Sun, sand, sea, surf... Beach days in Cape Town revolve around a four-part S-fest.
What do you look for in a beach? Stunning scenery, good swimming, space to stretch out or, yes, maybe not too much sand! Everyone has their own preferences. Fortunately Cape Town has a diverse and spectacular selection of beaches dotted along its Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines, each with distinct personalities and attractions.
Which are your favourite? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Important note Visit beaches in daylight hours, be aware of the tides, and that swimming in the sea after dark is not advisable and alcohol is not permitted. Take care of the environment and don’t leave litter behind. The Shark Spotter programme on the False Bay coast (Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Clovelly and Fish Hoek) is pretty effective at keeping swimmers and surfers safe and informed!
A fantastic curl of sand and sea, backed by milkwoods and indigenous bush and bordered on either end by dramatic outcrops of giant granite boulders. The crowd is generally laidback and diverse: you’ll encounter surfers, groups of friends, families, tourists and dog walkers (although in summer dogs are restricted to before 9am and after 6pm.) Yes, the water is lose-all-feeling-in-your-legs cold but, once in, the refreshment factor on a sweltering day is unbeatable! If you’re planning to spend a while on these sands, bring beach equipment, beverages and a picnic for the day, as there are no shops or restaurants in Llandudno. (Tip: If you’re in the mood to explore, there are a few hidden caves amid the boulders where ancestral Khoi-San strandlopers once lived.)
Where to find it Hargrave Avenue, off Llandudno Road, via Victoria Road (M6), Llandudno
An iconic beach, the kind that over the years has produced perfect memories for countless local families. It’s also the preferred haunt of some of the last African penguins on the planet, so treat them with loads of respect (not only because they can bite!). You’ll share the sand with lots of young families and tots, tourists and couples, and the swimming is amazing: gentle and about as warm as it gets in Cape Town. The beach, hidden between the boulders, is sheltered from the wind. Clever penguins to have found this spot! Bring your bank card for the entrance fee, not cash (R90 per adult, R45 per child for SA citizens with proof of ID), as well as your camera or phone to snap pics of the idiosyncratic birds. Come early to claim your patch of sand – it’s a small beach, and depending on the tide, it can get even smaller. Some boulder-hopping may be necessary to find space.
Note There is an entrance fee of R42 per adult, R21 per child (for SA citizens with proof of ID); R85 adult, R42 child (SADC nationals with passport); R170 adult, R85 child (international visitors). Bank cards only, no cash accepted.
Where to find it Bellevue Road, off Mcfarlane Road (M4), Simon’s Town
Clifton 1 – 4
Choosing a favourite from Clifton’s four powder-soft beaches with their neon-blue waves is no easy call. Locals from the nearby luxury apartments hang at 1st Beach (it’s also the only dog-friendly one); 2nd attracts everyone (including a sizeable gay contingent); a trendy young crowd makes 3rd the most lively, while 4th Beach is the most family-oriented. The water, as is the case all along the Atlantic side, is freezing, but stalwarts will dash in and out to cool off. So the atmosphere counts. On a perfect day, with ice-cream vendors shouting, “Granadilla lolly to make you jolly!”, seagulls screaming overhead and that incredible smell of fresh kelp and suntan lotion in the air, there is no better place to be. Umbrellas and loungers can be rented, but bring snacks and entertainment (a book, bats or frisbee) if people-watching is not your thing.
Where to find it Victoria Road (M6), Clifton
Do you speak blue? No? After spending a day on this crescent-shaped slice of paradise in Cape Point Nature Reserve, you’ll be fluent in the entire spectrum! We’re talking turquoise, ultramarine, cobalt, electric, azure and navy – starting off as translucent aquamarine near the shore and becoming darker the further you go in. With a clean, gently lapping ocean as far as the eye can see, soft sand and braai and picnic spots aplenty, this rhapsody in blue is well worth the drive and entrance fee. It’s worth checking the weather report to see if there’s strong wind expected (it can make for very smoky braais or sandy salads). If you’re planning to stoke up the coals here or at nearby Bordjiesdrif Beach, you’ll need to bring your own grid and wood. And please don’t feed the baboons!
Note The entrance fee to Cape Point Nature Reserve is R90 per adult, R45 per child (for SA citizens with proof of ID); R180 adult, R90 child (SADC nationals with passport); R360 adult, R180 child (international visitors). Bank cards only, no cash accepted.
Contact 021 780 9100, sanparks.org.za
Where to find it Plateau Road (M65) / Main Road (M4), between Simon’s Town and Scarborough
Beta at Bakoven
A lovely lick of water washes onto a secluded, compact beach strewn with granite boulders as well as families, couples, influencers (sigh) and young groups of friends. It’s also a popular spot for photoshoots, so don’t be surprised if you spot one taking place on the rocks. This sheltered little bay has no waves to speak of, so the clear, still water is perfect for snorkelling, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and shallow dips – that is, if you can bear the icy temperature. And it’s the place to be when the nasty southeaster picks up. The shallow plunge pools are in shade in the morning and, as such, are a lot more limb-numbing than later in the day, when the water is merely cold! Bootlegger is a short walk up the hill, for good coffee, freshly squeezed juice, breakfast or lunch.
Where to find it Beta Road, off Victoria Road (M6), Bakoven, Camps Bay
Probably one of the most underrated beaches in Cape Town, it’s blessed with warm, properly swimmable water, lots of space, good facilities and parking for 600 cars. It attracts all ages, from pensioners to their grandkids – and is famed for its “golden-oldie” sunrise swimmers. You get two beaches for the price of one here, with “wilder” Clovelly Beach tucked in the far corner, where dogs are permitted. It’s an all-purpose beach, good for long walks, beach games, sandcastle-building and sunbathing. Head along Jager’s Walk (on the mountainside) to find rocks to bask on or, if you’re brave and a good swimmer, to leap off into the sea. Drifters Café does retro-tastic soft-serve ice creams and C’est La Vie across the railway tracks does excellent coffee and croissants.
Where to find it Beach Road, Fish Hoek
There will be no issues with space to park an umbrella on these sands. As its name suggests, it’s a vast expanse of white powder that stretches all the way from Kommetjie to Noordhoek. If you enjoy watching the antics of dogs, locals and surfers, stay put on the Kommetjie side. It’s one of the city’s top surf spots; when the wind’s pumping on the other side of the Peninsula, the waves here are good. The water is beautiful to look at but cold to swim in. If you’re up for a good stroll, head in the direction of Noordhoek to discover the Kakapo shipwreck, which pokes out of the sand like a steampunk sculpture. It’s great for dogs to get to roam off-leash. (Note: be cautious and alert on this less-populated part of the beach, as criminal activity has been reported. Contact Komwatch on 082 327 7783 for more information.)
Where to find it Surfway Road, Kommetjie
This beach enclave, flanked by large granite boulders, is nestled between gorgeous sisters Clifton and Camps Bay, and shares all of their best attributes (beautiful views, soft golden sand, gorgeous blue sea) but without the wind or the crowds. It’s also dog-friendly (if it’s summer, before 9am or after 6pm), and popular with locals and surfers. Swimming, beyond a quick cooling off, is not advised but if you want a quieter spot to read and sunbathe, it’s perfect. Glen Beach is not particularly big – although it is long enough for Fido to get a good run in – but it does have front-row seats, with a sun-warmed wall to lean against, for those incredible Atlantic sunsets.
Where to find it Victoria Road (M6), Camps Bay
Off the beaten track, this one is considered something of a locals’ secret in Simon’s Town, although it can get full at certain times of the year! Accessed through a wooden gate at the end of a paved pathway, which runs from the Seaforth Beach parking lot and past the back of Seaforth Restaurant, Water’s Edge has a delightful, secluded bay. Despite lying between two popular beaches (Seaforth and Boulders), it offers adequate respite from the crowds – in fact, most people don’t even know it exists! It is also a haven for children, thanks to largely untouched rock pools with their fishy inhabitants, from starfish to sea anemones. The sheltered bay even has shade-providing trees lining the edges and awesome granite boulders popping out of the water. If you’re lucky, you might spot some penguins, too. Divers and snorkellers will also enjoy this haven.
Where to find it Seaforth Road, off Queens Road (M4), Simon’s Town
A beach with the widest horizon anyone could wish for, a colourful row of selfie-perfect beach huts, gentle waves that wash towards shore in neat sets, and warm water! No wonder Muizies is so popular with families and surfers (beginners and old hands). Fortunately it’s big enough to accommodate everyone (although pooch owners need to be done with walkies by 9am in summer). A flotilla of surfers and boogie-boarders (and windsurfers and SUPers) can be seen in the water from dawn to dusk, and it’s the place to go for surf lessons, board and wetsuit rentals, skateboarding on the boardwalk and those “long walks on the beach” that online-dating sites always refer to. With dozens of cafés lining the beachfront, just steps from the sand, there’s no need to pack a picnic or snacks. Don’t miss a soft-serve from the retro Majestic Café on the corner.
Where to find it Beach Road, Muizenberg
For all the latest happenings in and around Cape Town, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.