The hamlets, coves and corners of SA's 7 underrated coastal towns

2013-04-25 15:32
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Scottburgh lagoon greenery with a house overlookin

Here are some of the most underrated coastal towns in South Africa. (Photo: iStock)

With a coastline stretching approximately 2 700km from east to west, it's no surprise that South Africa is home to a whole array of spectacular, intriguing and picturesque coastal towns. 

While names like Margate, Paternoster, Hermanus and Ballito are all too familiar to most local travellers, there are many more hamlets, coves and corners to explore. We check out seven and tell you why they are worth a visit. 

SEE: Explore these 3 forgotten West Coast dorpies

Scottburgh, KZN South Coast

Where: 58km from Durban on the KZN South Coast. Notable towns close by include Margate and Port Shepstone.

Attractions: One of Scottburgh's biggest drawcards is Scott Bay, a sheltered beach with large terraced lawns, an expansive stretch of sand, tidal pool, supertube and miniature railway. Green Point lighthouse is also worth checking out. The red-and-white beacon was erected in 1905, has a rather unusual cast-iron structure and also goes by the name of Clanthsal, but not to be confused with Cape Town's Green Point lighthouse. Get up-close-and personal with reptiles and hawks at Crocworld - the establishment forms part of Mpambanyoni Conservation Development and houses 10 000 crocodiles, as well as a variety of raptors, snakes, tortoises, waterbirds and flamingos in a beautiful, natural setting. 

Activities: With both the Indian Ocean and the Mpambanyoni River right on its doorstep, water sports like surfing, rowing and diving are a huge attraction in Scottburgh. The area is famous for the practically perfect beach breaks that draw surfers from right across the globe. Popular spots include Green Point, Pennington, Kelso, Scottburgh and Rocky Bay. However, if you're more the dry-land sort, it also boasts an 18 hole golf course with spectacular views. 

Accommodation: Rocky Bay Resort offers a variety of accommodation, including a caravan park and chalets of different sizes. 

WATCH: How rhino orphans return to the wild in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi 

Witsand, Western Cape

Where: About 280km from Cape Town, just off the N2. Notable towns close by include Swellendam and Stilbaai.

Attractions: While Hermanus may be known for its great whale watching, have you ever actually thought where those whales come from? Well, here's a little secret: the seas just off Witsand's shore are known to be South Africa's very own ‘whale nursery.' As the name suggests, the town is also home to a particularly sparkling white beach that stretches on for kilometres, interrupted only by the Breede River flowing into the Indian Ocean. 

Activities: With all the space and no crowds, Witsand is the perfect fishing location. If you want to find out more about history, be sure to do Moodies Well Walk all along the eastern sweep of St Sebastian Bay for 4km, to a well dug by a Scotsman in the 19th century to store water on camping and fishing trips.

Accommodation: Big Cob chalets is a great self-catering accommodation offering close to the beach and river.

SEE: Swellendam named SA's top eco-friendly destination: Here's why 

Oyster Bay, Eastern Cape

Where: 14 km west of St Francis Bay, about 120km from Port Elizabeth.

Attractions: Oyster Bay lies exactly on the transition zone between cold and warm sea currents and has an incredible diversity of unique marine and coastal life. One of the bay's most notable attractions is two parallel wind rift dune ridges that are 12 kilometres long and rise as high as 177 metres. It is also the perfect base for day trips to St Francis Bay, Baviaanskloof and the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve.

Activities: Hiking or horse-riding along the beach (can be arranged through Oyster Bay lodge), swimming, surfing and day trips to surrounding towns. 

Accommodation: Oyster Bay Lodge has 44 grass camping stands and five self-catering wooden chalets.

SEE: Quick guide to Madiba’s long walk to freedom: Discover historic heritage in Port Elizabeth 

St Helena Bay, West Coast

Where: 150 km from Cape Town, 40 km from Langebaan. Notable towns close by include Paternoster and Brittania Bay. 

Attractions: Well, St Helena Bay should really be St Helena Bays, as the town boasts no less than 18! The whole St Helena Bay area stretches all the way from Dwarskersbos, past Shelley Point peninsula, to Cape St Martin in the west - traversing a total of 18 bays with intriguing names such as Hannasbaai and Slipperbaai. Heaviside dolphins, common dolphins and a variety of whale species can also be spotted off-shore more often than not. The town itself also has an intriguing variety of restaurants, coffee shops and interesting little stores to explore. 

Activities: As with most West Coast towns, fishing is a biggie in St Helena Bay. Fed by the nutrient-rich Benguela current, it is one of the world's prime fishing areas and its waters provide a livelihood to locals. Explore the bays, do some beach combing and if you're strong enough - brave the freezing waters. 

Accommodation: Apart from a huge variety of self-catering holiday accommodation, St Helena Bay Hotel is also a great spot to check out and even has a caravan park included. 

SEE: West Coast Way: SA's road trip with the most twists 

Tergniet, Garden Route

Where: About 16 km from Mossel Bay in the direction of George and Knysna.

Attractions: A super long stretch of golden beach, rock pools galore, houses dotted picturesquely along the top of massive sand dunes and lots of fresh air. It's also provides quite a central spot for accessing more ‘happening' surrounding towns, like Mossel Bay, Hartenbos, George, Knysna and Wilderness. 

Activities: Tergniet's wealth of gorgeous rock pools provide the perfect natural entertainment for all ages - splash around and explore with the kids, or don some goggles and blend into the ocean surrounds by snorkelling. Venture to the edge of the rocks at low tide to try reeling in some big ones, or if you're brave enough, head out beyond the breakers for a swim - just be sure to return before the tide starts coming in. The neighbouring hamlet of Klein Brak is home to some delightful restaurants and coffee shops. 

Accommodation: While Tergniet does not have a campsite or caravan park, the town is full of self-catering accommodation at a variety of sizes and prices. 

WATCH: Travellers' adventures in Garden Route and SA's top destinations 

Kleinzee, Northern Cape 

Where: Kleinzee is situated on the north-west coast, approximately 100 km west of Springbok and 60 km south of Port Nolloth. It lies on the Diamond Coast and is owned by De Beers, which means you will need to show identification when entering the town. In earlier days permits were required. 

Attractions: The Northern Cape coast has a different air about it. It's desolate and full of mystery and demands a certain measure of awe. So, just soaking up the atmosphere by walking along the beach and getting to know a local or two is a great idea. If you want to find out more about the town's diamond-encrusted history, visit the Kleinzee Museum. A massive Cape Fur seal colony is situated close by - arrange a trip there beforehand. 

Activities: Book some time off to do the 3-day Diamond Coast Hiking trail. Alternatively, get the adrenaline pumping with a 4x4 tour to a shipwreck close by. 

Accommodation: Die Houthoop Guest Farm or check out other accommodation on the Diamond Coast.

PICS: It's time to stop and smell the flowers across SA! 

Salt Rock, KZN North Coast

Where: 30 minutes' drive from Durban, 6km from Ballito

Attractions: The beautiful beach, rock pools and frequent bottle-nose dolphin visits make this a great spot to check out, with a variety of restaurants, shops and several golf courses in the Ballito area. 

Activities: Salt Rock is a popular surf spot, but the beach also offers great swimming, sun bathing and shell collecting opportunities.  

Accommodation: Salt Rock Hotel has a country club and caravan park, otherwise there's a variety of guesthouses for something more intimate. 

SEE: Quick guide to Madiba’s long walk to freedom: A day trek around KZN 

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