One of the most photographed scenes in Cape Town is of the colourful Victorian beach huts and tidal pool at St James Beach. Grand old homes on the hillside overlook this picturesque setting that is located along the False Bay coastline of the Cape Peninsula.
The desirable suburb of St James was once a part of millionaire’s mile, an area reserved for luxurious holiday homes for the mid-1900 wealthy. Many of these homes are still standing amongst leafy gardens.
St James is a prime location for whale watching and the city’s shark spotters are positioned higher up the hillside in Boyes Drive to look out for great whites entering the bay.
There is a scenic seaside walk along the shoreline in either direction from St James to Kalk Bay harbour or Muizenberg surfing beach.
Top 8 reasons to visit St James
1. Grab a towel and swim in the tidal pool or in the waves at St James Beach. Find a sandy spot to soak up the sun, then search for treasures in the quaint shops along the beachfront towards Kalk Bay. Stop in at the harbour for a fresh seafood dish.
2. A drive to Cape Point is a must. Visit the information centre to learn of the animals and fynbos within the 7700ha reserve, visit the old lighthouse and drive down to the Cape of Good Hope beach where it’s said the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. Look out for opportunistic baboons and ostriches browsing on the beach.
3. There are 5 museums within easy walking distance of St James: The Posthuys, an old toll house and one of the oldest buildings in South Africa, the Natale Labia art museum housing outstanding works of art and mementoes relevant to Count Labia’s family, the Police museum with historic jail cells, Rhodes Cottage where Cecil John Rhodes died and the Battle of Muizenberg open air museum.
4. Hike up the Old Mule Path to reach the forests of Spes Bona and stunning views of False Bay. There are a number of caves in the area, arrange to be escorted by a member of the speleological society, never enter caves alone.
5. Learn to surf at surfer’s corner on Muizenberg beach. The gentle breakers are mostly uniform and ideal for newbies to the sport. Several surf companies on the beachfront offer training and equipment.
6. Rise early and walk over to the Kalk Bay harbour to purchase fresh fish directly off the boats. The fishermen will descale and prepare the fish. Arrange with your host to have it cooked up for a delightful breakfast.
7. Take a trip to Boulders Beach to swim with penguins. A large penguin colony is established here and, as long as you keep your distance, the penguins don’t mind sharing their beach. Large boulders break up the waves, making it one of the safest swimming beaches in the bay.
8. Experience a wine tasting on one of two magnificent wine routes; travel along the False Bay shoreline to reach the popular Stellenbosch wine route or inland via the leafy southern suburbs into Constantia, where the country’s oldest wine farms are located.
The nearest airport is Cape Town International, 30km from St James. The suburb is on the Southern Rail train line that operates between Cape Town and Simon’s Town. Car rental agencies are located at the airport and in Cape Town city to hire a vehicle or order one online. A few metered taxi companies operate from bases nearby. If you have the Uber app, order a ride via your mobile phone.
Did you know?
The tidal pool at St James was built in 1911 and was essentially constructed over an existing Khoi fish trap. The Khoi people would assemble rocks in the shallow water to trap fish at low tide.
An Italian Count, Natale Labia donated his Muizenberg residence to the South African National Gallery in 1985. The donation included all furniture and works of art. Known as the Casa Labia Cultural Centre and Café, the venue hosts regular art exhibitions. The house alone is worth viewing.