It’s December and for many, a coastal holiday is at the top of the list. If you’re looking for oceanfront fun, there’s no better seaside experience than at a Blue Flag beach. Visit these blissful spots found in our national parks. By Arnold Ras

South Africa is home to many breathtaking beaches, but only 44 have recently been awarded Blue Flag status. This eco-label places a premium on water quality, a pristine environment, safety and amenities. In other words, everything required for beach bum satisfaction.

Why settle for an average beach experience when you can be part of an international initiative aimed at the protection of our coastline and coastal waters? Head to these Blue Flag beaches found in our national parks and marine protected areas.

Cape Town

The Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area stretches from Mouille Point on the Atlantic Seaboard right round the Cape Peninsula to Muizenberg. At any of these four beaches you can swim in protected waters and enjoy the beauty of the Table Mountain chain towering above you.

Camps Bay

Every summer, the trendy and exceptionally popular Camps Bay strip welcomes thousands of beach lovers in search of turquoise waters and lazy days. With Lion’s Head on one side, the Twelve Apostles in the background, and a main street with restaurants and shops, Camps Bay is a hot spot for vacationers young and old. Other highlights include the sight of paragliders soaring above and, of course, the personable beach vendors – a Camps Bay beach day is not complete without a bright yellow granadilla ice lolly. Even as a Capetonian, I find myself returning again and again to this white and spacious beach with its vibrant mix of visitors. It’s one of my all-time favourite spots to plant my umbrella.

Clifton

Clifton is one of Cape Town’s most exclusive suburbs, but its picture-perfect beaches are free for all to visit. Although you can choose between four idyllic beaches, only one of them will fly the Blue Flag this year. Clifton Fourth, my sanctuary from the city’s hustle and bustle and Clifton’s most popular beach by far, is where many families and friends go to spread their towels. Cape Town’s wealthy regularly anchor their yachts in the bay, adding a glamorous touch to this beach affair.

Tip: Clifton Fourth can be accessed only by steps leading from Victoria Road all the way down to the beach. Make sure to pack light and arrive early as parking can be a headache.

Llandudno

Think huge granite boulders, white sand and incredible mountain views. Best of all, Llandudno Beach – situated between Camps Bay and Hout Bay – is more secluded than most beaches found on the Cape Peninsula. Roll out your towel, read a book, play with the kids, or just take in the stunning surrounds. The vibe is more relaxed and tranquil, ideal for visitors who want to reflect on yet another eventful year. I usually pack an over-the-top picnic basket filled with treats to last me for hours of pure relaxation. From Llandudno Beach, the more adventurous beachgoer can take a (quite lengthy) stroll to Sandy Bay, Cape Town’s only nudist beach.

Garden Route

Nature’s Valley

🌿Souvenirs de Nature’s Valley 🌿#lhivercestmieuxlabas

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When I ventured on my first Garden Route National Park road trip a few years back, it was a no-brainer that Nature’s Valley had to be on the itinerary. Trust me, you’ll have a hard time not taking hundreds of photographs. The golden sands of this beach are complimented by indigenous forests, delicate fynbos and even aloes. The area offers plenty of activities other than basking on the beach: canoe to the Groot River Mouth or go sailing on the Groot River Estuary, to name but a few. Nature’s Valley, part of the national park’s exquisite Tsitsikamma Section, will leave you in awe. There’s a good reason why I treasure so many memories made here next to the Indian Ocean.