South African Beaches

South Africa's beaches span 4 areas, each with its own personality.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

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Amidst South Africa's natural wonders are a series of beaches with striking turquoise waters and sparkling white sandy shores. The beaches span 4 distinct areas, each with its own personality.
South African Beaches

South Africa is known for its great game reserves and the Big 5 -- the buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino. But amidst the natural land-locked wonders are a series of beaches with striking turquoise waters and sparkling white sandy shores.

KwaZulu-Natal Coastline
The KwaZulu-Natal Coast beckons visitors with nice weather and miles of sandy shores. Many beaches in the area boast 320 days of sunshine each year.

Durban is the main hub of activity in KwaZulu-Natal with the best amenities for a beach vacation. South Beach is the place to be along Durban's Golden Mile, with resorts and sunbathing on the sandy golden shores. New Beach is playing host to football fanatics as one of the official hosts of Fan Fest for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. If you can't score tickets to the event, take in a match on the big screen with thousands of other revelers.

South Africa is known for its amazing safari encounters with the Big 5, but the uShaka Marine World offers a different wildlife experience. This park consists of Sea World, an aquarium filled with dolphins, seals, penguins and fish, as well as water rides at Wet 'n Wild and a large beach area with activities including jet-skiing, paddle boats and beach rugby.

Over on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast, Margate is a great family beach with soft golden sand lined with coconut palm trees. The gentle surf is ideal for swimming and boogie-boarding and kids will love the nearby water park and coves, perfect for a rock pool treasure hunt.

Eastern Cape
The beaches on the Eastern Cape range from the family-friendly surf spots around Port Elizabeth to the craggy Wild Coast. Located in Algoa Bay along Port Elizabeth's Sunshine Coast, Hobie Beach has prime real estate in South Africa's water-sports capital. The water is clear, calm and warm, ideal for swimming, but also for boardsailing, kite-surfing, windsurfing and jet-skiing. There's adventure underwater as well with shipwrecks and coral reefs teeming with fish. The fun doesn't end on the sand -- the nearby Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World is a complex of hotels, restaurants and gaming venues.

Serious surfers flock to Jeffreys Bay for first-rate surfing. The best waves roll in between June and August and the area is most crowded during the on-site Billabong Pro world surfing championship every July.

The Wild Coast is a series of secluded beaches bordered by milkwood trees. Mdumbe Beach is an unspoiled gem near Coffee Bay that has great views. The beach is quiet and often empty save some wandering cows that may pass by the surfers on the beach. The Coffee Shack hostel in Coffee Bay is a friendly spot to spend the night when exploring the area.

South African Beaches

Western Cape: Cape Peninsula
The Cape Peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean on the far southwestern reaches of South Africa. The capital, Cape Town, is part of this peninsula as are a number of beaches popular with locals and tourists. Cape Town's most popular beach is the swanky stretch of sand at Clifton Beach. This area is actually divided by large granite boulders into 4 distinct beach areas. The most popular is 4th beach where families play in the sand and beautiful sunbathers doze in rented chaise lounges. Head to 1st beach to join the athletic crew for a game of volleyball.

Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town is South Africa's version of St. Tropez with beautiful people frolicking on the manicured seashore. The water is a bit cold for swimming, but the tiny swimsuits on parade are more for show than water sports. Competing for attention with the sun-drenched sunbathers are the astonishing views of the mountains at Lion's Head and the 12 Apostles.

Located in Simon's Town, just over the mountains from Cape Town, Boulders Beach is easily recognized by the large granite boulders that create beachside nooks and tide pools. But the real draw to this beach is the colony of jackass penguins. These African penguins earned their unusual nickname because they make braying sounds similar to those of a donkey.

It's a challenge to visit Grotto Beach in Hermanus between May and November and not see a whale in the waters of Walker Bay. This quiet and unspoiled beach hosts Southern Right whales who visit in the summer and early fall to play, mate and have babies. And the best part is that visitors can take this in without a trip out to sea as this area is said to have the best land-based whale watching in the world.

Visitors can spot Muizenberg Beach from a distance thanks to the brightly colored row of beach huts lining the shore. Muizenberg has the warmest water and the longest break in the Cape peninsula. The town became a popular seaside getaway in the 1800s. Today, there's a wide range of no-frills hotels and cozy inns that cater to a variety of tourists from multigeneration families to hip young surfers.

Western Cape: Garden Route
The Garden Route lies between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on the southern Cape coast. A great starting point for a visit to the area is Plettenberg Bay, a popular holiday spot with great beaches at Robberg and Lookout. Beachgoers play in the water and relax on the beach enjoying spectacular views of the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains.

About 20 miles from Plettenberg is Noetzie Beach, a secluded getaway that is accessible by a gravel road and a steep climb down a flight of cliff-side steps. The Knysna Castles are a trio of castles that were built on the beach in the 1930s. Today adventurous travelers may stay at 2 of the castles and enjoy luxe rustic accommodations in a turret high above the sea.

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