South Africa Beach Resorts
With their crashing breakers, the beaches of South Africa have a very different character to the languid coral-fringed lagoons of the tropical islands that you’ll find further north in Africa. Here you’ll find no palm-thatched sunshades and calm azure waters. And even surprisingly few beach ‘resorts’ in South Africa. Absent too are the souvenir and coconut-touting beach hawkers. In fact, aside from the sheer power of the ocean, the most marked difference is that endless stretches of beautiful South African coastline are remarkably free from tourist development.
When to visit?
The first thing to clear up is that most of South Africa is NOT a year round beach holiday destination. Many people assume that we have a year-round warm climate everywhere in Africa. In fact, the Cape has a distinct winter climate from May to August. Still great for leisurely beach walks but not for slathering on the sun block. So if you want a classic beach holiday in August, then you need to head to northern beaches of KwaZulu Natal …
So how do the locals enjoy the beach? And how and where can sun-starved westerners join in?
South Africa Beach Holidays in the Southern Summer – November to March
The long summer holiday season is Christmas when it is hot and sunny in South Africa. At this time, you must expect to vie with locals for the best places to stay, tables in restaurants, and spots on the beach. But once the South Africans head back to work and school in early January, South Africa’s beaches are surprisingly quiet.
But even in the height of summer, don’t expect the sea temperature in the Western Cape to be anything less than bracing. The cold Benguela current means that the Atlantic waters on the south and west coasts (around Cape Town and Hermanus) are always cold, typically from 13oC to 19oC. (Though I am afraid to say that global warming has led to warmer water recently). The sea temperatures rises as you head east beyond Cape Agulhas (the ‘starting’ point for the Indian Ocean) so that on the Garden Route you can enjoy a reasonable 21-23 oC rising up to very pleasant 25-28 oC in KwaZulu Natal.
The Cape Town beaches on the Atlantic (western) side and False Bay (eastern) side of the Cape peninsula have very different characters. Atlantic beaches have spectacular sunsets, freezing waters for swimming, and trendy people. False bay beaches are more protected, warmer water and the people wear more clothing.
Further along the coach, Hermanus and the Garden Route offer some stunning open stretches of beach, backed by velvety green mountains and spectacular scenery. Once you are past Cape Agulhas (Arniston area) the water temperatures also starts to rise noticeably.
Recommended South Africa beach resorts for this time of year include Last Word Long Beach, Birkenhead House and Robberg Beach Lodge…
Beach Holidays in South Africa in Winter & Spring – July to September
If you are visiting South Africa in our winter – which is the best time to enjoy a safari – then head north to the Indian Ocean coast of KwaZulu Natal or the Eastern Cape.
The Eastern Cape Coast is a great bet for Autumn and Spring with the luxurious Prana Lodge at Cintsa or more comfortable options on the Wild Coast.
The golden sandy beaches of Durban are popular with surfers and families. But, sadly, the once glorious “golden mile” is now past its best. We recommend heading slightly north to the Dolphin Coast resorts of Umhlanga Rocks and Ballito. One of the great benefits of swimming here are the shark nets which protect a total of 40 beaches.
But ideally you will head further even north to coastal Maputaland if you want ‘beach weather’. Here the warm Agulhas current means the water temperatures seldom fall below 20oC. Remote and not easy to get to, theese eco- beach resorts are in some of the most unspoilt parts of South Africa’s coast. Coastal Maputaland is also ideal for combining with a safari with several game lodges nearby.
Recommended South Africa beach lodges include Thonga Beach Lodge and Canelands Beach Club…
Where have all the South Africa beach resorts gone?
South Africa doesn’t really ‘do’ beach resorts. We don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s something to do with the value of the real estate on the beachfront? Or that there is so much to see on safari or elsewhere that every few people come for a ‘week on the beach’. So if you want a resort, with all the bells and whistles, then look at Mauritius and to a lesser extent Mozambique. We do have a small, selection of prime beach hotels however.
Check out our selection of South Africa beach holidays and the best beach hotels below…