It is an exclusive residential area and is home to some of the most expensive real estate in South Africa, with dwellings nestled on cliffs that have sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.
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 well protected from the notorious south-easterly wind. A fifth beach, before First Beach, called Moses, 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. Yachts anchor off Fourth beach, especially on summer weekends. Third beach attracts gay men. Third is the beach to which families and beach volleyball players gravitate. First beach, to the north, the largest beach, draws a mixed crowd. Clifton Beach was noted as one of Discovery.com's best beaches by region.
Clifton 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 above first 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. 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.