South African Cape Town’s Camps Bay Travel Information

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Camps Bay has long been one of Cape Town’s most popular holiday destinations. Lined with palm trees on the beachfront, with white sandy beaches, brilliant blue sea and majestic mountains in the background, Camps Bay offers you the holiday of a lifetime. The cosmopolitan beachfront with its restaurants and cafés is busy throughout the year. The village is close to many other attractions, yet Camps Bay displays a certain uniqueness which is enjoyed by all its guests – come and experience it for yourself!

History of Camps Bay

Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape in 1652, sent by the Dutch East India Company to erect a refreshment station for the passing ships on their trade route to the East (see History). Shortly after arrival, he started exploring the surrounding area.

He soon ventured over the mountain and discovered a bay with a lovely beach behind Table Mountain. Initially the area was of little interest to the company, being unsuitable for shipping with its dangerous breakers, yet attractive to farmers. By 1700 the area behind Table Mountain was known as Roodekrantz (Red bank) due to the reddish colour of the soil. The area was given to John Lodewyk Wernich, the Mayor of Bismarck, who built a farmhouse and called it Ravensteyn. After his death, his widow, Anna Koekemoer, married Fredrik Ernst von Kamptz, who built a track along the coast from his house to Cape Town. The farmhouse was later used by various British governors, among them Lord Charles Somerset, as a holiday house.

The French defend Camps Bay

When the American War of Independence broke out in 1777, the French and the Dutch sided with America to fight against England. Since the Cape was considered an important trade and supply station, both France and England sent their troops to Cape Town. The troops arrived in 1781, although the French won the race and landed 11 days before the British.

Before long, war erupted between England and the Netherlands, and for the next three years France assisted her allies, the Dutch, in the struggle to protect the Cape. As suggested by the French, a line of fortifications was built from the coast to Devil’s Peak and to the battery on Kloof Nek. Trenches were dug and a battery was built to command the beach, under Dutch command, and von Kamptz’s track to Camps Bay was demolished in the process.

The Bay of Von Kamptz

After the war, von Kamptz returned home to find his farm wrecked and his track destroyed. He lodged an official complaint, but the governor refused to rebuild the track, instead offering to buy the farm. On 31 January 1786, the government paid compensation to von Kamptz and the farm changed hands. Within a few months, two small batteries had been built.

First British Occupation

Dutch power in the Cape was fading by the end of the 18th century. When news of the Napoleonic Wars arrived in 1793, the British decided to secure the Cape. They took control of the Cape settlement in 1795, and finally defeated the Dutch in 1806 at Blouberg. In 1807 Lord Charles Somerset was to use the ‘Round House’ building in Camps Bay as his hunting lodge.

The beauty of Camps Bay eventually became better known, from the many governors who had braved the narrow road to the beach. In 1848 a better road had been completed, named Lady Smiths Pass, after the wife of the governor. It was later renamed to Kloof Road.

General information

Camps Bay is home to around 5500 families, with one of the best high schools in the country. It has some of the most prestigious properties in Cape Town, with priceless views. The famous Clifton beaches are situated nearby.

Camps Bay is probably second only to Table Mountain in its popularity for photographs and postcards. The turquoise colour of the ocean, together with the blue of the sky, the white sandy beach and the famous palm fringed beachfront -it’s just the perfect holiday paradise. The view from Lion’s Head is amazing, and the relatively short hike is well worth the effort.

Attractions in Camps Bay

The main attraction of Camps Bay is undoubtedly the unsurpassed beauty of its lovely beaches. Swimming and tanning under a bright blue sky, or taking a relaxing walk in the soft white sand are pastimes enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. Gourmet restaurants and cafés line the trendy beachfront, offering delicious refreshments and superb views. The famous ‘Theatre on the Bay’ offers delightful entertainment, and there are plenty of shopping opportunities.

A number of sporting clubs are also a source of fun and activity – bowling, cricket, soccer, squash and tennis. The lifesaving club is one of the most established clubs and acts swiftly in emergency situations. Further from the beach, the magnificent mountain range is ideal for walking and hiking, and the opportunities are near endless.

Camps Bay has it all – the perfect setting for a perfect holiday, coupled with first class dining, entertainment, accommodation and recreation, as well as picture perfect sunsets. A popular place to spend a sunny day with Capetonians, and a dream destination for tourists, Camps Bay really does offer everything for everyone.

By Gerald Crawford