If you are keen for a dip in the ocean, sans the stress of turbulent waves, or shredding surfers, look to Cape Town’s incredible tidal pools. These oceanside spots (some natural, others manmade) give you the best of both worlds: safe waters with boundless sea-and-sky views – ideal for families, or those looking for a more relaxed dip.
Freely available, all they require is for you to arrive at the right time (and to remember your hats and sunblock). While there are over 22 to choose from on our Cape Peninsula, these are our favourites. Wade on in, the water is just fine.
1. St James: Kalk Bay
With its postcard-perfect changeroom huts and stunning views of False Bay, St James is perhaps our best-loved and most photographed pool. Aside from the iconic Instagram worthy shots, the clear and shallow waters, surrounding rockpools, and nearby cafes make this beautiful option a winner for families.
Top tip: During summer, the surrounding beach and tidal pool become especially busy, so it’s best to get there in the early morning to beat the crowds.
2. Camps Bay
Hidden among a row of boulders on Camps Bay beach, this pool has a breathtaking view of the ocean but can be overlooked in favor of the beach. The bustling strip is lined with restaurants, cafés, and bars, so bathers have plenty of options if they need a bite to eat after a day in the water.Top tip: The water here might be on the colder side, but the views up towards the Twelve Apostles make it well worth a visit on a hot summer’s day.
3. Maiden’s Cove: Camps Bay
Not to be confused with Camps Bay (it is just a little walk away), this smaller pool is nestled between the beaches of Clifton and Glen Beach, but boasts equally picturesque views of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles. You can watch the sunset from the grass or small spot of sand nearby.
Top tip: Pack sunscreen along with a picnic if you plan on spending the day there. If you are staying until sunset, bring along a sweater – it can get chilly.
4. Saunder’s Rock: Bantry Bay
The Atlantic coast is famous for its gorgeous sunsets – and its unrelenting wind. Luckily Saunders Rocks pool at Bantry Bay offers the perfect vantage to watch the sun sink into the sea thanks to the huge granite boulders which protect swimmers from the breeze. Stop by late in the day for a refreshing swim, then watch the sky turn a breathtaking pink and gold before taking advantage of the showers and heading out to indulge in sundowners in the nearby restaurants.Top tip: Partly enclosed by giant boulders, the pool here may be small, but is perfect for sharing a dip with friends or family. It is also very festive over season, so if peace and tranquility are musts, we suggest giving this one a skip.
5. Miller’s Point: Simon’s Town
A well-kept local secret, Miller’s Point is found roughly five kilometers outside the navy village of Simon’s Town, along the coastal road to Cape Point. The secluded pool makes a great destination for a day away from it all. Braai (BBQ) pits are found on the grassy area near the pool – bring along boerewors (local sausage) for a traditional South African lunch, or pack a picnic if you are not fussed. Beware of the cheeky, light-fingered baboons, they do sometimes visit.
Top tips: Getting to the pool involves a little walking, and the sun is bright so make sure to pack all the shade you need.
About four kilometers north of Simon’s Town lies the False Bay suburb of Glencairn, which is home to a beach that is slightly longer and less populated than nearby Fish Hoek Beach. On the southern side of the beach is a tidal pool, where you can enjoy safe swimming. If St James tidal pool is too busy for your liking, continue south towards the town of Glencairn.
Top tip: Many people who are taking the southern line train ride from the city as part of a day trip choose this as their final destination, owing to the pool’s close proximity to the station. It is equally as impressive than St James, but without the crowds.
7. Dalebrook: Kalk Bay
Fancy a crisp, early morning dip? Head to Dalebrook. Nearly halfway between St James and Kalk Bay, this pool is surrounded by things to do and places to see so you can make a day trip of it.
Sunrise over Dale Brook Tidal Swim PoolTop tip: The water levels are usually low and the water is relatively safe for all ages, so it is popular with families. Thanks to the warmer ocean currents on this side of the city, the water is usually a bit warmer as well. It also has a shower and change rooms, so you can clean up before heading off for further exploring.
Important note: We encourage you to take precautions when visiting any secluded areas in Cape Town, and let others know when and where you will be throughout the day. It is also a good idea to keep local emergency numbers on you.
Blog post by Tarah Darge