Cape Town Beaches
It’s no surprise that one of Cape Town’s most revered features is her sublime beaches. Typically rated amongst the best in the world, with many sporting Blue Flag credentials, Cape Town's beaches range from the small and fashionable to the vast and isolated. These are just a few beaches to add to your itinerary when next in the Mother City.
Before you head out, just remember that our sun is hot, water is cold, and our currents can be strong. Always swim in areas with lifeguards, keep an eye on the youngsters, and if you're worried about sharks, find out more about our the city's fantastic shark spotter project. Alcohol is also banned on Cape Town's beaches - rather visit one of the city's bars and restaurants, many of which have spectacular sea views.
Technically four different beaches, but because they’re all within easy walking distance, we’ll cheat and lump them all together. Everybody knows Clifton 4th. Which is why alongside Camps Bay, it’s one of the most congested during summer months but for good reason. It’s typically one of the most sheltered Atlantic Seaboard beaches during the windy summer months, and with breathtaking views of Lion’s Head, Table Mountain and more than a few dozen bronzed beauties, it’s no surprise why. Locals and tourists alike flock to Clifton any time there’s even a hint of sunshine, so make sure you get there early or be prepared to fight for some towel real estate. It’s also important not to forget Cliftons 1 to 3. Slightly out of the way, and at the bottom of varying numbers of impressively steep stairs, they often offer respite from its bustling neighbour. Each one offers its own little rewards and surprises and are well worth checking out.
Visit Camps Bay if you must – just to say you have. It’s a superb beach with more space than the nearby Cliftons, but parking and traffic can be a nightmare on peak summer days. Swimming, if you dare, is good, and the views of the ‘12 Apostles’ are particularly spectacular. Remember to pack your most fashionable beach attire though so you can hit anyone of the nearby Camps Bay restaurants and hotels for the great South African tradition of sundowners (drinks while watching the sun go down, obviously!).
Carry on a little further past Camps Bay, in the direction of Hout Bay, and stop off at Llandudno.This little beach at the foot of some of the most impressive real estate in the country is hands-down the best spot to watch the sun go down. And with top surfing conditions and numerous exciting walks along its rocks, it’s typically a local favourite. While many mainstream tourists will often overlook this little gem, like any Cape Town beaches during summer, it gets packed very quickly and with little to no parking in the area, you might just leave beachless and frustrated. Get there early or prepare for a serious hike to the bottom if you don’t.
Get a little carried away with your rock walk from Llandudno, and chances are you’ll bump into a nude bather or two at neighbouring Sandy Bay. And you wouldn’t be the first to "accidentally" walk too far. A recognised nudist beach, the isolated Sandy Bay is a haven for those looking to get their kit off for that full-body tan. But be warned - not all bathers can lay claim to the same physical credentials as those on Clifton and Camps Bay. Image: Charlie Dave.
Hopping over to the other side of Chapman’s Peak (which is always worth a drive, when it’s open) is the spectacular Noordhoek beach. This expansive stretch of largely unspoilt beach heaven is perfect for escaping the madness, with long walks and even horse rides the name of the game. Secluded surfing spots and the ability to break out into the swimming suit without anybody sniggering about your tan-less body makes this beach popular among locals, particularly amongst the anti-Clifton and Camps Bay crew. Image: Coda.
Kommetjie is a quaint little beach town situated in another time zone altogether. At least that’s what it feels like. With a strong surfing culture thanks to its spectacular waves, this laid back spot is another perfect place to visit on your southern peninsula road trip. Rent a surfboard or bodyboard from the local surf spot and try your hands on the thundering tubes at Long Beach, before whimpering back to the shore to see how the pros do it. Image: MoonbeamInG PhotoCraft.
Witsand, Misty Cliffs and Scarbourough
Further south are a trio of incredible beaches very often overlooked by tourists and locals alike. These beaches all sport beautiful scenery, dramatic features and great conditions for working on those tans and catching a few waves on your board. When winds pump it’s great for kitesurfing and windsurfing, and there are a handful of popular diving spots nearby as well. Image: Lorraine R.
If you’re looking for unspoilt, you simply have to visit Cape Point. It’s essential that you do the tourist thing and ride the funicular to the lighthouse (and show off by telling the numerous tourists that this isn’t actually the place where the oceans meet), but you simply can’t miss a long walk on one of the nature reserve’s beaches. Simply drive to the most secluded, hop out your car and get walking. Keep your eyes open for sightings of wildlife trotting along the crisp white beaches, and then look for their footprints in the untouched sand. There’s not too much swimming to be had out here, save for some nice tidal pools and sheltered coves, but parts of Cape Point’s beaches are hugely popular with kite and wind surfers, and gawking at them for a few hours is a great way to wind down the day in one of the region’s most spectacular reserves. Image: Charlie Dave.
Fish Hoek & Kalk Bay
By now you’ll no doubt have noticed that Cape Town’s waters are among the world’s most frigid and if you haven’t invested in a wetsuit then you’ve no doubt toughened up dramatically or sworn never to touch her oceans ever again. But this isn’t always the case. Even though the warm Indian Ocean is still a few hundred kilometres away, its currents still mix with these waters, making swimming an all-together more tolerable affair. There are many beaches in the area that are well worth a visit, and the majority are heralded as being more quaint and family-friendly than those on the Atlantic side.
Boulders Beach is famous for its protected Penguin colonies, and as a result is often first stop on many tourists itineraries. You’ll have to pay to get to the beach, but with guaranteed sightings of the beautiful African Penguins, it’s well worth the small investment.
Once a tired but popular little surfing blip on the Cape Town map, Muizenburg has become one of the newest beach regions to see some serious gentrification. The rejuvenated beachfront offers a range of surf shops and restaurants, and it’s also the perfect place to learn how to hang ten. Or at least say you have. All surf shops in the area rent boards and wetsuits, and for a small fee will give you expert lessons. The gentle breaks and warmer waters are the ideal place to be bitten by the surfing bug.
Table View, Bloubergstrand and Big Bay
A little further out of town up the west coast are a number of beaches, including those of Table View, Blouberg and Big Bay, which claim possibly the most iconic views of all time – that of the statuesque Table Mountain rising out above the city. Look a little to its right, and you’ll spy the infamous Robben Island as well. These beaches have an altogether different feel to those further south, and while many will say they aren’t in the same league as the city’s other top beaches, we beg to differ. When you combine the views, good swimming, surfing and kite-surfing conditions, with arguably less pretentious crowds, as well as large often-unpopulated stretches, you can’t go wrong with a trip up north. Most also have nearby restaurants and accommodation conveniently located nearby.
Bikini Beach, Strand and Gordon’s Bay
A little further out of town heading east are the Cape Helderberg beaches, which offer a variety of options for a nice little day excursion. Bikini Beach is a small slither of a beach that’s celebrated for its onsite toilet facilities, safety, and cleanliness, whereas the nearby Gordon’s Bay offers some of the region’s safest swimming conditions. Strand, on the other hand, lends itself nicely to long walks, and other water activities, including fishing and surfing, are very popular here as well.
It’s obvious that, unless you make the jump and move here, it’s impossible to visit every beach. But do you best, and visit at least one on each side of the Peninsula to get an idea of their unique features. Really, though, you can’t go wrong, and whether you’re looking for a long sedate walk, an icy dip in crystal clear waters, an adrenaline-packed surf, or just to work on your tan, Cape Town’s beaches have you covered.