Granadilla ice creams. Muizenberg beach huts. Camps Bay palm trees. Clifton 4th beach. Clifton 3rd, 2nd and 1st for that matter. Beach bats and birthday sundowners. Morning swims and evening walks. Cape Town’s beaches are their own entire world that comes alive in summer. When the hot African sun balances out the cold water, people flock to their favourite beach. That’s the thing with Cape Town – everyone has a different beach they love.
Some are good for walking dogs, others are amazing for surfing. Some are trendy and the place to see and be seen. Others are secluded and quiet while others are convenient for a quick afternoon swim. The water, as is typical for all Atlantic-side beaches, is icy, but you’ll always spot dedicated swimmers dashing in and out for a quick refreshing dip. The beaches in Cape Town are as diverse as nature and people. Cape Town’s setting has a big role to play in that. The Cape Peninsula is like a long claw that sticks out into the sea and there are coves and beaches all along it. That means that if the wind is hitting one beach not quite right, you can just drive over the hill to the beach on the other side of the peninsula. Local knowledge will get you far in this neck of the woods. But which beaches are the best, really? Here are our top picks.
Arguably Cape Town’s most iconic beach, Camps Bay is well set up for a full day at the beach. Boasting Blue Flag status, this lively, family-friendly spot has good reason to be as popular as it is. For visitors to these shores, Camps Bay is usually the go-to recommendation thanks to its cleanliness, sheer beauty, and easy access to bars and restaurants (perfect for end-of-day sundowners). You can even order a pizza from Col’Cacchio and get it delivered to you on the beach.
The setting is hard to beat at Camps Bay, with towering mountains behind it (which provide some protection from the southeaster)and a Miami-style palm-lined promenade. As you walk out of the water after a quick dip and look up at the mountains lit up by a golden sun, you’ll think that there are not many other places you’d rather be.
Clifton has a string of four beautiful white-sand beaches, with each one having a slightly different atmosphere and feel. Clifton 1st Beach has a more upscale vibe, Clifton 2nd is popular with the LGBTQ crowd, Clifton 3rd has a younger party vibe, and Clifton 4th, a designated Blue Flag beach, is where you’ll find the most families.
On a windy day, Clifton is your best bet as the beaches are perfectly sheltered and it can seem like another world down there. This string of beaches means a walk up and down can be something to do and take in the different scenes. Umbrellas and loungers can be rented, but bring snacks and entertainment (a book, bats or frisbee) if people-watching is not your thing.
Llandudno is surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains that rise up steeply from the beach and keep going. It’s that natural protection and shelter that gives Llandudno its exclusive and serene feel. The beach is big enough to play a good soccer game on, and the waves are often good enough to lure in a bunch of surfers and bodyboarders. If you’re in the mood to explore, there are a few hidden caves amid the boulders where ancestral Khoi-San strandlopers once lived. The crowd is generally laidback and diverse: you’ll encounter surfers, groups of friends, families and tourists.
The heart of Cape Town’s surfing community, Muizenberg is the place to go if you want to learn to surf or ride some big boards in reliable, even surf. Muizenberg became a surfing hotspot thanks to its warmer waters and decent waves. The beach itself goes on and on, so is perfect to walk the dogs or stroll in the morning. The iconic row of colourful beach huts can also be found here and are one of Cape Town’s most Insta-worthy shots. “Muizies” is popular with families, pooch owners and surfers (beginners and old hands). Fortunately, it’s big enough to accommodate everyone. With dozens of cafés lining the beachfront, just steps from the sand, there’s no need to pack a picnic or snacks as there are some great options for a coffee or beer after you hit the water.
Secluded and cut off from big crowds, Buffels Bay lies in Cape Point Nature Reserve. It’s white sand and pristine setting mean it’s one of the more picturesque beaches around. With a clean, gently lapping ocean as far as the eye can see, tidal pools, soft sand and braai and picnic spots aplenty, this rhapsody in blue is well worth the drive and entrance fee. Refer to the weather forecast to check for potential strong winds, before setting off – and keep an eye out for the baboons!
The charm of this beach that connects Noordhoek to Kommetjie is how its vast shores are isolated and empty. If you’re not a fan of sharing a beach with the crowds, head to this immense swathe of sand, which stretches along the Atlantic Coast below Chapman’s Peak. There will be no issues with finding a space for your umbrella on these sands. If you enjoy watching the antics of dogs and surfers, stay put on the Kommetjie side. It’s one of Cape Town’s top surf spots; when the southeaster’s pumping on the other side of the Peninsula, the waves here are good. If you’re up for a good stroll, it’s eight kilometres to Noordhoek – or just go halfway to the Kakapo shipwreck.
The expansive, white sands of Sunset Beach lie just north of Cape Town in Blouberg with some of the best views of Table Mountain you’re likely to find. A favourite among kite surfers, windsurfers and surfers alike, the waves at Sunset are a sight to behold – and a fun feat to conquer for experienced wave-riders. Not an avid surfer? Fear not. Sunset Beach offers magnificent views of Robben Island, as well as Table Mountain, and – as its name suggests – is a great spot for sunset.
A local favourite, Beta Beach is easy to miss as you drive that beautiful coastal road out of Camps Bay towards Hout Bay. But seeking out this serene enclave is well worth it as the seclusion and sunset views make for a superb combination. The beach itself is tiny – don’t bother bringing a frisbee or beach bats – but there’s more space to be found on the ocean-dwelling boulders alongside it. The sheltered bay is good for a quick dip (if you’re brave enough) and the views looking back onto the 12 Apostles are, some say, even better than the ocean scene. If you’re looking for a sunset picnic spot, this is as good as any you’ll find.
The iconic Boulders Beach has its own celebrities that steal the show here: African penguins! The colony here popped up in the 80s and the penguins have been entertaining visitors with their arm-flapping waddles and missile-like swimming style ever since. To enter the national park section of the coastline comes with a reasonable entrance fee and allows you to wander on the walkways and get excellent views of the penguins. For the more curious, there are beaches alongside the reserve where visitors can swim and tan, and occasionally see a penguin swim right by them. This truly unique beach experience is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist destinations and is often included as a stop on a peninsula tour.