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Most people, if not all, who visit Ghana will add a Cape Coast Castle day trip to their Ghana itinerary. It for sure is a highlight as it’s the most famous slave fort on the Ghana coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this slave fort tour from Accra which I highly recommend you not just visit Cape Coast Castle but also Elmina Castle and Fort Coenraadsburg. Elmina is also a lovely town to check out a local fish market. Let’s have a look at each of points of interest on this slave fort itinerary.
Cape Coast Castle day trip from Accra
Cape Coast Castle is a 3-hour drive from Accra which is quite a drive. The road is in good condition. I drove myself and I continued to Takoradi for the night from where I would explore more lesser known slave forts and Nzulezu stilt village. You can also do an organized (private) tour but make sure you’ll stop at all the places you want to stop. Tours are often combined with Kakum National Park rather as with Elmina Castle but if you’re following my Ghana itinerary, I recommend visiting Kakum National Park on the way back to Accra from Takoradi. So, I actually didn’t do a Cape Coast Castle day trip from Accra but did it on the way from Accra to Takoradi.
The perfect one-week Ghana itinerary: exploring the Gold Coast
Cape Coast Castle history
The current Cape Coast slave fort which can be visited dates to the 18th century when it was extended and rebuilt after war. The first trading post was constructed in the mid-16th century by the Portuguese but the first actual fort by the Swedes in the mid-17th century. It then changed hands into an English fort with Danes and Dutch involved in the process.
At first the Europeans didn’t go to Africa for slave trade but for gold and timber. The Gold Coast of West Africa was a major trading post for that. Slavery became quickly more and more important when the Americas demanded more slaves especially in the Caribbean. Barbados which I also visited earlier played an important role as it had the biggest sugar cane plantations in the world. Today slavery doesn’t exist anymore but its history is everywhere and should not be forgotten. That’s why many of the Ghana slave castles are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cape Coast Castle tour
I arrived in Cape Coast around 11AM which is a perfect time. The entrance fee for Cape Coast Castle is just 7 USD and this includes a guided tour with a visit to the slave dungeons. You’ll learn all about slavery in Ghana from the guide, so you don’t need to be on an organized tour with guide. Plan about 90 minutes for a visit if you follow the guide. I only joined the guide for the dungeons but explored the rest by myself.
You’ll see the Door of No Return, various cannons and cannon balls, galleries, kitchen, commanders’ room, and various other rooms. There is a small exposition in a part of the rooms explain about Ghana slave history. Of course, there are also gift shops, but I recommend buying gifts more local. I continued to Elmina Castle which is just 15 minutes away by car.
Elmina day trip
Elmina is just a 15-minute drive from Cape Coast and I highly recommend visiting. I arrived in Elmina around 2PM and had lunch first before starting the Elmina slave fort tour. It includes Elmina Castle and the Dutch fort Coenraadsburg on top of the hill. Elmina’s fish market and harbor are worth visiting as well. Let’s have a closer look of each of the highlights for an Elmina day trip itinerary.
The perfect one-week Ghana itinerary: exploring the Gold Coast
Elmina slave fort tour
Elmina Castle is much older as Cape Coast Castle. It was constructed in 1482 by the Portuguese. It’s the oldest one of all the forts and the oldest remaining European building in the area. Elmina Castle also played a big role in gold trade at first but later also in the slave trade. It was captured from the Portuguese in 1637 by the Dutch. They also constructed Fort Coenraadsburg on top of the hill just 500 meters away as extra protection.
The dungeons could hold more as 1500 slaves in total. When you visit the dungeons keep that in mind. The rooms are small and it’s difficult to imagine how 1500 slaves fit there. In the middle courtyard there is a church which I haven’t seen in any of the other slave forts in Ghana. A visit to Elmina Castle takes also about 90 minutes. Then continue and explore more of Elmina.
Elmina fishing village
Many towns on the Ghana coast are fishing village. Elmina has also a large fishing village with market and I highly recommend wandering around. You can opt to take a local with you. They will approach you around Elmina Castle anyway and a few USD should be enough to have them come with you. This way you get to see a bit more of the local life as they know everyone and get you inside. I wandered the market for about 30-40 minutes. It’s not only about fish but I saw also boat construction, vegetable trade and a lot more. I then continued up hill to see Fort Coenraadsburg.
Elmina Dutch fort Coenraadsburg
Fort Coenraadsburg is a fort on top of a hill just a few hundred meters from Elmina Castle. The Dutch built the fort in the mid-17th century to protect Elmina Castle. The fort wasn’t meant for trade, so it had only garrisons for protection. It had a prison as well but no active (slave) trade took place. In 1872 it became British as all other forts in the area. If you do a slave fort tour to Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle don’t miss this fort. It’s small but has magnificent views over Elmina.
I can’t say I had fun on this day trip from Accra. That’s a wrong word when visiting slave forts but I did learn a lot and certainly had fun at the fish market. Both slave forts are worth visiting as they are both completely different in style. In Cape Coast is most famous for its market and driving through the city I didn’t notice anything of real interest. In Elmina however it’s also great to walk through town and check out the local life. Don’t miss that! Check my Ghana road trip itinerary to check what you can do more on the gold coast.Stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to the newsletter or follow CTB on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram including Instagram stories; on all social media you can find CTB @christravelblog) to get updated information.
Did you visit Cape Coast Castle & Elmina Castle too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!