10 Underrated Coastal Towns In South Africa

Posted on 9 July 2024 By Nelson Kalula

Explore the hidden jewels of South Africa’s coastline with our guide to 10 underrated coastal towns that promise unforgettable experiences. From secluded beaches to rich cultural encounters, these destinations offer a unique blend of natural beauty and local charm. Whether you’re seeking tranquil retreats, adventurous activities, or simply a serene escape from the everyday, these coastal towns await, ready to enchant and delight every traveler.

Embark on a journey through lesser-known gems that showcase the diversity and allure of South Africa’s coastal landscapes, ensuring your next getaway is nothing short of extraordinary.

1. Arniston, Western Cape

Roman Beach in Arniston, the main swimming beach along the Whale Coast. Image by Ondela Mlandu

Arniston, known as Waenhuiskrans for its cavernous sea cave capable of housing a wagon and oxen span, lies nestled in South Africa’s Overberg region near Cape Agulhas, the continent’s southernmost point. Its history is etched with the tragic wreck of the British East Indiaman Arniston in 1815, an event that claimed all but six lives of the 378 aboard. Memorials, including a replica on the beach, stand testament to this maritime catastrophe.

Today, Arniston has evolved from a humble fishing village into a cherished holiday retreat, adorned with traditional lime-washed and thatched houses that are national monuments. The village remains a hub for fishing, with local boats still venturing out, now under commercial contracts. Tourists flock here for whale watching, while the iconic Arniston Hotel offers panoramic views of the ocean, drawing visitors seeking tranquility amidst natural splendor. Just 24 kilometers north lies Bredasdorp, the closest major town, with the Overberg Test Range nearby, adding to Arniston’s allure as a coastal gem.

Also read: Exploring Caves and Coves in South Africa

2. Chintsa, Eastern Cape

A view of the Crawford Beach Cabins in Chinsta

Chintsa, nestled on South Africa’s Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape, beckons with its serene charm and natural beauty. Located about 40 kilometers north of East London along the N2 highway, this village is renowned for its 15-kilometer stretch of pristine beach, lush natural forests, and an array of outdoor activities. From cultural encounters to diverse accommodation options and dining spots, Chintsa offers a perfect escape for travelers seeking relaxation and adventure alike.

Meaning “river of crumbling banks” in Xhosa, Chintsa captivates visitors with its unique pronunciation and rich cultural heritage. It’s a place where learning the local Xhosa clicks becomes part of the immersive experience of exploring this captivating destination. Whether you’re horseback riding along the expansive beach, savoring a tranquil moment in a hammock overlooking Chintsa Lagoon, or indulging in fresh seafood at local eateries, Chintsa promises a memorable getaway enriched by its warm climate, vibrant birdlife, and welcoming community spirit.

3. Hamburg, Eastern Cape

Hamburg village - Underrated Coastal Towns

Hamburg village is surrounded by water on three sides – river, estuary and Indian Ocean. Image credit: Marion Whitehead

Established in 1857 by British-German settlers after the Crimean War, Hamburg sits on the southern bank of the Keiskamma River, where it forms a lagoon near its mouth. Originally envisioned as a port town, Hamburg’s development was hindered by harbor silting, yet it has thrived as a beloved family holiday destination, thanks to its picturesque beach and tranquil surroundings.

Visitors to Hamburg can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, from fishing (with the requisite permits) to hiking, canoeing, windsurfing, and birdwatching. The town also boasts cultural attractions like the Keiskamma Art Project, empowering local women through art and craftwork. A highlight is the Keiskamma Tapestry, a 120-meter-long embroidery depicting the history of the Eastern Cape and the Xhosa people, first exhibited at the National Arts Festival in 2004. Accommodation options in Hamburg range from cozy guesthouses and bed-and-breakfasts to self-catering units, ensuring a comfortable stay amid its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

4. Bazley, KwaZulu-Natal

Bazley Beach

Picture: Facebook / Mac Nicol’s Caravan Park

Bazley Beach, nestled on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast south of Durban, holds a serene charm. Named after John Bazley, an engineer and Byrne Settler, the town traces its roots to the 1880s when William Bazley facilitated the opening of the Mzimkulu River mouth at nearby Port Shepstone. John Bazley initially settled here in 1859, cultivating his land along the Ifafa River where he later expanded into sugar farming, establishing a successful mill within just a few years.

Today, Bazley Beach offers a peaceful retreat, perfect for relaxing days by the sea. Accessible via the Sezela motorway turn-off, it provides a quiet haven for beachgoers seeking tranquility away from the bustling city life.

Also read: 10 Picturesque Towns to Explore in the Eastern Cape

5. Munster, KwaZulu-Natal

Munster, Kwazulu-Natal - underrated coastal towns

Picture: Facebook / @Veronica Degenaar – Munster, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Munster boasts some of South Africa’s most pristine and serene beaches, making it an ideal destination for a peaceful coastal getaway. Located just beyond Margate, this quiet village offers a haven away from the bustling crowds, yet remains conveniently close to the border-town of Port Edward, making it a favored stopover for travelers journeying to and from the Eastern Cape.

Munster is renowned for its unspoiled natural beauty, characterized by lush vegetation, rolling farmlands, and breathtaking coastal scenery. It serves as a gateway to the Lower South Coast, where secluded beaches invite relaxation and activities like surfing, fishing, and golfing thrive amidst the region’s picturesque landscapes. The area’s rich biodiversity, including abundant birdlife and occasional wildlife sightings, enhances its appeal as a tranquil retreat for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers alike.

6. Paradise Beach, Jeffreys Bay

Paradise Beach - Places to visit In Jeffreys Bay

Source: Facebook / @Gerd Kellner

Paradise Beach, nestled in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality near Jeffreys Bay, is a hidden gem renowned for its pristine beauty and tranquility. Located approximately 80 kilometers west of Port Elizabeth, this serene suburb boasts 15 kilometers of immaculate sandy coastline. Dolphins frolic in the surf, while the sand quality rivals that of the world’s top five beaches, making it a true marvel of nature.

Visitors praise Paradise Beach for its peaceful ambiance and inviting surroundings, perfect for quality family time and relaxation. It’s an ideal destination to escape the hustle and bustle, offering breathtaking views and a tranquil atmosphere that captivates the senses.

7. Cannon Rocks, Eastern Cape

Cannon Rocks, Eastern Cape - Underrated Coastal Towns

Picture: Facebook / Cannon Rocks Holiday Resort

Cannon Rocks, nestled on South Africa’s Eastern Cape coast between Boknes and the Greater Addo Elephant Park, offers a tranquil escape just 135 km east of Port Elizabeth. This quaint seaside town, part of the Ndlambe Local Municipality, is steeped in history, named after ancient cannons and near the historic Diaz Cross erected by the explorer Bartholomeu Diaz.

Renowned for its role in coastal weather forecasting and marine geology, Cannon Rocks boasts the stunning Salnova Formation and attracts outdoor enthusiasts with activities like kiteboarding, fishing, and scenic hiking trails. Its economy thrives on retirement and holiday housing, drawing remote workers seeking its pristine beaches and quiet community ambiance amidst untouched natural beauty.

Also read: The best beach in each province: Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KZN

8. Scottburgh, KwaZulu-Natal

Scottburgh Caravan Park, Umdoni Coast. Image credit: scottburghcaravanpark.co.za

Scottburgh, situated along KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast, offers a unique blend of pristine beaches and vibrant tourist attractions. Located approximately 53 km southwest of Durban and 58 km northeast of Port Shepstone, this coastal town boasts Blue Flag status for its main beach, alongside Pennington and Park Rynie, making it a popular destination for beachgoers and watersports enthusiasts alike.

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities, from thrilling microlight flights and shark cage diving to serene nature walks in Umdoni Park and exhilarating surf adventures. Scottburgh also offers diverse accommodation options, including hotels, B&Bs, and an award-winning caravan park, ensuring a comfortable stay amidst its rich biodiversity and scenic landscapes.

9. Oyster Bay, Eastern Cape

Oyster Bay, Eastern Cape

Picture: Facebook / Oyster Bay Lodge

Oyster Bay, nestled 22.5 kilometers west of St Francis Bay on the Eastern Cape Coast of South Africa, is a tranquil coastal retreat within the Kouga Local Municipality of the Sarah Baartman District. Known for its expansive sand dunes, river deltas, and pristine beaches, Oyster Bay offers a haven for nature enthusiasts. Visitors can explore numerous hiking trails, indulge in horse riding, mountain biking, and fishing activities, all amidst a backdrop of diverse landscapes including woods, lagoons, and wetlands.

This idyllic destination serves as an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions like the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve, Baviaanskloof, and St Francis Bay, making it a perfect starting point for adventures along Route 62 or The Garden Route. Oyster Bay is celebrated for its extensive coastal and marine biodiversity, maintaining a strong commitment to preserving its natural environment, ensuring a serene getaway rich in natural beauty and outdoor activities.

10. Boknesstrand, Eastern Cape

Boknesstrand - Underrated Coastal Towns

Wide and empty Boknesstrand, where Bartolomeu Dias planted a cross in 1488.

Boknesstrand, a quaint coastal village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, lies near popular destinations such as Cannon Rocks, Kenton-on-Sea, and Port Alfred. Nestled within the scenic Ndlambe Local Municipality in the Sarah Baartman District, it sits at the mouth of the Boknes River, previously known as Jammerfontein. The name “Boknes” originates from the Khoekhoen language, meaning ‘father’s river’, with variations like Bocna and Bokana also found in historical records.

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ALSO READ: 10 MORE Underrated Coastal Towns In South Africa

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