Ready, steady, let’s traverse the trails at twilight
Hiking along, next to and above Sandy Bay
Channelling Robinson Crusoe
Sandy Bay’s beach is surely one of my favourites; not because of the nudity, but for its setting. The drive there is overwhelmingly beautiful, and the walk from the parking lot to the beach is a stunner. The beach itself, littered with the boulders, is amazing; I feel what Robinson Crusoe must have felt when he washed up on that island. I never thought of hiking along, next to and above Sandy Bay, but after doing it, I want to do it again (and again). I chose to leave the city before sunrise as a scorcher of a day was predicted; the early-bird-catches-the-worm-idea is definitely a winner for this hike.
The name of the area is Karbonkelberg. This hike is also known as the 'Sandy Bay Shipwreck Hiking Trail'. On the way you will see a sign to the 6.5 hour coastal route to Hout Bay, but it’s dangerous and not recommended for inexperienced hikers.
Enjoy a hike filled with great scenery, great views, shipwrecks and if you want, a swim.
How to get to Sandy Bay
From the Cape Town city centre take Kloof Nek road to Camps Bay and drive towards Hout Bay. About 7km after Camps Bay, you will spot the Llundudno sign, turn right and follow the signs to Sandy Bay beach. You can also take a longer drive from the city centre via Mouille Point, Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Clifton and then Camps Bay. There is not a lot of parking available in Sandy Bay, so come early.
What to bring
- Picnic. Fill your backpack with goodies and water for a picnic at Oudeschip Peninsula or when you’re back at Sandy Bay beach.
- Garbage bag. There are no dustbins, so keep it tidy and leave no trace.
- Hiking shoes. To keep safe, wear hiking shoes that give your feet a strong hold. There’s a bit of climbing and a few steep paths so you’ll need shoes with a good grip. You may be tempted to walk barefoot, but only do it on the beach as there are plenty of thorns.
- Hats and sunblock. There are patches of shade for you to rest in but the majority of the walk is exposed. It’s a good idea to get an early start to avoid the midday sun.
- Camera. The views are incredible and the shipwrecks as well as succulents are definitely worth a shot.
- Children from ages 10-and-up.
- Dogs are allowed. Take some extra water as your best friend will be thirsty too.
- Number. Take this number with you just in case. Call SOS if you get lost or injured: +27 (0)86 110 6417.
- Swimsuit (or none) and towel. A swim in the sea on Sandy Bay beach after the hike is more than refreshing.
Sandy Bay to Oudeschip Peninsula
This walk starts at Sandy Bay beach, crosses it and then dives into the bushes and continues parallel to the coast. Mike Lundy wrote in 1997 (Cape Times) "Crossing Sandy Bay on a hot day over a weekend, dressed in mountain boots and backpack, you might feel the need to stare blankly at the sand one metre directly ahead of you as you walk. This way, you’ll avoid feeling awkward about being overdressed."
Cross the beach (naked or clothed) and find a little path on your left (through dense bush). There is no signage and many of the small paths leading up the slope go nowhere, so it's best to always remain close to the Atlantic and you will hike in the right direction. You will pass a granite rock shelter and see many succulents. And always, take a look back at the gorgeous mountains (Table Mountain, Lion’s Head). Life is good? Yes, it is.
After round about an hour (we’re walking easy), you’ll reach the rocky and breathtaking Oudeschip Peninsula, the destination. You can spot the shipwreck Harvest Capella (1986). You might have to take your shoes off to walk through the water to get to Oudeschip – it will be worth it to get closer to the rusted shipwreck on the rocks. Spend some Robinson Crusoe time here; from there you can also spot another shipwreck far away; to get there would be a hike for another day. Oudeschip peninsula is a great spot for a picnic.
Walk back on land, from here you can take the same path back to Sandy Bay beach or you can take the path straight up the mountain towards the lookout hut. This hut is a station to house rescue equipment to avert another ship disaster, built in 1913 (now empty). From there you can take the path on the right towards the second shipwreck (Maori 1909) and Bos 400 (1994). Apparently this path can easily take you two hours to get to these wrecks and back. We stick to our planned route.
Follow the path straight up and turn left and walk for a while on a gravel road to the sand dunes. You will see a path leading down back to Sandy Bay beach (the path on the right leads to Hout Bay Dunes). Tip: go for a swim, this will be a refreshing end to an eye-catching hike.
Duration: This hike will take three-hour return, but plan a good 4 hours including a picnic and a swim.
Hout Bay Dunes to Sandy Bay
Easy to moderate
Start at the Hout Bay Dunes car park (from Constantia Nek follow the main road into Hout Bay until the first circle. Turn right into Victoria Road; go straight through the traffic lights, up Edgar Road into Eustegia Roadd, all the way up to the top).
Walk up the red brick road or walk up the dunes to your left (more difficult). As you reach the saddle at the top, turn left towards the sea. Head down the gravel road which winds its way all the way down to Sandy Bay Beach, follow the same route on your return. Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Hout Bay and Sandy Bay.
Duration: Plan 1.5 hours for this hike, but add a little more time for a picnic and a swim at Sandy Bay beach.
What to look out for
Walking along Sandy Bay beach you will see steep dunes and bushy mountain slopes filled with fynbos. On the way to Oudeschip Peninsula, you will encounter many different succulents as well as birds. If you’re lucky you will see seals and on your way back sand dunes.
Sandy Bay beach is the only beach in South Africa where it is (unofficially) considered acceptable to tan and bathe completely naked. It’s also known as a ‘gay beach’. The nudist philosophy has several sources, many of which can be traced back to early 20th century health and fitness philosophies in Germany, though the concepts of returning to nature and creating equality are also cited as inspiration.
Text and photographs by Antonia Heil
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