Muizenberg Beach (Blue Flag Beach)

Muizenberg Beach (Blue Flag Beach)

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MUIZENBERG was once South Africa’s premier seaside resort, where the rich and famous built their holiday homes. Then the area fell out of favour, and later developed a reputation as a seedy den of iniquity – although its beaches remained popular for their safe swimming and good surfing.

More recently, Muizenberg has been targeted for urban renewal, and the decrepit buildings along the beachfront at Surfers’ Corner have been rejuvenated. Now the main carpark here is lined with surf shops, internet cafes and trendy eateries, and the area is becoming fashionable once more. Surfers’ Corner is considered the birthplace of surfing in South Africa – legend has it that a visiting Australian showed the locals how it was done in around 1910. Before long, collisions with bathers necessitated a separate area being demarcated for surfers, and what was formerly known as Neptune’s Corner naturally became Surfers’ Corner. It is still the place to learn to surf, and there are a number of surf schools catering for both young ‘grommets’ and latestarters.

Find more info on the Cities Blue Flag Beach Initiative

The shark-spotting initiative begun here in October 2004 by a local surfing personality has since been expanded to other beaches by the City of Cape Town. Next to Surfers’ Corner, there is another small beach along the edge of the bay, aptly called Rocky Beach. It largely disappears at high tide, but at low tide its rock pools make a good paddling spot for toddlers. Rock-and-surf anglers sometimes fish here, and at nearby Bailey’s Cottage.

The walkway to St James starts from the carpark, and offers a chance of spotting black oystercatchers foraging for food on the rocky shore at low tide. Overlooking the beach is the teak clocktower of the imposing red-brick railway stationhouse, built in 1913, which marks the start of Muizenberg’s Historical Mile along Main Road. It was the extension of the railway line from Wynberg in 1822 that stimulated the area’s development as a seaside resort. On the other side of Surfer’s Corner is Muizenberg Beach, the main swimming beach, which is also known as West Beach as it lies to the west of the Zandvlei outlet.

A colourful row of bathing boxes serves mainly as a picturesque tribute to the area’s historical heyday, but also provides an effective windbreak. Behind the beach is the Muizenberg Pavilion, dominated by a red-and-white candy-striped building that many consider an eyesore. It too harks back to an earlier time – the original pavilion was a wooden one built in 1910, but this was replaced in 1929 by a larger pavilion that included a theatre seating 900 people. That was demolished in the 1960s, and many hope that the current one will face the same fate as part of the area’s transformation. At present the building houses an Information Centre run by Cape Town Tourism, and a functions hall used for conferences, concerts and weddings. The Pavilion complex includes a recreational park with a paddling pool, putt-putt (mini-golf) course and waterslide, as well as an elevated promenade, which doubles as a bridge over the Zandvlei outlet.

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