Dive Site Guide: Windmill Beach

How to plan your next dive at Windmill Beach

27 September 2020

By Danel Wentzel

Windmill Beach is a popular dive site along the coast of False Bay - due to the beautiful kelp forests that surround its shores, the abundant marine life and the large boulders which shields it from the elements.

The site is situated in Simon's Town, near the famous Boulders Beach which is known for the African Penguins that nest there. The closest dive centre is Pisces Divers, which is only a 7 minute drive away (3.7km), ideal for if you are renting gear or filling your cylinder.

Marine Protected Area

Windmill Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park, situated within a Marine Protected Area and therefore a permit is required to scuba dive. This can be obtained at your local Post Office (for around R100) and should be kept in your car, as park rangers may ask for it.

Windmill Beach is a unique dive site as it is also a NO TAKE ZONE which strictly prohibits any fishing, removing and collecting of marine life.

Location and Parking

The following image from Google Earth shows the stretch of road ending with a cul de sac closest to Windmill Beach. We always drive down to the end to see if we get lucky with parking otherwise (as you can see in the image) along the side of the road next to the golf course is the best alternative parking spot. Always be mindful of the residents nearby. The parking lot has a long-standing, friendly car guard Stephan which often helps with viz updates from earlier divers.

Follow the path

The path follows the fence of the golf course down towards the right and can be quite uncomfortable if you are barefoot (especially with gear on). This path leads you to the toilet block and then down towards a wooden boardwalk that wraps around a big iconic tree.

The Beach

Windmill has a sandy beach with boulders surrounding the outskirts and often washed up kelp at the high tide mark. At low tide there are numerous rock pools teeming with life that are accessible - always be cautious there are slippery rocks and fragile animals that inhabit this intertidal zone.

On a sunny day, this tucked away beach can be quite popular with the locals with their dogs and children, kayakers and canoeists. To the left of the tree there is a sandy path that leads you towards Boulders Beach with common sightings of African Penguins.

Dive Site Orientation

Freedivers and scuba divers will refer to either the left or right channel when talking in context of the diving conditions or entry/exit points of Windmill beach. The left channel offers a wide open area that gradually deepens to about 2 metres all around with lots to see for beginner divers. This, however, at the back of the kelp in line with the outcrop of rocks to the right, quickly deepens to about 7 metres.

If it is a rising tide (going from low to high) or with a strong wind, be cautious of a strong current that can carry you out of the protective cove. There is a gap between the centre boulders that with moderate swell can become dangerous if you swim/dive too close.

The right channel is the most popular entry point for divers, as it is more protected, a reasonably sized area for big groups to do their final checks and put fins on. It has a gradual sandy slope to about 2 metres with kelp on all sides like a sandy cul de sac until all divers are ready to venture into the kelp forest to explore.

Planning a dive

When you arrive at Windmill Beach, the first best thing to do is to walk out onto the big lookout point just past the gate and to the left of the path. It provides a beautiful view of the dive site, as well as a perfect indication of how the current weather conditions out-to-sea are affecting each channel and to make an informative decision on your entry and exit points.

Once you have planned your dive and taken in the view - go kit up in the parking lot, while being mindful of other divers and reversing cars. We always do our gear checks first, brief the objective and buddy procedures in the parking lot, put on the gear and walk down the path to our entry point. At the water's edge we run through our predive safety check (BWRAF) and then wade into the water to put on our fins and set off for the dive.

We hope this guide is useful in helping new divers familiarise themselves with this iconic Cape Town dive site. So what are you waiting for? Gear up and happy exploring!