Finding South Africa’s secret beaches

South Africa’s 3 000 kilometres of coastline holds many treasures, unspoilt places hidden from mainstream tourists. Read more to discover the secret beaches all over the country.

south africa's secret beaches noordhoek
Noordhoek’s Long Beach is one of the secret beaches on the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. (Image: Noordhoek Tourism)

Brand South Africa reporter
With a coastline of 3 000km, South Africa has enough beaches to accommodate thousands of sun lovers without ever getting crowded. The beaches near the larger coastal cities get most visitors, of course, and in high summer bathers might have to negotiate a tangle of tanned limbs to get from the sea to their towels.

But there are dozens of other beaches along the country’s coastline where you can find space, privacy, soft sand and clear blue waves.

Cape West Coast

If you want to avoid Cape Town’s main beaches, head up the west coast towards Namibia and you’ll find one spectacular seascape after another. The coastline has stunning wind-lashed scenery and may at times look dry and barren. But in spring the region’s world-famous wild flowers transform the area into a magic carpet of colour.

The long white beaches and rocky outcrops provide some of the most private beaches, not to mention best surfing waves. Secret places to visit include Eland’s Bay, Paternoster, Lambert’s Bay and Yzerfontein.

In summer you can enjoy fresh crayfish at reasonable prices in local eateries. As this side of South Africa is on the Atlantic Ocean, the water is a lot colder than in the warm Indian Ocean to the east. But that doesn’t stop swimmers from enjoying a bracing dip.

Cape Peninsula
While the fashionable Cape Town beaches – particularly Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno – are overrun in summer, visitors can still find sandy solitude. Noordhoek’s Long Beach is a serene sweep of sand over 2km long, backed by beautiful fynbos- covered mountains.

Sandy Bay, just next to Llandudno, is similarly isolated and lovely, as long as one doesn’t mind the nudists for which this beach is notorious.

Blaauwberg offers the best views of Table Mountain and is long enough to avoid people, if that’s what you’re after. Or travel just a little way to the dune-fringed beauties of Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond and Pringle Bay.

Cape East Coast
East of Cape Town, the coastline offers one sleepy seaside town after another, each with its own personality and beaches. Here the Indian Ocean laps the continent with its warm coastal currents. The further east you travel from Cape Town, the warmer the sea gets.

Hermanus is a popular weekend and holiday spot, and the beaches can be crowded. But a five-minute drive out of the village takes you to the more peaceful Grotto Beach.

Follow the coastline north and the gems of Gansbaai, Pearly Beach and Arniston beckon. Arniston, a restored fishing village, is particularly beautiful, and out of season is all but isolated.

Eastern Cape

Those allergic to crowds will want to avoid the seaside havens of Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and George in high season, but again there are beaches just out of town that offer space and scenery aplenty.

Port Elizabeth and East London have places of historic interest as well as some good swimming spots. East London’s Gonubie Beach is one of the country’s prettiest, as yet unclaimed by hordes of beachgoers.

Cape St Francis and Seaview Game Park, both near Port Elizabeth, are similarly untrammelled.

The Wild Coast

Formerly known as the Transkei, this is a breathtakingly beautiful region. It has many remote, rural locations offering unspoiled velvet-green hills and pristine beaches.

Some parts are harder to access, but places with facilities include Mazeppa Bay, Coffee Bay, Hole-in-the-Wall, Trennerys, Mngazi and Presley Bay.

Locals are friendly and hospitable and these are ideal holiday resorts for those wanting nothing more than a beach, a few good surfing waves and perhaps the odd fishing trip.

KwaZulu-Natal

Nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Drakensberg mountains, KwaZulu-Natal is hot, humid and subtropical. These are the best beaches for those who like to float in the sea for hours on end, and the mild temperatures in winter make it an all-year- round holiday destination.

Durban’s beaches can leave one jostling for elbow room in season and nearby towns such as Southbroom and Ballito have recently exploded with holiday homes, but you don’t have to go far to avoid the crowds.

On the north coast, near the Mozambique border, is the ecotourism paradise of Kosi Bay, a pristine estuary surrounded by lush marsh forest, mangrove, ferns and orchids. Take a walk between tanning sessions and you could spot a hippo, a crocodile or a loggerhead turtle.

Nearby St Lucia, a protected nature reserve and one of South Africa’s seven World Heritage sites, has beautiful long beaches and lukewarm water.

Other secret spots include Mtunzini, Zinkwazi and Blythedale. The south coast beaches aren’t quite as isolated, but small towns such as St Michaels, Hibberdene and Umkomaas are less inhabited, particularly in the mild winters.

This is an edited version of an article first published by South African Tourism.

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