Look beyond the coal export terminals and you’ll find a town with spectacular wetland scenery, unspoilt beaches, great weather and a fantastic lifestyle.
Situated on the 30km2 lagoon of the Mhlathuze River, giving it one of the country’s largest harbours, Richards Bay lies almost halfway between Durban and Kosi Bay. Richards Bay’s port, which was established about 40 years ago, transformed the town from a small fishing village into a dynamic industrial city. With one of the largest coal export terminals in the world, the town is often overlooked by visitors who simply bypass it en route further north.
However, with easy access to the N2 and many pleasant surprises, Richards Bay is increasingly becoming a popular holiday destination, especially for visitors from Gauteng, due to its relative proximity, year-round summer climate, warm waters, beautiful scenery and many leisure offerings.
Despite its mining operations, Richards Bay has some of the most spectacular wetland scenery and unspoilt beaches on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. Its sandbanks, mudflats, extensive mangroves, freshwater pans and forest areas are treasured by nature lovers and birders alike. “The things we love most about Richards Bay are the beaches, the water sports (swimming, surfing, paddling and fishing) and the fabulous game reserves on our doorstep as well as the year-round climate,” says resident Elaine Chetty.
Tourism doesn’t stop with the natural offerings. Richards Bay has long marketed its niche by offering tours of industrial plants, mines and other operations to business and leisure visitors. Food and accommodation are of a high standard and the Tuzi Gazi Waterfront is sure to impress.
For those who live in Richards Bay, and don’t have to deal with the stresses of big city life, the general consensus is: “We’re not leaving anytime soon!” Property prices have appreciated over the last decade, with an average increase of about 8% over the last five years. The oldest part of town, Meerensee, is the highest-priced residential suburb in Richards Bay and is always popular, but other areas also other good investment opportunities close to good schools, shops and the CBD.
Although some of the projects planned for the port are not materialising as quickly as hoped, there is talk of a new dry dock facility, a new container terminal and a liquefied petroleum gas terminal. Residents say the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone is bringing much-needed industry into the town.
We love the lifestyle that coastal living offers. Richards Bay is big enough to cater for all our needs and small enough to not have big city issues like traffic congestion.
-Elaine Chetty, resident.
Where to eat in Richards Bay:
- Portuguese on the Bay: for great food and a massive play area for the kids
- Elephant and I Restaurant and Coffee Shop: for delicious coffee, cake or breakfast
- Imvubu Lodge: for tasty meals ranging from buffet to a la carte
- Porky’s Seafood and Steakhouse: for delicious seafood and steak
- Nam Jai House: for amazing Asian-fusion Dishes
Things to do in Richards Bay:
- Walk, picnic, braai or play sport on the Alkantstrand Beach.
- Explore the many biking and hiking trails nearby.
- Shop at the Boardwalk Inkwazi Shopping Centre.
- Enjoy a variety of water sports at Tuzi Gazi Waterfront.
- Play a round of golf at the Richards Bay Country Club
- Protea Hotel Waterfront Richards Bay
- Mzingazi Waterfront Village
- Premier Hotel The Richards
- Imvubu Lodge
- Aristo Manor
- The Ridge Guesthouse
Study in Richard’s Bay:
- Grantleigh Schools
- Richards Bay Christian School
- Felixton College
- BirdsView Academy
- Richards Bay Primary School
- Veldenvlei Primary School
- Arboretum Primary
- Richards Bay High School
- John Ross College
- Umfolozi TVET College
- University of Zululand
Why we love Boardwalk Inkwazi Shopping Centre
The largest shopping centre in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Boardwalk lnkwazi Shopping Centre, is located in the heart of Richards Bay and spans over 65,000m2. A landmark retail and leisure experience in the King Cetshwayo District, the mall opened in 1994, at about half its current size. It now comprises 85% national brands, more than 150 stores and offers a full range of fashion, footwear, sportswear, gifts, home decor, cellular and electronic services, health and beauty, luggage, stationery, bookshops, restaurants, fast food outlets and banking. Anchored by all of South Africa’s major retailers, including Pick n Pay, Checkers, Woolworths and Ster-Kinekor, the centre also has ample parking, facilities for the disabled and 24-hour security.
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.