With a coastline that clocks in at 26 000km or over 16 000 miles, it is not surprising that Africa has some of the best beaches in the world. Throw in pristine water, thriving coral reefs, swaying palms and frolicking dolphins and you have all the ingredients for the ultimate family beach holiday. And the accommodation doesn't let you down either: instead of heaving mega resorts, queues for fresh towels and sun lounger territory wars, expect to find laid-back African family beach villas packed with everything from their own pools, Jacuzzis and private beach access to being taken care of by friendly and knowledgeable butlers, housekeepers, drivers and chefs.
Mozambique may not have made its mark on the world map (yet) but for sun worshippers that is good news because it means its astounding beaches remain mostly footprint-free. Which is astonishing, given that it is an easy flight from Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park. Villas here strike exactly the right balance between rustic and fantastic with – best of all – direct beach access, the ultimate in barefoot luxury.
Declared by Condé Nast Traveller to be one of the world’s best beach villas, Villa Amizade on Benguerra Island is named after the Portuguese word for ‘friendship’. And, with a fully stocked wine bar near the dazzling swimming pool, it is certainly a great place to go on a retreat with your best friends. As part of theBazaruto Marine National Park, you can spend the day snorkelling, diving and dugong tracking, following these surprisingly graceful but goofy looking sea mammals as they feed and play offshore. Have a late afternoon massage before seeing what your private chef has rustled up for the night – signature piri-pirichicken or fresh seafood, perhaps?
Moving to the Quirimbas islands, Casamina Villa on Vamizi is perfect for large family reunions as it sleeps up to 10 people in total comfort. You will also have 125 metres / 140 feet of pristine coastline hedged by a hibiscus and causarina tree forest all to yourself, not to mention a secluded ‘study on stilts’ for yoga, reading or daydreaming. Vamizi has sensational diving, with visibility often hitting 50m/164ft and Neptune’s Arm – one of the world’s Top 10 dive sites – nearby.
Vilanculos Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago is a sliver of Greece in Mozambique. Inspired by traditional Greek architecture and boasting a hand-packed dome built according to centuries-old methods, Santorini has everything an active family could want on holiday. An exclusive-use boat and 4x4 means you can go for picnics and your butler can arrange horse and camels rides on the beach. Spend the day around two different pools and tuck into piping hot pizza created from scratch in Santorini’s authentic wood-burning oven.
Turning up the west coast, you find Leora Beach Villa, which has all the benefits of a private house combined with all the perks of a top-end hotel. So while you can access the spa and professional babysitting services, you can also spend days on your own catamaran and around your own pool, as your private chef consults with you on what your family would like for lunch that day.
Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest and most beloved city, and is home to the country’s most talked-about beach. Camps Bay is a long sandy cove only 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre. Lying in the foothills of the iconic Lion’s Head peak, its pristine condition has earned it international Blue Flag status for cleanliness. The neighbourhood of Camps Bay has some of the priciest real estate on the continent – and views of some of the most spectacular sunsets. Dolphins and whales are often spotted in the Atlantic and the water attracts stand-up paddler boarders and sea kayakers alike.
With panoramic ocean views, Brightside is perfect for a family of up to 10. Although you can easily pop down to Camps Bay beach, you may find you prefer your swimming pool to the rather chilly Atlantic! There is plenty of place to enjoy barbeques or sundowners, and Cape Town’s attractions like Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront and Robben Island are an easy drive away.
Further afield in the affluent enclave of Llandudno, 26 Sunset sleeps up to 12 people in six bedrooms. This is a great 'party villa' for those who also enjoy nature and tranquillity. There is a heated swimming pool, a steam room, a teppanyaki plate in the designer kitchen and stunning views of th Atlantic.