I love a good dive bar. It’s not that I seek them out, I just seem to gravitate toward them. It’s my scene. The sticky floors, cheap drinks, the seemingly random playlists when everyone is a bit tipsy. While South Africa offers idyllic vineyards, gin distilleries, and creative craft breweries, I figured I would highlight some of my favorite dive bars in the Western Cape to have a good time.
What is a dive bar?
Originally, dive bars would be nothing more than a local watering hole with a regular crowd, drinks that required minimum effort to make — think rum & coke, whisky soda, but your best bet was a cheap beer and a shot. Bar food consisted of a lowly bag of crisps hanging from the plastic rail. Over the past 20 years, dive bars have been redefined and elevated and now loosely encompasses any good ol’ neighborhood bar.
What makes a great dive bar?
Time and again, the secret to an excellent dive bar are two things.
1. By definition- a place you can reliably get a drink and
2. (my definition) is the atmosphere.
It isn’t the Fussball table, the deep barstools, or tater tots served five ways… it’s the vibe, and that emanates from the top. The owner, manager, and bartenders are the soul of a great place. They have created an environment they want to hang out in and that magic is sprinkled down to all that walk through their doors.
Each of these dive bars has that something. They have that vibe. A place where one can start a party, keep it chill, celebrate, have a cry, quench your thirst, fill your stomach, meet new people, get a laugh, and have a great time and no one gives a shit. All is accepted.
27 Caledon Street, Cape Town, South Africa
Why I like this spot: It’s a Wild West Saloon, adorned with swinging doors, rich red velvet curtains, vintage pistols, leather saddles, candlelit chandeliers, and Nick Cave on the speakers. I can’t imagine this bar holding more than 30 people and it is nestled right into City Center near District 6 on Caledon Street. The owner embodies a real-life cowboy persona circa Billy the Kid with a moody nod to Tarantino. Dust and Dynamite always makes for an awesome night in town.
12 York Road, Muizenberg, Southern Peninsula
Why I like this spot: I am biased, but this was my local dive when we moved to Southern Peninsula. Come by after your surf, your run, work, whatever. Their offsite brewery brews excellent Pilsner, Lager, and Milk Stout. With tables and benches outside, you can enjoy views of Surfers Corner, cozy up on the couches inside next to the fire when the sun drops behind the mountain and the southeasterly blows. Dance your face off on vinyl night as they ramp up the evening with some sultry ’70s blended into folk Americana to disco to hip hop.
Highway 62 between Montagu and Barrydale
Why I like this spot: This biker bar attracts a mix of motorcycle clubs, locals, and tourists. Similar to Route 66 in the USA, Route 62 has the appeal of life on the open road driving through the Klein Karoo. They have a steady stream of live bands playing all genres of rock, plus good food, strong drinks, and on-site accommodation, plus the owners are lovely.
Outside Barrydale, Highway 62
Why I like this spot: Ronnie’s original idea of a Shop was a padstal or farm stand, this was scrapped when one of the owner’s friends painted “SEX” on the outside of the building, and he took it in stride. Ronnie’s Sex Shop stands alone on Hwy 62, surrounded by vast views of the Klein Karoo. With benches and stools outside, you can enjoy a boozy milkshake from the Roadkill Café while inside playing an eclectic set of great music. Patrons passing through and tourists from around the world have parted with their intimates, adorning the ceiling with signed bras and panties along with tagging every inch of the walls. The owner, Ronnie, is charismatic with a good sense of humor and worth a visit.
R339, Prince Alfred Pass, De Vlugt
Why I like this spot: Firstly, this mountain pass, built by Thomas Baine, is stunning. You can find Angie’s G-Spot nestled into the lush valley as you come down the R339 Prince Alfred Pass between Uniondale and Plettenberg Bay. It looks like an Austrian mountain hut.
As you see from Ronnie’s Sex Shop, sex sells, and Angie’s G-Spot is no different. Our first time here, we drove by then threw the Landy in reverse, when we saw they were hailing us down and invited us in for a beer. We had no idea what we were stepping into, and what we found was a friendly and welcoming bar with patrons and employees looking to have a party. On our return to Cape Town, we made a point to go out of our way and spend the night. The next morning we discovered the food to be as good as the vibes, with the perfect breakfast sandwich served with strong coffee or hair of the dog (whichever way you choose to start that day).
The next time you’re looking for a good time with great people you don’t know yet, head straight to one of these great dive bars in the Western Cape.