Cape Town has some world famous beaches but sometimes the waves can get a bit hectic and if one is looking for a salty swim somewhere a bit more sheltered, there are numerous tidal pools to visit along the coast. Tidal pools are rocky pools built to provide safe, warm, family-friendly places to swim and play.
Dip into one of these serene swimming spots (without putting any strain on the Cape’s water reserves).
Water, as we Capetonians are well aware, is hard to come by nowadays… but thankfully we know of a place that still has plenty of it. It’s called the ocean, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. We’re lucky enough to live in a region blessed with some of the most beautiful coastal areas in the world, so even with the current water restrictions, there are bucket-loads of options when looking for a spot to take a refreshing dip.
Of course, sometimes you want more than just a dip. Sometimes, you want a safe space where you can chill with a drink in hand without having to worry about being capsized by an onrushing wave, and where the kids can play freely. Well, thanks to the Cape’s collection of tidal pools, the ocean’s got you covered there, too. These serene swimming spots are regularly filled by the tides, providing all the benefits of a swimming pool without placing any strain on our water supply. So grab some suntan lotion, pack a picnic basket, and pay a visit to one of these natural swimming pools in the Cape.
1. Kommetjie Tidal Pool (Long Beach, De Kom, Kommetjie)
Venue: South of Long Beach at De Kom, Cape Town
Flamingos love this spot. It lies at the edge of the catwalk along De Kom, away from the lighthouse with concrete steps and a handrail for easy access. Grass patches with shade from milkwood trees for picnics.
Detail: The charming town of Kommetjie is a popular destination for kite-surfers and camping enthusiasts; and this serene swimming spot, which lies within sight of the famous Slangkop Lighthouse, makes it an ideal pick for family outings as well. The area is known as “De Kom” (Dutch for “bowl”), and while it becomes a rather empty bowl during low tide, it lives up to the name when the tides advance. There’s a grassy area nearby, conveniently shaded by milkwood trees and well-suited to picnics.
Why we love it: The pool is expansive, with unobstructed views of the wide open ocean that enhance the sense of freedom. Flocks of flamingos occasionally turn up and prance around in the shallows. It’s not called Bird Island for nothing…
Where to find it: South of Long Beach, on the edge of the catwalk that leads away from the Slangkop Lighthouse.
2. Soetwater Tidal Pool (Kommetjie)
Venue: Lighthouse Rd, Kommetjie, Cape Town
This pool is situated south of Slangkop Lighthouse below the coastal road. The tidal pool is accompanied by a camp site and picnic areas.
Detail: Named for the freshwater pools that form as a result of rainfall, this strip of rocky coastline was proclaimed a conservancy in 2009, due to the wealth of animal life that abounds. The tidal pool can be found south of Kommetjie, adjacent to a braai area and picnic site that forms part of the Soetwater recreation area. Here, visitors can enjoy a refreshing dip in the midst of thriving biodiversity.
Why we love it: The richness of the surrounding environment, made up of rocky shorelines and pristine white beaches. Denizens of this region include the African Black Oystercatcher, an endangered bird species. There’s a dense kelp bed just offshore; one of the many giant kelp forests that the Kommetjie shoreline is known for.
Cost: Soetwater Resort entrance fee: R14 (adults); R7 (children, age 6 – 11 years)
Where to find it: South of the Slangkop Lighthouse, below the coastal road leading from Kommetjie to Scarborough.
3. Maiden’s Cove Tidal Pools 1 & 2 (Camps Bay)
Venue: Victoria Rd, Camps Bay, Cape Town
The first tidal pool can be found between Glen Beach and Camps Bay Beach and the second between Glen Beach and Clifton Beach. Braai and picnic facilities are available nearby.
Detail: Hidden among clumps of rocks, these tidal pools offer spectacular views of the mountain and ocean. The Atlantic Seaboard is home to a buzzy restaurant strip, and the prospect of taking a dip in the pool (or sunbathing on the boulders that surround it) is yet another incentive to visit the area.
Why we love it: As well as boasting some of the best views you’re likely to find from any poolside, Maiden’s Cove has a grassy area that’s perfect for a braai or picnic.
Good to know: Whales and dolphins have been known to pass within sight of the shoreline during the whale-watching season (June to December).
Where to find it: The first tidal pool is located between Glen Beach and Camps Bay Beach, the second between Glen Beach and Clifton Fourth.
4. Camps Bay Tidal Pool
Venue: Victoria Rd, Camps Bay, Cape Town
Camps Bay Tidal Pool is one of the most popular tidal pools along the Atlantic Seaboard.
Detail: Camps Bay is well known for its sun-drenched beach and tantalising turquoise water and deliciously surfable waves… Not looking to surf? Head on over to the beautiful tidal pool that’s perfect for a invigorating dip (and safe for the little ones to splash about in).
Why we love it: It’s situated on the glamorous Camps Bay restaurant strip, making it the perfect dip-and-dine location.
Where to find it: Camps Bay Beach, Camps Bay, Cape Town.
5. Saunders Rock Tidal Pool (Bantry Bay)
Venue: Sea Point Promenade, Beach Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town
A hugely popular pool built into a rocky crevice next to Saunders Beach.
Detail: Nestled between Clifton and Sea Point is the exclusive suburb of Bantry Bay, with its beautiful white-sand beach, perfect for sunbathing and watching one of Cape Town’s famous sunsets. At the side of the beach, you’ll find the tidal pool, a popular swimming destination on weekends and holidays that’s fairly uncrowded during the week. Go for a late afternoon dip, watch the sunset and then dine out at one of the time-tested eateries on the Sea Point strip.
Why we love it: The large granite rocks create a wind barrier, giving it shelter on those hot – but windy – summer days.
Where to find it: Saunders Beach, Bantry Bay, Cape Town.
6. Milton Tidal Pool (Sea Point)
Venue: Beach Rd, Sea Point , Sea Point, Cape Town
Milton Tidal Pool is a natural seawater tidal pool situated on Milton Beach in Sea Point.
7. Graaff’s Tidal Pool (Sea Point)
Venue: Beach Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town
A tidal pool with a concrete patch ideal for sunbathing next to the pool.
8. Wooley’s Tidal Pool
Venue: Off Main Rd, Kalk Bay, Cape Town
Between Kalk Bay and Clovelly with a deep pool and a splash pool for little ones offering spectacular views across Fish Hoek.
Detail: One of Kalk Bay’s plethora of pools, Wooley’s may not be as big as Dalebrook or St James, but it has its own merits. The addition of a smaller pool, tucked away in the corner of the larger tidal pool, provides a unique touch. Younger children can paddle around in the smaller section, while more experienced swimmers take a dip in the deep end. The flat rocks next to the pool are a nice spot to sit and watch the waves crash against the shore, but be careful traversing them, as they become slippery due to the persistent watery onslaught.
Why we love it: Like Dalebrook, Wooley’s is easy to miss, and thus provides a less crowded alternative to the popular St James Tidal pool (although it does draw more visitors during holidays). It’s smaller and more cloistered than its Kalk Bay siblings, so parents may feel more confident about bringing younger children here, although be sure to keep them off the slippery rocks.
Where to find it: Beneath the coastal road between Kalk Bay and Clovelly. You can access it via a staircase that passes under the railway line.
9. Dalebrook Tidal Pool (Kalk Bay)
Venue: Off Main Rd, Dalebrook, Cape Town
This pool is easily missed. Hidden between St James and Kalk Bay and opposite the Dalebrook Place. It has an outdoor shower and a change room.
Detail: Nestled between St James and Kalk Bay, lies this easily missed – and often overlooked – tidal pool. To get to it, simply walk along the subway under the railway line. It’s one of the most beautiful pools along the coast, as it seamlessly melds into the ocean (as the eye skips over the low wall), but it’s best to get there in the early morning, as it loses a lot of the afternoon sun behind the mountains.
Why we love it: The large boulders in the pool invite bathers to languish there and contemplate the horizon… And the low wall means that the water is kept clean with a constant flow of new, fresh water breaking over the wall’s edge. It’s also a fabulous whale-watching spot.
Good to know: It has an outdoor shower (that’s currently switched off because of the Cape’s water crisis), and a changing room, making it the perfect pitstop on the way to a day of cave-exploring.
Where to find it: Off Main Road, Dalebrook, Cape Town.
10. St James Tidal Pool (St James)
Venue: Main Rd, St James, Cape TownCape Town’s most popular and iconic tidal pool, St James is easily recognised by the coloured beach huts that sit against the edge of the waters.
Detail: Arguably one of Cape Town’s most well-known and popular tidal pools, you’ll find this one below the railway line, in the seaside suburb of St James, which is tucked neatly between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. During summer, the beach and tidal pool become especially busy, so it’s best to get there in the early morning to beat the crowds, and have a refreshing dip in peace.
Why we love it: St James is a sheltered, ultra family-friendly beach, making it perfect for sunbathers and young families, though surfers can ride the reef here, too. Also, we adore its iconic, characteristic colourful change rooms; they add a bright splash of colour that, with the aqua waters below and children playing on the beach, paints an idyllic seaside-holiday scene, like something out of an Enid Blyton novel.
Where to find: it St James Beach, St James, Cape Town.
11. Miller’s Point Tidal Pool (Simon’s Town)
Venue: Miller’s Point Rd, Murdock Valley, Cape Town
Situated five kilometres south of Simon’s Town on the coastal road that heads to Cape Point. A favourite launch point for kayakers and SUP enthusiasts, Miller’s Point is very popular with locals and guests alike. A grassed area around the pool, braai pits and change rooms.
Detail: Found on the southern side of the False Bay coastline, some 5km outside of Simon’s Town, you’ll find Miller’s Point, which is divided into two sections. The first leads to a caravan site and The Black Marlin Seafood Restaurant, and the second section takes you to Rumbly Bay, where you will find one of two nearby boat launch sites and, wedged between, this secluded tidal pool. Caution is advised, as there are crafty baboons in the area, so please lock your cars carefully and don’t approach/feed these sneaky rascals.
Why we love it: For its secret location – unless you know it’s there (quite a few locals do), you could miss it. It offers incredible views across the rocky bay, a fun water slide and some natural rock pools (ideal for kiddies to paddle in), change rooms, grassy picnic and braai spots. (No dogs allowed.) It’s also a great area for kayaking, snorkelling, surf skis and scuba-diving, with popular dive sites (Partridge Point, Castle Rock and Smitswinkel) nearby.
Fun fact: The bay was discovered in 1825 by Edmund Miller, who made a whaling station here. When whaling was banned some years later, the coast remained virtually untouched for almost a hundred years. Today, Miller’s Point falls under the TMNP and is a popular whale-watching site, as two deep pools north of Miller’s Point attract the southern right whales and their calves.
Cost: Boat launching fee is R90, and a separate entry fee is charged on weekends and during peak holiday season.
Where: to find it Miller’s Point, M4, Simon’s Town, Cape Town.
12. Glencairn Tidal Pool (Glencairn)
Venue: Next to Glencairn station, Glencairn Beach, Glencairn, Cape Town
The tidal pool holds a portion of the beach in its walls. Popular amongst swimmers, snorkelers and sunbathers.
Detail: About 4km north of Simon’s Town lies the False Bay suburb of Glencairn, which is home to a beach that’s 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 – surfers and bodyboarders will opt for the northern end, with its small reef bank.
Why we love it: It’s located near Glencairn Beach, a gentle, family- and dog-friendly beach that’s ideal for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing and long strolls – on windy days, kite surfers can also get in some good air time. Both beach and tidal pool are easily visible from the railway line and, like the St James Tidal Pool, it holds a portion of the beach protectively enclosed within its old walls (built in the 1920s).
Where to find it: Glencairn Beach, Glencairn, Cape Town.
13. Strandfontein Tidal Pool (Mitchells Plain)
Venue: Strandfontein Rd, Mitchells Plain, Cape Town
A tidal pool on Strandfontein Beach, with picnic and braai areas.
14. Monwabisi Tidal Pool (Khayelitsha)
Venue: Off Baden Powell Dr, Khayelitsha, Cape Town
An enormous pool forming part of the popular Monwabisi resort and beach.