South Africa’s beautiful and windswept coast is the country’s face to the rest of the world – turbulent and subdued, stormy and magnificent. It runs down the western coast of Africa before climbing into warmer Indian Ocean waters to the east.
In total, the nation has more than 2,850 kilometers (1,770 miles) of coastline, making it a treasure trove of sandy beaches. Where should beachgoers go?
Cape Town and the Western Cape at large is known for its breathtaking beaches. However, there are many more pleasures to be discovered along South Africa’s enormous coastline, from isolated beaches tucked away in national parks to renowned surfing spots on the Sunshine Coast.
South Africa’s beaches have everything from sunbathing to surfing and whale-watching in the right season. Here is our selection of the top beaches in South Africa to help you choose your ideal stretch of sand. We haven’t ranked them because each one is special for different reasons. It’s simply not possible to rank the best beach in South Africa.
Clifton 4th Beach, Cape Town, Western Cape
Clifton’s beaches provide excellent sunbathing opportunities and exciting (read: freezing) swimming possibilities. However, 4th Beach is the standout performer.
This is the only Blue Flag beach in the four sheltered sections of sand along Victoria Road. Couples and groups of young people have candlelit picnics on Fourth from sunset onwards on quiet summer evenings, especially Valentine’s Day night. Clifton Beach is unequivocally one of the best beaches in South Africa.
Langebaan Beach, Western Cape
Langebaan’s lovely surroundings at the mouth of the Langebaan Lagoon in West Coast National Park have made this seaside resort a popular holiday destination for South Africans. The area is known for water sports, particularly kite surfing and windsurfing on the lagoon.
For those who just want to relax, there are fantastic sunset views over Saldanha Bay and several great swimming beaches. Langebaan Main Beach is the best of the bunch.
Mabibi Beach, KwaZulu-Natal
At this unspoiled beach in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, sand dunes and coastal forest provide a backdrop to golden silica sands and lapping waves.
The waters are ideal for swimming and even better for snorkeling along the coral reefs offshore. Offshore scuba diving is also excellent. The beach is accessed via sand-covered roads, which makes it quiet and uncluttered.
Second Beach, Port St Johns, Eastern Cape
On the Wild Coast, Port St Johns’ main attraction is its vibrant centre, Second Beach. Locals visit this lovely stretch of sand to soak up the sun during the day and party as the sun sets.
Wandering down to the surf’s edge and spotting Nguni cattle lazing on the sand are two of Port St John’s most popular activities. Paddling on the beach’s edge is fine, but don’t go any deeper. Rip currents are common, and there have been shark attacks in the bay.
Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
The British won their 1806 battle for the Cape at this peaceful seaside suburb, which overlooks Robben Island. The spectacular vista of Table Mountain across Table Bay is magnificent. When the winds picks up, kite-surfers and windsurfers frequent the beaches as well.
Watching them ride the waves on the weekends is always an impressive sight. You can also see Robben Island clearly from here. Bloubergstrand is a good example of a poetic Cape name – it means “blue mountain beach.”
Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, Cape Town
You don’t go to Boulders Beach for the sand and waves; you come here to see birds. A colony of 3000 delightful African penguins lives in this beautiful spot, which features enormous boulders separating small sandy coves.
The Boulders Visitor Centre at the Foxy Beach end of the protected area – part of Table Mountain National Park – contains a boardwalk that runs to Boulders Beach.
Willis Walk leads down to the white-sand beach, where you may mingle with waddling penguins and even swim (just be aware of a slightly fishy odor). Do not attempt to pet the penguins; they are wild animals with sharp teeth that can cause significant injuries.
Golden Mile, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
Durban has a stretch of beaches and promenades that run from the Blue Lagoon (at the mouth of the Umgeni River) to uShaka Marine World on the Point, a “Golden Mile” area known for its wealth of restaurants, bars, and entertainment. Bay of Plenty Beach is Durban’s most popular beach, with people flocking there to sunbathe and participate in various water sports.
At the southern end is uShaka Beach, a secluded beach that’s ideal for families and local sand sculptors. Towards the north is Suncoast Beach, where you may rent loungers and umbrellas. Blue Lagoon Beach is further north, offering playgrounds and food stalls making it ideal for families.
At the beaches, good signage provides maps and names of the various beaches as well as what activities are authorized. The surf and currents at Durban’s beaches can be hazardous. Always swim in patrolled regions that are designated by flags. Swimmers may avoid being eaten by sharks by utilizing nets set up in the ocean.
Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town, Western Cape
The Muizenberg Beach Victorian bathing cabins have become iconic images of Cape Town, and the surf isn’t bad either! At this surfing hotspot, surfboards can be rented and lessons may be booked at a variety of stores on Beach Road.
The beach gently slopes, and the sea is typically less hazardous here than elsewhere along the peninsula. A water park located at the western end of the beach is another popular destination for tourists with children in tow.
The beaches on the False Bay (eastern) side of the Cape Peninsula are not as spectacular as those on the Atlantic side, but they are several degrees warmer and can be as warm as 23°C (73°F) during South Africa’s summer, making swimming more pleasant here. Shark spotters monitor the beach for sharks that occasionally pass by.
Thonga Beach, KwaZulu-Natal
Peeking through the vegetation, you can see the sparkling Indian Ocean just ahead of you, and staying in a thatched bush suite surrounded by a coastal dune forest might be yours. That’s what Thonga Beach on northern KwaZulu-Natal has to offer.
Thonga Beach is part of a 20-kilometre stretch of golden sand that attracts visitors from all over all the country. Thonga offers some of the best snorkeling and off-shore scuba diving in the country, and you can view turtles laying eggs at different times throughout the year. Check out The Green House at Thonga Beach Lodge to add extra zing to your holiday.
Kings Beach, Gqeberha, Eastern Cape
Gqeberha (formerly Cape Elizabeth) is a suburb of Algoa Bay on the western coast of South Africa’s Sunshine Coast, and it has several wonderful beaches for bathing and surfing. The bay’s marine life is also intriguing, with dolphins and whales frequently seen throughout the year.
Sunshine and warmth can be found on the golden sandy beaches of Kings, where families go to relax. The beach extends from Humewood all the way to the harbor, where people sunbathe and swim in the shallows. Take great caution in the water because the current is strong. Summerstrand has some quieter beaches.
Noordhoek Beach, Cape Town, Western Cape
On this magnificent five-mile stretch of beach, surfers and horse riders reign supreme, but swimmers are deterred by the powerful winds, chilly water and currents. It’s preferable to get wet by splashing in the little pools at the beach’s edge rather than going into the water.
The Hoek, as it is known to surfers, has a great right beach break at the northern end that can handle big waves. It is usually surfed at low tide and is best with a southerly wind. The rusted shell of the steamer Kakapo sticks out of the sand like a strange sculpture in the middle of the beach. It ran aground here in 1900 on its maiden voyage from Swansea, Wales, to Sydney, Australia.
Kraalbaai Beach, Western Cape
At this breathtaking white-sand beach on the Western Cape’s west coast, you could be forgiven for believing you’ve been teleported to the Maldives. It’s that spectacular.
To add to the attraction, the water is shallow, calm, and warm, making it perfect for swimming even for younger children. If you want to avoid sunbathing, there are a number of activities available. These include boating, waterskiing, kayaking, and birdwatching (flamingoes arrive in September).
A number of houseboats tie up in the lagoon’s shallows, providing a one-of-a-kind lodging experience. There is a wooden walkway, jetty, and washing stations, as well as a picnic area and braai (barbecue) area. Every spring, the Postberg Flower Reserve bursts into spectacular bloom outside Kraalbaai.
Gonubie Beach, Eastern Cape
The entrance to Gonubie Beach, located north of East London along the Sunshine Coast, is breathtaking. You’ll travel along a 450m (1500ft) elevated boardwalk that shields the sand dunes as you approach a picturesque tidal pool at the mouth of the Gonubie River.
Fish may be found in the clear water, constructing sandcastles on the white-sand beach and searching for shells. Picnic tables, fire pits, and a playground are available. The boardwalk is an excellent location to view whales and dolphins throughout the year, as well as surfers riding the offshore waves.
Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape
The once-remote village of Coffee Bay, which has become something of an essential Wild Coast stop for backpackers and South African hippies. This is thanks to its beautiful long sandy beach edged by stones and stunning surrounding scenery. This includes the rock arch known as the Hole in the Wall, has grown popular among travelers from around the world.
The village is uninteresting, but it’s an ideal base for those who want to explore the Wild Coast’s dramatic shoreline and surf the breaks.
Platboom Beach, Western Cape
This beautiful, wild beach, which is known as the Cape’s most deserted beach. It nestles into the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve’s coastline. It’s a great place to sunbathe on the smooth white sand. Kitesurf and windsurf are among the activities available.
The unique animals that may be seen on this beach include ostriches, baboons, and eland (huge antelopes).
Ducks, geese, terns, gulls, and sandpipers can all be seen. Sandboarding and surfing the huge waves are both fun activities to do here. Be advised that there are no lifeguards and the water is quite chilly.
Robberg Beach, Western Cape
The lovely Garden Route is home to breathtaking beauty, but Robberg Beach is something unique. Its beautiful white sand beach faces warm waters of Plettenberg Bay with mistsy mountains on the horizon, extending for miles between Robberg Peninsula and Beacon Island.
In the summer, you may observe dolphins and whales from the beach. One can also sometime see seals. There is a boardwalk, washing stations, and umbrella rentals available. Lifeguards are also on duty at the beach’s southern end. The Robberg Nature Reserve has beautiful hiking routes with breathtaking views of Cape Town’s coast.
Nahoon Beach, East London, Eastern Cape
East London’s beautiful, white-sand beach is just as lovely as its neighbor Palolem Beach. The sea here is equally stunning, and sunbathers and surfers will both be delighted. At the south end of the beach is Nahoon Reef, a reliable reef break with good surfing prospects. For those who are less confident in the pounding surf, the Nahoon River mouth offers secure swimming.
Bordjiesdrif Beach, Western Cape
If you’re looking for a great seaside spot to braai (barbecue, South African style) with friends or family, Bordjiesdrif is worth a visit. It overlooks False Bay in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve south of Cape Town.
The circular braai areas make for a great gathering place. While the grillmasters are at work, youngsters can soak in a tranquil tidal pool or seek for sea creatures. Don’t be alarmed if a local ostrich or little buck goes by. Picnic tables are available, but you’ll need to bring your own grilling grids and firewood.
Dolphin Beach, Jeffrey’s Bay, Eastern Cape
Jeffrey’s Bay on the Sunshine Coast is one of the world’s top surfing locations. Watersports enthusiasts from all around the world visit here to ride waves such as the iconic Supertubes. They are generally regarded as one of the planet’s finest waves.
The peak season for experts is June through September, although novices may learn at any time of year. The main beach in town, Dolphin Beach, is a lovely, broad stretch of sand that has largely been untouched. It’s safe to swim and there are lifeguards on duty during the peak season, making it especially popular with families.