Whether you’re freeloading off nature or going five-star in the wild, Cape Town offers an incredible array of camping options on its doorstep. Here are five of the best, in no particular order.
1. Kogel Bay
Tucked away along the R44, Kogel Bay is a long, sandy slice of heaven where fynbos covered mountains tumble straight into the ocean. Nothing else much happens here besides waves crashing along the shore, which makes it the perfect getaway to pitch a tent right on the beach at the Kogel Bay Resort, which has over 200 non-electrified campsites.
There’s good surfing on the western end of the beach and safer swimming on the eastern side but be cautious – rip currents can be strong. If mountains are more your thing, you’re in luck. The Kogelberg Nature Reserve provides excellent hiking and trail riding amongst a staggering array of flora covering more than 18 000 hectares of biosphere reserve. Or you can just kick back in your tent and take in the epic vistas across False Bay.
Getting there: Kogel Bay lies a mere 70 kilometres from the Cape Town CBD. Simply follow the N2 east and then turn right on to Sir Lowry’s Pass Road. At the T-junction in Gordon’s Bay, turn left on to the R44. From Gordon’s Bay it’s 14 kilometres along the spectacular coastal road to the Kogel Bay Resort.
The last stretch of road to Beaverlac makes for a steep, bumpy ride as it twists down into the valley below, but it’s worth every spine-shuddering pothole.
Beaverlac falls within a natural heritage site deep in the Cederberg Mountains and is famous for its series of spectacular pools and waterfalls, which start a few minutes trot from your tent. Main Pool is the closest and gets the busiest, but there are plenty of other pools to have a quiet dip if you’re prepared to walk further, like Flat Rock and Secret Pool.
The well-run campsite makes “roughing it” pretty easy and as such, Beaverlac is a favourite with families. You can even bring your canine children along. Be warned though: it can get incredibly hot in summer and equally cold in winter. Pack accordingly.
Getting there: It takes about two hours to get to Beaverlac. Take the N7 from Cape Town to Piketberg, where you take a right and head to Porterville. At Porterville, turn left onto the dirt road to Cardouw. You then take a right turn up the pass to Groot Winterhoek. Follow the sign down to Beaverlac.
3. Orange Kloof, Hout Bay
If messing around with tent pegs and sleeping on the ground isn’t quite your thing, the Orange Kloof Tented Camp provides a luxurious alternative.
Located within the Table Mountain National Park on the outskirts of Hout Bay, the camp is made up of five permanent tents with comfy beds, a communal kitchen and roaring outside fireplace. The eco-friendly camp is nestled amongst dense Afromontane forest and its stunning location belies the fact that it’s barely 20 minutes away from the city centre.
The big draw card is hiking, with overnight trails stretching across the National Park to Silvermine (15,5km) and to Table Mountain (9.5km). SANParks also run the excellent Slangkop Tented Camp in Kommetjie if you’re after a bit of sea and sand with your lux camping.
Getting there: Follow the M43 from Hout Bay up Contantia Nek. Follow the Orange Kloof turn off to the left just before you reach the top of the Nek.
Despite its titillating name, Tittiesbaai is a decidedly family affair that offers a small but stunning crescent-shaped bay up the West Coast, where you can literally camp on the water’s edge. The protected waters make for excellent swimming and snorkelling – if you can handle the frigid west coast waters.
Camping comes without any frills here. Besides a few basic ablutions, there are no creature comforts at Titiesbaai – only the wild, beautiful shoreline of the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. The beach site gets crowded but you can often find some room to move along the rocks that bookmark either end of the bay. Wherever you pitch your tent, make sure you have sturdy poles to withstand the southeast wind when it blows – seasoned campers don’t call Tietiesbaai the “tent killer” for nothing.
Getting there: Less than two hours away from Cape Town. Take the R27 north to Velddrift. Turn left at the Vredenburg turn-off, then follow the Vredenburg Main Road towards Paternoster. Continue through Paternoster to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
5. Namaqua Flower Beach Camp, Namaqualand
If you don’t mind splashing out on an unforgettable camping experience, it’s hard to beat the Namaqua Flower Beach Camp.
Located along the remote coastline of the Namaqualand National, this mobile luxury camp is only set up during the peak flower season in August and September, when the landscape explodes in a riot of colour as the world-famous flowers come into bloom.
The camp offers two options, either dome tents with two single beds, or family tents with one double bed and two singles. Although the setting is wild, you’re not exactly going to be roughing it: warm water bucket showers and electric blankets come standard, along with gourmet west coast meals that are inclusive in the price.
Getting there: It’s a long haul to this special slice of coastline no matter where in South Africa you are, but Cape Town is the most convenient big city to set out from. Take the N7 north to Garies (430km). At Garies, turn left to Groen River. Follow the gravel road to Groen river (73km), where you will enter the Namaqua National Park. From the park office it is 1km along the coast to the Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp.