I love going to the beach in the summer with my children. Especially as we live in the most beautiful city in the world (Cape Town) with splendent beaches, crystal blue waters and plenty of sand to build sand castles.
But going to the beach is not as simple as walking out the door. If you have children, there are so many factors to take into account like avoiding the midday heat, the traffic, the tourists and the costs, to mention a few. Also, how can you ensure that you’ve got everything you need? Cause let’s face it, there’s always something essential that gets left behind!
Here’s some tips that I’ve come up with to make your beach trip a pleasant experience. My family and I learned most of these lessons the hard way, so take heed so you enjoy your beach excursion rather than curse it.
- Get there early
In Cape Town it’s best to get to the beach early to avoid the midday heat and to land your favorite spot on the sand. If you don’t get to the beach early there’s an increased chance of being harmed by the sun’s UV rays, which are strongest and most harmful during midday.
You also want to get there early (aim to get to the beach anywhere between 7;30am and 9;30am) to avoid the crowds. Beaches get packed thanks to tourists from abroad and upcountry packing up our beaches.
- Be sun smart
The entire family needs protection from the sun to avoid being at risk of getting skin cancer. So make sure you get a good, certified cream, with a high factor (the African sun isn’t kind). There’s a plethora of creams on the market to suit every member of the family. There’s even products that won’t make your make-up run or leave you looking ‘ashy’. Also don’t forget hats, sun glasses and UV protected swim outfits. If you’re going to a beach where there’s limited or no shade consider purchasing a beach tent or umbrella that can offer shade to you and your young children. Take water with you – it can get hot in the summer in Cape Town and you don’t want the kids to dehydrate!
- Be organized
An outing, of any kind needs to be organised with military precision, especially when you have lots of kids. There’s always the need for the toilet or a wet wipe when someone messes on their clothes (usually just before you want to leave). If you don’t have some kind of strategy to get out of the house on time you could get stuck in the traffic (the road works along the False Bay coastal main road have proved a nightmare for motorists heading to the sea) or arrive close to midday when the heat will make a beach excursion unbearable. For a smooth exit pack a beach bag after the kids have gone to bed the night before. You won’t be interrupted by their demands and you can take your time to ensure you have everything you need. Better yet, keep this beach bag at the ready at all times. It makes spontaneous outings a breeze.
- Be water smart
Teach your kids to swim as early as possible. Every year in Cape Town we hear about how children have drowned and 2016/2017 has been no different. Just recently four children drowned in two separate incidents in the Western Cape. According to ENCA, three teenagers drowned after getting into difficulties at Muizenberg Beach and in Fresneye paramedics were unable to save a two year old toddler. We use Waterbourne Swim School at our Virgin Active Gym in Constantia.
But even swimming lessons aren’t enough. Children need supervision while they are playing in the water (be it pool or beach), so make sure you watch them like a hawk. Take note of when your kids need to wear a life jacket, but don’t let the equipment do the babysitting.
Don’t forget to watch out for sharks, particularly along the False Bay coastline. Attend beaches where there are coastguards and shark spotters watching out for your safety.
- You don’t have to pay to have a great day
There are a few beaches in Cape Town where you have to pay to enter or park, like Boulders Beach and Fish Hoek beach. Boulders is part of Table Mountain National Park and so tariffs currently stand at R70 per adult and R35 per child per day. A family of four would have to pay R210. While both Bouders and Fish Hoek are ideal, child friendly venues there are others to consider where you don’t have to pay. A little further on there’s Froggy Pond Beach (also known as Frank’s Bay), which is just as sheltered by some boulders, but there’s no fee to enter it. We took the family there early during the holidays (see pictures below) and had a blast). Save money by planning your journey and getting to the beach early to avoid the traffic. It’s tempting to park where you’re not supposed to when it’s boiling hot and you just want to get to the beach. But there’s a chance you’ll get fined by traffic cops.
Take as much of your own beach kit, food and drinks with as you can. Renting beach equipment like recliners and umbrellas isn’t cheap. While there are people selling drinks and snacks on the beach it’s best to take your own if you want to save money.
- Make sure there are toilets that are easily accessible
Choose a beach that has all the amenities or at least ones that have been maintained. If you are in doubt, do some research before hand. There’s a small outbuilding on Froggy Pond Beach that has some toilets. Thankfully we didn’t need them while we were there, but when we asked a couple about their condition they weren’t very impressed and advised us not to let the kids sit on them. Take things like toilet paper with and hand sanitizer, just in case.
- Pack all the essentials
If you have a baby don’t forget to have a nappy bag packed and at the ready. Wet wipes, nappies, nappy disposable bags, bum cream, extra outfits (if they get their current ones wet or soiled), etc. Don’t forget some beach toys (spade and bucket) and towels. In fact keep some towels and sunscreen in the car for those impromptu beach visits with the family.
- Use baby powder to de-sand your children
If your baby or toddler has dumped sand all over their bodies (as they inevitably do) apparently a sprinkling of baby powder over the sand makes taking it off easier. Try this out if you want to avoid giving your children an exfoliating scrub.
- Don’t drink alcohol
So many accidents happen when parents are inebriated. Kids have even got lost, while parents have glugged away on booze at the beach. Perhaps there’s something to celebrate (like a New Year, etc) but remember that if you have children they are your responsibility.
- Don’t litter!
Take some plastic packets to dispose of nappies, foods and drinks packaging, etc. Take your litter with you if there are no bins visible.
Shark spotters: Cape Town has seen an increase in the number of Great White sharks spotted in the in-shore zone. While shark attacks are rarer than car crashes, it pays to be vigilent.
NSRI: The National Sea Rescue Institute is a charity that has over 1000 volunteers working for it to save lives. Check out their water wise tips and dial 112 from your cell phone if you need their help in an emergency. If you want to support them, click here.
Fun at Froggy Pond Beach