Originally a sugar farm, urban legend has it that Ballito (30 minutes north of Durban) was named after a pair of Italian stockings, and that it means “little ball” in Italian… Whatever the origins of the town’s wacky name may or may not be, Ballito is an extremely popular holiday destination with Willard and Boulder beaches respectively superb for swimming and surfing. Meander along the 2.5km promenade on the beachfront, and try to spot Bottlenose dolphins as you do. Well developed with two new shopping malls, numerous shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Originally established as a Norwegian mission station - but this was abandoned, and the village of Empangeni only took root in the early 1900s when the Zululand Railway connected the district to Durban. An experimental eucalyptus timber plantation was established in 1905, and the success of this, coupled with sugar cane farming in the area established Empangeni as an agricultural region. Situated 160 kilometres north of Durban in a hilly region with views across the coastal plains and Richard’s Bay. Visit the Empangeni Arts and Crafts Centre for products created by local communities - or mosey into the past through the time-portal of the Empangeni Art and Cultural Museum on Turnbull Street, where the Harrison collection documents the lives of the first sugar farmers; the museum also houses a fine display of traditional Zulu art.
Considered the gateway to the iSimangaliso wetlands (formerly the greater St Lucia wetlands) and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, Mtubatuba is 220km north of Durban and 57km north of Richards Bay. It was established in 1903 and named after a Zulu chief whose mother struggled with him in childbirth. Struggle plagued the early history of the town - as it was situated in a swampland its early years were hindered by flooding. More drama occurred during the First World War, when vital parts for the town’s first sugar mill were sunk in a torpedoed ship! Mtubatuba is a busy town with many vendors and hawkers, and is set amongst forest plantations and is about 27km from the town of St Lucia.
One of South Africa’s largest harbours began life as an anchorage when Sir Frederick Richards, the Commodore of the Cape, landed his troops on the beaches here in 1879 during the Anglo-Boer War. Today the city is a well-developed industrial hub with a rail infrastructure linking its aluminium smelter and fertilizer plant to Johannesburg; the port is one of the largest exporters of coal in the world - 65 million tons a year. Year round temperate climate - excellent infrastructure for the business tourist.
Part of the chain of coastal seaside villages and towns which have become popular with property developers. The name comes from King Shaka’s times when the Zulu handmaidens collected dried salt off the rocks at low tide to trade with the settlers. Good fishing -offshore reefs are popular with divers. Lovely swimming beaches, dolphin spotting and seasonal whale watching of humpback whales.
Legend has it that the famous Zulu chief Shaka used this as a lookout, or, according to some, to test his warriors mettle by encouraging them to leap off it. (As this would have resulted in their death it seems somewhat counter-productive so this could just be more fable than history.) Today the residential coastal village with its sandy beach and tidal pool make it a popular family beach.
A dramatic setting, with high cliffs and a popular beach with a sea pool, Sheffield Beach is just less than 50km north of Durban. Don a mask and snorkel at high tide and lazily drift through rock pools, enjoying the visual array of anenomies, crabs and small fish. St Lucia and the iSimangaliso
Wetlands Park (Elephant Coast)
A sprawling town on the fringe of the estuary of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park (formerly known at the Greater St Lucia Wetlands), St Lucia is one of the bases from which to explore the world famous glorious wilderness wetlands reserve – which is a phenomenal birding and game-viewing region with truly magical warm-water beaches. The park has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO - it is the greatest estuarine system in Africa and supports several eco-systems – reed and papyrus wetlands, woodlands, coral reefs, lakes and coastal dunes. Leisure activities abound in the region - glide past hippos and crocs on a boat trip or on a kayak. Game drives and hiking safaris are also offered in the park. Explore other delights of the region through cycling, fishing, scuba diving and whale watching. The town of St Lucia has many curio shops and restaurants – look out for the monkeys, many of whom have migrated from the park to make mischief in the town!
North of Umhlanga, this coastal seaside town has grown into a popular holiday destination. Its name is Zulu for a type of wild tobacco, and to access the town one drives through lush sugar plantations. Bounded by the Umdloti River and lagoon to the north and a forest reserve to the south, Umdloti is a popular with experienced surfers. Great shark-netted swimming beaches and many golf courses in the nearby region.
With its picture-postcard red and white lighthouse, Umhlanga is one of South Africa’s most popular seaside resorts. Dramatic high-rise luxury apartments have changed the face of this fabulously laid-back, charming holiday town. Many shopping centres and restaurants with golfing nearby, walking trails and dolphin spotting.
Just 20 minutes from Durban, Zimbali is a nature-lover’s paradise. Walk through indigenous sub-tropical forests enjoying the spectacular birdlife, or horse ride along golden beaches lapped by the warm waves of the Indian Ocean. The renowned 18-hole golf course at the Zimbali Country Club is a must for enthusiasts.
Portfolio Collection has a wide range of comfortable, luxury and exclusive Dolphin Coast accommodation in KwaZulu Natal, including B&Bs, guest houses, farm stays, country homes, boutique hotels and game and safari lodges.