Words: Anne Schauffer | Images: Stephen Pilbrough
The southernmost stretch of the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast is known as the Hibiscus Coast, because of the glorious hibiscus blooms which, set against the deep green of the coastal vegetation and the azure blue of the ocean, give this belt a unique quality. It really does have the best of all worlds. Port Shepstone is about 125km from Durban on the N2, and like many of the better-known, larger towns along this coastline, it has much to offer.
Port Shepstone was once a harbour for marine trade – exporting marble, sugar and lime – and this little village expanded substantially with the arrival in 1886 of a few hundred Norwegian settlers. But when the railway line from Durban was extended to Port Shepstone, the harbour became defunct and finally shut down. The town, however, remained sizable and lively.
Meander a little further south and you’ll find Margate and Ramsgate with Blue Flag beaches, dozens of eateries and entertainment areas. Margate is a seaside resort town characterised by beautiful, immaculate beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters. Ramsgate is another popular holiday destination, especially for locals and visitors looking for a great fishing spot.
For many, this stretch of the coastline offers an unparalleled lifestyle, with property that’s substantially less expensive than anywhere north or west.
Beachfront properties, houses or apartments in the area were favoured by investors for holiday letting, but during the past few years – as the global economy took strain – investors have been reluctant to buy to let.
With renewed confidence in the country, this sector, as with property countrywide, is likely to pick up again. Frontline properties offer the most breathtaking views, and in many instances, the beach is your front lawn or a short walk away. There aren’t many countries in the world where you can buy a good-sized beachfront townhouse or apartment for less than R1m.
Margate resident Carol Addis says, “We’ve lived here for the past five years, and bought the apartment alongside ours so we could manage it painlessly to let out permanently. We’re nearing retirement and saw this as a way to supplement our pensions when we finally get to fish and walk on the beach during everybody else’s working hours!”
Another sector of the South Coast property market is retirees. It’s always been a good, affordable place to retire, and aside from the existing facilities, new retirement complexes and developments are becoming popular. Established developments such as Mbango Valley Association and Milkwood Lifestyle Village in Port Shepstone, and Hibiscus Retirement Villages (Margate, Ramsgate and Umdoni Retirement Villages) are highly popular, with a variety of retirement purchase models available.
There’s a good mix of schools in Port Shepstone, with strong public schools, such as Port Shepstone Junior and Senior Primary schools right up to high school. There’s also private schooling offered by Creston College (from pre-primary to college phase) as well as Port Shepstone International High School (part of the Oxford International brand) for Grade 8 to 12 pupils.
In Margate and Ramsgate, children attend local schools as well as those in neighbouring towns. Southcity Christian College is an independent, coed Christian primary and high school.
Resident Stan Green says, “We’ve lived in Ramsgate for a few decades now, we love the sea, and our sons went to boarding school in the Midlands. We visit them once or twice a month, and they’re happy because they get to have beach holidays every holiday!”
For all South Coast towns, the beach is the focus, whether it’s for fishing, surfing, swimming, snorkelling or scuba diving. The South Coast beaches have something for everyone – whether it’s playing in the rock pools, scuba diving o legendary wrecks along the coast, or enjoying the pristine nature of Blue Flag beaches, such as attractive Ramsgate, which is surrounded by natural vegetation, has a wide, sandy beach with lifeguards year-round and a whale-watching site.
Residents also enjoy the annual Sardine Run, when millions of sardines migrate along the coast, followed by dolphins, sharks, birds and fishermen. West of Port Shepstone is Oribi Gorge, situated along the richly forested ravine of the Mzimkulwana River.
This is the western of two gorges that cut through the Oribi Flats and was formed when large quantities of water from central Africa cascaded down the ravine, gouging out the sandstone mountains. It spans an area 27km long, 4km wide in places and 400m deep.
Alongside is Lake Eland Game Reserve, where there’s a 4,5km series of 14 zip lines (the longest on the African continent) – the lowest line has you gliding just above the water and the last line takes you through a tunnel and across a river. Not for the faint-hearted, but it’s the bird’s eye view of a lifetime. Lake Eland is a game reserve, with self-catering log cabins – each with decks overlooking the dam – game drives, horse riding, bird-watching, paintball, fishing, mountain biking, hiking and a popular restaurant and tea garden.
Sue and Barry Grant add, “We live in the Upper Highway, but Lake Eland is a favourite long weekender for us. It’s peaceful, beautiful and affordable, and we can both enjoy our own hobbies of fishing and photography.”
“We holidayed along the Hibiscus Coast for many years prior to our retirement and set our hearts on retiring here as early as possible. We’re just 60 or so, and we’re now happy in a great ‘lock up and go’ home, right on the beach. The kids love to visit us too!
Slade Jall, retiree
- Oribi Gorge
- Lake Eland Game Reserve
- Dolphins and whales
- Hiking trails and birds
- Great fishing, snorkelling and surfing spots
- Jaxx Restaurant, Port Shepstone: for great chalkboard specials
- Leopard Rock Coffee Shop, Port Shepstone: for sweeping views and light meals
- The Cellar Boutique Restaurant, Port Shepstone: for fine dining
- Flavours Restaurant, Ramsgate: for modern continental cuisine
- The Waffle House, Ramsgate: for seafood and grills
- Chefs On Marine, Ramsgate: for breakfast, lunch and coffee
- The Packshed, Margate: for European-style fusion cuisine
- Friar Tuck Restaurant, Margate: for award-winning steaks
- Hibiscus Mall, Ramsgate
- Shelly Centre, Shelly Beach
- Southcoast Mall, Margate
- Port Shepstone Mall