South Africa isn’t widely known as a beach destination for sunbathers and beach bums, however, this African nation has long been home to many pockets of surfing meccas, with chilled-out coastal towns to match.
From quaint seaside enclaves packed with cool coastal shops and restaurants to massive swaths of sandy city shorelines, the Rainbow nation and its beaches have got a lot going for them. So, let’s dive in and explore the best beaches in South Africa so you can get ready for your next seaside adventure.
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Just a ten-minute drive from the center of cosmopolitan Cape Town is the attractive Camps Bay Beach. The fashionable enclave is a dynamic area that is home to a thriving beach community bustling with shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. The beach itself is made up of fine white sand that sits before a backdrop of curved hills.
It’s the perfect hang-out for keen surfers – who love the big crashing waves – and walkers, who also enjoy the landscape and the many excellent hiking trails in the area. Swimming here is for diehards only however, with chilling water temperatures, and there’s often a strong backwash. The charming enclave and its white sand is the ideal place to enjoy a break from city life. In the evenings, people gather along the shore for dinner in beachfront restaurants, where they sip on local wine, enjoy freshly caught fish, and watch the dazzlingly exquisite colors of the sunset.
The coastal city of Durban’s Golden Mile is a famous length of gleaming sand that is a magnet for tourists to the area. A fashionable seaside destination, the beach becomes busy with thousands of domestic tourists in the summer months. Segmented by piers, the wide beach and its adjacent promenade are edged by apartment blocks and hostels, with restaurants and nightclubs that create a vibrancy in the area.
The South Beach has become known as a surfers paradise and is popular with young people hanging out and learning to surf, while the Blue Lagoon at the mouth of the Umgeni River is a wonderful place for picnics and fishing. All of the breathtaking beaches along this glimmering Golden Mile are protected by shark nets and overlooked by lifeguards, so swimming in the warmth of the Indian Ocean is safe and fun year-round.
Hobie Beach is a famous spot for swimming, soaking up the sun, and beach games. Situated in Port Elizabeth, along the huge span of coastline that comprises the western edge of the Sunshine Coast, Hobie Beach is a calm haven for city workers who come to visit the beach in their free time.
The beach itself is home to the impressive Shark Rock Pier, which juts its way out in the ocean and creates a fantastic swathe of sand for sun-worshipers to spend their days off – sunbathing or playing a spot of beach volleyball. There are some rock pools which offer an interesting spot for children to learn about marine life, including the starfish and octopus that can be found in the pools at high tide. There’s plenty of cafes and amenities to keep young children entertained, and lifeguards on duty in high season.
Full of fun and good times, Jeffreys Bay’s Dolphin Beach is a top-class surfing destination with fantastic waves and a chilled out atmosphere. Located along the Eastern Cape, the languid landscape is home to a laid-back town that attracts water sports enthusiasts from all over the world.
The beach also entices tourists, who visit the beach on a family vacation. It gets busy in the summer months, when whales can be seen playing in the waves – of course, dolphins can be spotted all year round. Dolphin Beach is also the location for a pro-surfing tournament, as well as a favorite spot for kite-boarding and swimming. The town itself is busy with eateries and shops, as well as lots of other holiday-centric establishments.
The striking beach along this part of the KwaZulu-Natal coast has led to the development of a thriving resort close by. Just north of Durban – about twenty minutes by car – the affluent residential area is home to the largest shopping center in the southern hemisphere.
Away from the commercial and urban development, the long, sandy beach is the ideal place to spend some days unwinding. Far from the stress of city life, the town of Umhlanga is a space to enjoy the warmth of the Indian Ocean – the water here is on average 25-degrees in the summer months. People enjoy walks on the sand, along the backdrop of grassy cliffs and, if you are lucky, you might catch sight of a dolphin or two.
Traveling along the famously beautiful garden route will reveal various beautiful beaches, but Santos Beach in Mossel Bay is a sublime spot to spend some time. Newly labeled a Blue Flag beach, the gradually sloping sand and small waves make it excellent for families with young children; in the summer months, families scatter across the sand enjoying picnics and barbecues.
The kind of pretty place to create happy memories, small shops sell the all-important ice creams and cold drinks, while the gentle waves are fun for children to splash in. The town of Mossel Bay itself has several excellent restaurants and bars, as well as a golf club. One of the top activities to try out whilst in town is a trip to Seal Island to see the seals that live there, or you could try out a spot of hiking along the beautifully breathtaking, dramatic coastal trails.
The peaks of colorful beach huts pop up from the edge of the magnificent sand of Muizenberg beach. Located on the southern coast of Cape Town, the beach is fondly referred to as “Muizies” by the locals. The well-loved summer beach town is even busy in the winter months when the water is full of surfers clad in wetsuits to protect themselves from the cold.
The warm waters of the Indian Ocean in summer make the spot particularly fun for swimming and surfing. Groups of surfers and families like to spend summers in the town, learning to surf and enjoying the convivial coastal country atmosphere. The town is bursting with bookshops, brasseries, and bars that echo the cool vibe of the surfing town. In the evenings, the waves lap peacefully at the shore, and a walk along the water’s edge reveals a spectrum of colors reflected across the waves as the sun sets.
Ballito beach lies 40-kilometres north of Durban along the Dolphin Coast. Named after the many bottlenose dolphins that are sighted in the water along here, the stretch of coast is great for spotting dolphins playing in the surf of the Indian Ocean. Ballito itself was established in 1954 and was somewhat humorously named after an advert for hosiery of the same name. Originally billed as a holiday town, Ballito beach still attracts families who enjoy holidays here. The beach boasts two tidal pools that fill up at high tide and make an excellent place for children to splash about. The sea here is also first-rate for surfing and is now the home of a big surfing contest held every July.
This striking beach is very popular with visitors, who are drawn here to spend time surrounded by the scenic ocean. With impressive hunks of mountains lining the coast, the wildness of the beach is softened by the powdery sand. The Blue Flag beach stretches along 18-kilometers into the infinite horizon. Lifeguards watch over the popular areas in high season, and the water is perfect for a paddle. Also a great spot for keen hikers and joggers, in the summer, the sand gets busy with families and dog-walkers who come here to camp and enjoy a holiday by the sea. The nearby town of Hermanus provides some of the best land-based whale watching in the world and is a vibrant place that’s bustling with markets and terrace cafes. Enjoy a drink at the beach cafe as the sun sets, it’s a sublime spectacle.
Paternoster Beach is a length of pretty white sand edged by rugged rocks and quaint, whitewashed houses. Known as one of the first fishing villages along the West Coast of South Africa, the town has developed over the years to become an attractive holiday destination.
The beach’s attractive outlook makes it ideal for long walks along soft sand where, if you visit in the right season, you can catch a glimpse of the incredible whales and dolphins that pass by – and sometimes penguins too! In the early morning, the local fishermen can be seen heading out in their colorful boats to catch crayfish, which can be bought fresh from shacks along the shore. With a climate similar to Mediterranean countries, the high offshore winds create great conditions for watersports such as kayaking and kitesurfing. This easy-going fishing town is a welcoming place, which blossoms with the beautiful wildflowers that the West Coast is famous for.