The area has a set of 4 beaches which are frequently used destinations for both locals and tourists. The beaches, which are named from 1st to 4th, are separated by falls of granite boulders and have almost pure white granitic sand. The four beaches of Clifton are one of the few areas well protected from the notorious south-easterly wind, which has a great deal to do with its popularity with bathers.
A fifth beach, before First Beach, called Moses Beach (so-called because of the papyrus plants that grow along it), appears and disappears as the sand is washed in and out with the seasons. The water, although chilly (12–16 °C), plays host to many watersports, mostly surfing, both board and body.
The strongest surf is at First, diminishing to Fourth, where it is the weakest. Fourth beach (to the South), is the most populated and glamorous venue;attracting families. Yachts anchor off Fourth beach, especially on summer weekends. Third beach, the smallest beach,is known as a venue for gay culture. Second beach is populated by students playing beach volleyball and beach bats. First beach, to the north, draws a mixed crowd of locals and surfers. Clifton Beach was noted as one of Discovery.com’s best beaches by region.
Clifton’s 4th beach has also been awarded the Blue Flag award in recognition of its environmental, safety and tourist standards.
The small size of the properties on which bungalows are built between Fourth and Second beaches is attributable to the fact that the area was laid out by the City of Cape Town for returning soldiers who had fought in World War I. The original bungalows, now all but replaced by new structures, were built from the packing cases that conveyed imported motor cars during the 1920s and ’30’s. Narrow flights of stairs run between Victoria Road and the various beaches. These houses now fetch very high prices on the housing market, despite being only able to be reached by stairs, and, in most cases, having no garaging.