Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula have two glittering coastlines with a beach to suit every mood and moment. Whether you're after buzzing beachside bars, secluded coves, safe swimming beaches or a romantic spot for a sunset picnic, our guide to Cape Town’s best beaches will point you in the right direction.
And if you're looking for seaside accommodation, our list of Cape Town's Best Beach Hotels, or private Cape Town villa rentals will place you right where you want to be - a few steps from the sand.
It takes about 10 minutes to drive from the city centre to any of Clifton’s four beaches. Coves of soft white sand separated by giant boulders that protect them from summer's 'Southeaster' wind, each beach attracts a slightly different crowd though undoubtedly the most popular is Clifton 4th Beach.
In many ways it is the unofficial playground of the rich and beautiful but Clifton 4th is a classic Cape Town beach with a great holiday atmosphere. Toned bodies soak up the sunshine, vendors wander back and forth selling cold drinks and ice lollies, yachts bob about on the aquamarine ocean - just remember that the Atlantic Ocean here is usually quite cold and you won't be doing much swimming.
On balmy summer evenings locals love to round off the day with a sunset picnic on a Clifton beach. Head down in the late afternoon and you’ll find a festive atmosphere with blankets spread out on the sand, baskets stuffed with deli-bought goodies and candles ready to burn late into the night. Just be warned: it's illegal to drink alcohol on Cape Town beaches (and these popular beaches are effectively policed) and you'll have to carry all your stuff down from the car park - and back up again - via a long series of steep steps so pack light.
Best for: family fun, sunbathing, beach volleyball, sunset cocktails
Just down the road from Clifton you’ll find the gently curving crescent of Camps Bay – the best known beach on the Cape Town coast. Both locals and visitors flock to this palm-lined strip for people watching, to play beach bats or volleyball, walk their dogs or catch a tan while gazing up at the dramatic peaks of the Twelve Apostles range, part of Table Mountain.
If the wind picks up, nip across the road to one of many restaurants, cafes or fashionable bars where Cape Town’s beautiful people dine on seafood and salad or sip chilled local wine. On peak summer days these restaurants spill out onto the pavements, creating a wonderfully laid-back Mediterranean ambience.
Best for: beach picnics, surfing, body boarding, a local favourite
Twenty kilometres south of Cape Town on the way to Hout Bay, Llandudno may be a bit off the beaten track but this spectacular beach is certainly a favourite among locals. A narrow road winds its way down through an exclusive hillside neighbourhood to a soft sandy cove where you’ll find children building sandcastles, groups of friends playing beach bats and Frisbee, surfers carving patterns on the waves and waggy-tailed dogs bounding about.
As with all the beaches along the Atlantic coastline the sea is so refreshing it can make your skin tingle. However, it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset so take snacks (there are no shops) and a beach umbrella and look forward to serious sunbathing followed by a romantic beach picnic.
Best for: penguin watching, family fun, safe swimming, snorkelling
For a Cape Town beach with a unique twist head to Boulders Beach; its soft sand and slightly warmer sea (Boulders is on the Indian Ocean's False Bay coastline) are home to a large colony of endangered African penguins. These endearing birds have become minor celebrities and visitors flock to watch them strut their stuff between the hulking granite boulders – a highly entertaining sight to see.
Boulders Beach lies about 40km south of Cape Town, just beyond the naval base in picturesque Simon’s Town, which makes it a great stop on the way to Cape Point.
Our favourite Cape Town beach hotels
The Bay Hotel (see below): backed by mountains and just a frisbee's throw from the beach, this fashionable hotel puts you right at the heart of Camps Bay.
Tintswalo Atlantic (Hout Bay): Atlantic Ocean views & impeccable service are part of the experience at this super-romantic boutique hotel, set just 25 minutes from Cape Town.
The Last Word Long Beach (Noordhoek): spectacular ocean & mountain views plus an on-your-doorstep beach are what to expect at this boutique hotel, just 40 minutes from Cape Town.