The waterfront can be described as the heart of Richards Bay with people from all ages flocking there for all sorts of fun.
Until 1960, Richards Bay, north of Durban and south of St Lucia, was a small fishing village nestling on high ground overlooking uMhlathuze estuary and wetlands.
I love the bay and have been there twice.
The town might not be a tourist hot spot, but with its appealing accommodation offerings, sublime restaurants catering for all tastes and many activities, it should be.
While the hospitality industry is doing all it can to lure international tourists to the coastal town, I reckon domestic travellers should add it to their travel schedules.
It’s a fantastic stopover for those who want to make the most of a road trip en route to other destinations.
Richards Bay is just a two-hour drive from Durban and a great break for those who want to get away. It would suit couples, families and even those who need quiet time alone.
There was only a handful of people at the waterfront when I arrived. A group at Navy Island was getting started with bait before going fishing.
Locals said fishing was a popular pastime.
Besides fishing, you can take a dip in the water, grab breakfast at one of the eateries or read a book under one of the many trees that provide a respite from the sun.
Alkantstrand Beach has numerous boulders and seating areas that looks like bags of cement.
You can rest on the warm beach sand or go fishing, cycling, swimming or skating.
Lovers can enjoy a romantic stroll on one of the three piers.
If you’re lucky, you might spot pelicans at Pelican Island.
I drove around to discern what newcomers might feel about the place. There are many guest houses along the waterfront precinct, many of which are budget-friendly.
On the roadside, near the Protea Hotel Waterfront, were two Zimbabwean traders selling souvenirs.
Charles Chingasho and Alfred Nyambara have traded here for more than 10 years since they left Zimbabwe.
Most of their pieces are from their home town, but they also add locally sourced items.
I decided to try out one of Richards Bay’s amazing restaurants. I had heard so much about the food here that I had to try.
I settled on Nam Jai House, which offers a fusion of Asian and continental cuisine.
There are pizzas, pastas and shisa nyama for those who don’t feel like oriental food. Children eat free from 3pm to 6pm Mondays to Saturdays and noon to 4.30pm on Sundays.
There are many great restaurants on this stretch. You can have sundowners at Cubana overlooking the waterfront or binge on an Indian meal at K&K Curries.
After lunch, drive to Enseleni Nature Reserve, on the N2 en route to Empangeni. It has various species of buck, hippos, crocodiles, zebras and wildebeest.
For hikers, there are 5.2km and 4.8km trails. And there are pleasant picnic sites.
Planning a visit:
Boardwalk Inkwazi Shopping Centre is a 65 000m centre with 160 stores ranging from fashion and decor to food.
Spend a day at Alkantstrand, fishing or swimming and just watching the ships come and go.
Navy Island and Pelican Island are a must-see - you can enjoy cocktails while soaking in the beauty of the bay.
There are many restaurants. My favourite is Cubana, which offers a great Amarula milkshake.
Apart from enjoyable meals, some of the establishments have live music or discos.
If you want to stay over, your choices range from luxury to budget.
Protea Hotel Marriott, Richards Bay is a four-star on the corner of Bridgetown and Pioneer roads, Tuzi Gazi Waterfront - phone: 0357880448.
Imvubu Lodge is a three-star in Meerensee - phone: 0357534122.
Indaba Lodge is a three-star on the corner of Davidson & Launder Lane, Meerensee - phone: 0357531350
Richards Bay Caravan Park, of course, offers self-catering accommodation. It’s to be found on the corner of Krewelkring & Hibberd Drive, Meerensee - phone: 0357531971.