Blue Flag status is an international accreditation awarded to beaches that meet 33 criteria in four main categories: environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, and safety and services. Cape Town is blessed with 8 beaches that meet these criteria. Blue Flag season covers the summer months, daily from 10h00 to 18h00.
Camps Bay Beach
This majestic sweep of beach with its backdrop of the Twelve Apostles and Table Mountain is world famous. Lined with grassy verges and a row of iconic palm trees, it’s one of the most popular beaches in the Mother City. Although it can be somewhat exposed to the southeaster, on a windless day Camps Bay is utterly magical with blindingly white sands and lime-green waters.
Backed by busy Victoria Road, there are plenty of restaurants, cafés, shops and nightclub close by. Many beach lovers spend the day on the sand, then simply cross the road for drinks at one of the many vibey cafés and to watch the sun slip into the Atlantic.
Clifton 4th Beach
Situated in one of Cape Town’s most affluent suburbs, Clifton’s beaches are a favourite among locals and visitors. Clifton comprises four (actually five) beach coves separated by granite boulders and is well protected from the southeasterly wind. With perfect white sand and incandescent water, Clifton 4th is usually packed with beautiful people. It’s an idyllic spot for sunbathing, beach volleyball, frisbee, beach bats or just people watching. The waters off 4th Beach are also a popular anchorage for yachts and on weekends the bay is crammed with leisure craft. Bring a picnic or grab a cold drink or ice lolly from one of the roaming vendors. As parking is limited, consider using public transport.
Fish Hoek Beach
This warm-water beach on the western shores of False Bay is very popular with families. Its long stretch of sand is great for ambling, while the rocky ‘catwalk’ path (known as Jager Walk) at the southern end is picturesque and relatively protected from the southeaster. The swimming here is excellent, with shark nets and spotters keeping bathers safe. Beginner surfers, SUPpers, kayakers and Hobie Cat sailors all enjoy this beautiful bay with its gentle waves. In the winter and spring, southern right whales are often spotted here. There are two restaurants, a take-out, children’s playground and grassy area for picnics.
This pristine beach is a natural gem with no houses built along its shore. Situated about 15 kilometres south of Cape Town, a narrow road winds down through an exclusive hillside suburb to this sandy cove bookended with enormous granite boulders. A favourite with locals, Llandudno is also a popular surfing beach, although the water can be icy cold when the southeaster is blowing. Pack a picnic and drinks as there are no shops here. This is a great beach for families, games of frisbee and beach bats, or simply for watching the sun sink into the Atlantic at the end of a sizzling summer’s day.
Melkbosstrand literally translates as ‘milk-bush beach’ and refers to the Euphorbia plants that grow on the sand dunes and give off a milky, latex-like liquid. The beach offers stunning views of Robben Island and Table Mountain. Wide, long and safe, it’s perfect for walks and water sports such as kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayaking, fishing and boating (there’s a safe slipway for leisure craft on the north end of Melkbos Point). There’s also just enough of a wave to keep the surfers happy at two spots known as Beach Road and Captains. The beach is backed by lawns for sand-free picnicing, and there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and supermarkets dotted along Beach Road.
About 45 minutes from the city centre lies scenic Mnandi in the suburb of Mitchell’s Plain. The beach is conveniently located for local townships and is effectively a day resort for families and large groups. It combines safe swimming with plenty of amenities and more than 220 parking bays. The waters of False Bay are warmer than the Atlantic seaboard and there’s also a large swimming pool with waterslides to delight the children. Mnandi has vast, landscaped lawns, plenty of picnic and braai spots, and kiosks selling snacks and refreshments.
With its warm water and colourful Victorian bathing boxes, this is perhaps Cape Town’s most family-friendly beach. It’s also the best place on the peninsula to learn to surf, with small and regular waves ideal for beginners. This beautiful coastline comprising kilometres of pristine sand and is popular with dog walkers and every kind of surfer (SUPs are increasingly popular here). You can rent a board and wetsuit from Gary’s Surf School, Xpressions on the Beach, the Surf Emporium or Lifestyle. The beachfront also has a number of coffee shops, bars and café’s for after-surf chilling.
Set on the False Bay coast in Mitchell’s Plain, Strandfontein has the largest tidal swimming pool in the southern hemisphere. The water is warm, but the southeasters can make this beach rather breezy. The swimming is safe with lifeguards on duty during Blue Flag season (December to March). The sweep of white sand is great for long walks (go in a group for safety), watching the sunset or whale viewing in winter and spring. Anglers line the shore casting for the likes of white steenbras and galjoen. Facilities include a slipway for boats, lots of parking, kiosks and braai areas, while events are held in summer to entertain beachgoers at a pavilion set above the pool.