At the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town feels like the end of the world—and sometimes the weather acts the part. A prevailing southeastern wind, which can start howling in November, is sometimes called the Cape Doctor for the way it blows off pollution and humidity (a good thing). Remember, though, that it can also turn nasty: In 1936, Table Mountain staff were trapped for five days by raging gales.
On the plus side, these summer southeasters are caused by a high-pressure cell that hovers over Africa’s southern tip, bringing day after day of sun and temperatures around 79. On paper, winters (May through August) are mild—the climate here is considered mostly Mediterranean, so July ranges from 46 to 63 degrees—but it’s also when northwestern systems blow through and help the Mother City live up to another nickname, the Cape of Storms.
The best bet for beaches? Go early and leave by noon, before the wind picks up (and if you want to swim, avoid the Atlantic side—it’s too cold). June brings a huge swell to a wave called Dungeons, site of an annual international surfing competition; January is when to don a huge hat and place your bets in the J&B Met horse race. April’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival is the best time to hear Cape jazz, a hybrid with an African twist (but you can find performances all year-round). Make sure to check the happenings at the botanical gardens of Kirstenbosch—sunset concerts all summer, carols by candlelight in December (which, remember, is summer too).