Multi-coloured beach huts on a beautiful Cape Town beach
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Beaches in Africa

Africa is renowned for having some of the most stunning coastline on the planet, much of it unspoilt by any kind of development. Many of them are difficult to access, though, so unless you’re intending to make an entire holiday out of them, you might prefer to consider the beaches that are more easily accessed.

Amazingly, Cape Town, which is very easily to access, has 72 public beaches, which means that in reality, not even all Capetonians have actually been to all or most of them!

Types of Beaches

Beaches in Cape Town are generally divided into five distinct types.

  • Watersport beaches (i.e. surfing, windsurfing)
  • Child friendly/swimming beaches (very little surf and no rip tides with lifeguards etc.)
  • Serviced beaches (showers, cafes, sun loungers etc. These are not necessarily places where you can swim, though.)
  • Nature beaches (wide open beaches with no services but lots of wildlife. These tend to be at least 30 minutes or an hour’s drive from Cape Town itself)
  • Specialised beaches (beaches with a particular attraction like horse riding, penguin sightings, etc.)

Cape Town Beaches

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Actually staying at the beach in central Cape Town, from our point of view, isn’t worth it. You pay a premium for anything on the Atlantic Seaboard (so that’s Camps Bay, Bantry Bay, Fresnaye, etc.) but actually, apart from the sea views and the sunset, there’s not a lot of reasons to actually stay there. Most of the good restaurants, theatres, cinemas, bars and so on, as well as the older and prettier districts are in the Old Town, i.e. the City Bowl.

All of the Atlantic Seaboard (or most of it) was built in the last 50 years. This means that it’s not very pretty to walk around a lot of the time and tends to be oversized mansion followed by oversized block of flats all the way along. The only real place to get somewhere to eat is in Camps Bay (there are one or two other places dotted about) and there, most restaurants don’t make it through one or two seasons, overcharging for the view and fairly average food as they go. (The one exception is The Codfather, a delightful owner-managed place we love and that has been there for years.)

If you’re looking for understated, but nevertheless luxurious and personalised accommodation, the Atlantic Seaboard doesn’t really offer this: it’s much more overstated and brash in the main. Traffic is also an issue along the Seaboard: we never drive anywhere near there between November and March because of the staggering volume of traffic and the unavailability of parking.

If you really want to be on the beach every day in Bantry Bay or Camps Bay, we’d suggest staying there with the proviso that this will be pretty much all you will do: sit on the beach! If you want more out of those days, I’d say stay in town and take a bus or a taxi to the beach everyday. Then you have the choice to beach or not beach as you feel like it.

Beaches Outside of Cape Town

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Bear in mind that the more remote you make the beach, generally speaking the more basic the accommodation becomes. This isn’t necessarily always the case, but I’m just letting you know. To get really remote, you need to go for self-catering accommodation.

We would really recommend considering the towns of Kommetjie and Imhoff’s Gift.

The best places would be towns and villages like Arniston and Gansbaai on the Overberg Coast, Paternoster on the West Coast or staying in an actual nature reserve like De Hoop Nature Reserve. All of them are at least two hours from Cape Town, some more.

Outside the Western Cape

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Once you start to travel outside of the Western Cape and Cape Town area, the choice of beaches starts to open up again. If you’re more the nature beach type of person, we would definitely recommend the Wild Coast, a stunning stretch of coastline in the Eastern Cape where the locals still live in pretty thatched huts, waterfalls crash off cliffs onto the beach and huge shoals of dolphins play just off shore. This area needs some considerable planning, though, as it’s not easily accessed (which is why it’s still so pristine).

For the nature lovers, an easier option, no less stunning, would be to fly to Port Elizabeth and be transferred to Oceana, a coastal game reserve (one of very few coastal game reserves) in South Africa. The reserve is situated in a coastal dune forest and boasts 7km of private beach to boot. The bird life at this location is one of the most mesmerising things about it. We can arrange the flights, transfers and accommodation for you. It is actually even more beautiful than the pictures suggest.

If you’re more of an active beach lover, and warm water is more your thing, we’d definitely suggest looking at the KwaZulu Natal coastline, where the Indian Ocean’s currents are warmer. There is a big surfing and shark diving culture in that area and many other water-based activities besides.

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