Cape Town Beaches – So much to choose from, so little time. It’s that silly season again and a few of us, who have left planning until the very last minute, are suddenly influenced by the sunshine and the idea of a holiday, and frantically trying to find where best to grab a week’s worth of down time, if such a thing exists?
A word of advice, if I may: if you have children of any age then choose your destination based on the beach. It’s kind of like selecting your outfit based on your accessories – they make it work. Kids and beaches are a guarantee of relative peace for you (particularly as their screams and shouts evaporate into thin air with so many others about). Put any child on a safe beach and, provided you’re careful of the sun, the holiday is already a success.
Child-friendly beaches, most of them with tidal pools:
St James’ beach in Cape Town
whilst a rather narrow and little beach, which means during peak season it can become a little ridiculous, if you get there early enough – around 7am – which is easy in summer, then you will have the beach and tidal pool, more or less, to yourselves. You’ll need to start heading off again by 10am though, as the hordes descend. The tidal pool is easy to access, provides hours of fun for children of any age and is normally a calm surface of gentle swells. Aesthetically the beach is very pretty too. Lined with traditional, brightly coloured wooden changing huts, St James
although this beach does not tend to make it onto tourist itineraries, it is a perfect children’s beach, if a little off the beaten track just past Simon’s Town. You should escape the crowds during peak season if you head here, and the tidal pool is particularly pretty. Provided there isn’t a south wester (which sees the wind sweep through) this is a wonderful place full of small sandy coves that are perfect for picnics.
an absolute treat of a day in amongst penguins and giant boulders, and usually sheltered from the wind, Boulders does have an entrance fee. Be warned, the beach is really popular (you would be better off going during the week) but if you are there across a weekend, get there early enough to nab the one or two spots in the limited amount of shade. Despite this, the water is usually gentle, fabulous for swimming, and there are many ingredients for hours of play that include weaving in and out of boulders to reach the next bay, which is even more secluded and great if you’re wanting to escape the families on the main beach.
must add this beach as it is one of the greatest swimming and boogie boarding beaches for children. Fish Hoek beach doesn’t have a tidal pool, and it does have the unfortunate reputation of shark attacks, so you want to keep your wits about you (and an eye on the shark flag), but it is a thoroughly enjoyable beach for the whole family.
this also qualifies as a ‘fashionable’ beach. Camps Bay is hopelessly trendy and often referred to as the Cape Riviera – you come here to people-watch, if nothing else. But parents come here for the spotlessly clean beach, the relatively wind-free and calm waters, and the tidal pool, which you’ll find at the south end of the beach on the opposite end from the surfers. Oh, and the views from here are something else – you’ll have constant sight of Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles.
Other than Camps Bay (see above)…
set just in front of millionaire’s row, is another jet-setter hangout. You’ll find a great many international visitors drape themselves over towels here, amongst the wannabees of Cape Town. Designer costumes and sunglasses are rather important, as is the tan on which you’re working. Clifton’s four white and fine sandy beaches, divided by huge boulders, are usually packed during the festive season. The sea is freezing, but safe for swimming. Whilst second and third beach are for families, youngsters and the gay crowd, first beach is for the surfers and volleyball players. Oh, and parking can be a bit of a ‘mare.
this gorgeous beach, just around the corner from Camps Bay or over Suikerbossie hill from Hout Bay, is constantly the site of photographic shoots or movie sets. The mountains come right onto the beach here and the large granite boulders add to the beauty. It is a popular surfing spot although swimming can sometimes be a little dicey due to the strong tides, and it is frequently visited by gangs of local dogs who appear to have free reign of the beach. Llandudno is popular, beautiful, and great for sundowners and people watching.
Noordhoek’s Long Beach
it doesn’t get more beautiful than this. Long beach isn’t called such for nothing. It stretches on forever, just about. This beach is about a different type of ‘being seen’, mostly on horse back. The beach stretches between Noordhoek and Kommetjie, hence its name, and the beach on the Kommetjie side is more than a little elitist. Ideal holiday homes open up onto the sand, each with their own pathway onto the beach, so that even in peak season there is space in which to walk, bathe, fly a kite and generally wind down.
Beaches not frequented by everyone, some of the time:
the official nudist beach of the city and popular amongst the male gay population, is an ideal beach to get away from people – there is plenty of space in which to get lost. It is one of the most secluded beaches in Cape Town and you can only reach it if you’re prepared to walk, either by clambering over rocks from Llandudno, or approaching it from the cliffs above the beach via a car park on Eustegia Way, just above Hout Bay.
despite being incredibly popular with kite surfers and body boarders, Blaauwberg is big enough to still find a secluded spot away from everyone. This is one of the beaches with the renowned view across the water to Table Mountain, and when the wind is not blowing, is a wonderful spot for sundowners and sun bathing.
the beaches within the Cape Point Nature Reserve, like Dias beach just below the lighthouse, are extremely beautiful, and, because they are far off the beaten track and require a gate admission fee to reach, tend to be a lot less frequented than other beaches in Cape Town. You will need to be disciplined about going early, though, as getting to and from the little coves involves a bit of a downhill, and later uphill, slog. But well worth it.
Off the beaten track:
littered with huge boulders, the beach at Bakoven is very much a secluded beach, almost regarded as private by residents, and rather off the beaten track for visitors in the sense that you need to know the beach is there to find it. It barely qualifies as a beach actually, as there is very small piece of white sand but it is a great spot for sunbathing away from the crowds, and the backdrop of the Twelve Apostles is hard to beat.
and its neighbour, Misty Cliffs, are the last beaches on the Atlantic Seaboard before entering Cape Point. As such, and despite the fact that Scarborough is popular with kite surfers and surfers, it is never so busy that you feel inundated, and both beaches are lovely, and so remote, that you will really enjoy your time in amongst the locals. The drive here is pretty spectacular, and scenery heavenly. Best of all is spending time in the village of Scarborough, which has only one restaurant and no shops to speak of.
depending on whom you speak to, Oudekraal goes from being very popular to the best kept secret of Cape Town. Most people don’t know where the beach is, which should give you a fair idea of how often it’s visited. Certainly during the holiday season, it is probably better to give it a skip as the braai spots and picnic sites make it a firm favourite, but actually the beach is not all that well frequented during other times of the year. Its setting is quite spectacular and secluded from the wind, it has its own seal colony out on the rocks, and is a beautiful spot for sundowners or a secluded swim.
Useful Cape Town Links:
Things to remember when in the sun:
- cover up (whilst sunscreen is important, UVA rays still batter the skin and cause skin cancer later on)
- wear a hat, always
- take an umbrella or beach tent so that there is some respite from the weather