Here are four of our favourites.
Vic Bay, wedged between George and Wilderness, offers a gorgeous white-sand beach framed by jumbles of rocks and steep hillsides. It’s tiny, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in whale watching, incredible surf conditions (a 300 m right point break), a tidal pool, excellent fishing… you get the picture. Victoria Bay Caravan Park is neat as a pin, set above the single strip of houses along the southern side of the bay. The elevated position of the plots means the views are fantastic, and the grassed stands are well maintained and electrified, and some even have private ablutions. It’s not glamping, but it’s close.
Close by – The railway track from Vic Bay to Wilderness follows the curve of the shore and, as it’s no longer operational, it makes for a safe walk with amazing views.
2 Maphelane, iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Set on the southern bank of the Umfolozi River mouth and the foot of the soaring dune from which the area takes its name, Maphelane has the feel of a remote campsite. Rustic, and set within the coastal forest, the camp rings with birdsong. There are 40 unelectrified camping and caravan sites limited to six people each,
as well as 10 fully equipped five-bed log cabins. A hike up the dune will give you the best view on the coast, and the shore angling is legendary, so bring your fishing gear.
Close by – St Lucia may be 1 km away as the crow flies, but it’s an 80 km drive. The town, with its restaurants, nature trails and shops, is an easy walk from Maphelane, but don’t attempt the walk if the river mouth is open to the sea – hippos and crocs are abundant.
3 Pumula Beach Hotel, Umzumbe
If you have small kids, you have probably learned that a holiday is really just an away game. But Pumula Beach Hotel on the KZN South Coast is as geared up for families as a place can be, which means less time worrying about what they’ll eat or be entertained by, and more time actually relaxing. The hotel overlooks a Blue Flag beach (keep your eyes peeled for dolphins in the breakers) offering excellent swimming and surfing. The rooms are comfortable and serviced daily – most offer views of the ocean
– and the on-site restaurant offers a great menu in a relaxed setting.
Close by – Umzumbe Surf Camp (umzumbesurfcamp.com / 039 684 5019) offers surf lessons and board rentals, and will get you up to speed on the basics and into the water in no time.
4 Mbotyi River Lodge, Wild Coast
Rugged and isolated, Mbotyi River Lodge on the Wild Coast overlooks a lovely lagoon and wide beach, with walking trails following the rocky coastline to the north and south. Its tranquil, wild beauty is something that’s in short supply these days, but you’ll find plenty of it here. The three-star rooms have views of the lagoon or sea, and the restaurant serves up excellent food – particularly memorable are the seafood platters and communal braais.
Close by – There are waterfalls galore in the area. You’ll drive past the 144 m-high Magwa Falls on the way in, and you can hike to Fraser Falls and Waterfall Bluff, one of the few waterfalls in the world that plunges directly into the sea.
For more on underrated beaches in South Africa, page through your December issue of Escapes.