Camps Bay has the sweeping palm-fringed beach that features on the classic Cape Town postcard; Noordhoek has the deserted acres of white sand; and Hout Bay has the breakers surfers seek. But, it's to Clifton Beach, on the western extremity of Cape Town's border, that the really beautiful people flock.
There are four beaches at Clifton that are simply named First, Second, Third and Fourth Beach. The coves are separated from one another by giant granite boulders and, while each bay is as beautiful as the last, they all have loyal and distinctive followers. First is the hardest of the four beaches to reach and tends to be the quietest. Second Beach cranks up the style stakes a little: think young dudes in baggy board shorts, and cute women in surfer-chick outfits. Third is incredibly popular with gay people, and is packed with international queens sporting six packs, particularly during the busy Christmas and New Year holiday.
Fourth, however, is the ultimate Cape Town spot for the bold and the beautiful to flout their good looks. How did Clifton become so desirable? Well, unlike many of the beaches on the Atlantic seaboard, it's sheltered from the unpleasant Cape southeastern wind.Also, if you are grand, you can bring your motorboat right into the bay.
Clifton is only a short drive from central Cape Town. The only other sensible way to come here - presuming you haven't got a yacht - is by taxi. And if you do come by car be prepared to do some perilous parking on the busy cliff-edge road. Then it's down steep stairs to the beach. You can buy refreshments from the cabins on the road, though once you've hired your umbrella and lounger, you will soon hear the cry of the hawkers offering soft drinks, and a local speciality, granadilla lollies.
The city of Cape Town promotes itself as an all-year destination, but to make the most of the beaches you really don't want to be there during the Southern Hemisphere winter (May to August). And, be warned: the Atlantic waters are so cold that many never even dip their feet into the sea.
The whole city is nearby, or, alternatively, you could drag yourself off to ride the cable car to the top of the nearby Table Mountain (Kloof Road, which starts in Clifton, will take you all the way there). Camps Bay with its hip restaurants - try Blues or The Codfather for the freshest seafood - is the next beach along from Clifton.
Apply another coating of suntan lotion. Clifton is not really a beach for the overactive. Many people Frisbee and beach volleyball, but this place is more about being seen and being part of the beautiful set.
Although there are no big hotels in Clifton, you won't be disappointed by the accomodation: most people who stay here rent one of the swanky beach-side cottages. Nearby is the smart Bay Hotel Camps Bay, and the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa. If you want cute, the best boutique hotel is Kensington Place in Higgovale, a 10 minute taxi ride away.
The Clifton Beach House serves simple food and sundowners, but if you're in search of nightlife you have to go to Camps Bay for its bars and restaurants, or back into the city where the Waterkant district is the place to find the happening restaurants, bars and clubs.
Bay Hotel Camps Bay
69 Victoria Road, Camps Bay (00 27 21 430 4444, www.thebay.co.za)
The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay (00 27 21 438 2016)
Clifton Beach House
72 The Ridge, 4th Beach, Clifton (00 27 21 438 1955)
41 The Drive, Camps Bay Corner, Camps Bay (00 27 21 438 0782)
38 Kensington Crescent, Higgovale (00 27 21 424 4744)
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