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Cape Town's Best Beaches

Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula have two glittering coastlines with a beach to suit every mood and moment. Whether you're after buzzing beachside bars, secluded coves, safe swimming beaches or a romantic spot for a sunset picnic, our guide to Cape Town’s best beaches will point you in the right direction.

And if you're looking for seaside accommodation, our list of Cape Town's Best Beach Hotels will place you right where you want to be - a few steps from the sand.

CLIFTON BEACHES

Best for: sheltered sunbathing, seeing and being seen, sunset picnics

It takes about 10 minutes to drive from the city centre to any of Clifton’s four beaches. Coves of soft white sand separated by giant boulders that protect them from summer's notorious south-east wind, each beach attracts a slightly different crowd though undoubtedly the most popular is Clifton 4th Beach.

In many ways it is the unofficial playground of the rich and beautiful but Clifton 4th is a classic Cape Town beach with a great holiday atmosphere. Bronzed bodies soak up the sunshine, vendors wander back and forth selling cold drinks and ice lollies, yachts bob about on the aquamarine ocean - just remember that the Atlantic Ocean here is icy-cold and you won't be doing much swimming.

Cape Town's Best Beaches - popular Clifton 4th Beach
Popular Clifton 4th Beach is the playground for the rich & beautiful

On balmy summer evenings locals love to round off the day with a sunset picnic on a Clifton beach. Head down in the late afternoon and you’ll find a festive atmosphere with blankets spread out on the sand, baskets stuffed with deli-bought goodies and candles ready to burn late into the night. Just be warned however: it's illegal to drink alcohol on Cape Town beaches (and these popular beaches are effectively policed) and you'll have to carry all your stuff down from the car park - and back up again - via a long series of steep steps.

Want to stay here:
 take a look at these luxury Clifton villas.

CAMPS BAY

Best for: family fun, sunbathing, beach volleyball, sunset cocktails

Just down the road from Clifton you’ll find the gently curving crescent of Camps Bay – the best known beach on the Cape Town coast. Both locals and visitors flock to this palm-lined strip to do a bit of people watching, play beach bat or volleyball, walk their dogs or catch a tan while gazing up at the dramatic peaks of the 12 Apostles range, part of Table Mountain.

If the wind picks up (and it can in summer) nip across the road to one of many restaurants, cafes or fashionable bars where Cape Town’s beautiful people dine on seafood and salad or sip chilled local wine. On peak summer days these restaurants spill out onto the pavements creating a wonderfully laid-back Mediterranean ambience.

Want to stay here: take a look at these luxury Camps Bay villas

 

Cape Town's Best Beaches - transition from beach to cafe in Camps Bay
It's an easy transition from the broad beach to busy cafes in Camps Bay
Cape Town's Best Beaches - long walks on Llandudno Beach
Llandudno Beach is a firm favourite with locals & is perfect for sunset picnics too

LLANDUDNO

Best for: beach picnics, surfing, body boarding, a local favourite

20km south of Cape Town, Llandudno may be a bit off the tourist route but this spectacular beach is certainly a favourite among locals. A narrow road winds its way down through an exclusive hillside suburb to a soft sandy cove where you’ll find children building sandcastles, groups of friends playing beach bat and Frisbee, surfers carving patterns on the waves and waggy-tailed dogs bounding about.

As with all the beaches along the Atlantic coastline the sea is so cold it’ll make your skin tingle. However, it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset so take snacks (there are no shops) and a beach umbrella and look forward to serious sunbathing followed by a romantic beach picnic.

Want to stay here: take a look at these luxury Llandudno villas.

SANDY BAY

Best for: getting an all-over tan, wild and isolated, beautiful setting

If you prefer to sunbathe without the tan lines then there's Sandy Bay which is (unofficially) the only beach in Cape Town where it is considered acceptable to sunbathe naked. This beach has also developed a reputation as a gay pickup spot but whether you’re gay or straight, naked or clothed, you’ll find Sandy Bay has an unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere as well as being very private (it's a 20-minute walk from the car park) while the backdrop of steep dunes and mountain slopes makes for a simply spectacular setting.

Cape Town's Best Beaches - boardwalks overlooking Boulder's Beach
Watch African penguins strut their stuff at Boulder's Beach

BOULDERS BEACH

Best for: penguin watching, family fun, safe swimming, snorkelling

For a Cape Town beach with a unique twist head to Boulders Beach; its soft sand and slightly warmer sea (Boulders is on the Indian Ocean's False Bay coastline) are home to a large colony of African penguins. These endearing birds have become minor celebrities and visitors flock to watch them strut their stuff between the hulking granite boulders – a highly entertaining sight to see.

Boulders Beach lies about 40km south of Cape Town, just beyond the naval base in picturesque Simon’s Town, which makes it a great stop on the way to Cape Point. If you’re travelling with kids, pack a picnic and plan to stay awhile as this is sure to be one of their holiday highlights.

Our favourite Cape Town beach hotels

  • The Bay Hotel: backed by mountains and just a frisbee's throw from the beach, this fashionable hotel puts you right at the heart of Camps Bay.
  • PODalso in Camps Bay this super-modern boutique hotel features a clean, minimalist style with an expansive terrace overlooking one of the most popular beaches in Cape Town.
  • Tintswalo Atlantic (Hout Bay): Atlantic Ocean views & impeccable service are part of the experience at this super-romantic boutique hotel, set just 25 min from Cape Town.
  • The Last Word Long Beach (Noordhoek): spectacular ocean & mountain views plus an on-your-doorstep beach are what to expect at this boutique hotel, just 40 min from Cape Town.

 

See the full list in our blog: Top Beach Hotels in Cape Town.

 
Written by Sandra Mallinson. Connect with her on Google+.

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