Welcome to Camps Bay, the French Riviera of Cape Town!



For my Tourist Guiding course we have to present a project about an area in the Cape Peninsula or the Wineland, depending on which tour we have been allocated a practical task. I was very lucky to have been given the area between Maidens Cove in Clifton to Llandudno, along the Atlantic Seaboard in Cape Town, the French Riviera of Cape Town.

Camps Bay was named after German sailor Ernst Frederik von Kamptz, who married widow Anna Koekemoer, who appeared to own the farm land called Ravensteyn that was to become Camps Bay. The land on the slopes of the Twelve Apostles was referred to as ‘Die Baai van von Kamptz’, reduced to Kampsbaai, and translated as Camps Bay about 220 years ago. It could well be that Von Kamptz left the land to the people of Camps Bay, as it is the only remaining suburb in Cape Town that is dry, in that no alcohol may be sold off-consumption, despite many attempts over the years for the local Pick n Pay to apply for a liquor licence.  Even Woolworths applied for the licence before it opened a FOOD in May last year, with no apparent success. Fish Hoek was the only other dry suburb in Cape Town, but was granted the right for alcohol to be sold in supermarkets and bottle stores last year. 

The first inhabitants of the land were San and Khoi indigenous peoples, who brought their cattle to graze on the mountain slopes, which were known to have lion, leopard, and antelope. The Khoi moved down closer to the ocean, building a Kraal, an encampment for the cattle, now called Oudekraal (the old kraal). 

A famous visitor to the area was Lord Charles Somerset, who enjoyed hunting in the area, and had built a hunting lodge called The Roundhouse on the slopes of Lion’s Head. The building now serves as the location of the Salsify restaurant, an Eat Out Top 10 restaurant belonging to Chef Luke Dale-Roberts. Chef Ryan Cole is the Head Chef of the restaurant. 

The suburb soon became a desirable society destination, and in 1901 a Tram was completed, connecting Sea Point, Tamboerskloof, and Camps Bay, running until 1930. A Pavilion had been erected near the Victorian-design Rotunda, now part of the Bay Hotel, where music concerts were performed, and other events held, part of a plan to turn Camps Bay into ‘Little Brighton’. There were plans to take down the Rotunda, and build a seven-storey block of apartments on the site, but the local residents objected. A road running along the coastline, designed by Thomas Bain, was built between Sea Point and Camps Bay, and was completed in 1887, in honour of Queen Victoria’s 1888 Jubilee. 

The most famous restaurant ever was Blues, which operated on the Promenade for 25 years, it developed a reputation as the most trendy restaurant in Cape Town, the Sunday newspapers reporting on which local and international celebrities had been seen socialising at Blues. Once tourists had heard about Blues, they wanted to not only eat at the restaurants but also wanted to stay in the suburb, at one of its few hotels and guest houses at the time, but as the popularity of the restaurant and suburb grew, so more and more accommodation establishments opened, including my guest house. 

Currently Camps Bay has 22 restaurants, of which 20 are in the proximity of the beach, and two are much further back. There is a Pick n Pay, and since May 2019 a Woolworths FOOD. Six coffee shops, two of which are vegan, are spread along the suburb. A hardware shop, two ice cream shops, a beauty salon, a dog accessory shop, four clothing shops, and a Deli complete the retail mix of Camps Bay. 

Camps Bay has a number of bays and beaches: Glen Beach is the first bay at the start of Camps Bay from the Clifton side, a dangerous beach for swimming due to riptides, a popular surfing beach; the main Blue Flag Camps Bay beach (right) also has riptide warnings, but lifesavers check this beach in front of their building, swimming being allowed near the well-known Whale Rock; the Tidal Pool (left below) follows, with its own beach, and a very popular picnic area on the lawns surrounding it; Bali Bay Beach (right) is one of three secret beaches, with Beta Beach and Bakoven (right below) beach, used predominantly by local residents. The next swimmable Beach is Llandudno. The sea water is ice cold, being the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches along the Atlantic Seaboard sport beautiful white beaches, created by the granite rocks on the Beaches. On many a day teams of persons from the film industry can be seen on shoots, film and photographic, capturing this beautiful scenery. 

The Theatre on the Bay (the former Alvin Cinema) was developed by impressario Peter Toerien, and opened its doors in 1988. Comedy and musical theatre is performed in the main. In front of the theatre is a monument honouring the brave South Africans who lost their lives fighting in the First World War, the funding coming from Camps Bay residents. A tin helmet lies on top of the monument, and an inscription above it reads: ‘Light of remembrance placed on the memorial in memory of fallen comrades by Sert Shellhole, MOTH’s Camps Bay on 29-4-1990’. 

Bakoven is a part of Camps Bay, named after the oven-shaped rock with a hole in it in the ocean. It is the fourth most expensive suburb in the country, following in the footsteps of Camps Bay in third place, and Clifton in the number one slot. Constantia and Llandudno are other Cape Town suburbs on this prestigious List. 

Few people know that Camps Bay has little pockets of Vineyards in the Gardens of Residents living above Camps Bay Drive, tended to and harvested by Jean Vincent Ridon, under the Signal Hills wine brand. Ridon has similar vines in Oranjezicht.  

The Twelve Apostles has 18 buttresses instead of twelve. It was originally called Gable Mountains. It is linked to Table Mountain, and The Pipetrack is a popular walk from Camps Bay to the mountain. Lion’s Head is an imposing mountain seen from all of Camps Bay. On bad South Easter wind days the bank of clouds hang over the Twelve Apostles, and the wind can reach a gale-force speed of over 100 km per hour. 

A marine reserve stretches all along the coast from the end of Bakoven up to Llandudno. This is one of the most beautiful Coastal stretches, and only one building is visible on it, the Twelve Apostles Hotel, formerly an advertising agency called The White House. A number of shipwrecks lie in the waters, three being dominant: Antipolis (1977), BOS 400 (1994), and Sao Jose Paquete Africa (1794), a ship having carried Portuguese slaves, with no survivors. 

A Kramat of Shaykh Noorul Mebeen is on the mountain side of the road, 99 steps up to his grave from Victoria Road, just before Oudekraal. The Sheik had been banished to Robben Island, managed to escape from there, and secretly taught Muslims about Islam. 

Oudekraal is on the seaside of Victoria Road, and is a popular picnic spot. 

Llandudno is a very sheltered safe suburb with about 600 residents, with only one entrance and exit, and no street lighting or shops. It is named after its namesake in North Wales, its beaches looking similar, the suburb name meaning ‘Parish of Saint Tudno’. It has an exquisite beach. A hidden beach accessed from Llandudno is Sandy Bay, Cape Town’s only nudist beach. The Suikerbossie Restaurant lies above Llandudno, and is a well-known event venue. 

Famous residents of Camps Bay include David Kramer, the late Ben Turok, cricketer Herschelle Gibbs, the late rugby player James Small, Rugby player Jannie Engelbrecht, endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh, Lord Charles Somerset, and rugby player Percy Montgomery. 


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein


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