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Richard's Bay is a seaport on the Mhlatuze lagoon in KwaZulu Natal province, on the east coast of South Africa. It is a busy port as huge coal reserves are shipped out from here. It is the world’s largest coal terminal. International yachts moor at the modern yacht basin.
Richard's Bay is the largest commercial centre in the region, and a springboard for tourists visiting the wildlife, wetlands, beach and cultural attractions surrounding the town.
The climate in Richard's Bay is sub-tropical and the golden beaches extend for miles along this coastline, 10 of which are Blue Flag beaches due to their safety, beauty and pristine amenities.
Things to do
Lots of sunshine, warm waters, gentle waves, grassed areas and lifeguards on duty at the Alkantstrand beach make for an idyllic beach outing. This Blue Flag beach has various amenities on site and has been designated to host major surfing competitions in the near future.
The Richard's Bay Game Sanctuary is a marine reserve encompassing an old swamp forest and the tidal mudflats attract huge flocks of varied bird types. The waters are an important breeding ground for several fish species.
East of Richard's Bay lies iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one of the few pristine, undeveloped areas in South Africa where village life continues unperturbed and wildlife roams freely. A World Heritage Site, the park has 10 jewels to explore – the Lake St Lucia Estuary is a haven for crocodiles, hippos and birdlife and the remote Coastal Forest is where human beings rarely set foot – to name just 2 jewels.
The dense Dhlinza Forest in Eshowe is worth a visit purely to traverse the aerial boardwalk for an up close view of vervet monkeys and tree dwelling birds and to watch the various buck species grazing below.
Boats entering the small craft harbour in Richards Bay are required to ‘check-in’ at the Tuzi Gazi Marina with its popular waterfront. The waterfront has various restaurants overlooking the yacht basin and within walking distance is the Meerensee shopping mall. Boats leaving the harbour are given a ‘flight plan’ by the port authority.
For an insight into the Zulu culture, stop in at the Veyane Zulu Cultural Village outside the town of Mtubatuba.
The Umfolozi Hotel Casino Convention Resort in Empangeni promises to be a fun filled day out for adults. Aside from gambling, the resort has several onsite restaurants in which to enjoy a quality meal.
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve north of Richards Bay is the oldest game farm in Africa and the only park in KwaZulu Natal hosting the Big 5 (lion, elephant, hippo, buffalo and rhino). Various safari options, including a self-guided walk, are available at the park.
Enjoy a round of golf at the Richard’s Bay Country Club overlooking unspoilt Lake Mzingazi.
The Empangeni Arts and Cultural History Museum displays fabulous Zulu works of art and artefacts sourced from the pioneer sugar farmers.
Hire fishing equipment from several suppliers in town to do some fishing along the Mhlatuze river mouth.
Where to Eat
Porky’s Seafood and Steakhouse Restaurant is on the marina, the perfect spot to enjoy the well-cooked meals on offer and views of the luxury yachts moored nearby.
The family oriented Outpost Restaurant on Lake Mzingazi is a popular venue over the weekends for their seafood specials. Nice vibe. Booking essential.
Mariners is a Portuguese restaurant located at the harbour and offering first-rate, fresh seafood and sushi dishes. The prawn curry is recommended.
Jacks on the Bay Restaurant is a favourite hangout with the locals and the Sunday buffet is extremely popular. Fresh fish dishes, nicely priced drinks, good décor and a brilliant location.
Mustang Pub & Grill is a festive pub/restaurant at the waterfront where the locals tend to gather. Join them for a Karaoke evening and look out for the regular dinner specials.
Gimbals Richards Bay is located at the Tuzi Gazi marina. This restaurant hosts big name bands and national DJs for their regular weekly themed parties. Big screen TVs available for viewing of major sports events. Be there for the happy hour and prawn specials.
Meerensee’s Basement Bar is a late night dance venue with local DJs on the decks, pool tables and conversation pit.
Pop in for a beer at the Sports Bar in the Richards Bay Indoor Sports Arena.
Where to Stay
Richards Bay has a fantastic selection of accommodation options. Comfortable lodging ranges from immaculate hotels, inns and lodges to charming B&Bs and relaxed caravan parks, all staffed with people eager to make your stay enjoyable.
Air Richards Bay airport provides useful access for travellers wanting to visit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. All flights via the international airports in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Car Two car rental companies are located downtown or you can book your rental online.
Taxi Three taxi operators are based in Richards Bay for your convenience.
Did you know?
When visiting the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve it is suggested that precautions be taken against malaria.
Chief Nkosi Mtubatuba was a Zulu tribal chief living in the area in the 1920s. He was a wealthy cattle owner and would occasionally instruct his tribesman to bring out his money for counting. The money was stuffed in all forms of canister, tin, box and bag. Counting took so long that the final amount was seldom determined and so the charismatic Chief would cease the counting and attempt a recount on another day. The town of Mtubatuba is named after him.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.