With a coastline of more than 2500 kilometres, South Africa is home to some of the best and most stunning beaches in the world. The total coastline spans several provinces and geological regions. This means the beaches and natural surroundings are extremely varied in many ways.
Tropical and exotic beaches with golden sand can be found in the eastern part of the country. The mild temperatures and warm water of the Indian ocean attract year round visitors to these stunning beaches in South Africa. The Cape province and the west coast of South Africa has very cold water from the Atlantic ocean. The pristine white beaches with soft sand are very inviting for sunbathing and endless long walks along the shore. During season it is easy to spot whales and dolphins along the coast. The Wild Coast and part of the Eastern Cape are home to a very dramatic and rough coastline with the most amazing beaches in the numerous bays carved out by the ocean.
Blue Flag beaches South Africa
What is a Blue Flag beach?
Blue Flag is an eco-label that is awarded to beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operations. Based on certain criteria, beaches can get granted a Blue Flag accreditation.
The official Blue Flag criteria are:
- Environmental education and information
- Water quality
- Environmental management
- Safety and services
For the season 2018-2019 a total of 46 South African beaches have been awarded with the Blue Flag, of which 10 Cape Town beaches are on the list. This means that for the visitors the beaches are safe, clean and have well-managed facilities. Some of the South African beaches that have we have listed have been granted a Blue Flag. In general the quality of the beaches in South Africa meet high standards, even without the Blue Flag label.
20 of the best beaches in South Africa you need to visit
Over the years we have travelled throughout the country, visiting many of the most stunning beaches in South Africa. It is not easy to select ‘only’ 20 South African beaches, since most of them are worth a visit. I have made a selection of beaches we have visited and that we really loved, either for the beauty of it, or because of our personal preference.
20. Ushaka beach in Durban
The Golden Mile is the beachfront area of the city of Durban in Kwazulu Natal province, stretching all the way from Ushaka Marine World to the Suncoast Casino. Nearly 2,6 kilometres of golden sand and warm tropical waters interrupted at regular intervals with various piers. Swimming is allowed where the lifeguards are located. The Durban beachfront is divided into various sections with Ushaka beach being my favourite. With street performers, the nearby shopping centre, and the Ushaka Aquarium, there is always something going on, apart from sunbathing and swimming. The Moyo cocktail bar is located at the end of the Ushaka pier giving great views of the whole beachfront and the skyline of Durban. It is also the best place on the Durban beach to watch the sunrise coming up over the ocean.
19. Leisure Bay
Beautiful swimming beaches, tropical and lush vegetation and a great climate makes Leisure Bay a popular holiday destination on the South Coast of Kwazulu Natal. The warm water of the Indian ocean is very inviting for swimming, snorkelling and surfing. Basically there are quite a few beaches on the Durban South Coast, all long stretches of tropical beaches, some more popular than the others, for various reasons. I choose Leisure Bay, since it was a holiday favourite of Sean and his family when he was growing up. He used to spend all his childhood summer holidays on the beach of Leisure Bay with many great memories.
Bloubergstrand provides one of the nicest views over the iconic Table Mountain as well as some of the most spectacular sunsets in Africa. The beach tends to get pretty windy which makes it a very popular place for kitesurfers from all over the world. Bloubergstrand is located just 15 kilometres north of Cape Town and the name means Blue Mountain beach in Afrikaans, one of the national languages of South Africa.
17. Noordhoek beach
Noordhoek beach is an 8 kilometre stretch of unspoilt pristine white sand along the Atlantic coast. It is not that popular with sunbathers since this beach has very cold water and it catches the famous strong Cape Town winds. However, this untamed beautiful beach is a popular place for walking, jogging, surfing and horseriding. The beach can be reached from Cape Town via the spectacular Chapmans Peak Drive which also provides the best views of Noordhoek beach. The other side of the beach ends at the rustic seaside village of Kommetjie.
16. Hartenbos beach in Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay hosts various popular beaches like Diaz beach, Glentana beach and Klein Brak beach. We visited Hartenbos beach just outside Mosselbay and really loved it. It has nice white sand with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Paternoster is a small picturesque seaside town on the west coast of South Africa. The village attracts a lot of local visitors, especially during the summer and wildflower season, when the whole area turns into a carpet of spectacular colours. Many people are attracted by the white houses of the Cape Dutch architecture, great seafood and of course the long stretch of white sandy beach. It is perfect for a weekend getaway, to observe the marine bird life and to enjoy some tranquil, peaceful beach time.
14. Platboom beach in Cape Point
Most people visiting the Cape Peninsula will head straight for the lighthouse at Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. The peninsula is actually a very beautiful national park, with lots of wildlife and beautiful nature and scenery. There are also some very pristine and deserted beaches to be discovered in the natural reserve. Platboom beach has soft white sand, some great and unique scenery and most of all, hardly any visitors. When we were there, we had the whole beach to ourselves while the coaches and tourists were queuing just a little bit further on up the peninsula. Here is where one can truly enjoy the Cape Point and the most South western tip of Africa.
13. Sedgefield beach
Sedgefield, located in the heart of the Garden Route, has five stunning beaches that run into one another along the coastline. Protected by the dunes, the beaches attract lots of families for some sunbathing and swimming. There are demarcated areas that are guarded and safe for swimming.
12. Namaqua National Park beach
Namaqua National Park is best known for its wildflowers and therefore most visited during the wildflower season. These flowers turn the whole area into a carpet of the most amazing colours. The coastal area of the park is home to some amazingly pristine beaches. Mostly of these beaches are visited by travellers staying overnight in the various campsites along the coast. Most of these camps only have 2 to maximum 6 stands so visitors are few. Most of the times you will have these white pristine beaches all to yourself. It is just amazing to discover the Namaqua coastline on a deserted beach, amidst a wide variety marine birdlife.
11. Morgan Bay
Morgan Bay is a quiet and charming seaside town that we discovered when driving through the Wild Coast on our way to the Garden Route. It has beautiful surroundings, a nice lagoon with lots of bird life and a seemingly endless stretch of golden beach.
10. Kraalbaai beach in West Coast National Park
Kraalbaai beach is located on the shores of the Langebaan lagoon in the West Coast National Park, part of Sanparks. It is a narrow stretch of sandy beach, overlooking the beautiful lagoon. Kraalbaai offers plenty of watersport activities like kayaking, fishing, swimming, boating and waterskiing. Since it is only a good hours drive from Cape Town, plenty of families and friends gather for a beach picnic or summer braai (which is a South African barbecue), therefore it can get busy during the weekends. One of the special things to do in Kraalbaai is an overnight stay in one of the house boats on the lagoon
Tip: The beach is located on the tip of the West Coast National Park, take some time to enjoy the bird life or the wild flowers during season. A small entry fee is to be paid for accessing the park.
9. Muizenberg Beach
Muizenberg, a seaside suburb of Cape Town, has possibly one of the most photographed beaches in South Africa. It is home to beautiful Victorian beach houses, lined up in all the colours of the rainbow. Muizenberg has a very active surfing community making it a very popular and vibrant beach attracting many visitors from Cape Town. The water is also significantly warmer on this side of the peninsular, so swimming in the water here won’t send you into hypothermic shock.
8. Wilderness Beach
Wilderness beach is situated in the heart of the Garden Route. A beautiful vast stretch of beach with soft and clean sand making it a great beach for long walks or swimming in the refreshing water. The best view of the beach you get is from the parking lot on the N2 at the mouth of the Kaaiman river. A visit to Wilderness should definitely be on your Garden Route itinerary.
7. St. Lucia
St. Lucia forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is around 240 kilometres north of Durban and is located along the Indian ocean. The pleasant climate and the warm tropical water of the Indian ocean attract many national and international visitors year round to enjoy all the area has to offer. St. Lucia has some very nice unspoilt beaches backed by sandy dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.
6. Umhlanga Rocks beach
Located just north of the city of Durban, Umhlanga is a popular holiday destination for locals as well as international tourists. Swimming is possible all year round due to the warm water of the Indian ocean as well as the pleasant tropical climate of the area. The golden sandy beach is very inviting and swimming is possible in demarcated areas with lifeguards. A paved walkway passes along the beach making it an enjoyable walk for anyone who wants to be close to the sea but not walk on the sand.
5. Coffee Bay – Hole in The Wall
The Wild Coast offers some of the most unspoilt and best beaches in South Africa. Along the entire coastline of the Transkei, one can find the most beautiful and isolated beaches where you will see hardly any other visitors. One of the slightly more visited places on the Wild Coast is Coffee Bay and the spectacular ‘hole in the wall’, a rock formation of a natural arch caused by wave erosion on a tidal island. The nearby beach has an amazing view of this massive landmark. It’s a great place to cool down and relax after visiting the rock formation.
4. Jeffrey’s Bay
Jeffrey’s Bay, locally best known as JBay, is one of the top surf meccas of the world. The seaside town has been attracting surfers from around the globe for many years. The waves in JBay have been regarded as some of the best in the world. So if you love surfing or just like to see another great endless clean beach with white sand, Jeffrey’s Bay is the place to be.
3. Clifton Beach in Cape Town
Clifton beach, one of the more popular beaches in Cape Town, is divided into four parts. They are conveniently known as Clifton 1, Clifton 2,…Clifton 4. Easy? You can reach the beach by walking down the pedestrian stairs from the main road. The 4 beaches are divided by massive granite boulders, giving their visitors much needed shade and shelter from the infamous Cape Town winds during the hot summer months. You will see some of the most spectacular ocean sunsets in South Africa. Unfortunately though, the water here is quite chilly, all year round. It comes fresh from the Antarctic, which is not that far way.
2. Mdumbi Beach
We discovered Mdumbi beach last year while road tripping along the Wild Coast. It is one of the lesser known beaches of that region, compared to the more popular Coffee Bay which is better known to international travellers. We heard it was one of the nicest beaches in South Africa, so we had to make a stop to see for ourselves, and now we think it is too. For us it is one of the best South African beaches we visited. We stayed for almost an entire week. It is a very popular place for surfers who are the most frequent visitors. We don’t surf, but we had a great time walking on the beach and swimming in the warm water. On top of that, during season, you can have some of the best and freshest seafood, such as oysters, caught by the locals.
1. Camps Bay in Cape Town
With the backdrop of The 12 Apostles, Camps Bay beach is definitely one of the beaches with some of the most spectacular scenery and one of the best Cape Town beaches. With palm trees, pristine white sand and turquoise blue water, this beach is mainly used for sunbathing. As with Clifton, the ocean in this part of South Africa is freezing and you will not find many people swimming, not even on a hot summers day. What makes Camps Bay so popular is the location and the many fancy bars and restaurants lined up along the beach, where you can sip a cocktail while admiring the famous golden African sunset over the Atlantic ocean. Call it The Beverly Hills of South Africa, a place to see, and be seen.
What is your favourite beach in South Africa and why?
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