Richards Bay is a small town of great beauty on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Astute environmentalists have ensured the protection of its natural treasures while allowing the economy to thrive, making it a chosen port of call for holidaymakers, maritime buffs, bird lovers and adventure seekers.

Did you know?

The port town of Richards Bay is named after Admiral Sir FWR Richards, who was appointed commander of the west coast of Africa in 1878.

The triumph of Richards Bay, South Africa's largest harbour, is that the town of the same name has retained its natural beauty while growing into a sophisticated, highly industrialised business centre that offers top-class facilities and accommodation to both international and local travellers.

Industrial tourism is a unique offering here, with tour groups invited to enjoy day trips to industrial plants, mines and other operations within and outside of the harbour confines.

Environmental protection began as early as 1935 with the establishment of the Richards Bay Game Sanctuary to protect indigenous subtropical fauna and flora around the Mhlatuzi River lagoon. This region was later expanded to form the Richards Bay Park, today a haven for nature lovers.

Much of the original wetland habitat surrounding Richards Bay has been preserved as a nature reserve, where walking through the many forests and game spotting are popular pursuits. Due to the rich abundance of birdlife that extends over a number of habitats, avitourism in Richards Bay has become one of the area's premier attractions.

Dolphins can be seen almost all year round in coastal waters, and majestic whales also move closer inshore during the summer breeding season, which has led to the creation of whale-watching expeditions by local tour operators.

Richards Bay boasts safe swimming and beaches with calm, warm seas and spectacular views. Nearby spots with bigger breakers are better suited to surfing and bodyboarding.

The mini resorts of Naval Island, Pelican Island and the Tuzi Gazi Waterfront offer opportunities to pursue angling, canoeing, power-boating, jet-skiing or sailing – equipment is provided. Horse riding, helicopter flights, mountain- and quad-biking and microlight flights are exciting and alternative ways to experience local scenery.

The magnificent Zululand coastal route offers motorists a relaxing road trip and opportunity to invest in local Zulu and Tsonga crafts. Traditional tribal ways of life have been preserved in the more rural parts of Zululand and visitors are welcome to visit Zulu kraals (villages), such as Shakaland and Duma Zulu, which are open to the public year round.

Richards Bay was named after British naval commander Rear Admiral Sir Frederick William Richards, who landed troops on the Zululand coast in 1879. Before the port officially opened in 1976, Richards Bay was a small fishing village. Today it houses the world's largest export coal terminal and the mammoth Richards Bay Minerals operation.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

KwaZulu-Natal Tourism
Tel: +27 31 366 7500
Email: kznta@iafrica.com

How to get here

Only two hours north of Durban. On entering Empangeni from Durban, take the Richards Bay turnoff (R34).

Get around

Richards Bay is best explored by car.

Length of stay

A weekend will give you plenty of time to explore the town

Where to stay

The modern, thriving town of Richards Bay has excellent accommodation facilities available such as hotels, lodges, guest houses, bed & breakfasts and self-catering establishments.

What's happening

In September the streets of Richards Bay purr to the deep-throated music of heavy-duty motorcycles as bikers from all over southern Africa converge on the town for the Hippo Rally. Close to 3 000 bikes have been known to arrive, and the mass ride through Richards Bay has become a colourful spectacle.

Best buys

Some of the best spots for bird watching are: Thulasihleka Pan, iSimangaliso World Heritage Site, Onyoge Forest, Dlinza Forest and Nseleni Nature Reserves.