Let’s not be coy. We think Ellerman House has one of the best swimming pools in Cape Town. Period. Or, ‘finish and klaar’, as the locals would say.
Set on our grassy garden terrace, with a soundtrack of rustling palm trees and endless views out across the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, it’s a glorious slice of the Mother City where you can’t help but relax. Need your drink freshened up in between refreshing dips? Just wave the flag at your sun lounger and one of our helpful staff will be right there to take your order.
So it’s no surprise that many of our guests choose to spend a large chunk of their summer holidays relaxing on a poolside lounger. They’re on vacation, so who can blame them?
But if you fancy yourself a swimmer, it’s worth hauling out your goggles (or ask our helpful concierge to arrange) and heading out. Because Cape Town’s network of well-maintained public tidal pools offer some of the world’s best wild swimming, where you can safely take a dip in the ocean while hanging out with the locals.
Around Cape Town there are more than a dozen tidal pools: shoreline swimming pools built with enclosing walls that capture the high tide to create a safe sea water pool.
One of the city’s hidden gems is just a short walk from Ellerman House. Just down the hill you’ll find Saunders Rock, a tiny tidal pool wedged in between granite boulders. It’s shallow, which means it’s great for lounging about, and the (usually icy) Atlantic waters are a little warmer here.
But it’s worth taking a drive around the coast. The Camps Bay tidal pool is hugely popular with locals for a quick dip, but you’ll just as often find them using it as a place to suntan and socialise, making it a great way to tap into city life. Because it’s west-facing, the Camps Bay tidal pool is best at sunset and offers a superb spot for sundowners.
We do love the Atlantic Seaboard, but have to admit that the best tidal pools are actually on the ‘other’ coastline, strung out along the coast of False Bay. This is the road many guests will follow to explore Cape Point – passing through the quaint seaside suburbs of Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Simonstown – so it’s worth allowing extra time for a swim along the way.
If you have kids with you, St. James is a must. As famous for its colourful beach huts as its large tidal pool, the combination of sandy beaches, protected waters and fun rockpools to explore make this a hit with local families.
Thanks to the influence of the Indian Ocean the water is a little warmer in False Bay, and that’s especially true at Dalebrook, perhaps the most famous of the False Bay pools. It’s a wonderful pool with a rock in the middle for sunbathing and enough space for you to swim a few laps. Afterwards, warm up with a coffee from the excellent Dalebrook Café across the road.
Further along the coastal road, just beyond the village of Kalk Bay, you’ll come to Wooley’s Pool. This is a tiny pool, and something of a local secret, but it offers superb sea views and is often quieter than other pools.
Or keep going to the suburb of Glencairn, where the pool enjoys a dramatic location alongside a wide beach. It’s one of the larger pools in the Cape, and ideal for a few laps without worrying about sea currents.
And that’s the beauty of the city’s public tidal pools: they’re safe, scenic and open to everyone, and you could easily make a day of touring the Cape just through its tidal pools.
But one last thing to remember: because tidal pools are natural ecosystems, they play host to a range of marine life that could include spiny sea urchins. We recommend swimming with aqua-shoes or flippers to protect your feet.