KZN South Coast travel guide
The long-fingered palm trees and almost constant sunshine of KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast begin at Amanzimtoti, just south of Durban, and stretch to Port Edward. The safe, sheltered bays are great for swimming with kids. Off the shore of Umkomaas, Aliwal Shoal is one of the best dive sites in the world, attracting amateurs and experts to explore its caves, reefs, tropical fish and ragged tooth sharks. Many beaches adhere to international standards of safety, education and water quality so they have been awarded Blue Flag Status.
Visitors also come to play golf at San Lameer or Selborne Park, hike in nature reserves, see prehistoric rock caves, or take a tour of the hidden lighthouses. Walks on the Hibiscus Coast reveal unusual flowers, shipwrecks and coves. Make your way to the immense Oribi Gorge for waterfalls and views. For extra thrills, choose white water rafting, mountain biking or sway on a suspension bridge across a ravine.
If you visit in June, don’t miss the tremendous spectacle of the Sardine Run. You’ll witness thousands of dolphins, sharks and fur seals, game fish and even possibly a whale or two, all rushing to feed on a shoal of millions of sardines.
Where the best beaches are:
- Umdoni Coast – Scottburgh, Umzinto and Pennington offer pristine sands and brilliant diving sites. They also have centres for loads of other watersports.
- Port Edward – Quiet and slow paced. You can take a guided walk to look for petrified marine fossils on the beach at low tide. The Red Desert, possibly the smallest desert in the world, resembles the red sands of Mars. On the rocks of Glenmore Beach you can still see parts of the 1933 wreck of the Nightingale.
- Port Shepstone – Excellent beaches and a hundred-year-old tidal pool. Or take a tour of Beaver Creek Coffee Estate.
- Southbroom – a town with character bordering two gorgeous Blue Flag beaches, two tidal pools and the lushly tropical Frederika Nature Preserve. Southbroom has not one but two respected golf courses: San Lameer Golf Club and Southbroom Golf Club.
- Amanzimtoti - A popular choice for holiday makers who know their South Coast, with outstanding beaches including Doonside, Warner Beach, Winkelspruit and Illovo.
- Margate – Though it gets busy, Margate is a good base as it has lots of entertainment and has easy access to bird and whale watching, zip lining, scuba diving, crocodile farms, game drives and golf. The key is not to rush to the beautiful but crowded beaches. Instead, head for the lesser-known, quieter seashores such as Monks Street Bay at nearby Ramsgate. This beach is not safe for swimming but kids can paddle and play on the rocks, and it’s ideal for relaxing with a picnic.
For adventures in nature:
- Oribi Gorge – the colossal and spectacular ravine is part of the Lake Eland Game Reserve with unique rock formations, waterfalls and walking and cycling trails. If you’re looking for a thrill to remember, choose from the world's highest natural commercial abseil, the world's highest bungee swing, and a Wild Slide where you zip line across the gorge.
- Aliwal Shoal – An exciting and challenging dive site that is part of an ancient reef complex. Dives here reveal a huge variety of fish and ragged tooth sharks particularly between August and November. On top of the water this is also a great spot for dolphin and whale watching.
- Protea Banks – off the shore of Shelly Beach, this is ranked with Aliwal Shoal as one of the best shark dive sites in the world, better suited to experienced divers.
- Vernon Crook Nature Reserve – A half hour’s drive from Umzinto is a well-kept combination coastal forest, grasslands, wetlands, rivers and dams. There are a number of excellent roads and trails, designed to show visitors a good variety of habitats. There’s a reception office where you can find information about which hike to choose, and there is a lovely picnic area. You may spot zebra, impala, black backed jackal, blue wildebeest, bushbuck, blesbuck, blue duiker, plus over 300 species of bird.