Plettenberg Bay’s beaches are famous, but for anyone new in town, the amazing choice and seemingly endless miles and miles of golden sand and surf breaks can be a bit daunting. Where to go? Where is it safe to swim? Which beaches have amenities? Where can we do things? Where do I take the family?
Fact is, some beaches are safer than others for swimming, and there are some super surf spots if you know where to look. Safety is paramount in certain areas, and not all areas are really suitable for family swimming. The following is a guide to the three main swimming beaches in Plettenberg Bay – Central (Main) Beach, Robberg Beach and the beach on the Keurbooms Lagoon. These are not the only beaches in Plett – far from it, but they are the most popular for swimming and what you could term ‘family’ beaches.
If you are familiar with Plett and are now wondering ‘what about Lookout?’ – Lookout Beach was totally washed away and is currently ‘re-constructing’ itself, as it does every 84 years or so in a natural cycle that sees the Keurbooms river mouth move south toward the peninsula and wipe out the beach in the process, then slowly move back again with sand deposits.
It will be back – its famous gentle arc stretching out from the Lookout Deck and covered with bright beach brollies and even brighter bikinis, the clear surf filled with swimmers and kids surfing in on body-boards. Till then, the sandbank created by the movement of the river mouth has made the area a world-class surf spot, but it has also resulted in large sand deposits on the other side of the river mouth – creating the 3rd ‘beach’ in this article – fronting the lagoon rather than the sea, and one of the best ‘family’ and paddling beaches in South Africa.
Main Beach / Central Beach
Main Beach, or Central Beach as it is also known, is Plett’s iconic ‘family beach’.
This beach fronts the BI Hotel, and has family beach amenities including public toilets, a take-out, ice-cream, 2 restaurants (licensed and also open at night), kayaking and boat-based whale-watching. This beach is monitored by lifeguards year-round and is considered the safest swimming beach in Plettenberg Bay.
It also gets good mid-sized surf but is sheltered enough to seldom get too wild for swimming and bodyboarding. In the summer holidays you’ll be hard-pressed to find a patch of sand to spike your brolly and lay out your deck chairs, but the beach bods are beautiful and the kids will never be bored with a variety of activities to choose from – from beach volleyball to paddle-boats up the Piesang River behind the beach, on site competitions and all sorts of events put on by roadshow ‘sponsors’ such a Vodacom.
In the winter, the beach is much quieter, but this is where you will find the boat-based close encounter whale-watching operators as well as other marine activity operators.
This beach is also the venue for a number of activities and events – from Nipper’s training and competitions to the annual Barefoot or Surfer’s Ball, the Sabrina Love Challenge and a number of sponsored beach parties and festivals over the holiday periods, including the day-time events of Plett’s famous Matric Rage.
…and of course when the sun is shining and the crowds are out, there are ice-cream vans and stalls aplenty, so don’t forget to bring some pocket-money. You can even get a massage and you can hire deck chairs, umbrellas and body-boards.
Further down the same stretch of sand past the Ski Boat club and the ski-boat launch area, you find Hobie Beach, where you can hire a hobie cat or a jet ski, and beyond that you will find The Wedge – one of South Africa’s best body-boarding surf breaks, and the venue for the longest running body-boarding event in South Africa – The SABA Wedge Classic. An ideal body-boarding spot, The Wedge also throws up a unique wave, one that can seriously challenge even the most skilled surfers.
Robberg Beach runs from the BI Hotel to the Robberg Peninsula – a 4 kilometre stretch of wide golden sand fronting ‘Millionaire’s Row’ –beachfront residences, guesthouses and B&B’s on Plett’s Beachyhead Rd.
The beach is divided into several swimming stations which are monitored by lifeguards during the holiday periods and over weekends. It is perfect for morning and evening walks, or in fact anytime of the day walks, and has some of the best swimming in Plett.
Be warned, however, that the swimming stations are placed where they are for a reason, and an aerial view of Robberg would show a number of riptides much of the time.
This is a perfect family swimming beach – as long as you stay within the areas demarcated by the life-guards. The best of the swimming areas is ‘Robberg 5’ – about half-way down the beach and accessed via Beachyhead Rd (or on foot along the beach). There are public toilets at Robberg 5, but no other amenities.
The beach can also be accessed further down toward the Peninsula by car from various points and via a number of wooden walkways. Despite the density of holiday homes behind the beach, great attention has been paid to maintaining the health of the dunes and dune vegetation, and the beach is clean and well-kept. When the wind is blowing westerly in the summer months, the sea is usually very warm and of a particular crystalline quality that makes this beach ideal for swimming and lazing away the entire day.
If you are lucky, pods of bottlenose are known to swim in amongst bathers at Robberg 5, and the stretch of beach around Robberg 5 with its gentle rolling surf is a favourite venue for the local surf schools to introduce students to the fun of surfing. It is also a good spot for the Southern Right whales that like to frolic in the protected waters.
Remember…this is the Ocean … If the waves are huge, you can hear them from the N2, they are clearly close-outs or ‘dumpers’ (Robberg is well-known for its dumpers), there are no lifeguards on duty, or the water is ice-old….stay out…and watch out for the jellyfish and bluebottles that come in with the cold water and the south-easterlies.
The Keurbooms Lagoon Beach
This beach fronts the lagoon mouth – and varies in size from a strip of sand to a wide swath depending on the tides. Also depending on a number of factors, from tides to how much rain has fallen in the hills and how swollen the river is, the water can be a deep coca-cola colour (from tannins- still very clean) to THT ice-crystal clear – so clear and the river bottom so shallow and white in the summer months that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to the Maldives.
There are more often than not wide sandbanks with barely a foot or two of water covering them, and on a hot day this can heat up to bath water temperature quite quickly. At its best there is simply no better place on earth to take the littlies swimming. It’s gorgeously pretty too, with row-boats, ski boats lazing up and down the boat channel on the far side, and ocean breakers just beyond.
As a local – there have been days I’ve floated around on my back in that lagoon, half asleep under my shades with my toes sticking out, when I’ve thought I must have died and gone to heaven. On the more practical side…it really is one place that is as safe for toddlers to wade and splash about in as any water environment can be, the worst menace being the odd hermit crab scuttling about.
This lagoon beach is accessed from the residential area of the Poortjies. There are public toilets but no other public amenities.
Other Beaches in the area
These three beaches are only part of the ‘beach profile’ of Plettenberg Bay, and while they all offer clean sand, clean water, great swimming and superb scenery, they must compete with several other magnificent beaches for sheer beauty…
Keurbooms Beach is ideal for a long walk whether you are taking your pooch or just want to enjoy the sensation of having a huge beach almost to yourself. Take a sundowner and enjoy the amazing sunsets or just sit and watch the dolphins playing in the surf. This beach is also a favourite with local fishermen.
Keurbooms beach is accessed by driving to the suburb of Keurbooms. There is a parking area just off the road.
If you continued along the road, you would eventually come to a dead end at the parking at Enrico’s restaurant. If you take the boardwalk from the parking you would find yourself on Arch Rock beach.
Arch Rock Beach has unusual rock formations and a great walk at low tide. Once the rocks have been negotiated, expect to see the rare black oyster catcher when you arrive at a secluded lagoon on the edge of the Tsitsikamma.
You can swim at these beaches, but take care. The surf is often very rough and the tides can pull back quite powerfully into messy oncoming surf.
Natures Valley Beach
This beach deserves an article all to itself. Like Keurbooms and Arch Rock, it is beautiful and the surrounding forested cliffs and scenery are magnificent. Nature’s Valley beach can only be accessed from Nature’s Valley. It is all but deserted in the off-seasons. There is a great lagoon for swimming, but never swim alone in the sea here – and keep an eye on the little ones. It has beautiful rock pools that are partially open to the surf, and the water often becomes a dusky very pale luminescent blue – beautiful, full of shells and there to be enjoyed…with some sea sense. The currents can get very strong, and the waves can get very big.
There are toilets at one end up a boardwalk where you will also find the tiny hamlet’s only shop and restaurant – oh and all the boots hanging on the restaurants tree are casualties of the Otter Trail which ends at Natures Valley.