The Best Dams and Rivers for Swimming in the Cape

The Best Dams and Rivers for Swimming in the Cape

Image credit: CapeNature

Enjoy an alfresco dip somewhere a little different (and away from the beach)

Cape Town is blessed with some wonderful dams and rivers where you can go for a quiet, scenic and exhilarating dipsans the sand and the crowds. With summer on our doorstep, there’s no better time to take the plunge. Here are the reservoirs and rivers we found for some cool alfresco dipping; if you know of any others, please add them in the comments below.

Important note We have confirmed the safety of all listed rivers and dams, but if you are not sure, please contact the parks at the numbers provided to ensure conditions are suitable before visiting.

1. Silvermine Reservoir

silvermine-resorvoir
Image credit: The Randomist

The large, glistening reservoir is open to the whole family, including your pooches. There’s a 1km trail around the water with a boardwalk that’s easily accessible for wheelchairs and prams. There are also loads of perfect picnic spots dotted around the reserve.
Access Point Silvermine Reservoir near Muizenberg
Opening times Daily, 8am –  5pm (May to August)
Daily, 7am – 6pm (September to April)
Cost R50 (adults)
R25 (children, aged 2 to 11)
Free (with My Green Card or SANParks Wild Card)
Contact 021 712 7471 (reserve office)
021 712 0527, tablem@sanparks.org (Table Mountain National Park)
Dog-friendly? Yes, but Dog walkers require a Level 1 My Activity Permit, which can be purchased for R225 from the Tokai Plantation Office, or at the specified Cape Town Tourism branches
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

2. Theewater Sports Club

theewater-sports-club-dam
Image credit: Rattle and Mum

This is the perfect place to enjoy the fresh water of Theewaterskloof Dam. The family-friendly venue is perfect for day visits, or overnight camping around the dam. Kite-sailing, boating, sailing, freshwater angling and canoeing are just some of the activities available to keep you entertained all day long.
Access Point Theewater Sports Club in Villiersdorp
Opening times Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm
Saturday & Sunday, 7am – 6pm
Cost R55 (day visitors)
Free (under 10)
R50 (canoes/windsurfer/kitesurf/boards)
R75 (any other craft)
R200 (boat registration fee, valid for 1 year, January to December)
Contact 028 007 0031, info@theewater.co.za
Dog-friendly? Yes
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

3. Solms-Delta Picnic Spot

Solms-Delta, Best Gourmet PIcnics
The Dwars River runs through this picturesque Franschhoek wine estate, along which is an enchanting forest that’s wooded and secretive. Families can enjoy a safe swim at one of the picnic spots dotted around the estate, or you could just relax and enjoy a delicious hamper prepared by Fyndraai Restaurant.
Access Point Solms-Delta Wine Estate in Franschhoek
Opening times Daily, 11am – 5pm
Cost Free (if you purchase a picnic basket)
Contact 021 874 3937, michelle@solms-delta.co.za, ruan@solms-delta.co.za
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

4. The Berg River

berg-river-swimming
Image credit: @campsa365 on Instagram

Only 60km out of Cape Town, the Berg River Resort is a clean, family-friendly venue that’s ideal  for swimming and leisurely canoeing. If river-dipping is not your thing, there are two swimming pools at the resort: a 3.5-metre-deep Olympic-sized pool and a smaller one that’s shallow enough for toddlers to splash around in, as well as a waterslide. Fancy staying overnight? There’s accommodation in comfortable chalets, as well as designated caravan and camping sites.
Access Point Berg River Resort in Paarl
Opening times 8am – 5pm
Cost R60 – R100 (day visitors, depending on season)
Free (children under 3)
R60 – R100 (per vehicle, depending on season)
Contact 021 001 8805, info@bergriverresort.co.za
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

5. Crystal Pools Waterfall

crystal-pools-swimming
Image credit: Chatterbox

This hiking trail is very doable for anyone who is reasonably fit, and slightly challenging for those who are not. The rockpools along the way, where you can cool down during your walk, make it well worth the slog. The half-day hike takes you through rocky, but generally flat, terrain, and all the way at the top is a wonderful waterfall, but it is quite a trek, so make sure you have plenty of snacks, water and energy to get there.
Access Point Crystal Pools in Gordon’s Bay 
Opening times 7.30am – 4pm (1 November – 30 April)
Closed (May – October)
Cost R60 per person, permits must be obtained ahead of time
Contact steenbras.naturereserve@capetown.gov.za (Steenbras Nature Reserve, can only be contacted by email)
021 850 4057, Kogelberg.NatureReserve@capetown.gov.za (Kogelberg Nature Reserve)
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

6. Jonkershoek

jonkershoek-swimming
Image credit: GoTraveller ZA

This pristine reserve lies between the Eerste River and Stellenbosch Mountain. The clear river water is too tempting not to dip into, and you can also enjoy a leisurely picnic along the riverbanks under the shade of ancient trees. It’s very popular with casual hikers – trails range from 3.5km to 5km. The various routes provide amazing views of the valley and beautiful wine farms below.
Access Point Jonkershoek Nature Reserve in the Stellenbosch region
Note Only 60 people are allowed into the reserve per day to help with conservation efforts, and admission is on first-come-first-served basis.
Opening times 7.30am – 4pm
Cost R40 (adults)
R20 (children)
Contact 021 866 1560 (reserve office)
021 483 0190 or reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

7. Groot Winterhoek Wilderness

groot-winterhoek-swimming
Image credit: Hike South Africa

A mere 120km north of Cape Town, this small conservation area is well known for its rugged landscape and rich heritage. Among the interesting rock formations, exquisite fynbos and clear-water rockpools, you’ll find ancient rock paintings by the San and Khoi people. It is popular with hikers and mountain bikers, and there are plenty of places to stop for a refreshing swim with not a building in site.
Access Point Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area near Porterville
Opening times Monday – Friday, 7.30am – 4pm
On weekends, follow the signs to the office, and ask for the officer on standby to grant you access to the park.
Cost R60 (adults)
R35 (children under 12)
Contact 022 931 2860 (reserve office)
021 483 0190 or reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Sharon Kariwo

8. Krom River Trail

krom-river-swimming
Image credit: Pinterest

The Limietberg Nature Reserve, over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, offers some of the best hiking trails in the Western Cape. The Krom River trail stands out, as it guides you past waterfalls and deep, translucent rockpools that are clear enough to snorkel in. The water is ice cold, but that will probably come as a relief after the long hike. You’ll need to bring some cash, as using the Huguenot tunnel requires a toll. You’ll also need a permit, which can be purchased at the Trout Farm – just after the tunnel on your left, or from CapeNature. Only 30 permits are issued per day to prevent overcrowding, so plan ahead. 
Access Point Limietberg Nature Reserve in Paarl
Opening times Daily, 8am – 6pm
Cost R40 (adults)
R20 (kids)
Contact 021 871 1535 (reserve office)
021 483 0190 or reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

9. Suicide Gorge

suicide-gorge-swimming
Image credit: sleeping-out.co.za

Recommended only for hardy and experienced hikers, the Suicide Gorge trail takes you high up into the mountains… and then downhill through the gorge that gives it its name. You’ll be getting wet on this journey, so bring the appropriate gear, including lightweight hiking shoes, a swimsuit, and a change of clothing – a wetsuit is also highly recommended. Much of the 17km hike involves slip-sliding your way along this natural waterslide, and at certain points you’ll be required to leap off cliffs – some as high as 15m – into the pools below. An adrenaline-boosting experience to be sure, but if you’d prefer a less intense adventure, the nearby Riviersonderend Route offers a similar challenge, but with fewer drops – the highest being a more manageable 7m.
Access Point Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve near Grabouw
Please note The Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route may be closed at any time at the discretion of the reserve staff (due to inclement weather or other unsafe conditions) . Please call ahead to confirm that the routes are open.
Hikers are advised to start early (no later than 9am), and must be out of the reserve by 7pm.
Groups must be guided by an experienced kloofer who has done the trail before.
No children under 12 are allowed on this trail.
Group size is limited to five or six people on weekends, and 12 to 15 on weekdays.
Weekend excursions must be booked a month in advance.
The reserve office is only open on weekdays, but there is a staff member will be on duty seven days a week.
You must have a permit to access this route. Permits can be acquired from CapeNature (contact details provided below)
Opening Times Daily, 8am – 7pm (1 November to 30 April)
Closed from May to October
Cost R325 per person (for Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route, cost of permit included)
Contact 028 841 4301 (reserve office)
021 483 0190 or reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

10. Breede River Valley

bontebok-national-park-swimming
Image credit: timberdesign.co.za

The Breede River flows east from the Ceres mountains in the Western Cape down into the Indian Ocean, watering the famous winelands of the Breede River Valley along the way. The Bontebok National Park, near the historic town of Swellendam, provides convenient access to the river. It’s a great spot for a picnic or braai, swimming in the calm waters, canoeing, or even angling if you have a permit.
Access Point Bontebok National Park near Swellendam
Opening Times 7am – 6pm (May to September)
7am – 7pm (October to April)
Cost R37 (adults)
R18 (children)
R100 (conservation fee, for foreign visitors)
Free (with My Green Card or SANParks Wild Card)
Contact 028 514 2735, bontebok@sanparks.org
Dog-friendly? No 
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

11. Bainskloof Pass

bainskloof-swimming
Image credit: Love Exploring

High up in the Boland Mountains, the Bainskloof pass marks the point where the Witte River meets Route 301 before continuing down into the valley, forming a network of rapids and waterfalls along the way. The Bainskloof Corner Lodge lies at the top of the pass, just after the Bainskloof Trading Post, and offers easy access to the river, where you can relax in one of the calm rockpools, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Intrepid nature lovers, enquire at the lodge about the many hiking trails in the area –  you’ll need to purchase a permits and map (from the lodge) before you set off.
Access Point Bainskloof Corner Lodge, near Wellington
Opening times Daily, 8am – 6pm
Cost R50 (adults)
Contact 021 864 1159, 061 493 5887 (cell), cornerlodge@bainskloof.co.za
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

12. Palmiet River

Kogelberg Trail, Best Hikes
Image credit: CapeNature

The Palmiet River feeds the apple farms of Grabouw, before passing through the town of Kleinmond. Your best point of access is the Palmiet river trail in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve; a great spot for swimming, hiking and exploring the nearby sandy coastline.  
Access Point Kogelberg Nature Reserve near Kleinmond
Opening times Daily, 7.30am– 4pm (gate closes at 7pm)
Cost R40 (adults)
R20 (children)
Contact 028 271 5138 (reserve office)
021 483 0190 or reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Dog-friendly? No
TIG Reviewer Matthew Flax

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Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 09 November 2016

47 Responses to “The Best Dams and Rivers for Swimming in the Cape”

  1. Anonomys

    Beaverlac is a pet friendly camping facility

    Reply
  2. Keabetswe

    Do any of the listed places rent out canoes/kayaks for use on the day?

    Reply
  3. Jacques L

    Tweede Tol anyone?

    Reply
    • Tenie H

      Haha Otter… Kry ons mekaar weer ini berg.. Stiek uit

      Reply
    • Tanya

      Loved 2 De tol until I discovered Berg river in Franschoek.

      Reply
    • Francesca

      Tweede Tol on the Baine’s Kloof pass is a fabulous picnic/camping spot with braai facilities and a wonderful rock pool to swim in.

      Reply
  4. Helen Walbrugh

    My hubby and I walk our Ridgeback and two Jack Russells regularly at the Constantia Greenbelt and I agree with David Fox. We walk our dogs on leads and plastic packets tied to it to pick up their feaces. Sadly some dog owners just don’t bother to clean up.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer

    I am so excited to visit these places. I would also like to know about more dog friendly options. I did google and honestly could not find many. “Ons Huisie” in Big Bay is a dog friendly restaurant with a nice swim area and a nice walk for your dog.
    A tip for dog owners to be more sensitive to others, I bought a roll of baby poo bags at baby city. It’s small to carry and always at hand when you need it. They should have enough dustbins on route for people to use.

    Reply
  6. Nic

    What about Silversands near Robertson?

    Reply
  7. Stefan

    You missed one! Three dams in the fernkloof nature reserve, Hermanus is an amazing place and great swimming place. Entrance free

    Reply
  8. Gary Deneker

    Awesome views and awesome places to go and see WOW MY GAOL WHEN I AM BACK IN CAPE TOWN

    Reply
  9. Kirsty

    I am not a dog person after being attacked but for those who have responsible friendly dogs Constantia Greenbelt is very dog friendly and runs along a river that the dogs love. I say responsible because many people walk with their dogs off leads and it is a horse trail too. When ever I have gone there none of the dogs have given me trouble and owners tend to be good at calling their dogs away when they see I am scared.

    Reply
  10. Greg

    Us dog owners/lovers prefer that you stay away if that is your attitude. I never trust a person who doesn’t like dogs but I always trust my dogs instinct if she doesn’t like a person.

    Reply
  11. Bendiba

    No dogs please

    Reply
  12. Lili

    Hi guys, this is a nice list, but I urge the writer to look at a map. 🙂 Kleinmond, Cradouw, Bontebok, Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek, Villiersdorp, Franschoek, Paarl etc… None of these towns are in Cape Town. Please amend the headline of your article.

    Reply
  13. Jenna

    SOLMS-DELTA WINE ESTATE does not allow swimming by the way, just phoned. please correct

    Reply
    • The Inside Guide

      Hi Jenna

      That’s odd – we just called and the person we spoke to told us we were welcome to swim.

      Reply
  14. jwami

    Nice information but please correct the headline!

    Reply
  15. Sean

    I recall a great white swimming 4kms up the breede river

    Reply
  16. Bronwyn

    I know dogs are allowed in Newlands forest, you can go hiking or walking with them there. Also any hiking routes along chapman’s peak in Hout Bay, there’s the Blackburn Ravine trail which is rather beautiful and not too difficult if you aren’t a seasoned hiker. Or if you are there’s Chapman’s Peak trail, taking a mere 3 hours to complete

    Reply
  17. Tracy

    I’d also love more specific info on where one can take dogs on hikes such as these. We have a very gentle border collie who loves to hike with us. I would never leave her at home (Brandon!) – she’s part of the family – we have no kids and she’s like our child!

    Reply
    • Hopsctoch

      There are plenty of blogs online regarding dog friendly hikes in the Westen Cape. Hit up google.
      A personal favorite of mine is De Pakhuys – Rocklands in Cederberge. Dog friendly accommodation, lots of swimming spots & waterfalls. And well tempered local dogs, our greyhound loved it.

      Reply
  18. Suzette

    Hi There

    I like outdoors and camping

    Reply
  19. Barbara

    Tweede Tol?

    Reply
    • Thinus

      If im not mistaken Tweede Tol is on the other side of the small tunnel when taking de Toit’s kloof pass towards Worcester. As you go through there is a drop on the left which curls along as you go down till you reach a point where you can park at the lowest point I think and you wil spot the signs of a river flowing down out the mountain. Just follow the snaking river up and be amazed at the waterfalls coming down all around the pathway leading up to a even more spectacular large pool and waterfalls where some diving and jumping is welcome. But do correct me if needed cause its been a while… Lol. Enjoy Tweede Tol (i gues the hike to get there is the Tol, cause its defnaitly not for the faint hearted) worth it

      Reply
  20. Russell

    Based on some experiences I’ve had with people and or handlers with dogs, I’m not so sure I’d go to dog friendly places.

    Reply
    • Willem

      Can you be more vague?

      Reply
    • David Fox

      Sadly, often too true (I own 4 dogs, by the way, so I am no hater). It is amazing how many dog owners don’t follow the rules and etiquette (leads, cleaning up) and spoil it for other mountain users.

      For a number of reasons it is best that dogs not be allowed in Nature Reserves as they can have a seriously negative impact on the fauna and flora). There are plenty places for dogs to be walked in nature in terms of beaches, forests etc.

      Reply
  21. Mark schlesinger

    More places should be open to our companion animals. A few metres square at silvermine is ridiculous. People profoundly enjoy taking their animals out even more for the hppiness it gives them than the place itself. I am sure many feel the same way. Everywhere we so no pets signs… Sanparks remember that this is a central Park… A people Park as much as it is a kruger Park type Park. With a critical bioreserve mandate….. Relax the grip a little! Yeah! Like it was agreed in the take over from DWAF and announced in the public press release the park is also for many types of recreation

    Reply
    • Shehaaam

      I prefer no dogs allowed. Owners are too irresponsible

      Reply
    • Steve

      Nope, one of the previous comments about tweede tol is incorrect. If you travel from Wellington towards Wolseley over the Bain’s Kloof Pass (R300 if I’m not mistaken), you will find tweede tol on your left just before a little single carriage bridge. It’s great, have fun.

      Reply
    • Francesca

      No, Tweede Tol is on the Baine’s Kloof Pass.

      Reply
  22. Ronelle

    Thanks, but please add dog friendly info. And don’t forget about Beaverlac!

    Reply
  23. Hassan Osman

    Spectacular pristine hiking trails…nature at her best! Every hiker’s dream itinerary.

    Reply
  24. Meg

    How many of these locations are dog friendly?

    Reply
    • Mike

      Silvermine allows dogs along part of the dam. If your dog likes swimming and is cool with other dogs, it’s a great place.

      Reply
    • Lynn

      Thank you, I know about Silvermine allowing dogs. Can anyone supply info about the other locations being dog-friendly?

      Reply
    • brandon

      Leave your dog at home

      Reply
    • denise creed

      Always love to take my little poodle with me as she enyos this beutiful world as i do. Thanks for your trouble

      Reply
  25. Marina Nainkin

    Looks wonderful

    Reply

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