International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Cape Town’s beaches are as equally accessible as its mountains, and as varied as the multicultural locals catching some rays. Overlooked by Lion’s Head, the suburb of Clifton’s four sheltered white-sand beaches, separated by giant granite boulders, are popular for sunbathing and swimming. Their proximity to the city centre sees a diverse selection of sun-seeking locals arriving in vehicles from shiny Mercedes to shared minibus taxis. Fourth beach is an excellent spot for a sunset picnic; facing west it is sheltered from the Cape’s infamous southeasterly wind and also has a prime view of the sun setting over the Atlantic.
The windy, white-sand beach at neighbouring Camps Bay, beneath the Twelve Apostles, has strong surf and lifeguards during summer. The affluent suburb’s beachfront cafes and bars are the hangouts of choice for the city’s beautiful people, who sip their cocktails as a golden sunset spreads across the horizon.
Continuing south, the Cape Peninsula’s beaches get quieter as you head towards the Cape of Good Hope. Horse or pony riding on the broad, sandy 8km-long Noordhoek Beach and into the nearby wetlands and mountains makes for a windblown, cobweb-banishing day out.
Across the peninsula from the suburb of Noordhoek, False Bay arcs away to the east, bookended by distant Cape Hangklip. The bay’s water is about 6C warmer than on the peninsula’s western side due to currents from the Indian Ocean, and the area’s beaches and rock pools attract both swimmers and surfers. The beachfront suburb of Muizenberg, with its colourful row of Victorian bathing chalets, gently shelving beach and safe conditions is a great place to learn how to surf. “The waves are really soft and gentle and the currents and tides aren’t too hectic,” said Gary Kleynhans, a former South African surf champion and the owner of Gary’s Surf School, the oldest in the country. “Intermediate to advanced surfers go to Long Beach, Kommetjie and Noordhoek on the Atlantic side of the peninsula. Kalk Bay is also advanced, but it’s beautiful and round like a baby pipeline.”
Sea kayaking and kite surfing
The Cape Peninsula also offers some surprising sights for sea kayakers. The Boardroom Adventure Centre, conveniently located at the gateway to the peninsula in Hout Bay, offers paddles to the large Cape fur seal colony on Duiker Island and along the rugged coastline to local landmark Chapman’s Peak. Overlooking the warm waters of False Bay, Paddlers runs trips to the Cape of Good Hope, perhaps spotting whales and dolphins en route, and takes visitors to the colony of 2,800 waddling African penguins at Boulders Beach For kite surfing, meanwhile, cross town to the suburb of Bloubergstrand (“blue mountain beach” in Afrikaans), where seasoned instructor Phil Baker offers lessons and equipment hire with Table Mountain and Robben Island views through his company Windswept.
Sandboarding is the closest many locals get to snowboarding There is more chance of generating static than feeling the wind in your hair, but if you wax your board thoroughly, whizzing down dunes is an exhilarating novelty. Mechanized lifts are a long way off, but you can try sandboarding at the town of Fish Hoek on the Cape Peninsula through Gary’s Surf School, or on the towering white-sand slopes in the Atlantis Dunefields, 40 minutes drive up the west coast from central Cape Town. Downhill Adventures, which runs sandboarding day trips to Atlantis, offers packages including skydiving, quad biking and surfing.