Prime waterfront locations that aren't by the sea

Private Property South Africa

Being limited in supply and therefore generally highly sought after, residential waterfront property enjoys high demand and commands a premium price, says Pam Golding Properties.

However, not all prime waterfront property is ocean-facing – there are equally idyllic locations which abound that arguably offer even more, such as homes situated in diverse destinations as Lake Victoria in Uganda, and in South Africa, along the canals of St Francis Bay and Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, on Knysna Lagoon on the Garden Route or on the Vaal and Hartbeesport Dams.

View properties for sale along the Garden Route here

“There is something beguiling and soothing imbued by large, serene bodies of water,” says Ling Dobson, Pam Golding Properties area principal in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. “Gazing out across the water is both compelling and relaxing – particularly for city dwellers escaping the hustle, bustle and noise of urban living – and it seems to soothe the soul. And apart from providing an ideal space to kick back and relax, such locations also afford a broad array of water sport and leisure activities which are hard to beat.


“As a result, we find that buyers in the Knysna area generally seek properties with water frontage. In high demand is Thesen Island, which has homes situated right on the water canals as well as on what we call the Parklands, which is in the centre of the residential estate and as termed, is surrounded by parklands and not directly on the water.”

As it’s highly sought after, Thesen Island is an area where homes sell over and over again and where the growth in property values is exponential. Here there are both freehold and sectional title homes, priced from around R3.5 million-R4 million upwards. For example, says Dobson, a two-bedroom sectional title apartment on Thesen Island can be had from approximately R3.5 million, while larger units have fetched up to R7.5 million. An entry level, two or three-bedroom freehold home goes for around the R5 million mark, while high-end homes with three, four or more bedrooms and positioned right on the waterways can list for between R10 million and R20 million.

Adds Dobson: “Many of these buyers are from the metropolitan areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, either relocating permanently or acquiring a holiday home with the benefit of being within a security estate. Living on the canals and edge of the Knysna estuary lends itself to endless water sports such as boating, skiing, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, swimming and snorkelling all from your own private jetty.”

Thesen Island

A 50-minute drive from George, Thesen Island includes numerous facilities including three beaches, clubhouse, floodlit tennis courts, squash court, playground for young children, cricket nets, 18-hole putting green, giant chess board, a maze and a bird sanctuary, while Harbour Town is in walking distance with a host of great restaurants and shopping.

St Francis Bay

In St Francis Bay, an upmarket paradise on the coast about 90km from Port Elizabeth, there is a good demand for homes on the canals, especially vacant land, and a large number of local builders are constructing new homes. Says Richard Arderne, Pam Golding Properties area principal: “Most of our buyers are from Gauteng and Port Elizabeth, with some from Cape Town and Durban. Houses with canal frontage achieve much higher prices than those without, being priced from around R5 million to over R20 million compared with between R2 million and R4 million for a three- to four-bedroom house off the water. Vacant land on the water ranges from R1.5 million to around R5 million for plots averaging at 900sqm.”

View homes for sale in St Francis Bay

The canal is home to some of the most luxurious designer residences in the Eastern Cape, with private beaches, jetties, outside entertainment areas, large sparkling pools, multiple open-plan living areas and scenic, uninterrupted views. Apart from a host of water sports, a popular restaurant on the canals, ‘Quaysyde’, is the main kick-off for numerous activities including running and cycling events, and quadrathlons. The canals are linked to the Kromme River and river mouth, where there is fishing, boating, kite-boarding and wind-surfing.

Port Alfred

In Port Alfred, the Royal Alfred Marina offers tranquillity and an easy, secure lifestyle, says area principal Lauren Meyer. “Each home has a minimum of 15m of private canal or river frontage plus the option of their own deep-water jetty, so this makes it an ideal location for those who enjoy waterfront living and all its inherent recreational activities. The Kowie River is navigable for 27km, with two demarcated ski zones, while there is also golf at the Royal Port Alfred Golf Club.”

Homes range from R2.795 million for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with double garage to R17.5 million for five bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms and two garages, while the most popular price bracket is between R4 million and R6 million for four bedrooms, four bathrooms, modern finishes, double garage and private deep-water jetty.

Vaal Dam

On the Vaal dam, which attracts home buyers mainly from the greater Gauteng, Pretoria and East Rand areas, all within 90 minutes’ drive, purchasers are drawn by the fact that this is renowned as the inland sailing mecca of South Africa, with eight yacht clubs and marinas around the dam catering for everything from small sailing dinghies to ocean-going yachts. This means the inland sailor with a large yacht can enjoy all the benefits of sailing over distance and in all types of conditions without having to go the coast and keeping a large vessel which may seldom be used. The Vaal Dam also caters for all types of water sports, from power boating and jet skiing to kite surfing and paddling.

Currently, says area principal Phil Medlock, Pam Golding Properties is marketing land in waterfront residential developments Shearwater Estate and Ambermere Estate, with two hectare serviced stands starting from R300 000. “Ambermere Estate, which has two marinas and is set on over 300ha with free-roaming game, is situated on a deep-water bay. Phase one comprises 22 stands, with five homes already completed. In Shearwater Estate, which is off the beaten track and offers great fishing and boating on a quiet part of the dam, six stands in phase one have sold. On the Free State side of the Vaal Dam in Deneysville, generally waterfront homes can be had from around R1.4 million, offering sound value for money.”

Hartebeespoort Dam

On Hartbeespoort Dam, which incorporates scenic views of the surrounding Magaliesberg mountain range, the easy 15 minutes’ travel from Lanseria Airport and proximity to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg means many permanent residents commute on business on a daily basis while enjoying all the many benefits of living on the waterfront. According to area principal Erika van der Westhuizen, the average selling price in Pecanwood Estate, which is situated on the dam, is R2.85 million, ranging up to R18 million.

Lake Victoria

Meanwhile, on the shores of the eternally calm Lake Victoria, which is Africa’s largest lake, situated in the southern region of Uganda, the new Pearl Residences at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort sees 58 luxury villas and 11 apartment blocks taking shape, at prices starting from $247 500 for apartments, penthouses from $675 000 and from $770 000 for villas. The resort is a 30km drive from Entebbe International Airport and half an hour’s drive from downtown Kampala.


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Explore neighbourhoods mentioned in this article

Garden Route Bliss
Nestled between the Knysna estuary, the Indian Ocean and a vast indigenous forest, this town is full of natural beauty. With three magnificent golf courses, it is a haven for golfers. The waterfront is a popular tourist destination for great food and shopping. Known for its oysters, this town has festivals and events for all kinds of interests. An ideal holiday destination or retirement place, experience tranquility and a safe, small-town life.