Whether you’re in Richards Bay for business, pleasure or an elusive blend of both, this convenient coastal hub offers travellers a mixed bag of city comforts, marine marvels and outdoor escapades.
Located on the Mhlatuze River lagoon, Richards Bay sits halfway between Kosi Bay and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. Once a small fishing village, The Bay as locals call it, is now home to one of the biggest harbours in South Africa with a thriving industry. This port also acts as a premier gateway city – just ask the many cruise liners that regularly dock here filled with guests ready for adventure.
Richards Bay is the ideal base for exploring the nearby natural wonders of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve and the magnificent north coast beaches and delving into history on a battlefields tour. Or you can simply explore the town’s many easy-to-reach offerings.
Where to stay
Indaba Lodge: These self-catering suites have to be The Bay’s best-kept secret. Choose a spacious apartment for a great family break (the breezy rooms offer a more holiday-style stay with an outdoor balcony perfect for a braai) or check into a swish hotel suite on your next corporate trip. Either way, the centrally located lodge lies within easy reach of both the beach and waterfront. There’s also free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and every other necessary hotel comfort. indabarichardsbay.co.za
Imvubu Lodge: There are a variety of tranquil log cabin accommodation options here and all offer a Zen-forest setting. Tucked in the lush greenbelt zone of Richards Bay, there are basic two-bedroom self-catering units or more luxurious honeymoon suites, which boast a jacuzzi and ocean views.
Where to eat
The Sundowner Deck at Imvubu Lodge has gorgeous beach views, and you can also meander down to the shore for a sunset stroll. On the same property, you’ll also find excellent pizza in a more serene bushveld setting at The Reeds restaurant. imvubulodge.co.za
KNK Curries: Known for spicy curries served in an informal outdoor setting, this easy-going eatery is perfect for watching the activity at the waterfront. Plus, it’s affordable too. Don’t leave without a six-pack of samosas. Find the eatery on Facebook.
Jack’s Corner Ocean View: This local haunt commands epic views right across the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese-inspired menu includes calamari, chicken prego rolls, and rump steak with all the best spices. While you wait for your meal, take a peep at the historical black and white pictures on the wall to get an idea of Richards Bay pre-harbour days and select a tune off the jukebox. Find them on Facebook.
Mojitos: This colourful Tex-Mex restaurant is a favourite among families. Expect Mexican-style menu items, snack baskets and seafood grills. Otherwise, Portuguese on the Bay also has a great play area for kids. Find both on Facebook.
Trevallys: Indaba Lodge’s on-site restaurant offers local craft beer on the deck, which is shaded by tall Fever Trees – an iconic species of this area. The à la carte menu also has a decent variety for vegetarians. Then there’s the generous breakfast buffet. The unusual pancake machine is a fabulous bonus, but there’s always fresh fruit plus the mandatory eggs and bacon. indabarichardsbay.co.za
What to do
Swim in the sea: Families flock to the languid lagoon waters off Pelican Island. It’s a popular weekend picnic spot, so bring snacks and join the locals. Otherwise, head to Alkantstrand. The main beach boasts proper facilities, lifeguards, and shaded stands for relaxing.
Hop aboard a catamaran: Let your hair down and soak up the subtropical side of the sea on a two-hour sundowner sail. The skipper will that take you past the marina, Naval Island, Pelican Island, tug boats, and a dolphin or two if you’re lucky. getmyboat.co.za
Whale watching: Northern KwaZulu-Natal is a hidden haven for humpback whales during the winter months. Book a boat cruise that departs from the waterfront and see them splashing up close. advantagetours.co.za
Go for a run: Departing from the Zululand Multi Sports Club every Saturday, join the free weekly park run. The route mixes gravel, trail paths, grass and piers for great variety. parkrun.co.za
Walk in the wild: There are two nature trails at the small but charming Enseleni Nature Reserve if you want to escape the city. The 5km Mvubu trail goes through the grassland and riverine forest or linger longer on the 7km Nkonkoni trail. If you’re a keen birder, keep your eyes peeled as Enseleni is one of the best locations to see the shy African finfoot. kznwildlife.com
Indulge in a massage: The Retreat Spa is based beside Indaba Lodge. The affordable and welcoming sanctuary offers everything from basic pedicures and an Indian head massage to more serious pamper packages. indabarichardsbay.co.za
Wander the waterfront: The Tuzi Gazi Waterfront is named for the Mzingazi and uMhlatuze rivers that flow into port. Photographers will love the maritime scenery, and there are several stores to explore. Whatever you do, don’t miss the homemade treats from Robertos Ice Cream. Find them on Facebook.
SAA offers daily flights to Johannesburg. From there, rent a car and take a road trip to explore the coastal city. Visit flysaa.com
Words: Melanie van Zyl