With one of the most incredible stretches of coastline in the world, Cape Town boasts a plethora of world-class beaches, from the party vibes at Camps Bay to the teeming tidal pools at Oudekraal
Clifton Beaches 1-4
Nestled in the lap of Cape Town’s upmarket, vibrant Clifton neighbourhood, and just a short 10-minute jaunt from the city centre, Clifton’s quartet of sun-kissed coves are cradled by colossal boulders, and are well-protected from Cape Town’s fickle ‘south-easter’ winds. Imaginatively numbered one to four, First Beach is a cherished hideaway for both locals and vacationers; Second Beach is a slice of paradise, and draws in a cool, laid-back crowd wielding beach bats or displaying disgustingly good frisbee skills. With its powdery white sand, the diminutive Third Beach is arguably the prettiest of the four, and is predominantly a gay beach but it welcomes everyone with open arms while Fourth Beach is where the party is at, luring in Clifton’s beautiful hedonists. It proudly sports the prestigious Blue Flag status, an international badge of honour for its cleanliness, safety, top-notch amenities and green initiatives. It’s also home to the bougie Bungalow restaurant, which might just be the world’s best location for sundowners, great tunes and stunning people.
A visit to Cape Town should always involve a day out at the iconic Camps Bay Beach, which is the city’s most vibrant party beach. But when it all gets too hectic, take a short walk round the corner to Glen Beach (so called because it sits right at the bottom of a valley/glen that runs down from Kloof Nek), a hidden gem of a small cove punctuated by striking rocky outcrops, pristine white sands and the ever impressive Twelve Apostles just over your shoulder. Surfers love Glen Beach for its reliable swells and decent beach breaks. The sunsets are superb, too, but you’ll probably want to hop back over to the strip at Camps Bay for your sundowners, with Chincilla’s rooftop cocktail bar being a non-negotiable.
Take the scenic drive south along Victoria Road and keep going past Camps Bay until you find Oudekraal Beach. It is a natural wonder of a north-facing cove situated within Table Mountain National Park. Its shoreline is punctuated by fascinating rock formations and tidal pools teeming with marine life, making it a snorkeler’s paradise (wetsuits obligatory or extremities might get a little frosty very quickly). It’s a Marine Protected Area, home to the underwater ‘Justin’s Caves’, kelp forests and the oldest wreck in the country (Het Huis te Kraaiestein, which went down in 1670) which you might have to share with the nearby seal colony on the inshore reef, called Strawberry Rocks. If you don’t fancy the bracing waters, there are plenty of braai areas with cooking facilities, making it a perfect spot for families, too.
Muizenberg is probably Cape Town’s ultimate family-friendly beach, with its warmer water, Blue Flag status, and quaint and colourful Victorian bathing boxes. This beautiful stretch of coastline is also a great place to learn to surf, with an ever-present shore break catering for all levels. The beach itself is a 200-metre lick of soft white sand, and unlike the west coast beaches that face directly into the Atlantic Ocean, Muizenberg is afforded a little more protection, resulting in warmer water (don’t get your hopes up, it’s still pretty chilly). There are also shark spotters on the lookout too, as there have been a small number of attacks over the years, the last one being in 2016. Seal Island is nearby and so it’s not uncommon for there to be shark sightings.
If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten track, then the picturesque crescent-shaped shoreline of Llandudno Beach is an excellent place to start. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs and flanked by giant boulders, the beach is about 20km south of Cape Town on the way to Hout Bay and the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive. It’s renowned for its breathtaking beauty and powerful surf breaks. Facilities here are minimal, which adds to the unspoilt charm of the beach. The turn-off to get you there takes you down a narrow road that weaves through some of the most expensive real estate in Cape Town (don’t worry, you’re not trespassing), which is always worth an ogle, but the real view is the sunset, which is one of the best in all of Cape Town.
Smitswinkel Bay, the last bay on the False Bay side of the Cape just south of Simon’s Town, is a secluded paradise miles away from any crowds. This charming cove is surrounded by epic cliffs and is rarely busy, being a real locals’ favourite. ‘Smits’, as it is more fondly known, is devoid of electricity, mobile phone coverage and any amenities to speak of, so you really do get the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. If your passion lies under the water, then Smits is a gem, being one of the best scuba and snorkelling destinations along the coast. There are five wrecks in the bay alone: the SAS Good Hope, the SAS Transvaal, the Princess Elizabeth, the Orotava and a diamond dredge called the Rockeater, all of which were sunk deliberately in the ’80s with the aim of forming an artificial reef averaging around 35 metres in depth. You’ll need to park on the road that winds around to Cape Point and hike down a path to get to it. Give the baboons the right of way if you happen to see any.
Ryan Thompson is a UK-based menswear and lifestyle writer, whose work has appeared in, among others, the Financial Times, Mr Porter, The Rake and Ape to Gentleman
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