A three-centuries-old port city, Cape Town is flanked by both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Known to sailors by the rather alarming ‘Cape of Storms’ because of the fierce gales that can surge around the peninsula, we landlubbers prefer to think of it by its gentler nickname: ‘the Fairest Cape’. It's a seaside city renowned for easy living, gourmet food, fine wines and an efficient infrastructure. Cape Town's top beach hotels allow you to sample the best of the ocean - with its frolicking dolphins, seals and whales - in utter comfort and sheer luxury.
Set on the slopes of the magnificent Twelve Apostles mountain range with unsurpassed views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa is one of Cape Town’s seaside gems. Surrounded by the wilderness trails of the Table Mountain National Park, and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this luxurious boutique hotel is located on the picturesque coastal road that leaves high-flying Camps Bay and heads off to the laid-back village of Hout Bay.
Once a hunting lodge on a 19th century farm, the hotel is one of the few buildings in the area and is painted white to act as a beacon for ships at sea. Its Azure restaurant has a sunny terrace that looks out across the mighty Atlantic - an ideal place to spot whales from August to October. Suites are individually decorated in an updated version of grand classic style: the presidential suite has marble bathrooms with tubs that overlook Lion’s Head and the twinkling night lights of Camps Bay, with opulent crystal chandeliers and silk wallpaper.
The best-kept secrets at the Twelve Apostles? For the sporty, it’s the private hiking trails on the mountain slopes that give you panoramic ocean views as you enjoy a delicious picnic lunch. For spa lovers, it’s definitely the private glass treatment gazebos: located in the middle of the fynbos, they are a sublime refuge to have an indulgent massage with the Atlantic lapping in the distance.
2. Winchester Mansions, Sea Point
Lovingly known as Sea Point’s grande dame, the Winchester Mansions Hotel epitomises old-school elegance. Situated on Beach Road, just a stone’s throw away from the ocean, a few steps will take you onto the popular Sea Point Promenade, which runs the length of the Atlantic Seaboard and is a hive of outdoor activity. Join the locals for a leisurely stroll or watch paragliders spiral down to land on the lawns in front of the hotel as you sip a frothy cappuccino or G ’n T on the patio.
The Winchester Mansions is within walking distance to Three Anchor Bay, a prime spot for sea kayakers (go in the early morning for the calmest seas and least wind, later in the morning you have a better chance of seeing seals or dolphins) and the Sea Point Pavilion, an Art Deco-style collection of public salt-water swimming pools that lie right on the oceanfront. Kept sparkling clean and frequented by splashers and triathletes alike, the pools are among the prettiest in the world and have a view of Robben Island and soaring Lion’s Head.
3. POD, Camps Bay
Seaside glamour at its best, the 15-bedroom POD takes barefoot luxury to new heights. Overlooking the trendy Camps Bay strip, whose pristine white sands, ice blue waters and bustling palm-fronted beachfront attract the rich and famous - Prince Harry and actor Alex Skarsgaard were spotted here just before the festive season. The hotel's uniquely designed pod-shaped suites create cocoons of tranquil privacy with breathtaking views.
While the wooden decks and private plunge pools are stylish and sophisticated, the hotel also does its bit for the environment with eco-friendly features such as sustainable water supply, energy-saving lighting and insulation. Personal butlers will whisk your chaise longue, fluffy towels and chilled water down to the beach or serve you cocktails by the pool as you watch the goings-on on the beach below.
In terms of a beach hotel, you couldn’t get a better locale. Camps Bay Beach is one of Cape Town’s most popular beaches with families and fashionistas alike. Grab a spot on the beach early in summer as it tends to get crowded or simply relax in the comfort of your own private pod that overlooks the beach. By night, hit one of the many restaurants, bars or clubs that hum under the colonnade of palm trees or book a top-notch show at the quirky Theatre on the Bay.
4. The Bay Hotel, Camps Bay
Conveniently located in the heart of Camps Bay, right across the road from Camps Bay Beach, the Bay Hotel is a fusion of sophisticated elegance and stylish comfort. The main wooden pool deck is home to chic sun loungers and wide umbrellas around a solar-heated pool – the perfect place to relax with cocktails from the poolside bar and soak up the view. The hotel’s exclusive spa promises to pamper you or, if you want to hone your beach body, head to the gym and work out with a personal trainer.
One of Cape Town’s most popular beaches, Camps Bay is the place to see and be seen: you’ll see everything from models on shoots and actors on location to stand-up paddle boarders with abs of steel and toddlers playing ‘tag’ with the surf.
You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining at The Bay: buffet-laden tables greet you on arrival at Tides restaurant where you can enjoy breakfast overlooking the beachfront or enjoy a laid-back lunch of fresh salads and seafood at the trendy Bistro @ The Bay. Lounge amongst sun-kissed socialites and bronzed beauties on the private deck of the Sandy B Beach Club and toast the spectacular sunset in style.
5. Sea Five Boutique Hotel, Camps Bay
Oozing luxury and glamour, Sea Five Boutique Hotel is a one-of-a-kind - definitely for the discerning traveller who values better-than-home luxury and exceptional service.
The hotel's design ethos combines a Mediterranean and African palette with organic, natural elements - the ambience is tranquil and ease-inducing but polished and elegant. Sink into the imported Italian bed linen and wake to the scent of freshly-baked croissants - the team at Sea Five take pride in seeing to every opportunity to pamper you. Despite all the attractions of Camps Bay, from beach to eateries and nightlife, you may find it hard to leave your private terrace, with its mouthwatering views, attentive service and peaceful exclusivity.
Built as a classic white beach house, its simple exterior belies the original art, fresh cut flowers and plump sofas within. Sea Five’s best feature is not the turquoise pool or glowing sunsets vistas, but its unbeatable location – a mere 300 metres from Camps Bay Beach. In between celebrity spotting (Annie Lennox and Ruby Wax are regulars in the city), watch the tightrope walkers, gumboot dancers, wandering opera singers and other colourful citizens that make up this unique slice of South Africa.