Clifton Beach: Cape Town’s Four Stunning Beaches in One
🖋️ By Deb | 🗓️ February 7, 2023 | 📁 Clifton Beach
Clifton Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, is a stunning stretch of white sand beach. Tucked in between Sea Point and Camps Bay in a luxurious, high-end suburb, this one should definitely not be missed.
This area is actually comprised of four separate beaches, each offering unique experiences to visitors. It provides an idyllic setting for relaxation and exploration.
From the surfers’ paradise of 1st Beach to the trendy stretch of 4th Beach, this spot has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway or an active day in the sun, Clifton Beach is the perfect destination.
With its crystal clear, icy waters and breathtaking views of Lion’s Head and the 12 Apostles mountain range, this just might be your best beach experience ever.
It’s certainly a favourite of photographers and filmmakers from all over the world for a reason.
This stunning stretch of white quartzite sand is actually 4 separate coves. Each cove’s beach is called by its number, starting with 1st Beach on the north end, to the southern 4th Beach.
There is actually a 5th Beach from time to time, called Moses Beach for the papyrus that grows there. It appears on the north side of 1st Beach when the waves bring sand in and lay it down.
It disappears again when the sand is washed out. This beach comes and goes with the seasons, and there’s no telling whether it will be there for you or not. That’s part of its magic. It’s more likely to appear in summer, though.
The waters of Clifton Beach are icy all year round, lurking around 10ºC. They do warm up a bit in the winter due to the winds, but swimming and splashing in the water isn’t the main reason for visiting.
A day at Clifton Beach is about sunshine, beach sports, and most importantly, seeing and being seen. People-watching is an art form, and there’s no better place to practice.
While everyone is welcome on any of the Clifton beaches, each of these individual paradises has its own personality. Read on to find your perfect spot.
Clifton’s 1st Beach is known for its strong surf and is naturally most popular with board and body surfers. Closest to Sea Point, it’s also a favourite of locals, especially those with dogs who love the beach.
The cove of 1st Beach is a designated off-leash area for our furry friends. There’s nothing more fun than to see happy dogs at the beach. However, if you’re not a fan of dogs, you might prefer to wander on the next cove.
The opulent and sumptuous apartments that overlook 1st Beach are popular with locals and visitors alike. There are many options in the area, though, from top of the top end, to regular people hotels that won’t require selling an organ on eBay.
There’s also everything in between, so if you’d love to spend a night or two enjoying Clifton Beach, have a look at your choices.
* Clean and tidy ablution facilities are available at 1st Beach.
Students tend to gravitate to 2nd Beach. You’ll find young people playing volleyball and frisbee, as well as touch rugby in the sand.
Beach bat is another popular beach sport at 2nd. This is played with a tennis-style ball and small round bats, or what I would call a paddle – no net required.
In addition, waves on 2nd Beach are a bit gentler than those north on 1st Beach. If you’re not an experienced surfer, you might want to try these ones out.
One of the draws of Clifton Beaches is the fact that they’re all somewhat protected from Cape Town’s infamous winds. They sit in the “wind shadow” of Lion’s Head Mountain, which sits to their eastern side.
Second and 3rd Beaches, though, are the calmest if you’re looking to escape the breeze on especially windy days.
Third Beach is a gathering place for the beachgoing gay community, the majority of whom are often men. You can usually count on a fun and festive atmosphere in this cove.
Due to its smaller size, 3rd is often emptier than the others. It’s favoured by anyone who prefers a more chilled spot with fewer beach sports and more quiet.
This beach is also perfect for those looking for a bit of seclusion or a romantic evening stroll along the shore. And, as is 2nd Beach, 3rd is a bit more out of the breeze.
The largest of the Clifton Beaches, 4th Beach is the ideal spot to lie in the sun and watch the world go by. It’s the most popular of the 4 coves, and it’s the least built-up.
Teenagers flock to 4th, as do the glamorous. You’ll also see picnics in the sand and families building sandcastles. If you can’t decide which beach to visit, start here. You may decide to stay – there’s room for everybody!
Because the waves are smallest here at 4th Beach, this is where yachts and small boats anchor. It’s also the calmest for swimming and of course the least likely surf spot.
Fourth Beach is closest to Camps Bay, which makes it closest to the Maiden’s Cove Braai Area – that’s barbeque or grill area to some. Maiden’s Cove sits between Camp’s and 4th Beach. Zoom in on the map for more details.
Bring something to throw on the braai, and extend your day at the beach by watching the sunset. It’s the perfect end to the day. Or, pack a cooler and make yourself at home.
Fourth is also near the hot spot The Bungalow. You’ll find this modern eatery in the former location of La Med. It’s a fantastic spot to enjoy lunch with excellent food and even better wine.
My favourite part of Bungalow is the late-night beach bar! After 11 pm, the establishment transforms with an underwater theme. Be sure to stop in at least once.
On top of all of its other attributes, 4th Beach is also the only one to have been awarded international Blue Flag Status.
This prestigious award is given to the cleanest, safest beaches with the best amenities. It also recognizes a beach’s environmentally conscious initiatives.
Clifton Beach Map
Clifton Beach Facts & Tips
- the four beaches are accessed by climbing down long, steep flights of stairs from the street and car park. Keep this in mind when deciding how much you’re going to take to the beach with you.
- umbrellas and lounge chairs can be rented at the beaches for a reasonable price. This is much easier than dealing with your own on the stairs.
- drinks and popsicles can be purchased from vendors at the beach. The vendors are a part of the fun, and can also offer some great tips on the area.
- packing a small cooler with drinks and picnic food is a great idea, and a lot of people bring a picnic to watch the sunset. But remember, alcohol is illegal on the beaches, and the area is policed.
- Parking is scarce, especially in the summer. You have a better chance of finding a spot in the lot at 4th Beach or along Victoria Road if you arrive early. An alternative is to take an Uber instead.
- Clifton Beach is on the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour Route. This is a highly recommended way of seeing Cape Town and surrounding areas like Clifton’s Beach. You can hop off the bus and spend time anywhere along the route and then hop back on again. Learn more about it on this page.
- The same phenomenon that causes the waters to warm up in the winter (May-August), also alters the size of the beaches. Sand is stripped from the beaches in the winter, and redeposits it throughout the summer (September-April). The beaches are at their widest at the end of summer.
- High-season for tourists is around November to March. This is when you’ll find that the beaches are the most crowded, and the prices are the highest.
Activities Near Clifton Beach
Clifton Beach is only about a 15-minute drive from Cape Town’s V & A Waterfront. You can easily spend a beautiful day at the beach, and still enjoy a night out on the town in a Cape Town nightclub.
But there are a lot of things to do right near Clifton Beach, too. Here are a few ideas:
- Hiking Lion’s Head Trail
- Exploring Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
- On the first Sunday of every month, join the “Polar Bears” as they take on a 1600 m swim. Meet up and register on 4th Beach at 8 am for newbies, and 9 am for others.
- The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is a perfect way to catch a glimpse of the entire area. Hop off and enjoy what you see now, or remember what looks good to you, and visit later in your trip! You can get a good look at the 12 Apostles Mountain Range from the bus, too.
- Wander south down Victoria Road and check out the shops and cafes in Camp’s Bay. Make sure to stop at The Promenade.
Where to Stay
Clifton is a very posh section of town, and if you’re looking for luxury you’ll have no trouble finding it. But even if you’re on a budget, you’ll be able to afford a few nights in this neighbourhood.
Have a browse through the map to find accommodations in all price ranges. At a glance here are some highly recommended options.
➤ O on Kloof Boutique Hotel & Spa: with a pool and free parking. Here’s what a past guest said about O on Kloof:
“Fabulous Stay! If you enjoy privacy and luxury, this is the place fir you. Easy check in and warm welcome. Well decorated cosy rooms with comfy beds. Indoor heated pool right outside our doorstep. Also has a small work out area. Very good spa also on premises. It is an uber pick up point with ubers no more than 3 mins away. Easy acces to many resturants and shops via uber. Highly recommended. 5 stars!“
⭐️ Rated: 8.4 out of 10
➤ Kayleeway Apartments:, with its own kitchen and free parking. Here’s what a past guest had to say about Kayleeway:
“More than my expectations. Neat and Modern apartment for family or business trip. Overall rating for me would be 100%“
⭐️ Rated: 9.2 out of 10
➤ The Walden Suites 1 km from Clifton Beach, with a pool, free parking, and an airport shuttle. Read this great review:
“I’ll definitely come back. I recently stayed at The Walden Suites and I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. The host, Melanie, was incredibly welcoming and went above and beyond to make sure my stay was comfortable. The staff was also incredibly friendly and made me feel at home.
⭐️ Rated: 8.8 out of 10
From V & A Waterfront, Clifton Beach, in the affluent Clifton suburb of Cape Town, can be reached via 3 different routes.
Depending on the traffic, you can take M6 or M61 southbound. Once you reach High Level Road on M61, you can decide to turn left and follow it.
Either way, High Level Road and M61 will merge onto M6, which is also called Victoria Road at this point, near Queen’s Beach. Watch the road signs, and as you get close to the beach you’re aiming for, either find a spot (fingers crossed) on Victoria Road or turn right into the 4th Beach parking lot.
Once again, Uber is a terrific alternative, as you can enjoy sightseeing on the ride and have no worries about parking. The Hop-on Hop-off Bus, too, is highly recommended. Learn more about that on this page.
Is Clifton Beach a private beach?
Anyone at all is welcome at any of the Clifton Beaches. Even though it may seem that there are mostly students, for example, at one of the beaches, it is by no means exclusive to students.
Can you swim at Clifton Beach?
You definitely can swim at any of the Clifton Beaches. The water is a beautiful clear blue and looks incredibly inviting, especially on a hot day. However, the water is COLD, most of the year. Summer temps average around 10ºC, and warm up just a bit in the winter.
Is Clifton Beach free?
There is no charge to enjoy any of Clifton Beaches. Parking in the lot at 4th Beach is free as well.
Which of the Clifton beaches is best?
The best of the Clifton beaches depends entirely on what you are looking for. They are all beautiful, white sand beaches with gorgeous turquoise blue water.
In general terms, surfers and locals prefer 1st Beach, students flock to 2nd. Third is popular with the gay community, and 4th Beach is well-loved by everybody, especially the glamorous and glamour watchers.
✔️ Get a free Printable Travel Bullet-Journal 📚 for your trip Plus more
info on Travelling in Africa – Join the Club!
Summing It Up – Clifton Beach
Clifton Beach in Cape Town, South Africa is an idyllic stretch of white sand and crystal clear blue waters. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway or an active day in the sun, Clifton Beach has something for everyone.
Its four pristine beaches each offering unique experiences. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the 12 Apostles mountain range and Lion’s Head, explore the vibrant world beneath the waves and spot local glitterati.
When visiting Clifton Beach, visitors are sure to leave with unforgettable memories of South Africa’s natural beauty.
Read more about South Africa:
➵ Find the South Africa Luxury Tour of Your Dreams
➵ Does Snow Fall in Cape Town: The Surprising Facts
➵ Soar with the Clouds: Top Hot Air Balloon Rides in South Africa
➵ Penguin Beach South Africa: THE Place to See Penguins in Their Natural Habitats
➵ Find Your Dream Destination in Africa