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13 of the best tidal pools in the Western Cape
Find marine life, have a braai + sip on cocktails
Last updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2023
The Western Cape has many tidal pool gems - we're spoilt for choice (plus, most of them are free!). We've found some of the best tidal pools in the Western Cape, whether you're looking for a popular spot like Dalebrook or a little-known secret like Silwerstroom. Plus, we've included what wildlife you can find and what you should pack for the ultimate beach day.
SWIM AT A BLUE FLAG BEACH
Silwerstroomstrand beach along the West Coast Road is known for its pristine cleanliness and great water quality. This blue flag beach is home to a tidal pool where residents can swim and relax in peace, as it is in a secluded area guarded by law enforcement services and life guards. It is also close to the Silwerstroomstrand Resort which offers camping and caravan parks, chalets and play areas.
What should you bring? The beach has braai facilities so make sure to pack a grocery bag. Bring some cash along too, as there’s also a small convenience store close-by.
What wildlife will you find? There is a rich diversity of birds and this spot is popular on the West Coast birding route.
Silwerstroomstrand | West Coast Road | Image: Brandon Swanepoel
PICNIC WITH A PANORAMIC VIEW
Sparks Bay Tidal Pool is located on Clarence Drive between Gordon’s and Betty’s Bay. It’s surrounded by picnic spots, so after your dip you can have lunch while looking at panoramic views of False Bay and the mountains.
What should you bring? Pack a picnic basket full of yummy snacks. Make sure to bring an umbrella as there isn’t any shade, as well as toilet paper - the toilets aren’t very well maintained.
What wildlife will you find? In August and September, Sparks Bay Beach is a popular spot for whale watching.
Helderberg Rural | Sir Lowry’s Pass | Image: Natasha Loubser
SWIM, EAT + DRINK COCKTAILS AT FICKS
Unlike most tidal pools in the Western Cape, Fick’s is surrounded by a stylish pinchos (Spanish tapas) and cocktail bar. Ficks Pinchos & Wine, an idyllic spot reminiscent of Greece or the Croatian coast, serves cheeky cocktails like the MILF or Balls to the Walls. The tidal pool overlooks the ocean, making it an ideal summer venue for swims, sunsets and whale-watching (followed by a drink at Ficks, of course).
What should you bring? Family and friends to celebrate your next milestone at Ficks Pinchos & Wine after taking a dip in the pool.
What wildlife will you find? This is a shallow pool and you will see intertidal marine life and 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.
8 Marine Drive | Westcliff | Hermanus | 028 312 4082 | www.ficks.co.za | Image: Ficks
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.
What should you bring? Something to braai, 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
Off Baden Powell Drive | Khayelitsha | Image: Peter Kisiara
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 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.
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.
Glencairn Beach | Glencairn | Image: Nigel Riley
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.
5km South of Simon’s Town | Beyond Boulders and Seaforth | Miller’s Point | Image: Jolize Arch
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 | Image: Rubert Yates Bell
TAKE A DIP THEN BRUNCH AT DALEBROOK
Dalebrook in Kalk Bay is probably one of the most loved tidal pools and is ideal for taking an early-morning dip, followed by coffee at Bob’s Bagel Cafe or Dalebrook Cafe. The pool is easily accessible and there are standard changing rooms. Its ideal for kids, as sections of the pool are shallow. 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 and sunscreen if you're going to sit on the sand.
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.
Dalebrook Road | Kalk Bay | Image: Fanie du Toit
VSIT 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.
Main Road | St James Beach | Kalk Bay | Image: Cape Town's Deep South
"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.
Lighthouse Road | Kommetjie | Image: Ken Jerrard
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 also ideal for sunbathing. 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.
Main Road | Kalk Bay | Image: Nigel Riley
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. 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.
Saunders Beach | Sea Point Promenade | Image: Grant Ashe
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.
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
Via M4 | Cape Point Nature Reserve | firstname.lastname@example.org | Image: Simoné Visser
PLEASE NOTE: All operating hours and entrance costs are subject to change
ENJOY MORE OUTDOOR FUN
Pitch your tent beneath a canopy of stars at any of these camping sites.
Don’t break the bank with these free and cheap things to do with kids.
Have safe Summer fun with this selection of Public Swimming Pools.
Let the family festivities begin at one of these Cape Town braai spots.
Drop in for wine and pintos at Ficks.
Off-the-radar beaches: Rocky coves, hidden hamlets, isolated enclaves at these beaches in the Cape.