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Seven secret coastal towns in South Africa

Everyone loves a little beach time and it’s even better if you don’t have to share it with a crowd. Book a trip for the family and try one of these “secret” spots.

Hamburg, Eastern Cape

At the mouth of the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape, you will find Hamburg which was first settled on by British-hired German legionnaires, which explains how it got its name.

Today it’s just a sleepy little hollow on the coast, about 90km from East London, with a pristine beach and river, and where the local backpackers offer guided canoe trails, hiking, fishing and chilling.

Strandfontein, Western Cape

Not to be confused with a beach of the same name in False Bay within the precincts of the City of Cape Town, this tiny village up the West Coast is something of an undiscovered jewel.

Its chief attraction is a beautiful curve of beach to stroll along at sunset. It is about 280km from Cape Town, and about 7km up the coast from the only marginally larger Doringbaai.

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Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal

About 140km north of Durban lies the town of Mtunzini close to the Umlalazi Nature Reserve. With its beautiful lagoon, dunes and sandy beach, it’s a little piece of paradise where nature holds sway.

The town was declared a conservancy in 1995 and has strict conservation rules. It is also famous for having a colony of rare palm-nut vultures that live in the raffia palms, which were planted here near the railway line. There is a timber boardwalk through the swamp forest that will get you closer to the palms.

In general, the area is considered something of a bird watchers’ paradise. Other special birds to look out for are the African finfoot, Narina Trogon and African cuckoo-hawk.

Consider visiting during the Mtunzini Birding Weekend held each year in June/July and remember to pack those binoculars.

Pennington, South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal

The South Coast is generally overrun in the summer season, but this little hamlet (once a farm that belonged to a family called Pennington) is a true gem set amid the lush vegetation of this balmy coastline.

It is a pilot Blue Flag beach, which means there are lifeguards in season, and the Pennington Conservancy runs a wonderful beach kiosk that does teas and Sunday lunches. It’s only about 70km from Durban, so is an easy Sunday outing. Also close by are the Umdoni Park and Selborne golf courses.

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Nature’s Valley, Western Cape

Nature’s Valley lies at the end of the famous five-day Otter Trail, but hikers first have to cross the mouth of the lagoon, which is the dominant feature of this secluded coastal village, before they can call it a day.

The town is aptly named as it is completely surrounded by indigenous forest and the Garden Route National Park, so it’s not unusual to see bushbuck grazing on the lawns. A great outing is a coastal walk to the nearby Salt River mouth, where you can enjoy complete privacy and seclusion.

Pringle Bay, Western Cape

Close to the landmark Hangklip (“hanging rock”), which sits on the outer edge of False Bay, this seaside village is far enough (yet not too far) from Cape Town (some 85km) to have attracted its own permanent residents who have settled here for its mountain views and lovely beach.

The village centre has a handful of decent restaurants where you can get a good meal or enjoy a pint with friends.

Morgan Bay, Eastern Cape

Pretty as a picture and with minimal development, Morgan Bay lies sandwiched between sea cliffs, a lagoon, and a stretch of natural bush on the edge of the Wild Coast.

To the north lies the Kei River, which once served as a border with the old Transkei. There’s not much happening here but when it does, it’s usually centred around the family-owned Morgan Bay Hotel, which offers old-fashioned hospitality of a bygone era.

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