Words: Anne Schauffer
Margate has always been considered the party animal of the South Coast, largely because it’s so well equipped with a wide range of accommodation and entertainment. With the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, sensational, shark-netted beaches, extreme and less extreme sportiness, nature at every turn, small wonder it’s a sizzling holiday hot spot.
Margate’s reputation revolves largely around its sea-based attributes, and offers an unparalleled beach experience. Margate Beach, with its paved footpath that runs for a kilometres along the beach – together with Lucien Beach and its prestigious blue flag status, is beach Mecca for residents and holidaymakers alike. The whale deck is designed for the spectacle – usually around July to December – when southern rights and humpbacks take your breath away.
Much of the lower South Coast accommodation consists of holiday accommodation and timeshare, and at one time, the towns were somewhat deserted out of season. Apartments and homes were either bought to let out in holiday season, or, for upcountry visitors and future retirees, this was their annual escape to the beach. Although it’s still very much a holiday destination, the balance has shifted – buyers have been wooed by the affordability of property, quality retirement options popping up, a certain quiet and simplicity of life which isn’t found north, the region’s easy accessibility to significant retail outlets, the speedy N2 north to Durban (90 minute drive), and the airport at Margate, with its daily service between Joburg and Margate.
Schooling is plentiful in the area, private and government, whether in Margate or in surrounding areas or towns. For the little ones, Marburg Primary, Izotsha Primary School and Margate Primary School are well rated, as is The Woods Prep School & College in nearby Port Edward. Port Shepstone, too, has a primary, senior primary and high school, while a number of private schools have come to the fore: South Coast Academy is a private school in Margate, which caters to primary through to high school, and allows for boarders; Creston College is a private school near Port Shepstone, catering to all ages. In neighbouring Ramsgate, Southcity Christian College is an independent, affordable, private Christian school, catering to both boys and girls from Grade 8 to 12.
The South Coast has a rich heritage of plant life and coastal vegetation, which draws extraordinary birds. For many who live here, nature rules their leisure time. There are numerous excellent nature reserves in and around Margate, and for birders, ramblers and hikers, this is truly paradise. Bird Life Africa has a South Coast Birding Route, and although the environment is wonderfully diverse, the region is best known for its unparalleled forest birding. The bird list is extensive. A number of the local nature reserves cater well to day visitors, and picnic sites and boardwalks make for a great outing. Freelance guides, too, are available for birders and nature lovers.
This warm stretch of the coastline is not only ideal for surfers – there are a number of legendary breaks – but for fishing, scuba diving, diving and snorkelling too. It offers some of the best scuba diving in the country, with globally renowned off-shore dive sites to test the toughest diver, like Protea Banks, Adda Reef, Deep Salmon, Bo Boyi Reefa and Potato Reef. Local companies offer all the necessary tools and transport for beginners and accomplished divers alike.
Welcome to the Golf Coast aka the KZN South Coast, comprising nine 18-hole golf courses, and two nine-hole. The legendary likes of top-rated courses like Selborne, the Wild Coast Sun and San Lameer, are undoubted drawcards for the many international visitors.
Although the Indian Ocean is always home to dolphins and whales, it certainly ups its game in June and July. Margate is home to what’s termed The Greatest Shoal on Earth, one of nature’s finest displays. Millions of sardines comprise this wintry Sardine Run, and behind them, 20,000 dolphins, sharks, fur seals, game fish, sea birds, the occasional whale… and hundreds of delighted opportunistic fishermen, voyeurs, and photographers. It’s something to behold!
Margate and surrounds offer a number of tame to death-defying thrills for those so inclined. White-water rafting, rock-climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, you name it, Margate has it.
We journey to our beachfront apartment in Margate twice a year from Gauteng – it’s our escape. My husband fishes, and I love playing golf. We have five years before retirement, we’ve nearly paid off the home loan, and then we’ll be there permanently.
Carol Breedt, resident
- Space Centre with its museum and observatory
- Margate Country Club
- Pure Venom Reptile Park
- Artists’ Gallery KZN
- Margate Art Gallery
- De Ras Photo Gallery & The Gallery Cafe
- The Packshed: dinner only
- Larrys: family restaurant and seafood
- Friar Tuck Restaurant: steakhouse
- The Lobster Pot: seafood
- Trattoria La Terraza, Southbroom: Italian fare
- De Ras Gallery Cafe, Southbroom: a little culinary gem
- The Waffle House, Ramsgate: favourite for waffles
- Flavours Restaurant, Ramsgate: international cuisine
- The Burlesque Cafe, Ramsgate: quirky décor and great cuisine
- Hibiscus Mall
- Shelly Centre