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WWitsand Beach on St Sebastian Bay is a popular seasonal waterside playground at the mouth of the Breede River in Western Cape province, around 280km (under 3 hours’ drive) east of Cape Town. Witsand is one of the exceptional South African beaches recognised under the international Blue Flag programme for excellent safety, cleanliness, provision of amenities and maintenance of environmental standards.
The pristine location is characterised by 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) of clean, wide, sandy beaches and the Breede River Estuary, where this large river flows into the sea. There are as many activities to enjoy around the mouth of the river as there are on the beach and in the bay. As well as being a birdwatchers’ utopia, this picturesque indentation in the coastline provides safe swimming, windsurfing, rock- and surf angling, deep-sea fishing and snorkelling.
Witsand is also known as Southern Africa’s whale nursery. Each year, between June and November, record numbers of southern right whales migrate through St Sebastian Bay, where they’ll stay a few weeks nursing their young. As a result, this beach is one of the best land-based vantage points from which to view the whales – between May and October, you’re practically assured of a sighting every day.
The beach also has fantastic rock pools to explore, filled with octopus, starfish, sea urchins, crabs and other sea creatures. Witsand is situated within the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site, so you can also while away the hours discovering its incredible variety of indigenous plant life.
Along with its very white sand, beautiful views and rich assortment of bird, sea, and plant life, the beach is also noted for its ‘brulsand’ (‘roaring sands’ in Afrikaans), which are eerie rumbles that can be heard when the dunes are disturbed from time to time.
Take a few days to sample all Witsand Beach has to offer, and you might agree that its Blue Flag status is simply a confirmation of the obvious: it really is among the best in the world.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)28 537 1010
How to get here
Take the N2 east out of Cape Town and after about 230km (after you pass Swellendam and Buffeljagsrivier), look out for the turn-off to Witsand via the R324. It’s about 50km to the coast from there.
Best time to visit
Late spring, summer and early autumn (October to April) are best, as Western Cape experiences heavy rainfall and high winds during winter. Be aware, however, that December and January can be blisteringly hot, and with school holidays at this time of year, the coast will be packed with South African visitors from upcountry.
Of course, if you like wet, windy weather, you’ll get great rate reductions in this part of the world during the ‘secret season’ in midwinter – but October, November, and February to April are the months in which weather and population density are both at their best.
Around the area
Witsand Beach is within easy reach of Malgas Pont (a hand-drawn car ferry across the Breede River), De Hoop Nature Reserve, the historic towns of Swellendam and Heidelberg, Bontebok National Park, the Robertson Wine Route up the Breede River Valley and the hot mineral springs of Montagu, where you can gaze at magnificent mountain views in one direction, and the stark arid beauty of the Little Karoo in the other.
Tours to do
Moodies Well Walk – which should only be attempted at low tide – follows the sandy eastern sweep of St Sebastian Bay for 4km, to a well dug by a Scotsman in the 19th century. It is an 8km round trip and should take about 3 hours to complete.
What to pack
The usual beach essentials – especially a hat and sunscreen – and binoculars for whale watching.
Nella se Winkel – the oldest shop in Witsand – stocks just about anything you might need; it’s an experience just browsing through the variety available. It’s a grocery store, a wine shop, a butchery, a fresh produce market, a bakery, a fishmonger, a hardware store, a toy store, a bait shop, a clothing outlet and a fast-food emporium all rolled into one.