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SSummer in KwaZulu-Natal (November to March) is hot and the water appealing, but onshore north-easterly winds tend to make it choppy unless you get there at first light. Waves are generally smaller, less powerful and inconsistent during the warmer months, whereas winter (June to August) brings groundswell, glassy conditions and longer rides.
Broadly speaking, the KwaZulu-Natal coastline is divided into three surfing zones: Durban, North Coast and South Coast.
Durban, or Surf City, has the Golden Mile of perfect beaches tucked between a series of piers. These are all consistent beach breaks capable of holding sizeable winter swell and summer cyclone swell. The most popular of these are Bay of Plenty, New Pier, North Beach, Wedge and Dairy. Further south towards the harbour, uShaka and Vetch’s only pick up when massive southerly winter swells wrap around the harbour and onto the reef.
South of the harbour, Bluff beaches meeting the oncoming swell provide solid surfing conditions at the likes of Anstey’s, Cave Rock, Brighton and Garvies. Of these, Cave Rock offers the biggest, best waves, but be warned: it has a reef bottom, so only experienced surfers should apply.
The South Coast, with its many reef and beach breaks, holds the promise of perfect hollow waves, especially if you’re in the water early before the wind picks up in summer, or in winter when the swell is big and conditions generally glassy.
The first South Coast beach, Amanzimtoti, is a 20-minute drive from Durban, followed by Warner Beach. Further south, Scottburgh’s consistent right point break means there’s always someone in the water, while Happy Wanderers’ right reef break is empty until conditions are perfect. An hour further south are a number of good reef-to-sand surf spots: Margate, Uvongo, St Michaels, Umzumbe and Lucien.
North of Durban, surf spots worth a visit include Ballito, Umdloti, Westbrook, Umhlanga, Salt Rock, Sodwana Bay and Richards Bay. Of these, Ballito and Umhlanga have the best waves and enjoy a vibrant beach culture, with oodles of accommodation, while Westbrook features a long right when the swell is not too big.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)31 366 7500
How to get here
Fly to King Shaka International Airport and hire a car.
Best time to visit
If you want to be assured of consistent surf up and down the KwaZulu-Natal coast, June to August is your best window. Although these are the winter month, the coastal weather generally remains mild to balmy throughout the season, especially during the day.
You’ll want to be able to head for any of KwaZulu-Natal’s top surf spots the moment you hear it’s producing good waves, so you’ll want a hire car with a roof racks for your boards. Within the Durban area, you can get to and from several surfing beaches via buses.
Around the area
Nature reserves and game parks abound in KwaZulu-Natal, often on the coast or just a short drive inland. Apart from surfing, there are a variety of water sports on offer at local resort towns, with equipment for hire. Fishing, whether from the beach or the rocks, or via ski-boat, is also a perennial possibility.
Tours to do
The Midlands Meander begins at Hilton, just over an hour’s drive from Durban, inland past Pietermaritzburg on the N3. The route then winds around the Old Main Road (R103) and its intersecting country roads all the way to Nottingham Road near Mooi River, so you could easily take a day exploring more than 200 outlets along the way offering arts and crafts, woodwork, metalwork, glassware and furniture, craft beers, crystals and candles, smoked meats, honeys, cheeses and homemade preserves, and a string of restaurants and pubs.
Length of stay
When do you have to be back at work?
What to pack
Waterproof sunscreen and board shorts.
Where to stay
Durban, the North Coast and South Coast are vacation heaven, with hundreds of B&Bs, self-catering establishments, holiday apartments and guest houses. Only the bigger towns, like Umhlanga, Durban, Scottburgh and Margate, offer large hotels, but there are also backpackers lodges scattered around Durban and up and down the coast, catering to budget travellers.
What to eat
The KwaZulu-Natal coast is famous for two foods: fresh seafood and superb curries. Experience both in the famous chicken-and-prawn curry at the Seabelle Restaurant in Tongaat.
If you don’t have a surfboard, you can hire one at holiday spots and surf shops along the coast. If you’re in the market for a new board, there are some notable surfboard shapers in and around Durban.