Best South African Beaches for Families

The smell of sunscreen is in the air as the summer holidays begin across the country… schools out, sunshines out, umbrellas are up, beach bags are packed!

Summer is here and I couldn’t be more excited. This is my favourite season (well, I have 3 other favourites too – but for different reasons!)

I love summer for ice creams and braais, camping and sundowners, carefree days and bare toes, swimming and suntanning, early morning beach dips and body boarding, gin & tonics and fresh salads, new swimming costumes and floaty summer dresses, wine farms and days at home and most of all days on the beach!

I know I’m not alone – us South Africans LOVE summer! Come 15 December you most likely won’t find any South African answering their phones or emails for at least 2 weeks. We’re all “Out of Office” at the beach!

Almost every South African family piles their roof racks or trailer to the hilt and heads to the coast for their annual fun in the sun… but where do they head?

I asked some of my favourite bloggers to tell me their favourite South African beach for lazy summer days and thought I’d share my findings with you here…. behold a list of the very best beaches in South Africa for families!

 

Best South African Beaches for families

Western Cape

St James, Cape Town
Best SA Beach of Nicole from Hearts and Hiccups

I have such fond memories of visiting St James as a child, with its brightly coloured beach huts and shell-covered sands. My preferred time to visit St James Beach is in the early mornings of summer, when the crowds are quiet and the tide is low. The tidal pool offers a safe place for your little ones to swim. There are also diligent life-guards on duty during the summer months who keep a close eye on everyone’s safety. There is a lovely restaurant and shop near the beach for your convenience. This really is one of our favourite spots in summer!

Franzkraal
Best SA Beach of Letitia from Baby Guide for the Modern Mother

Our favorite beach to visit with our little girl is definitely Franskraal beach. It’s been our go-to family holiday destination for three generations. Franskraal beach is the complete package; it starts off with rock ponds to explore, rolls into a long stretch of clean open sandy beach with an ideal swimming spot for the older kids while the little ones build sand castles. The beach ends with a lagoon running into the sea that is perfect for little ones to splash in or ride their inflatable boats. There’s even an ice-cream truck to treat the family to some soft serve.

Oudekraal
Best SA Beach of Cindy from 3 kids, 2 dogs & 1 old house

We’d often passed by happy families heading down to Oudekraal and knew we had to visit. We popped in for a sunset braai one evening and it left me feeling in awe of the beautiful beaches we have right on our doorstep.  With braai facilities and lots of shade it’s ideal for a fun family day out and the kids will be able to swim in the little tidal pools, build sandcastles and climb rocks.  Of course it’s beautiful at any time of the day, but I would really recommend staying the for the sunset – it’s perfection!

Hout Bay, Cape Town
Best SA Beach of Sarah and Kris from JetSetting Fools

Hout Bay is located 20 km south of the Cape Town CBD and has a superb beach. Surrounded by mountains, the crescent-shaped Hout Bay Beach is the perfect spot to catch some rays. The long stretch of powdery soft sand is lovely for a stroll. We love to walk toward the west end of the beach to the harbor where there are numerous fresh-caught fish-and-chip restaurants serving some of the best fish we have eaten anywhere in the world. On weekends, after spending some time in the sun, we like to go to the hopping Hout Bay Market for some shopping, live music and fantastic eats.

Gordon’s Bay
Best SA Beach of Johanna Castro from Lifestyle Fifty

Gordon’s Bay was once a small fishing harbour, but it’s grown into a seaside resort with a Mediterranean character. It lies in the Helderberg region of the Western Cape about 45 minutes from Cape Town. The main beach is glorious – flat white sand, gentle waves, soaring mountain ranges, glimpses of Table Mountain and gorgeous sunsets. Around the corner you’ll find Bikini Beach which is more secluded with bigger waves. Beach road, which runs beside the long sandy stretch of beach has restaurants and a yacht and fishing harbour. Gordons Bay was named after Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon, a Dutch military officer and commander of the Cape garrison during the late 1700’s. By the late 19th Century it had apparently established a reputation as the future Brighton of South Africa. During wintertime, from July to November, Gordon’s Bay becomes a whale watcher’s paradise. Southern Right Whales come to feed in False Bay where they give birth to their calves and nurse them until they’re strong and capable of travelling.

Paternoster, West Coast
Best SA Beach of Erin Mushaway from Sol Salute

Paternoster is an easy weekend getaway from Cape Town with the small fishing village being only two hours west of the Mother City. The white-washed cottages with blue details remind me of the Greek Isles, but the expansive beach that seems to never end is pure South Africa. We walked down the beach for hours each day, collecting purple seashells left behind by the seagulls. The restaurants served fresh fish, with beachside tables offering views of the sunset over the ocean each night to end a perfect day at the beach.

Windmill Beach, Simonstown, Cape Town
Best SA Beach of Annika Ziehen from The Midnight Blue Elephant 

Windmill Beach is a true hidden gem when it comes to beaches in the Cape Town area. While most people will head to tiny, crowded Boulders Beach in Simonstown to see penguins, I urge you to travel just a little bit further to find a little paradise: Windmill Beach. Even on a nice day, there are usually few people around which I find hard to believe because while the beach is small, it is oh so pretty. White sand, turquoise water – the whole shebang!  And what is even better, the bay is quite sheltered which makes it a lovely place for a swim (if you can brave the freezing temperatures that is!). Best of it all? Penguins may still join you here, coming for a dip from their adjacent hangout so don’t be surprised if you have company in the water all of a sudden.

Diaz Beach
Best SA Beach of Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World

There are many beautiful beaches in South Africa. Many of them are located in the vicinity of Cape Town and easily accessed. One of the most charming ones is Diaz beach. Blissfully isolated (it can only be reached when visiting Table Mountain National Park, on a tour of Cape Point Peninsula), the only way to get there is via a short hike that connects Cape of Good Hope with the lighthouse at Cape Point. A series of steps goes all the way to the beach, blessed with white sand and stormy waters. It’s not the kind of place one would go snorkeling for sure, as the water is freezing cold on this part of the Cape Peninsula, but it still deserves a visit.

Camps Bay
Best SA Beach of Christine Rogador from Ireland Travel Guides

The stunning setting with Twelve Apostles in the background and the pristine white sands are the reasons why Camps Bay beach is one of the best beaches in South Africa. The beach is located in the affluent suburb of Camps Bay known for its million-dollar houses – some of the most expensive properties in the country. The beach is backed by long rows of palm trees and arrays of restaurants, bars and shops in the area making Camps Bay beach as one of the trendiest places in Cape Town. Camps Bay is also family-friendly where people can enjoy a picnic with their loved-ones or enjoy a beach sport with their friends. And, if you’re single, it’s a good place to be seen!

Boulders Beach, Simonstown
Best SA Beach of Shelley from Travel Stained

At Boulders Beach, near Simon’s Town in South Africa, you can relax on a pristine beach, swim in calm blue waters, and cool off in the shadow of a massive granite stone. The undeniable draw though, is the opportunity to get up close and personal with a colony of waddling African penguins. Visit in summertime to see them in their greatest numbers, but if cute and cuddly is what you’re after, go in January to see baby chicks moulting on the beach. Three wheelchair accessible boardwalks provide perfect viewing points for these adorable tuxedo’d birds, but be sure to also examine the surrounding vegetation for nesting penguins and their little ones. Because Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, there’s a R65 conservation fee required to enter. The good news is that this fee, not only helps to protect the penguins, but ensures the beach itself is usually fairly quiet.

Sea Point Promenade
Best SA Beach of Kate from Our Escape Clause

The Sea Point Promenade may not be a beach in the traditional sense, but it’ll definitely make you feel like you’re on the coast! Home to a colorful public pool, bike rental stations, an adorable lighthouse, and plenty of snack stands selling ice cream and other summer treats, the Sea Point Promenade has the feel of lazy summer days of childhood – it’s beautiful, relaxing, and delightful. Of course, the real winner are the views: with the crashing ocean on one side and Table Mountain on the other, a bike ride or stroll along the Sea Point Promenade is nothing short of stunning.

Garden Route

Bollard Bay at Leisure Isle, Knysna
Best SA Beach of Sarah Huddy at The Mommy City

When I visit a beach with my children, my main concerns are: what they can step on to cause an “ouchie” and how strong the water current is. Fortunately at Bollard Bay on Leisure Isle in my home town of Knysna, both the water and beach is safe for children. The water is warm and calm in the lagoon, the parking area is close to the beach, and the view is rather spectacular. Being a family friendly beach, you will usually find other families splashing in the water and new friends to build sand castles with. There is no public restroom, so take this in account when planning your visit.

Rocks pools at the Heads, Knysna

We enjoy exploring the rock pools at the base of the Eastern Heads in our home town of Knysna. You will find starfish, sea anemones and plenty of pretty shells. Once you are done splashing in the water, take a stroll along the various walkways. After your adventure enjoy an ice-cream at the kiosk or relax with a coffee and meal at East Heads Café which also boasts a children’s play area. In high season I recommend parking at the top car park by the roundabout, to avoid the congestion at the lower parking area.

Wilderness Beach, Garden Route
Best SA Beach of Katie Dundas from The Accidental Australian

Wilderness Beach is a stunning and natural beach found along South Africa’s popular Garden Route, near the bustling resort town of George. Wilderness draws acclaim for its unspoilt and undeveloped beachfront, perfect for long beach strolls, swimming, and occasionally surfing. Whales and dolphins can sometimes be seen from the shore. A fascinating nearby attraction is the ‘Map of Africa’ viewpoint – this vantage point looks out over a natural formation of mountain and forest, carved out by a meandering river, creating the appearance of the African continent when viewed from above.

Keurbooms Beach, Plettenberg Bay
Best SA Beach of Elaine & David from Show Them The Globe

Located in the Western Cape along South Africa’s Garden Route, the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay is home to 11 pristine beaches. Affectionately referred to as Plett to locals and fans, six of its beaches boast blue flag status and are among some of the finest in the country. Our favourite Plett beach is the less visited Keurbooms Beach with its rugged beauty, endless white sands and warm Indian Ocean waters. Make sure to grab a balcony seat at Enrico’s, a fantastic Plett Bay restaurant, where the magnificent views often include playful dolphins which are surf in the Keurbooms waters.

Eastern Cape

Cintsa East, Wild Coast 
Best SA Beach of Jessy Lipperts from Planet Pilgrims

One of the best beaches we went to when my daughter was still very small, was definitely Cintsa Beach on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. There was a wonderful shallow lagoon where small kids could play totally safe because there were no waves and the water was nice and warm. It is still one of my loveliest beach memories in South Africa so far.

Sardinia Bay
Nominated by Di Brown of Roaming Giraffe

Situated 17 km west of Port Elizabeth, Sardinia Bay is within a marine reserve and offers six kilometers of unspoiled coastline flanked by impressive sand dunes. Rock pools and tidal areas make it a wonderful beach for families with young children, while the main beach is better suited to experienced swimmers and is popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. Walkers and horse riders love the endless stretch of white sand. The short but steep climb up the sand dune to access the beach is well worth it. Picnic and braai areas and a spotless ablution block add to the appeal of this beach

 

KwaZulu-Natal

Mabibi Beach, Elephant Coast
Nominated by Cristina Garcia from Travel For Wildlife

Mabibi beach is a favorite amongst overlanders and nature lovers. Tucked away from main roads and tourist crowds, Mabibi is a truly wild beach with no development except for Tonga Lodge, a small boutique lodge that blends in with its surroundings, and a rustic campground. Mabibi is a must for nature lovers and a great destination to complement your South African safari. At Mabibi you can snorkel, dive, do some birdwatching, and track leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles during nesting season (November to February). This little-known beach is only accessible through a sandy 4×4 track, making Mabibi the perfect place to unwind, unplug, and have a stunning beach all to yourself during a road trip.

Salt Rock, Umdloti
Best SA Beach of Susann Deysel from Goddess

I’ve been going to Ballito for as long as I can remember. I loved it so much that we’ve bought a place close to our favourite beaches. In the days we had no kids we loved Salt Rock main beach with its small crowds, no hidden underwater rocks and great swimming at low tide. Now, with a toddler in tow, we frequent Granny’s Pool right next to Salt Rock the most and sometimes even take a drive to Umdloti’s tidal pool beach. Granny’s Pool is great for families with young kids – and it doesn’t hurt that there is a pop-up coffee shop in the parking lot.

 

 

So which of these is YOUR favourite family beach? Or do you have another beach to add to this list of best beaches for families in South Africa?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for almost 7 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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