Blue Flag beaches south of Durban
This small has the tropical vegetation of the Empangati Nature Reserve circling behind it. Marina is excellent for kids as the surf is unusually restrained and tidal pools offer hours of kid fiddling activities.
A kilometre long, and wide with it, Margate is attractively bordered with coconut palms, dunes and rocks. Some apartment blocks are a little over-dominant but the beach is lively, popular with families and students and has two swimming pools.
All the usual Blue Flag facilities of showers, lifeguards etc. are in place, and there’s an attractive coastal walk along to Ramsgate Beach.
Wide and soft, with the usual moderate surf, Ramsgate has a milkwood forest nearby and a lagoon with canoes and pedaloes. The town behind the beach is discreet and relatively quiet.
Humewood Beach, Port Elizabeth
Although a little too near Beach Road and set in less-then gorgeous surroundings, little Humewood is popular with families as surf is kid’s size, shade is easy to find, nearby Happy Valley provides tropical walks and Port Elizabeth offers plenty of easy entertainment options. Addo Elephant Park is 70kms away.
Good, but not blue flag beaches south of Durban
On the Wild Coast near Coffee Bay, 18km SW of Umtata Mdumbe is a place for serious, first-footprint beach lovers; hard to reach but you may never leave. This is an extraordinarily beautiful, tranquil and remote kilometre of fine sand, bordered with milkwood trees, grass and contented cows. Limited but varied accommodation is available in Coffee Bay.
Also: Hibberdene, Uvongo, Rocky Bay.
Beaches on South Africa’s Western Cape coast
Nature’s Valley Beach. The village is hidden behind the dunes and greenery.
Nature’s Valley Beach
Nature by name, naturally nature is everything here. Walking (including the famous five day Otter Trail), surfing, rooting around rock pools and slumping in the sand, this is a marvellous, hidden, urban escape hatch within easy reach of civilisation.
Accommodation is in B&Bs or a restcamp and if you really need a thrill the world’s highest bungee jump is a few kms away at Bloukrans Bridge, or Storms River Village offers long, high, flying fox Canopy Tours.
Just 30kms past busy Plettenberg Bay and embedded in the Tsitsikamma Forest, Nature’s Valley is a tiny village of wooden, unfenced houses hidden behind dunes and between trees and sporting just one shop and restaurant but 2kms of spectacular sand, a lovely lagoon and no artificial entertainment at all.
Lookout Beach, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa in winter (July).
Plettenberg’s isolated Lookout Beach, backed by large, well vegetated dunes would be the choice of the beach connoisseur here. This little South African town is something of an activity centre where you can find endless marine possibilities, including sailing or kayaking with dolphinsa and surfing lessons in addition to hiking and horsing around.
Beaches with cold waters (13C – 19C in summer)
Camps Bay in winter (July). Cape Town is behind the camera.
Strand Beach in False Bay, about 40km from Cape Town, is a 2km hunk of sand with a variety of waves to suit all ages, rock pools for kiddie fun, views of Table Mountain and the Hottentots Holland Mountains and plenty of non-sand Strand entertainment options, including Water World and the Helderberg Nature Reserve.
Grotto Beach (Blue Flag), attached to pleasant – though middle-age spreading – Hermanus town, is long and white, with dunes, a mountain backdrop, a small playground, a barbeque area (known as a braai in South Africa) and a nearby restaurant, has the unusual attraction of whale watching from the beach July-December (picture above left).
Sandy Bay is the nearest nudist beach to Cape Town (can’t help but remind me of a famous nudist camp in UK called Sandy Balls. Really! ) and also popular with gays. It’s a ten minute drive past Camps Bay, near the good surf spot of Llandudno. After parking at Sunset Rocks the pretty beach is a 15 minute walk.
One side of Camps Bay provides good surf for wave riders, while attractive and interesting Cape Town is less then ten minutes drive away. Waves are on the chunky side but the east side has rocks that give some protection for toddlers.
Camps Bay is the city’s favourite strand of sand, with good access, facilities, and stunning views, though the surf can be tough to handle, the sea is cold and it can get windy. Posh folk might prefer to flash their gilded thongs on neighbouring Clifton Beaches (see below).
Four Clifton Beaches (a Cape Town suburb) separated by rocks are small, characterful and very fashionable with the glitterati and gays, backed as they are by $multi-million apartments. The beaches are more sheltered than Camps Bay but have limited parking possibilities, require a steep walk down from Victoria Road and offer almost no facilities. Hawkers sell drinks and ice creams but little else is on sale.
First Beach has the best surf, Second and Third the are the places to flash your cash, pecs or thong, and Fourth is for families, with easiest access, parking and least bumpy waters.
Elands Bay, northwest of Cape Town is a sensational surfer spot with some of the best, consistent left point breaks in the business, lovely dunes, great walks, but generally has too much wind for sunbathing and is too cold for comfortable swimming.