and Alfred Waterfront
This energetic working harbour is one of South
Africa's most popular tourist attractions. Today the V&A Waterfront
attracts more than 20 million visitors each year - locals and international
tourists alike. With over 400 stores and 45 different restaurants
and bars to offer, an arts and crafts centre, the IMAX cinema, an
internationally renowned aquarium, a children's science exploratium
and a museum - it's not difficult to see why !!
Since its origin in 1860, the Port of Cape Town
provided an important haven along the Eastern trade routes. By the
time Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria's second son, tipped the first
load of stone into the sea to initiate the construction of Cape
Town's harbour, the city had already been transformed into a hive
of seafront activity. Even today many exotic and diverse products
can be found here. The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa
necessitated an elaboration of the existing harbour section.
The two harbour basins were constructed between
1860 and 1920, and the area is noted for its heritage buildings
which retain the charm of Victorian industrial architecture and
a harbour built for sail and the early days of steam travel. Redevelopment
of this famous site began in 1988 and continues today around the
original Victoria and Alfred basins.
With over 400 stores, the V&A Waterfront caters
to all shopping needs in a huge range that will suit any budget
or taste. The unique blend of Victorian architecture, maritime tradition
and African culture creates an environment that is lively and cosmopolitan.
All stores at the V&A Waterfront are open until 9pm, seven days
a week for your convenience, and there are over 6000 open-air and
underground parking bays, patrolled and monitored 24 hours a day
for greater peace of mind.
The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre forms the bulk
of the retail space at the Waterfront. The shopper is presented
with a wide variety of national retailers, boutiques and services,
along with a superb selection of restaurants, coffee shops and fast
food outlets. The adjoining Red Shed Craft Workshop offers an eclectic
wealth of ethnic treasures, handmade curios and art, shark's teeth
and gemstones. The Alfred Mall is situated within the historic Pierhead
and houses quality specialist artefacts, jewellery, curios and art
with a nautical or African flavour.
Buildings of Historical Significance
The Victorian Gothic-style Clock Tower was the
original Port Captain's Office, which was completed in 1882. This
icon of the old docks was restored in 1997, and has become an important
focal point in the Waterfront's recent urban design.
The Time Ball Tower was built in 1894 and is situated
next to the Harbour Engineer's former residence, the Dock House.
The Time Ball is a signalling device whereby ship's masters were
able to test the accuracy of their chronometers whilst docked. It
remained in use for 40 years, then lay idle for 63 years when new
technology outdated it, and was finally restored and officially
recommissioned in November 1997.
The Dragon Tree (dracaeno draco) planted next to
the Time Ball Tower is a species originally from the Canary Islands.
Believed to have been planted over 100 years ago by a sailor passing
through Cape Town, the sap ("dragons blood") of these
trees was once popular as a medicine to treat dysentery and diarrhea.
The original Breakwater Prison was constructed
in 1860 to house the convicts working on the breakwater. The remains
of a treadmill alongside the former prison building remind of the
punitive penal attitudes of the 1890's. The building now houses
the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business and the
Breakwater Lodge, a comfortable non-graded hotel.
The South African Maritime Museum showcases the
maritime history of Table Bay and houses the most extensive collection
of model ships in South Africa. Floating exhibits in the Victoria
and Alfred Basins include the SAS Somerset - a retired Naval Defence
Boom Vessel and the Alwyn Vincent - a coal-fired steam tug. Both
may be boarded for a nominal fee.
There are numerous other historical buildings within
the V&A Waterfront boundaries. Among the most interesting are
Ferryman's Freehouse/Mitchell Scottish Ale House (1860), the Dock
House (1880), the Old Power Station (1882), the Harbour Café
(1902),\ and the Union Castle Building (1919).
The most special feature of the Waterfront is probably
the familiar sight of a colony of Cape fur seals resting on the
seal landing in the Clock Tower precinct, or on old tyres lining
the quaysides. The seals are an integral part of harbour life, and
can often be seen posing on postcards.
The Two Oceans Aquarium
The Two Oceans Aquarium is a window on the oceans, offering glimpses
of the diverse life found off the South African coastline. Over
3000 living animals, including fishes, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles
and birds can be seen in this spectacular underwater nature reserve.
The Aquarium offers unique opportunities such as diving with the
sharks and copper hat diving, sleepovers for children, facilities
for conferences and functions and the daily feeding of the fishes
at 15h30 in the I&J Predator Exhibit.
The V&A Waterfront Marina
Part of the vision for the V&A Waterfront was
for it to be lived in. Six years of planning and designing are now
taking shape in the form of the V&A Marina, one of the world's
foremost Marina developments. The development is aimed at the world's
most affluent, and offers a quality and standard of finish to rival
the world's best.
The V&A Waterfront Marina is being developed
in phases and when complete will consist of some 600 dwelling units
with over 200 boat moorings. All the units are on the water's edge
and a short walk through this secure estate along gently lit landscaped
walkways finds you in the heart of the V&A Waterfront.