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The ultimate guide to Cape Town’s beaches



I moved to Cape Town recently and the first thing I did was to check out one of Cape Town’s biggest claim to fame: its beaches.  They are all undeniably, jaw-droppingly beautiful and ten of them have coveted Blue Flag status, but which of Cape Town’s award-winning beaches is best for you?

1. Best Cape Town beaches for photography/aesthetics

If you are looking for that picture-perfect shot of Table Mountain from exactly the right angle to show off its flat table top and the city of Cape Town lying at its feet, you need to go to Bloubergstrand.  This beach is located in Cape Town’s northern suburbs and has fabulous, unobstructed views across Table Bay to Table Mountain.  Because the beach is to the north of Table Mountain, you will almost always have the sun behind you as you photograph, so you don’t have to worry about the best time of day to be there.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Bloubergstrand

Photo by Dewet Willemse

For any avid photographer, Camps Bay is a must. Its sugar-white sand, waving palm trees and the dramatic mountain amphitheatre of the Twelve Apostles towering in the background make it one of Cape Town’s most scenic beaches.   And – under the right conditions – the water often turns that special ‘turquoisey’, tropical colour.  Camps Bay is on the routes of the MyCiti Bus and the open-top sight-seeing buses, so access couldn’t be easier.  Camps Bay is also one of THE best beaches for watching the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach is flanked by an array of cafés and restaurants so find a patio and sip a cocktail while getting that perfect sunset shot!

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Camps Bay

Another scenic beach on the Atlantic seaboard is Clifton. Clifton’s white sandy beaches range from 1st Beach to 4th Beach, each beach being a cove separated by huge round granite boulders, which photograph beautifully. Clifton 4th beach is the largest of the four and the most popular.  The water at Clifton is a refreshing cool blue, but you are not at Clifton to swim – you are there to see and to be seen (and take photographs).  The beach is a trendy hangout for international jet setters and trendy and beautiful locals.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Clifton

Photo by Dan Grinwis

2. Cape Town’s best kid-friendly beaches for family fun time

St James’ Beach is situated near Kalk Bay, about half an hour by car south of the City Centre, along the M5. The mini waves are gentle, the golden sand is perfect for building sand castles and there are intriguing rock pools to peer into.  These – and easy access to ice cream – make St James’ a kiddies’ delight.  There are also tidal swimming pools if you don’t fancy the waves, and trained lifeguards.  The iconic brightly coloured changing huts form a photogenic backdrop to the beach.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - St James Beach

Fish Hoek Beach on the way to Simonstown and Cape Point is a family-orientated beach with plenty of space for beach games, swimming and exploring. The waves are gentle and the water is warmer than the Atlantic Ocean beaches.  A stroll along the boardwalk will reveal some fascinating rock pools, offering your children hours of exciting exploration.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Fishhoek

3. Best beaches for surfing in Cape Town

Because Cape Town is situated on a peninsula, it can offer surfers great surfing conditions virtually all year round.  From beach breaks to point breaks and giant reef breaks, Cape Town has something for every surfer, no matter which direction the wind is blowing in.

Muizenberg Beach on the False Bay side of Cape Town is an exposed beach break.  The best wind direction is from the west-northwest. Clean groundswells prevail and the beach breaks offer lefts and rights.  The best conditions for surf at Muizenberg occur when a Southeast swell combines with an offshore wind direction from the Northwest.  Muizenberg also offers optimal surfing conditions for beginners (there are several surf schools here) with many mellow waves and longboarding spots.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Muizenberg

Photo by Lloyd De Jongh

Long Beach, Kommetjie is the epicentre of high-performance surfing on the Cape Peninsula as it provides the ideal conditions for surfers of all ages and abilities in a wide range of beach breaks, points and reefs.  Long Beach (its name is obvious as soon as you see it in person) is the first landfall for swells generated out in the Roaring Forties, which means a consistent, year-round supply of waves of all shapes and sizes.  There is a resident surfing community, both professionals and free surfers, as well as visitors attracted by some of the world’s most rideable waves.  The best conditions for surf at Long Beach occur when a southwest swell combines with an offshore wind direction from the south.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Long Beach

Photo by Brand South Africa

4. Beach-based activities with animals

Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between giant granite boulders, from which the beach got its name.  It is home to a unique land-based colony of the highly endangered African Penguin.  Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, thus ensuring the beaches are clean, and the penguins protected.  A few years ago three wheelchair-friendly boardwalks were constructed. These boardwalks wind their way through the dunes and vegetation and not only provide great viewing spots, but also protect nesting penguins and their chicks.  In addition to the penguin viewing area, there are three pristine beaches where the immense boulders shelter the coves from currents, wind and large waves.  You may encounter penguins in these coves, but cute as they are, don’t touch or feed them.  Their beaks are razor-sharp!

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Boulders

Horse-riding along the spectacular Noordhoek Beach gives you the opportunity to canter along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Noordhoek is situated below the southern slopes of Chapman’s Peak Drive and is Cape Town’s rural treasure with a farm atmosphere. It is famed for its long white sandy beach, ideal for horse riding. You pass through wetlands with indigenous bird life, then over the dunes and onto the beach where you can visit the Kakapo Shipwreck. The horses are superbly schooled and very rider-friendly. Novice and experienced riders are equally welcome.

Pembury Tours - Cape Town Beaches - Noordhoek

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