The 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
The 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
Image: Supplied

Location, location, location. It’s a real-estate expression but it matters just as much in the recipe for a dream hotel, and I can’t think of a dreamier location for a hotel in Cape Town than the 12 Apostles.

With the Atlantic Ocean in front of it and the 12 Apostles mountain range — part of Table Mountain National Park —  behind, it sits on a wild and isolated stretch of the coastline-hugging Victoria Road, that gorgeous, twisting route that takes you from Camps Bay to the start of the world-famous Chapman’s Peak Drive.  And though this part doesn’t involve a toll it is no less spectacular.  

First impressions

There’s nothing quite like turning off that road to find a few Ferraris in the parking lot and a flawlessly courteous doorman, gloves on his hands and an old-school luggage trolley at the ready to make you feel fancy.

The Leopard Bar.
The Leopard Bar.
Image: Supplied

If walls could talk

It's not surprising that such prime real estate has an esteemed history, stretching back to 1836 when Cape governor Lord Charles Somerset gifted Michael van Breda a piece of land at Oudekraal. It was in 1929 when the house was built in Sir Herbert Baker-style, with its two white gables still prominent today towering above the Leopard Bar. (There is still a legal maritime requirement that the gables be kept white so that they are visible from the sea.) It changed hands a few times over the years, and was developed as a hotel in the early 1990s. In 2002, it was acquired by SA’s own hospitality-industry royalty, the Tollman family’s Red Carnation group, and given its current name.

There are 55 rooms in all, with views of either the Atlantic side or the mountains. They range in type (and price) from the classic to the presidential suite. Our superior sea-facing suite had a separate, sunken lounge; a private balcony with sun loungers; a soap and pillow menu; and possibly the finest bed linen I have ever had the pleasure of wrapping myself in. 

What else it's got

There are two fairly small pools on the property, one on the ocean side; the other a rock pool tucked below the mountain peaks. From the latter you will find walking trails leading into the mountains. Its spa was recently named by luxuryhotel.com as one of the top 10 most Instagrammed in the world — one of only two in Africa (the other was in Morocco). There's a cinema and a regular shuttle to ferry guests to and from Camps Bay and the V&A Waterfont. 

Walking trails from the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa lead into the mountains.
Walking trails from the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa lead into the mountains.
Image: Supplied

What to look out for

The Antipolis shipwreck, which spent decades under the water across from the hotel, is now visible after it was shifted ashore by a giant swell in January. The Greek oil tanker ran aground during a storm in 1977. On the hotel grounds, you’ll also find a gigantic piece of driftwood, which some unknown soul is believed to have found around the time of the wreck, brought onto the property and carved the ship's name into it.

The hotel boasts an impressive art collection. This piece is by SA ceramic artist Jane duRand.
The hotel boasts an impressive art collection. This piece is by SA ceramic artist Jane duRand.
Image: Elizabeth Sleith

Art lovers will also enjoy the hotel's impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, whose famous signatures include Pierneef, Tretchikoff, Tinus de Jongh and Walter Oltmann along with several up-and-coming artists, many of whom were recipients of an annual art prize sponsored by the Tollmans.

The food 

The included breakfast is served in the Azure restaurant, which also does fine-dining lunch and dinner, and has magnificent sea views and a menu that makes local, sustainable seafood the star.

The Café Grill, on the mountain side, has a more casual, family-orientated air and prides itself on its sushi.

The Leopard Bar, also on the sea side, is unsurprisingly popular for sundowners and also offers an afternoon high tea. It's worth noting that none of these options is exclusive to hotel residents, and competition is stiff at the Leopard Bar, especially as sunset looms. People-watchers may enjoy this unexpected perk: a near-constant parade of patrons puckering up for their phone cameras.

The bottom line

Yes, you're in Cape Town, and yet the 12 Apostles isn't really the sort of hotel where you want to throw down your hat and head out. Its exceptional location, combined with all its in-house allure, really makes it a destination in itself. 

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