It covers a chunk of the Eastern Cape – a romp of seaside villages and towns, beaches with yellow sand that don’t seem to end but simply merge from one beach into the next, tidal pools filled with sea anemones, purple seaweed, and obscure shells, and the warm wash of the Indian Ocean.
That it isn’t as famous as the Garden Route might have something to do with its getting lost in the noise – Australia, New Zealand and Canada each have Sunshine Coasts of their own. Maybe 320 out of 365 days of sunshine a year doesn’t do it for some people?
But we think it’s a perfect postscript to the Garden Route – it follows where the former ends – if not a destination in its own right…
Visit these 10 best beaches on the Sunshine Coast…
No 1. Cape St Francis
This pilot blue flag beach has much to recommend it – safe swimming, an easy to get to beach with white sands that really do seem to stretch forever, and an appealing historic lighthouse at Seal Point protecting ships from the rocky shores since the 1800s.
Stretching from Seal Point to Shark Point the beach includes Johnson’s pool – a sheltered tidal pool – and the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve covering 3km of the coast.
Tip: Explore the St Francis Community Garden in between swims.
Stay here: Accommodation in Cape st Francis
No 2. Jeffreys Bay
Jeffrey Bay is one of South Africa’s major surf hangouts, its coast a long curved strip of beach after beach with popular surfing breaks with names like: Kitchen Windows, Magnatubes, Boneyards, Supertubes, Albatross and – just in case you were wondering if anyone actually swims here too – Main Beach.
Although you might want to head to Paradise Beach if sun worship or walking the beach is your thing. The dunes of Jbay double for sandboarding, and the factory shops all along the main drag are famous.
Stay here: Accommodation in Jeffrey’s Bay
No 3. Sardinia Bay
Sardinia Bay’s wild sand dunes and wave swept shore lie on the other side of Port Elizabeth’s peninsula from its well-known blue flag beaches. So untamed is the beach that dunes litter the parking area, and you’ll need to tramp your way up these dunes to see the beach.
But the views are unforgettable, and the beach uncrowded for this isn’t one of PE’s popular swimming beaches. There is a designated swimming area (there are also rip tides, so watch out). But you’d be hardpressed to find a better view.
Tip: the Wurst Wagen in the car park over weekends serves up great bratwurst
Stay here: Accommodation in Sardinia Bay
No 4. Schoenmakerskop
The little seaside village of Schoenmakerskop lies a little closer to the Cape Recife nature reserve, on the same side of PE’s peninsula as Sardinia Bay, its shores a lot more rocky, but its beauty no less for the fact.
You won’t visit here to swim. Rather you’ll fish the shores, explore the rock pools, or walk the gentle 8 km Sacramento Trail that starts at the cannon (you can’t miss it) and heads all the way along the coastline to Sardinia Bay – perfect.
Stay here: Accommodation in Schoenmakerskop
No 5. King’s Beach
What a beach. It’s no surprise that King’s beach has held onto its blue flag status, its over 1.6 km of yellow sand that extends from the harbour wall to merge seamlessly with Humewood beach, its life guards, umbrellas and ubiquitous white lifeguard hut a part of the PE skyline. This is safe swimming at its best.
Stay here: Accommodation in Humewood
No 6. Pollok Beach
Not everyone’s going to agree with our adding Pollock beach to this list, but its raised coastal walkway makes it a must when visiting the Friendly city. The walkway, made of recycled plastic, links Pollok Beach with Flat Rocks and is known as the Humpback Dolphin Trail. It’s 2.3 km long, and some of the walkway has been swallowed by sand dune, but it’s well worth a walk.
And the beach has a tidal pool and excellent surfing.
Stay here: Accommodation in Summerstrand
No 7. Cannon Rocks
This is a favourite of ours simply because of its beauty and the fact that it’s not well known – people tend to drive on to Kenton-on-Sea, rather than overnight in what appears, at first glance, to be a rather drab little town (it’s so close to Boknes, Bosmansriviermond and Kenton-on-Sea that it’s overlooked).
But head to the beach and you’ll soon change your mind. And most of the homes here have a sea view.
Best place to stay: Accommodation in Kenton-on-sea
No 8. Boknes
Boknes is going to have to pay a bit of attention to its crumbling wall, and its bathrooms, if it wants to regain its former blue flag status (it has pilot blue flag status at the moment).
But no-one seems to mind. Because the combination of the warm lagoon and the incredible strip of swimming beach make it unbeatable for families, and fishermen who pump up prawns from the lagoon.
Best place to stay: Kenton-on-sea
No 9. Kenton-on-Sea Middle Beach & Kariega Beach
With river mouths west and east of it, Kenton-on-Sea is, without doubt, one of the stars of the show that is the Sunshine Coast. Kariega, its main beach, has blue flag status (stand in the car park overlooking the beach and it’s not difficult to work out why), whilst Middle beach is a find for families, its long strip of gentle beach and sea riddled with tidal pools for paddling and snorkelling.
Shelly Bay is a secret cove. And all of it is protected by the Joan Muirhead nature reserve. Go!
Stay here: Kenton-on-sea
No 10. Gonubie
Gentle Gonubie, just 8 km south of East London, remains one of the Sunshine Coast’s favourites, not least for its wooden boardwalk and wonderful tidal pool, but also for its sand dunes and waves. It’s a December holiday mecca and a perfect Easter hideout.
Stay here: Accommodation in Gonubie