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The Tried-and-Tested 6 Best Beaches in Cape Town

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1 month ago

Nothing screams the Cape Town lifestyle more than relaxing on the beach. Capetonians are fortunate to have a huge number of beaches to choose from, but in a city where weather conditions can change the day’s itinerary, it pays to know which are the best beaches in Cape Town.

One thing we need to say at the outset about Cape Town’s beaches is that the ocean is quite cold on the Atlantic side so you’ll see far fewer people swimming in the beaches on the Atlantic side. Not all of us go to the beach to swim, though. Despite being colder, the beach lifestyle is usually better on beaches on the Atlantic side.

So if you really want to go for a swim and not be cold (including in summer), you should head to False Bay. We’ve got you sorted below on the two best beaches in Cape Town on the False Bay side.

Rule of thumb

The rule of thumb in Western Cape (the province that Cape Town is in) is that the water gets warmer the further east you go. The west coast is wilder, colder and has fewer people, but there are still great reasons to go (including the adorable village of Paternoster).

If you want the best beaches in Cape Town, there is no better option than the beaches in and around Cape Point Nature Reserve (including one of the best below). It does get quite windy there, so it is critical that you check the wind forecast before you set off on the relatively long journey to get to Cape Point Nature Reserve. But if you happen to get a good wind day, it is simply perfect.

Safety

As with anywhere in South Africa, you should be conscious of your safety at Cape Town’s beaches. You’ll often see security patrolling the more popular beaches like Clifton Fourth and Camps Bay, but it’s important to remain vigilant. You shouldn’t leave your valuables unattended (even for a minute).

Atlantic

Clifton Fourth Beach

Clifton Fourth Beach is widely considered by locals to be the trendiest beach in Cape Town. Expect to see the young and fit whether on their morning walk (or cold plunge in the ocean), or playing beach volleyball on Thursday evenings. Clifton Fourth is one of the best beaches in Cape Town if for no other reason than the vibe is amazing and there is truly never a dull moment.

What amazes visitors to Clifton Fourth is that the beach is somehow pristine despite its popularity. Clifton Fourth is serviced so you’ll find entrepreneurial vendors renting beach loungers and umbrella (which is important here because there is very little shade). You can also go kayaking on the bay.

Best for

Clifton Fourth is your best choice for a windy day. It’s buffered on each side so the wind won’t thrash you around like it will at other beaches. But there aren’t any coffee shops or restaurants around because it’s in a residential area.

The only time that people really swim at Clifton Fourth is in the height of summer when a dip in the cold water can be super refreshing. Otherwise, it can be quite cold. You might find climbing the boulders to be a bit more fun than swimming.

Camps Bay

With the awe-inspiring Twelve Apostles mountain range serving as its backdrop and a lively atmosphere, its no surprise that Camps Bay Beach is one of the best beaches in Cape Town. Unlike Clifton Fourth, Camps Bay is surrounded by vibrant cafes, bar and restaurants that are teeming with people at all hours, but the magic of Camps Bay is best experienced at sunset.

You’ll find vendors renting out umbrellas and beach loungers but they tend to be more hawkish than Clifton Fourth and more expensive.

Best for

Camps Bay is perfect to see and be seen. The atmosphere is incredibly exciting, and it feels like everyone is out for a good time. The tidal pool at Camps Bay is also perfectly positioned for a relaxing swim.

Glen Beach

If you want something a little more secluded but still close to the action, Glen Beach is the right choice. It’s a lot quieter than Clifton Fourth and Camps Bay (even though it’s part of the same stretch of beach that Camps Bay Beach is on), and if you make your way up the rocks all the way to the right (facing the sea), you’ll find what is probably the best sunset picnic spot in Cape Town.

Whether you choose Camps Bay, Glen Beach or Clifton Fourth, you’ll be getting the classic Cape Town beach day experience.

Scarborough Beach

The last beach town on the Atlantic side before the entrance to Cape Point National Park, Scarborough Beach is a true local favorite. It boasts a reputation for being largely unspoiled and is perfect for a long walk with stunning views. For our surfers, Scarborough Beach is known for its wild waves. You’ll also often see parents fishing with their kids in the small ponds.

This is one of the more dog-friendly beaches in Cape Town so you’ll often see the beach filled with dogs running in and out of the water. There are a couple of cafes and restaurants nearby if you fancy a post-walk coffee or meal, but the whole town of Scarborough kind of has that ‘lost village’ feel; almost as if you’ve stumbled on somewhere that everyone is trying to keep secret.

Best for

This isn’t a beach to see and be seen like Clifton Fourth Beach. Scarborough is where you go for that tranquil and secluded experience. It’s the perfect place to sit and take in a sunset on a beach that feels like it’s at the end of the earth.

The locals are wonderfully friendly people who take pride in their village and the surrounding beauty. The mountains immediately surrounding it are simply majestic.

False Bay

Smitswinkel Bay Beach

Nestled between Simon’s Town and the entrance to Cape Point Nature Reserve, Smitswinkel Beach is by far the best in terms of the serenity and vibe. It’s the last bay on the False Bay side of the cape, but the difficulty with Smitswinkel Bay is actually getting to the beach. It isn’t clearly signposted and requires you to walk 15-20 minutes down a steep footpath to the beach from the road.

But the walk (and steepness) is well worth it: at the end, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most stunning and untouched stretches of beach that no one except locals knows about that truly is one of the best beaches in Cape Town. The water is crystal clear, the sand soft and pristine, and you get to enjoy a panoramic view of False Bay.

Best for

Smitswinkel is a surprisingly great location for a secluded picnic. There’s also a few wrecks in the bay so you’ll find that it’s quite popular for scuba divers, but it also boasts great snorkeling so make sure you bring your gear. You can take a dip in the rock pools as well.

You can even enter the grottos in the southern end of the beach during low tide.

Muizenberg Beach

You might recognize Muizenberg Beach for its colorful wooden bathing houses which line the seafront. We’ll admit that Muizenberg beach isn’t the nicest beach in terms of cleanliness, but the surf culture is great to be around and makes for a fun day. There’s also quite a few cafes and eateries around so you can easily spend the day here.

And if you do go to Muizenberg, make sure to combine it with a trip to idyllic Kalk Bay (and lunch at Olympia Cafe which serves what may be the best seafood linguine in the world).

Best for

A surfer’s paradise, Muizenberg Beach is the best choice for surfers, whether seasoned or beginners. The service infrastructure at Muizenberg is built around surfing, so you’ll find everything from beginners braving their first lesson on the water, to professional surfers looking to catch the best wave.


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