St Lucia is a tiny town on the East coast of Africa, in the north east of Zululand near the Mozambique border about 3 hours north of Durban by car. The scenery around the town is lush tropical vegetation and wetlands, with beautiful beaches along the coastline. It is surrounded by absolutely gorgeous peaceful panoramic landscapes that have been preserved, and is a wildlife paradise.
The town is in the St. Lucia Wetlands Park, a World Heritage Site, and hence attracts many foreign tourists due to its international importance as one of the last natural protected wetlands on the planet. This beautiful remote reserve has 280 kilometers of natural undisturbed coastline along the Indian Ocean, and is a vast, almost 3300 square kilometer park. The vegetation ranges from wetlands, savannah and forests to ancient dunes. St Lucia is the only nearby town. Hippos, rhinos, zebras and leopards are among the many wild animals wandering about the park.
Things to do
There is a surprising amount to do around this peaceful and serene town. There are a few art and craft shops,some excellent restaurants and pubs, convenience shops and the fruit and vegetable market. The town centre is small and relaxed.The warm Indian ocean along the wide beaches is great for swimming and snorkeling all year round. ( Preferably not in the lakes with the crocs and hippos. )
The main attraction of St.Lucia was originally deep sea fishing for South African sportsmen. It is a superb fishing resort for surf, fly and spear fishing too. Speed boats are available and there are marlin, dorado etc to fish for.There are river boat cruises for sightings of crocodiles and hippos on the lakes. Whale watching is from August till December.
There are many Scenic Drives to take nearby in the park, to enjoy the wonderful views and pure fresh air, to watch wild animals roaming about the wetlands, and explore around the vast lakes and exquisite untouched beaches . The lakes are full of bird life.
The world famous Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Game reserves, and Cape Vidal, are also within easy driving distance.
There are wonderful long stretches of beautiful pristine deserted beaches to walk along, and explore the extraordinary ancient dunes as well as go for hikes and safaris through the reserve. The experience of a safe environment in natural landscape with wild animals wandering about is a unique experience for international tourists.
Where to eat
Several restaurants are in the main road of the town. Naturally they specialise in seafood , such as Braza restaurant; with a Portuguese style of cuisine being so close to the Mozambique border.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed, family-friendly environment then head to Alfredo’s for lunch or dinner. This family-run restaurant offers some of the best Italian food around, and an occasional South African dish.
Breathtaking views and divine bistro-style food await you at Fur Elize. Located right on the edge of the estuary, diners can enjoy their meal surrounded by the natural beauty of St. Lucia.
For a taste of the countryside, PB’s Deli and Bistro is the place to go. Enjoy fresh baked breads at breakfast, tasty comfort food for lunch and choose (or have them all) between delicious cakes for tea.
There is also the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Pub and the St.Lucia Ski Boat Club for those wanting to dig into delicious seafood platters, and good old pub fare. Many of the guesthouses have excellent catering for their visitors too.
There is also a large market place selling pineapples, bananas and the tropical fruit that grows in the area. There is a fairly good grocery shop with basic supplies but if going for self -catering or camping it would be best to stock up at Richards Bay along the way.
Where to stay
There is plentiful accommodation in St. Lucia from where to enjoy the beauty of the wetlands. While St. Lucia might be on the small side, it’s choice in accommodation is not. Guesthouses: Relaxed and idyllic, these offer a personal touch and most of them look out onto large tropical gardens and trees, with swimming pools.
Guestlodges: A more luxurious option, these small personalised lodges offer everything you could want. The gorgeous gardens border the wetlands and monkeys and duikers run around freely. At night hippos sometimes stroll through the streets, drinking out of the swimming pools.
Hotels: For all the basic comforts, and luxury amenities, the hotels in the area are perfect to set up base and then head off exploring.
Self- Catering: There are many self-catering options in St. Lucia, many with gorgeous ocean views. They are top choice for most families.
St Lucia is about 250 kilometers north of Durban, about a 3 hour trip from King Shaka airport. There are also two small airports, one in Richards Bay and one near Hluhluwe for visitors coming in small planes.
Car: It is an easy, pleasant drive up the N2 Highway from Durban, through South Africa's main timber farming areas, with very little traffic.
Taxis/cabs: There are taxi services available in St. Lucia. These tend to be quite pricey if you intend to travel further that a few kilometers in them.
Did You Know
St. Lucia is sometimes muddled with the suburb La Lucia in Durban, or spelt St Lucia, st. lusa, or even St. Lusia
St. Lucia was originally named by Portuguese sailors shipwrecked there in 1554 .They settled next to the estuary, which leads inland to a vast string of lakes which they originally mistook for more sea, and their descendants are still there now , nearly 500 years later.
St. Lucia only as a residential population of 1000 people, but in the summer it has approximately 10 000 visitors daily from all over the world.
The 2nd highest vegetated sand dune range in the world towers over the St. Lucia wetlands and beaches, only overshadowed by the dunes on Frazer Island.