Galileo Picnic Thursdays are held in Cape Town’s most popular botanical garden
13 of the best tidal pools in the Western Cape
See small marine life at these hidden gems, plus get in a good splash
Update: 3 January, 2021
The Western Cape has many tidal pools gems; we are spoilt for choice. Take this list, for instance. It not only features some of the prettiest of pools, which, by the way, are free and safe to use, it also details some of the small fauna and flora that you can see in them if you put on a pair of goggles (or mask, if you're more serious about your snorkelling). What’s more, the revamped Ficks tidal pool in Hermanus now comes with a pinchos restaurant and the most refreshing cocktails and mocktails.
SWIM, EAT + DRINK COCKTAILS AT FICKS
Fick’s Tidal Pool is cradled between the rocks in Hermanus. This amazing spot overlooks the ocean, making it an ideal summer venue for swims and sunsets. There’s a restaurant, Ficks Pinchos & Wine, with wooden decks that hug the cliffs surrounding the pool. It’s an idyllic spot reminiscent of Greece or the Croatian coast. Sip cocktails, dine on pinchos (Spanish tapas), and cool off in the crystal-clear pool at Ficks.
What should you bring? Family and friends to celebrate your next milestone at Ficks Pinchos & Wine before taking a dip in the pool. Pack a jacket; the weather tends to turn without notice. Please note, Ficks does not take reservations.
What wildlife will you find? This is a shallow pool and you will see intertidal marine life in the deeper sections, along with coastal birds. Over whale season (June to November), you’ll be able to see these magnificent mammals in the sea beyond the pool. Plus there are often dolphin sightings.
Image credit: @MAKUvisuals | 8 Westcliff Road | Hermanus
TAKE A DIP THEN BRUNCH AT DALEBROOK
Dalebrook is in Kalk Bay is probably one of the most loved of all tidal pools and is ideal for taking an early-morning dip – many regulars frequent it – followed by breakfast/coffee at a nearby cafe like Bob’s Bagel Cafe or Dalebrook Cafe. The pool is easily accessible, plus there are standard changing rooms and sections of the pool are shallow, making it ideal for kids. One of its biggest assets is that it’s protected from the southeaster.
What should you bring? There’s very little shade, so bring an umbrella if you're going to sit on the sand, otherwise lots of sunscreen.
What wildlife will you find? Dalebrook is a popular snorkeling site. Standing in the tidal pool, you’ll probably come across small schools of fish and kelp pushed in by the tide, as well as starfish, sea anemones and moss along the walls.
Photo by: Fanie du Toit
Dalebrook Road | Kalk Bay
TAKE A DIP AT ONE OF CAPE TOWN’S MOST POPULAR TIDAL POOLS
St James is close to Dalebrook and right on a train station, so if you’re not into lots of people, you may want to give this one a skip. Otherwise get there early for a quiet morning dip. It’s also uber close to Saint James Cafe, where you can grab a pizza, tapas or a burger.
What should you bring? There are huts for changing, but an umbrella would be handy. For the kids, pack beach toys like buckets, shovels, and sand moulds for sandcastle building.
What wildlife will you find? In the tidal pool, you'll find anemones, small fish washed in over the wall, but also watch where you step: you might encounter a spiky sea urchin. Watch the skies for albatross, petrels, shearwaters, tems and seagulls.
Photo by: Cape Town's Deep South
Main Road | St James Beach | Kalk Bay
TAKE THE TRAIN TO GLENCAIRN
If you’re looking for something a little less busy, head to Glencairn tidal pool, about four kilometres north of Simon’s Town. It’s near a train stop and so is easily accessible, plus much of it is shallow, which makes it good for children. Get there early as the beach area is very small, plus the wind can pick up in the afternoons. And after a long day of swimming and sunbathing, head over to Glencairn’s restaurant strip for a drink or something to eat.
What should you bring? There’s not much shade, so pack a brolly, sunscreen and a hat to protect against that sweltering Cape Town sun.
What wildlife will you find? In the Glencairn area, you’ll see a few klipfish and redfingers, plus a selection of sea stars, sea cucumbers and large sea squirts. There are also usually gulls and cormorants on the rocks nearby.
Photo by: Nigel Riley
Glencairn Beach | Glencairn
SIMON'S TOWN'S HIDDEN GEM
Roughly 5km outside the navy village of Simon’s Town, along the coastal road to Cape Point, lies Miller’s Point tidal pool. Getting to the pool involves a little walking, and it’s worth finding. Head to the Cape Boat and Sky-Boat Club, then turn left until you reach another boat launch spot: the tidal pool is between the two. There’s a couple of sheltered pools for splashing, a braai area and picnic spots.
What should you bring? Something for the braai, definitely, and a picnic. There’s very little protection from the sun, so pack those umbrellas – because of the hard ground, a tent umbrella would work best.
What wildlife will you find? This is a good place to snorkel as it’s less frequented by the public. Small fish get pushed into the tidal pool by strong waves and there are starfish and crabs, plus plenty of resident cormorants and other birds on the surrounding rocks.
Photo by: Jolize Asch
5km South of Simon’s Town | Beyond Boulders and Seaforth | Miller’s Point
THE BEST POOL FOR KIDS
Maiden’s Cove is the perfect spot for families, and the tidal pool is great for kids because it’s on the shallow side and sandy. Nestled between the beaches of Clifton and Glen Beach, the pool has stunning views of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles. You can watch the sunset from the grass nearby, plus there’s a braai area.
What should you bring? Maiden’s Cove is ideal for a full day excursion, so pack sunscreen along with a picnic. If you’re staying until sunset, be sure to pack a jersey.
What wildlife will you find? There’s a collection of algae along the walls. You can also hunt for shells on the beach.
Off Victoria Road | Camps Bay
"DE KOM" IS DUTCH FOR "THE BOWL"
Sit in the shade of a milkwood tree as the kids splish-splash in De Kom tidal pool in Kommetjie. There are concrete steps and a handrail, so access is easy, plus you can see the Slangkop Lighthouse. The best time to visit is during the medium-high tide, since low tide leaves the pool somewhat empty.
What should you bring? Pack a nice early/late lunch, a picnic blanket and an umbrella (in case all the shade is taken) and relax on the grass.
What wildlife will you find? There’s birdlife around the pool and, from time-to-time, flamingos come to wade in the shallow water.
Photo by: Ken Jerrard
Lighthouse Road | Kommetjie
KICK BACK AND RELAX AT MONWABISI RESORT
Monwabisi is the largest man-made tidal pool in the south and caters mostly to the residents of Khayelitsha. Come summertime, it’s filled to capacity. It’s a popular spot because the cliffs along the seafront protect swimmers from the wind. There’s also paddling pools and a pavilion nearby. Call ahead and ask if they’re open over the dates you want to go.
What should you bring? Something to braai, and a picnic blanket, and some cash if you want to buy a snack from the kiosk.
What wildlife will you find? Look up into the clear blue sky and you might spot speckled mousebirds, black-shouldered kites, rock kestrels, and the Cape spurfowl.
Cost: For day visitors and braai facilities: R7 per child; R14 per adult; R7 per person for groups of 30
Photo by: Peter Kisiara
Off Baden Powell Drive | Khayelitsha | Ferosa.Maurice@capetown.gov.za
WE'RE NOT PULLING THE WOOL OVER YOUR EYES WITH THIS ONE
Wooley’s is one of the smaller pools, but it’s by no means the runt of the litter. The bigger pool has a baby tucked away in the corner where kids can paddle and splash while better swimmers use the main section. The rocks along the side of the pool are ideal for sunbathing or keeping a watchful eye on swimming children - be careful though; the rocks can get slippery. Grab a hearty helping of fresh fish from Kalkys not far away, or swing by the Kalk Bay Food Market.
What should you bring? Take a towel for sunbathing on the rocks, and protective shoes for the urchins.
What wildlife will you find? Mostly here you’ll find some small fish, anemones and sea urchins.
Photo by: Nigel Riley
Main Road | Kalk Bay
A GOOD TIDAL POOL FOR KIDS
Catch the sunset at Saunders Rock, positioned between Clifton and Sea Point in Bantry Bay. Over weekends it's fairly crowded, but during the week, you may find yourself all alone (except in the mornings, when it's full of people doing cold-water immersions a la Wim Hof). Because of the large rocks that surround the pool, it's often windless. According to the City of Cape Town, Saunders Rock is one of the safest tidal pools for kids because there are no crashing waves or strong rip currents, but do bear in mind that it's quite deep.
What should you bring? Pack lots of toys for the kids to enjoy a full day by the beach, and an umbrella, there is no shade.
What wildlife will you find? The pool is quite small but popular, but you may see some birdlife about. You’ll also view a sunset like no other, as only Cape Town can offer.
Photo by: Grant Ashe
Saunders Beach | Sea Point Promenade | Cape Town
CAMPS BAY HAS COCKTAILS, SEAFOOD AND A TIDAL POOL
Camps Bay, on the Bakoven side, is home to one of Cape Town's most popular tidal pools. Camps Bay pool is large and easy to access, plus you'd be spoilt for choice if you decide to grab a bite to eat or have cocktails as the sun sets. The sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing and the pool offers an unrivalled view of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles.
What should you bring? Bring a camera, because the sun setting directly behind the tidal pool is a picture-perfect opportunity not to be missed.
What wildlife will you find? The shallow pools near the tidal pool are home to small marine life, such as starfish, sea urchins and a variety of sea cucumbers.
Photo by: Imraan Phillips
Victoria Road | Camps Bay
REVEL IN THE VARIETY OF ANIMAL LIFE
About an hour-and-a-half outside of Cape Town, almost at the very end of the continent, sits Buffels Bay in Cape Point Nature Reserve. On this relatively sheltered and crowd-free beach is a tidal pool that’s ideal for a post-hike/cycle dip. There's even a grassy lawn for your picnic. And the pools are safe for little ones to explore to their hearts' content.
What should you bring? Bring along something for the braai or pack a ready-to-eat picnic and some blankets. A beach umbrella will also go a long way. Just remember to bring firewood and matches.
What wildlife will you find? The area has a wealth of diversity, including animals such as the eland, bontebok, Cape mountain zebra, and a variety of flora and birds. Be careful of the baboons, too.
Cost: For South African citizens: R40 for children ages 2 to 11 and R80 for adults; for international visitors: R160 for children and R320 for adults
Photo by: Simoné Visser
Via M4 | Cape Point Nature Reserve | +27 (0)21 780 9010 | email@example.com
PLAYFISH AND PADDLEBOARD IN HEROLDS BAY
This tidal pool close to George is surrounded by smaller rock pools. A concrete ramp leads into the chilly water, then half a metre of silky sand which gives way to rocks. The tidal pool is safe during low tide; during high tide, large waves crash against the walls and spill over into the pool, creating rough currents that could be hard for small children to handle. It is advised that swimmers not stand on the back wall during high tide.
What should you bring? The tidal pool and surrounding rock pools are ideal for play-fishing, so pack nets and little fishing rods (you can buy them at the nearby shop). The pool is also ideal for snorkeling and paddle boarding. Bring a pool inflatable to chill and soak up the sun during low tide.
What wildlife will you find? Keep a lookout for Herolds Bay's resident squid, who visits the shallow ends of the tidal pool every now and again. Whether it's the same one or a different one each time, no-one knows. Other than that, you'll find small marine life, such as fish, starfish, crabs and sea cucumbers.
Photo by: Charlotte Coetzee
Beach Road | Herolds Bay
PLEASE NOTE: All operating hours and entrance costs are subject to change
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