“The north-west wind blows with such violence in Camps Bay as to pluck your cabbages right out of the ground and toss the garden soil into clouds of dust,” said an anonymous 19th century Cape diarist. This doesn’t resemble the Camps Bay we know today, which isn’t the kind of place you find many cabbages. Little did the early residents of this Atlantic coast village realise that the hillside would become crowded with exclusive villas and that the coastal track would turn into a beautiful palm-lined boulevard crammed with trendy restaurants and cafés.
Shiny cabriolet cars cruise the strip looking for elusive parking spots and beautiful people reveal their tanned bodies on the soft sandy beach. Described by a Cape Town resident in 1861 as ”the future Brighton of the Cape”, Camps Bay has turned out to be more like St. Tropez. It’s a place for looking cool and fabulous without the least hint that any effort was involved.
Named after Ernst von Kamptz, a Prussian sea captain who came to own the original farm in 1779, Camps Bay was considered a difficult place to inhabit and there were little more than a couple of farm houses and some shepherds’ huts. Even a hundred and fifty years ago, the six mile carriage ride from Cape Town across the shallow neck of Table Mountain, was enough to keep Camps Bay deserted.
Nevertheless, it became one of the favourite seaside resorts of Lord Charles Somerset – a man considered to have good taste – during his term as Governor of the Cape Colony 1814-1826. The sub-tropical impression of Camps Bay does not extend to the water, which will make you zing like a mentholated mint if you should put a toe in. This is the South Atlantic Ocean – next stop Antarctica.
Which is your favourite Cape Town beach and why?