Swakopmund is Namibia’s largest coastal town, with immaculate palm-lined promenades and historic German architecture evoking Namibia’s colonial history. Although the town maintains an untouched and timeless feel, there are plenty of welcoming places to stay, along with some great restaurants, shops and museums. A popular seaside resort for Namibians seeking relief from the heat of the interior, the town has become something of a tourist hub, with adrenalin activities such as sand boarding, dune biking, parachuting, and hot air ballooning offered as day trips from the town centre. There’s also a snake park, an aquarium, and some decent beaches, although the water can be chilly here on Namibia’s north western Atlantic coast. Characterful charm combined with countless pursuits make Swakopmund a great base for a day or two, and the perfect access point to Namibia’s remote and intriguing Skeleton Coast.
Located some 30 km south of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay is a busy harbour town perched somewhat incongruously on the desert sands of Namibia’s north-west Atlantic coastline. While the town’s modern architecture may lack the charm of Swakopmund’s colonial buildings, the main attraction is its vibrant lagoon which boasts an unrivalled abundance of marine life. Walvis Bay is a migratory hub for thousands of birds including cormorants, pelicans, and vast flocks of pink flamingos. Dolphin-spotting boat excursions, kite surfing, wind surfing, and kayaking are among the many available activities, and there’s also a Birdlife Information Centre and local museum to explore. On the water, approaches from inquisitive cape fur seals are not uncommon, and humpback whales and leatherback turtles might also be sighted further out to sea. Although smaller than Swakopmund, Walvis Bay is pleasant town with a good number of hotels and restaurants, and a fantastic range of water-based activities. It’s also the ideal departure point for trips southwards to the ancient and beautiful Namib Desert.