KZN’s South Coast – a beloved holiday hotspot.
The South Coast of KwaZulu Natal stretches from the south to the start of the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. It’s a charming region boasting many unique activities that you could do on your next visit.
It is a 365-days a year destination with nine months of warm summer, and a pleasant three months of winter. It is famed for its 120-kilometre stretch of stunning beaches, seven of which hold Blue Flag status and adhere to international standards.
For golfing enthusiasts, the area offers eight of the top 30 golf courses in South Africa. Nature lovers can appreciate the regions breathtaking gorges, forests, and the world’s smallest desert. It is also a sporting paradise, with many National and International sporting events still being hosted here. It is also home to two of the best dive sites in the world: Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks.
Although there is no shortage of activities happening here, we have compiled this list of our top spots to give you some inspiration when planning your trip here. Be sure to base yourself in the Port Edward area, as most of these sites are in close proximity, ensuring that you can visit them all effortlessly.
A visit to the Petrified Forest to view the Mzamba Fossils
Most of you will have had very fond memories of past summers at the Wild Coast Sun. Remember that beach directly in front of the resort? Well, along this same stretch of beach is the Petrified Forest.
Petrified, by way of definition, refers to a series of fossilised trees that have fallen and become water submerged and logged along a coastline. These trees are said to have been around for over 225-million years since the Late Triassic period.
Informative tours to the forest are on offer, but be careful when planning this out. The impact of the forest can best be experienced at low tide.
Along the way, you will be shown fossilised ammonites that bare evidence of 6,5-metre wide echinoids (sea urchins), bivalve shells and a range of tree fossils. These are incredibly fascinating to witness as some still contain the original bark that has become fossilised over the years.
After being shown dinosaur bone fossils you will reach a series of caves along the coastline called “White Man caves”. These bare evidence into the life of our ancestors that once graced this area.
After your tour, visit the fossil exhibition that is on display in the reception area of the Wild Coast Sun. It will really piece together everything you have just learnt.
The world’s smallest desert
Port Edward has claimed its fame to the world’s smallest desert – The Red Desert. Its naked red soil bears contrast to its lush green surroundings and is only 200-metres wide and 11-hectares in its entirety.
There is not that much information available to explain this phenomenon but the myth has it that the desert is a result of terrestrial landings. It’s a really nice area to explore if you are fascinated by geology.
The entrance to the desert can be found on Old Pont Rd, and best enjoyed on foot.
Hiking in Umtamvuna Nature Reserve
This 3,257-hectare reserve is the hikers’ best-kept secret. The trail starts alongside the Umtamvuna River, and hikers can walk through indigenous forests, grasslands, admire sandstone cliff faces (some, 240-metre in height), rest at river stops and enjoy panoramic views into the river gorge.
It is not just the scenery that is special here. There is also an abundance of wildlife. A large Cape Vulture colony can be found nesting in the cliffs, along with 250 other bird species. Samango monkeys, bushbabies, baboons, blue duikers, bushbucks and leopards are also home to the reserve.
There are three trails that you can explore, each ranging in difficulty levels. The Kingfisher trail will take 30 minutes, the Loerie Trail two hours and the Fish Eagle Trail four hours.
The reserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset, however, winter and summer opening and closing times vary. There is a minimal fee payable on entrance.
Oribi Gorge and the Big Swing
Wild 5 adventures have continued to draw adventure seekers to the Oribi Gorge for years now. There is just something so exhilarating about standing at the edge of a waterfall and plunging downwards into a 165-metres high gorge at speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour. They have claimed their fame as offering one of the world’s highest swings of its kind.
Not your cup of tea? Well, they offer a wide range of activities to suit any kinds of travellers. Why not walk across their 84-metre suspension bridge that hovers 100-metres above the gorge, try out abseiling, go white river rafting, or lock in your love at lock lane? Here you can purchase a lock, make a wish and throw the key into the gorge forever.
Leopard Rock is also worth a visit and makes for an incredible sundowner spot.
The South Coast boasts an incredible amount of waterfalls. Although most of these can be found on private properties, they can be accessed on foot through one of the many hiking trails available in this region.
The spectacular Waterfall Bluff near the Mkambathi Nature Reserve is one of 19 waterfalls around the world that directly falls into the ocean. The falls can only be accessed on foot, and some trails lead you behind the falls. Other trails offer you scenic panoramic views.
The Magwa Waterfall is one of South Africa’s most impressive and highest of all waterfalls. It lies in the middle of the 1,800-hectare Magwa tea plantation and is one of the very few waterfalls that can be accessed along the rugged Wild Coast. You will be highly impressed by its 144-metre-high drop into a narrow canyon. It is said to resemble that of Victoria Falls.
Oribi Gorge’s Lehr Falls is also a must-see. It is 107-metres high and home to the Wild Adventures big swing.
‘Crop to cup’ coffee tour at Beaver Creek
Take a 45-minute coffee tour at the southernmost part of the world where coffee grows. Beaver Creek has spent over three decades perfecting their speciality coffees. It was established in 1984 with only four trees and has since grown to over 60 000.
The tour starts at 12:00 pm daily and will teach you all the processes that are involved in making the perfect cup of coffee.
Take advantage of their in-house cafe. They have a great brunch menu and some of their coffee barista’s compete in International Coffee competitions. Their farm store is also worth a visit. You can purchase a range of their own blends as well as some international favourites.
Cruise the Umtamvuna River
The Pont Water Sports Resort offers a range of picturesque cruises along the Umtamvuna River and to its nearby beach. Admire the forest ravines as well as the Wild Coasts most famous bridge. It connects the KZN and Eastern Cape Provinces and was once a border crossing post.
Hiking and mountain biking at Clear Water Trails
Clear Water Trails is a privately-owned farm which offers a range of nature walking trails, mountain biking trails, overnight accommodation and an owner-run cafe.
The area is incredibly scenic and tranquil, and it is the perfect place for aspiring photographers to zone in on their photography skills in South Africa’s natural heritage.
From a few vantage points around the farm, you can enjoy incredible panoramic views of the gorge, the river and the Indian Ocean. Many have proposed to their loved ones in this idyllic setting, so if you are looking to tie the knot, this might just be the perfect place.
The walking trails don’t take much effort at all and are perfect for even the beginner hiker and family groups. They host a range of different activities including the monthly five-kilometre trail run that takes place on the last Sunday of every month. For the mountain bikers, there are four MTB trails that offer a mix of different terrains and scenic views, moderate gradients or serious descents towards the river. There is something here for just about every nature lover.
The trails are open from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year, however, the cafe is only open from 8 am to 4 pm.
If you are spending some time around the South Coast and the Wild Coast of KwaZulu-Natal make sure you don’t miss out on the area’s top-rated activities. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to discover more about South Africa’s top-rated places and upcoming specials for to Durban.
Did we miss any of your favourite activities? Share them with us in the comments below.
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