The Garden Route is blessed with many sublime beaches dotted along its varied shoreline. Ranging from deserted, wide-open stretches to tiny coves, there are beaches for all tastes, many of which have been awarded Blue Flag status. This is an international accreditation awarded to beaches that meet 33 criteria in four main categories: environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, and safety and services. The Garden Route has 17 beaches that meet these criteria, more than any other region in South Africa. Blue Flag season generally covers the summer months, daily from 10h00 to 18h00.
Situated at the mouth of the Breede River, this four-kilometre sweep of pristine white sand is great for whale watching and long walks. The beach is particularly white (hence its name) because underground water leaches the iron-oxide coating from the sand, leaving it pearly white. There’s good swimming and the adjacent lagoon is great for all manner of water sports. It’s particularly popular with kitesurfers and anglers.
This lovely stretch of coast has sandy beaches, coves and rock pools for children to swim safely and explore at low tide. There’s a fine walking trail here (stop for a soft-serve ice-cream at Drie Pikkewyne Restaurant), and the fishing is excellent. Jongensfontein also offers a fun wave for surfers.
The village of Stilbaai (or Still Bay) has a peaceful, relaxing beach. Surfers take to the waves and kitesurfers join them when there’s enough wind. As it’s safe for swimming, children take to the water in droves while parents soak up the sun. For fishing folk, this is a good area to cast a line. Look out for southern right whales in winter and spring.
Lappiesbaai Beach is another attractive Blue Flag beach in Stilbaai. This wide stretch of unspoilt sand is great for lazy sunbathing. The sea is relatively warm, making it ideal for swimming, surfing, kitesurfing or SUPping. The long sweep of sand is great for ambling – keep a lookout for pansy shells.
Yet another attractive Stilbaai beach, Preekstoel is named after a famous rock outcrop in the shape of a church pulpit. The beach boasts endless unspoilt sand, rock pools and the remains of a shipwreck. Situated in a Marine Protected Area, it’s characterised by expansive white dunes, the mouth of the Goukou River and distinctive, yellow rock formations.
Located in the sleepy village of Gouritsmond, the lovely curved beach that plugs the mouth of the Gourits River is wide, pristine and beautiful. At each end, there are ochre-coloured rocks and a web of rock pools. Fishermen cast their lines here, while little ones clamber about exploring. When the waves are small, the beach is also great for swimming.
The most popular beach in Mossel Bay has soft white sand and offers safe, protected bathing for the whole family. Over the summer holiday season, lifeguards are on duty daily to keep an eye on the crowds. Live entertainment and events are also frequently held on the beach at this time.
This is a small, secluded and relatively quiet Mossel Bay beach. It’s a safe cove with warm water and tiny waves, making it ideal for families with children. The two reefs that flank De Bakke offer good snorkelling and fishing, and the beach is backed by grassy verges for sand-free picnicking.
Just north of Mossel Bay, Hartenbos Beach is a long, pristine strip of white sand. The sea is relatively warm and ideal for a host of water activities. The public amenities are first rate with recently renovated ablution facilities and plenty of parking. The beach also has a series of ramps offering easy wheelchair access.
This lovely beach and its adjacent river mouth lies 15 kilometres northeast of Mossel Bay. It’s a long stretch of golden sand, perfect for romantic sunset ambling. The river is great for water sports such as waterskiing, kayaking and fishing. During the winter months, the coastline here is a prime spot for whale watching.
Another long white beach, Glentana is untouched. You reach the sand down a set of wooden stairs or simply enjoy the view from benches on the grass above. Glentana has good facilities, including ablution blocks, outdoor showers and a restaurant.
Grab a deckchair and umbrella from the rental stand and pick your spot on the stunning white sands of Robberg Beach. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, you can walk for kilometres along this stretch between Beacon Island and Robberg Peninsula (look out for pansy shells). The swimming is good, as is the surfing and boogie-boarding. Alternatively, amble along the boardwalk and decks and take in the breath-taking views.
Lookout is the most popular beach in Plettenberg Bay with endless sand and warm water. Situated close to the town’s centre, Lookout enjoys a spectacular setting with views of the Keurbooms River and Tsitsikamma Mountains in the distance. In the winter and spring, southern right whales frequent this bay, while playful dolphins are in regular attendance.
Keurbooms Beach is the wilder, less frequented cousin to Plettenberg Bay’s popular beaches. Situated to the east of the Keurbooms River mouth, the beach is backed by a lovely lagoon, a playground for kayaking, waterskiing, boating and fishing. The surfing here can get very good in the right conditions.
One of the newer beaches on Plettenberg Bay’s Blue Flag list, The Dunes is located adjacent to Keurboomstrand. It’s a wild stretch of untouched coastline with uninterrupted views across the bay to Plett and Robberg beyond. Look out for daily dolphins antics in the surf.
Plett’s newest Blue Flag beach is set beside the famous Enrico’s Restaurant. This cove is a little treasure – a lovely spot for swimming, or take a walk to nearby Arch Rock at the mouth of the Matjies River (there’s always the promise of refreshment at Enrico’s when you return). Anglers can try their luck here as the fishing is said to be good.
The lovely beach at Nature’s Valley is set between two national parks and is also the termination point of the famous Otter Trail. While heavy seas often make swimming here a little tricky, the lagoon is great for kayaking and swimming. Anglers enjoy both rock and surf fishing, or even fly fishing on the lagoon.