This little coastal gem transforms from a quiet town to a bustling tourist hotspot during holiday season, and it’s easy to see why
Pennington is one of those little South Coast towns which changes from a quiet village to a crowded town in the holiday season. It’s easily accessed via the N2 from Durban, has superb beaches, is perfect for golfers and for fishermen, and has holiday accommodation to suit every budget.
Pennington has a history of sugar cane and dairy farming. This little village on a hill overlooking the ocean was named after the Pennington family, who were farmers in the late 19th century. Sir Frank Reynolds, a sugar magnate, bought a section from the family and named his country home Umdoni Park after the local trees. He established it largely to preserve the indigenous fauna and flora. The land which comprises what became the Umdoni Park Trust is not only home to the 18-hole Umdoni Park Golf Course, but also features a stretch of unspoilt coastal vegetation. This area has become a bird-watcher’s paradise – with lots to see at the Komba Bird Sanctuary and Nkumbane Dam – and features a number of wonderful beaches and forest walks.
Frank also built a seaside residence in 1920 for the country’s prime ministers and named it Botha House in honour of General Louis Botha. The residence is now a renowned guest house favoured for its grandeur.
Pennington is also home to the Selborne Golf Estate, Hotel and Spa, which has an 18-hole golf course rated by Golf Digest magazine as one of the top 100 courses in Southern Africa. Villas surround the golf course on this 80ha eco-estate and there’s a thriving holiday rental arm.
Part of the Umdoni Coast, Pennington is one of a cluster of neighbouring seaside towns that include Kelso, Sezela and Bazley beaches. This stretch has a number of indentations where rivers meet the sea – for example, where the Fafa River meets Bazley Beach – and there’s a popular swimming, canoeing and rafting lagoon. Safe tidal pools and lovely little bays make this coastal strip a great holiday destination for families.
Fishermen flock to the warm waters of Pennington for trophy barracuda, garrick and salmon, particularly around Easter when the annual Couta Classic (one of KZN’s largest fishing competitions) gets under way. Neighbouring Bazley Beach is a popular spot for anglers and scuba divers.
Kelso Beach’s great swells attract surfers, and the array of marine life around the coral reef attracts scuba divers and snorkellers. If you’re not keen on extreme activity, walks or horse riding along the beach are good for the soul.
For caravanners, campers and those who enjoy a simple log cabin, Happy Wanderers Holiday Resort, Corian’s Pennington Caravan Resort, Mac Nicol’s Caravan Park and a number of other reputable resorts are strung along the coastline. It’s a popular stretch for retirees who take advantage of out-of-season rates.
Having sundowners, enjoying the birdlife and watching the spectacle of whales and dolphins as they journey through the ocean are just a few of the golden elements of a Pennington holiday.
We retired here a few years ago because it was a very affordable option, with great golf courses, and our family visit often from Durban because the grandchildren love the beach. It’s a win-win for us.
-Carol Blaine, resident.
Nature near Pennington on the KZN South Coast:
- Empisini Nature Reserve
- Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve
- Umdoni Park
Things to do in Pennington, KwaZulu Natal:
- Play a round of golf at Umdoni Park Golf Club or Selborne Golf Estate.
- Enjoy bird-watching along the South Coast Birding Route.
- Spend the day at Bazley, Kelso or Sezela beaches.
- Try your hand at surfing.
- Spend the day sea or rock fishing.
- Go scuba diving and snorkelling.
- Experience shark cage diving.
Where to stay in Pennington, KZN
- The Crimson Sunbird
- Botha House
- Forest Glen
- Palm Tree House
- Imphithi Lodge
- Pennington Waves
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.