from $410; 12apostleshotel.com). It’s close to hip urban enclaves—the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront’s cafés, pubs, and restaurants are a short drive away—but occupies a natural world of its own. The 70-room retreat is backed by its namesake peaks in Table Mountain National Park and overlooks the colliding currents of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans—a marine sanctuary that doubles as a lap lane for migrating humpbacks, dolphins, and the occasional great white. Explore the hotel’s Sanctuary Spa, which is set, grotto-like, into the foothills; drink locally harvested rooibos (red bush) tea in the Conservatory; or peruse Twelve Apostles’ 39-page wine list before sipping some of the Cape’s top vintages (the Pinotage only grows here). Outside, hike and rock climb the southernmost range in Africa or bike the Cape of Good Hope (this month the Cape Argus Cycle Tour kicks off, followed by the Two Oceans Marathon in April). Travelers come to this part of South Africa for a visit but often find themselves pondering a permanent move—the city attracts a rainbow of nationalities and has a thriving population of artists, musicians, and adventure seekers. Still, if you can’t make a 180-degree life change, spending a week in Cape Town is the next best thing.
Need to Know: There are 40 surf breaks and dozens of beaches within an hour’s drive of Twelve Apostles. While the climate is Mediterranean, the Arctic currents offshore mean cold water year-round.