Part of the Golden Mile, a strip of some of Durban’s best beaches, North Beach is popular for a reason. Flanked by long piers for leisurely afternoon strolls and dotted with an assortment of food joints, public pools and a merry-go-round, North Beach is always happening. The relatively calm waters make it a popular spot for both swimmers and surfers, and the paved promenade is filled with joggers, skaters and even those just walking their dogs. If you get there early in the morning, you’ll always find company on the sand, as you watch the sun rise over the Indian ocean.
North of Durban is Umhlanga Rocks. It has slightly choppier waters, but it’s quieter and trendier, and it boasts a whalebone pier that CNN dubbed one of the most ‘beautiful piers in the world’. The beach has golden sands and includes a running path that leads from its iconic red-and-white lighthouse all the way to the spectacular iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a world heritage site. The beach is surrounded by some upmarket eateries and is a stone’s throw from Gateway, the biggest mall in Africa.
Also north of Durban and a little further out, you’ll find Umdloti Beach, a popular haven for locals who try to avoid the busier beaches. It’s a cosy, enclosed lagoon-type swimming area with lots of rock pools and an open section to the right that’s suited to surfing. It’s also famous for dolphins early in the morning and whale watching during July to November.
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Often referred to as a ‘hidden gem’, Ansteys Beach is a small beach located in Bluff, a seaside suburb south of Durban, just 10–15km from the city centre. The water has some shallow spots for swimmers, with lifeguards and shark nets in place, and the water is perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing. And if you take a stroll along this laid-back beach at low tide, you can explore the exposed rock pools.
uShaka is sometimes referred to as the apartheid beach, due to the pier in the south, which earned a reputation as a dividing wall. But in spite of its history, this beach is fun, friendly and famous for kayaking, kite surfing and, of course, surfing. Toward the north stretches Addington Beach, reknowned for its surfing, and in the south is uShaka Marine World, which offers a world-class aquarium and water world. Moyo uShaka Pier houses a quirky café, and Vetch’s Pier is perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. And if you’re not in the mood to get wet, simply sit on the grassy higher ground and look out for dolphins on this beautiful stretch of coast, or watch the sand sculptures work their magic.
Lying south of Durban in Isipingo, this quiet, far-flung beach is almost unheard of. Yet it boasts some of the best views of the east’s Dolphin Coast, thanks to its location below a cliff. The rocky beach features numerous tidal pools that host an array of marine habitats, and it draws fishermen from all over, especially during the famous sardine run in winter. It’s a quiet and unassuming location, which reveals its beauty in gentle ways, whether you’re watching whales making their way across the ocean at dawn or you’re spending a late afternoon sitting with fishermen on the rocks.