Africa Travel Articles
Cape Town's Best Beaches
Author: Sandra Mallinson
Date: November 2012
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.
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.
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.
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 of Cape Town’s beaches. 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.