A Visit to Clifton Beach

A Visit to Clifton Beach

Cape Town has beaches all along its two coastlines. There is a beach for every mood and moment. Whether you’re after buzzing beachside bars, secluded coves, safe swimming beaches or a romantic spot for a sunset picnic, you will find your spot in Cape Town. This is my second article in a series about the beaches in Cape Town. My next stop is a visit to Clifton Beach.

Clifton is one of Cape Town’s most popular suburbs and host to the most expensive real estate in South Africa. At the foot of its mountain hillside are four magnificent beaches, each known for their own character and beauty. They are among the favourite beaches of locals. But tourists are finding their way here too. Some call the Clifton beaches the best in the country. So a visit to Clifton Beach should be on your to do list here!

Clifton Beach is only ten minutes driving from Cape Town city centre. It consists of four beach coves separated by giant boulders that protect against Cape Town’s south eastern wind. What makes the place even more secluded is that it cannot be seen from the coastal road. You must climb down stairs to get to see the paradise view. The beaches are perfect. Soft white sand and majestic blue water. It is great for hot summer days and holiday atmosphere.

View while walking down the stairs at Clifton Beach
View while walking down the stairs at Clifton Beach

The Four Beaches at Clifton

The beaches are simply named first, second, third and fourth beach. And each cove has a personality of its own, attracting people of all ages. The water is crystal clear and looks amazing on all beaches. But Clifton’s beaches aren’t ideal for swimming. The water temperature is just 12°C (54°F). But on a really hot day, maybe that is not so bad? It is still very nice to stroll along the waterfront and step into the water to go around the big boulders separating the four beach coves here.

Crystal clear waters at Clifton Beach
Crystal clear waters on every Clifton beach

1st Beach

This one attracts locals and tourists staying in the nearby luxury apartments. Dog owners go here for walks since it is an off-leash dog-friendly beach. It is perfect to escape crowds for a peaceful day by the seaside. If you’re into body or board surfing this spot is great because the current is strong enough for some surfing but never too strong.

Jan Willem Plug enjoying the sand and water
Enjoying the sand and water at Clifton Beach

2nd Beach

This one attracts a lot of laidback young people, especially students. This is the place to go for a classic beach day. You can play volleyball here, enjoy beach bats and play with your frisbee. And it is all still pretty secluded in this second cove. The sand and water are just as beautiful as in the other coves here. It is just the audience and atmosphere that makes it different.

Third Clifton Beach
The third Clifton beach

3rd Beach

Clifton’s third beach is a nude beach. But it’s not exclusively nude. In fact, when I was there no-one was sunbathing naked. But baring it all is no problem here, if you want to. And the beach is open to everyone. The beach is not as crowded as the popular neighbouring beach, and the weather conditions are always perfect for catching a tan. If you want to get away from any buzz then this is the place to go and relax.

4th Beach

The fourth beach is the biggest and most popular of the four beaches. There are a lot of trendy people here showing off their toned bodies but also many families building sandcastles. It is a more classic kind of beach with a great holiday atmosphere. The sand is soft and beautiful to see. You can watch yachts go by and just lie and enjoy the sunshine here. Fourth beach holds the Blue Flag status, an international award given to beaches that are clean, safe, offer great amenities and implement environmentally conscious initiatives.

Walking around the boulders to get from one beach to the next
Walk around the boulders to get from one beach to the next
Jan Willem at the boulders during a visit to Clifton Beach
At the boulders

Clifton’s Secret Summer Beach

Now, don’t tell anyone else about this. But there is actually another secret beach here at Clifton. During the summer months, the low tide reveals a secret beach that is only accessible through a path from first beach. Or, you can have direct access if you are lucky enough to own a property on the shore line. This secret beach is named Moses Beach, due to the Papyrus plants that grow along its banks. It is very appealing because of its limited availability. No crowds here! The sand and water are just as perfect as on the other beaches and it is perfectly sheltered from the wind. If you want total peace and quiet while enjoying the sun, this is the place to go during a visit to Clifton Beach. But don’t leave too many footsteps behind so no one else will follow you.

boulders at the waterfront
Each beach cove has its own beauty

Food and Drinks at Clifton Beach

If the water is too cold for you to cool down in, then you can grab a cold drink or – more important to me – ice cream from one of the roaming vendors. There is also a restaurant on top of the stairs next to the parking lot at 4th beach. It is called Bungalow Restaurant and offers plenty of drinks and food with an absolutely amazing view of the ocean and surrounding beaches. By the way, this beach also has all other beach amenities you may need: toilet facilities, cold outdoor showers, umbrella and chair hire, etc.

Fourth beach at Clifton
It can be busy at fourth beach but the atmosphere is great

Sunset Picnic at Clifton Beach

Though most tourists leave the beach after a day in the sun, on long summer evenings it’s the locals that come to wind down before sunset. Many have a picnic on one of the Clifton beaches and watch the beautiful sunset from there. So if you arrive later in the afternoon, you’ll find a cosy atmosphere with blankets spread out on the sand, baskets stuffed with goodies and candles burning late into the night. Please remember it is illegal to drink alcohol on Cape Town’s beaches and you’ll have to carry all your stuff down from the car park – and back up again – via a long series of steep stairs. So you may want to to pack light. The popular beaches are policed to make sure no one leaves any rubbish behind and no one drinks alcohol.

Sunset at the beach
Sunset at Clifton Beach
I love watching the sunset
I love watching the sunset

How to Get to Clifton Beach

All you need to do to get to Clifton is follow the coastal road from Cape Town down south to Clifton. Click here to see a close up of the area. Remember, it is a popular spot during the summer and parking is scarce. So make sure to arrive early to secure a parking spot in the small parking area near 4th beach or anywhere along Victoria Road. But do not block the traffic or you may be fined. You can also just use an Uber to avoid the any stress of finding parking. And remember to pack light as all the beaches are only accessible via stepped pathways and winding, narrow staircases. Enjoy your visit to Clifton Beach!

If you haven’t done so already, check out another special beach not too far away from Clifton by clicking here. Boulder Beach has boulders just like the beaches at Clifton (no surprise there) but it’s the inhabitants of the beach that make it really special.

Jan Willem Plug walking on the beach
Walking the beach
Jan Willem watching the ocean
Would you get bored here?