Namibia has well over a thousand kilometres of coastline, but much of it is off limits to self-drive visitors. South of Lüderitz, the Sperrgebiet is a restricted diamond mining region. To the town’s north, the coastal dunes of the Namib Desert are protected all the way to Walvis Bay. Namibia’s main public beaches lie between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. From there it’s essentially one long public beach all the way past Swakopmund to the Skeleton Coast National Park, where access is once again restricted from Terrace Bay to the Angolan border.
Namibia’s most spectacular stretch of shoreline has to be the magical coastal dunes between Lüderitz and Walvis Bay. These beautiful red dunes are rightly protected, and can only be accessed under strict supervision. Usually this means a guided, self-drive 4x4 safari where guests drive their own vehicles in a small convoy. Multi-day tours run between Lüderitz and Walvis Bay, but they can be pricey. Dune and beach driving is also not for the inexperienced and there’s always a risk of seriously damaging your vehicle.
To get a taste of the Namib’s dunes without doing a full tour, you can do a one-day, guided excursion south of Walvis Bay to Sandwich Harbour. It’s an easier, less expensive option with some beach driving and the chance to immerse yourself in endless rolling dunes.
For the best beach and bush experience in a single holiday, drive a rough triangle between Windhoek, Etosha National Park and Swakopmund. Other than the Sandwich Harbour tour, Walvis Bay doesn’t have many beaches, but there are beach resorts between there and Swakopmund, and better beaches in Swakopmund itself.
You’ll probably start your journey in Windhoek and it doesn’t really matter whether you head to Etosha or the coast first. Between Windhoek and the sea, look out for the excellent wild campsites at Blutkuppe, Mirabib and Homeb. There are no facilities and you’ll need to take everything with you, including your camping permits. These must be purchased at a Ministry of Environment and Tourism office in either Windhoek or Swakopmund, before you leave.
Between Etosha and Swakopmund, make sure you stop at Twyfelfontein to see the incredible stone etchings that date back 6000 years. The dry rivers and valleys around Twyfelfontein are wonderful and you can camp wild in any secluded corner. Further south you’ll find Divorce Pass and the Ugab River Rhino Camp. This whole area is 4x4 only – Divorce Pass in particular is one of the most challenging roads in Namibia. Other highlights include the Messum Crater, Spitzkoppe and the Skeleton Coast National Park, and just behind Swakopmund is the famous ‘Moon Landscape’ and ancient welwitschia fields.
The whole triangle can be driven comfortably in two weeks, but a few extra days will give you more time in Etosha National Park – Namibia’s best park for wildlife viewing.