Cape Town has been heralded as the most beautiful city in South Africa. Surrounded by rugged mountains that plunge into an icy blue ocean, and with soft white sand beaches, its picturesque coastline is one of the many reasons for its title. Set at the top of the Cape Peninsula and with sea on three sides, there's a beach to suit any one and any weather! Here's our guide to the best beaches in and around Cape Town.
Best beaches in Cape Town for some serious sunbathing
Sun-worshipers, people watchers and the more trendy beach crowd head straight for the white sand beaches of Clifton 1-4 and Camps Bay. While Clifton 1st is the preferred hangout for residents of Clifton's luxury apartments, 3rd Beach is frequented by a livelier, trendy set and 4th Beach is a favourite for families. With crisp blue water and a beachfront road lined with restaurants, this is the perfect spot to spend those summer days.
Best beach in Cape Town for sunset selfies
With an unusual point of water-smoothed boulders that stretches out to sea, and a stunning white-sand beach, Llandudno is favoured among fashion photographers looking for dramatic backdrops for their shoot. The west-facing orientation means that the sun sets right over the ocean, turning the rocks to gold and piercing through the backs of the turquoise waves.
We're not suggesting you take along a professional camera set-up (in fact, professional photo shoots need prior permission from city management), but find a spot among the boulders and strike a summer holiday pose of your own!
Best in Cape Town for fresh fish and chips
While less of a beach and more of a beach town, Kalk Bay had to make this list because for us, there's no better way to end off a day at the coast than a dinner of fresh seafood with the smell of salt in the air and sea views that can't be beat! Undoubtedly the best spot for this is the fishing harbour at Kalk Bay. Eat at one of the three restaurants in the harbour, or even better, get a takeaway to enjoy on the pier and be entertained by the antics of the fat harbour seals (please don't feed them, though).
Best beaches in Cape Town for surfing
Practically surrounded by the sea and with regular bursts of swell from the stormy Southern Ocean, Cape Town is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts... if you don't mind the icy water! Visitors to Cape Town simply have to give surfing a try.
The best beach to learn to surf is Muizenberg. A gently-sloping sandy bottom means that the waves break far out and roll into shore as foamies - perfect for the beginner! There are plenty of places to rent a board and wetsuit as well as the famous Shark Spotter program in place, giving surfers peace of mind in the water.
For the more experienced surfer, there are plenty of more challenging waves scattered around the beaches of Cape Town. The best part is that, with surfing beaches on both sides of the mountains, surfers are always guaranteed offshore conditions no matter which way the wind is blowing! Cape Town is also home to a number of world-class big wave spots including the infamous Dungeons where waves can reach in excess of 20 feet.
Best beaches for scenic walks
Given that the whole of the Cape Town area is blessed with incredible natural beauty, its hard to go wrong no matter which beach you choose! Two that we'd highly recommend however are Long Beach in Kommetjie, or the beaches of Noordhoek. These two small coastal towns on the Atlantic seaboard are particularly spectacular, and great places to walk your dogs off the lead.
Best beaches in Cape Town for iconic views of Table Mountain
The arc of the bay gives any of the beaches in Cape Town's northern suburbs a spectacular view back towards Table Mountain. Our favourite is Bloubergstrand's Little Bay which is slightly quieter than nearby Big Bay, but do some exploring and decide for yourself. Simply pack a picnic and pick a beach anywhere from Milnerton to Melkbosstrand.
Best beach to see African penguins
Boulders Beach is not only scenic, with boulders scattered in the shallows making for some interesting pools to explore and sheltered swimming, but it is also home to a colony of endangered African penguins. These black and white birds, so graceful underwater, are incredibly comical on land and their waddling habits and inquiring manner will keep you entertained for hours. Be careful not to disturb their nests, and do not try to touch them either. They are wild birds, and their beaks can give a nasty bite! Don't forget to bring cash for a small entry fee.
Blue Flag beaches in Cape Town
Blue Flag is an international certification awarded to beaches that meet a stringent standard for environmental, accessibility, educational and safety criteria. These are fantastic beaches to visit with families for their amenities, and bathers can swim and relax with peace of mind. Cape Town has ten Blue Flag beaches. From west to east, they are Silwerstroomstrand Beach, Melkbosstrand, Clifton 4th Beach, Camps Bay Beach, Llandudno, Fish Hoek Beach, Muizenberg, Strandfontein, Mnandi Beach and Bikini Beach (Gordon's Bay).
Best beaches for getting away from it all
If Cape Town's holiday crowds can get a little overwhelming, the empty, secluded beaches of the Cape Point Nature Reserve at the bottom of the Cape Peninsula are the perfect place to escape it all. Take some binoculars for your slow meander and spot coastal birds and baboons scavenging among the kelp wrack, or simply be revived by a coastline that remains raw and unchanged through the centuries. We'd recommend the beach at Buffels Bay, Olifantsbos or Diaz Beach, in particular. Be prepared for some relatively easy hiking to get there though.
Find a place to stay in Cape Town
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So that's our pick. Let us know if you'd agree, and share some of your best beaches in Cape Town in the comments below.