Africa has no shortage of fabulous beaches and idyllic tropical islands, with two long coastlines stretching along both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Here’s our pick of the best beaches to lay your towel out on – all of which are visited on our African overlanding tours and budget safaris
Clifton 4th, Cape Town, South Africa
With icing-sugar white sands and gorgeous turquoise sea only a few minutes’ drive from Cape Town’s city centre, Clifton 4th easily wins the prize for the Mother City’s best beach. Part of a series of four sandy coves next to one another, Clifton 4th is the most popular, and it attracts a glamourous crowd of both locals and tourists. Part of the beach’s allure is the beautiful backdrop of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles. Sheltered by boulders, the beach is somewhat protected from Cape Town’s notorious summer winds. Just be prepared to swim in the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean!
Tofo, Inhambane, Mozambique
One of Mozambique’s top holiday destinations is the beautiful beach of Tofo, in Inhambane province. The beach is an eight-kilometre wide arc of golden sand flanked by the warm, clean water of the Indian Ocean on one side and a collection of backpackers, hotels, restaurants and fun bars on the other. Tofo is perfect if you want to just laze on the beach and dip into the sea, but there’s also a lot to do here, from surfing lessons, diving, snorkelling with whale sharks between October and March (a bucket list highlight!) and kayaking.
Cape Maclear, Malawi
It’s easy to see why Cape Maclear is one of the most popular spots on Lake Malawi, Situated on the freshwater lake’s southern shore, the pretty stretch of sandy beach is lined with laidback backpackers (complete with hammocks strung out between trees) and fun beach bars, but it’s not over-touristy at all – there’s still a village atmosphere, with fishermen going out each morning in their boats and kids playing soccer on the beach. Go swimming or snorkelling in the warm water, or kayak out to Mumbo Island, a gorgeous island entirely uninhabited except for one eco-friendly camp.
The tropical east African island of Zanzibar has its fair share of postcard-perfect beaches, but Nungwi, in the north west, certainly stands out, with its palm-fringed white sand leading into sparkling azure waters. It’s one of the few beaches on the island without a coral reef, and there are no strong tides, which means it’s ideal for swimming. Sunsets here are particularly special: watch the golden orb disappear below the horizon as traditional dhows sail under a fuchsia-pink sky.
Coffee Bay, South Africa
South Africa’s beautiful and undeveloped Wild Coast is peppered with spectacular beaches, and one of the firm favourites is Coffee Bay. Here cliffs and green hills tumble down into the Indian Ocean around a stretch of golden sand. Relax on the beach or take surfing lessons at the super fun backpackers the Coffee Shack, or hike along the coastline for spectacular views of the beach. Close by to Coffee Bay is Hole in the Wall, a dramatic rock formation out at sea, which is one of South Africa’s most photogenic sights.