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  • Fillers at Spillers

    Some say that Port Shepstone lacks tourism attractions and in comparison to our other urban areas like Scottburgh and Margate the town is somewhat dull. I am not sure that is the case- especially when one nips down to the evergreen Umzimkhulu River.

    There the historic Spillers Wharf is in my opinion a little gem. It has an idyllic riverside setting with much for locals and visitors to enjoy. Besides a variety of retail and some accommodation the choice for dining is impressive- hospitable fish, curry and shisa nyama restaurants are there with their varied non pocket denting menus.

    On any given day, the wharf provides that chill as you fill ambience. On the day I went, people (and there were a lot) chatted away to their hearts content and the overflow from the verandas took up seats under the shady trees and sipped icy cocktails right next to the robust river. Down near the bridge, boats loaded up after a blue sky day at sea and all around us all sorts of birds (including the haunting Fish Eagle) winged their way along this lushly vegetated valley.

    On the far side on the ever popular golf course, players were finishing off their round no doubt keen to have their first sip of the good stuff and tell tales of their day and many other fine days on the fairways of the South Coast.

    Port Shepstone has in effect a mini waterfront right on its doorstep. It is in itself a worthy destination. I know of a Midlands family who own a holiday home at Southport and regularly come down here. They make a trip to Spillers a compulsory part of their stay.

    During the day what could be easier for people working in the town to take their lunch at the river and return (in time I hope) to work with batteries re-charged. Who would think that not 500m behind them our administrative capital would be carrying on with its daily grind.

    During this Easter season, I went to a number of places up and down the coast so see how things were getting on. Nearly every location visited had a healthy number of people enjoying a sunny day out. Spillers Wharf was no exception which goes to show that within the South Coast there is truly a tiara of treasures and treats.

    This is autumn? Not by any stretch of the imagination- that’s why we can proudly call ourselves a definitive 365 destination. Champagne days indeed!

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  • Time to Go Caribbean

    The Margate beach promenade is an ideal venue for the upcoming South Coast Bike Fest 2018 from 27-30 April.

    The scenic seaside location of the varied retail areas the main stage and bar areas coupled with the colourful coming and going of the thousands of bikers and members of the public all set amongst palm groves and the blue sea creates an almost tropical island feel.

    With musical genres to suit all ears (including rock and reggae) within a comprehensive entertainment and bike activity programme the scene is set for a very festive time. Just an idea- what if locals dressed very beach cum Caribbean style to suit the ambience of the venue- now that would add spice to the vibe menu.

    I know of a lot of bikers who will be travelling many hundreds of kilometres to get here, listen to their preferred bands and socialise with fellow bikers and South Africans under the warm April skies. It is an opportunity for South Coasters to show their renowned hospitable personas and for everybody to really enjoy the magic that is Margate.

    With the new 2018 version of the Southern Explorer Route Guide now in our Visitor Information Centres attendees will be able to read up and travel all the 9 routes and Great Drives Out in this excellent publication. I know that there are a number of spots outside Margate that are ever popular with the biking fraternity- even as far down as lovely Port Edward. They just love to rev out and chill out on our beautiful coast and in the hilly areas inland.

    I’m looking for rasta headgear to get into the swing of things mon! Roll on (not a joint) South Coast Bike Fest - www.soutcoastbikefest.co.za

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  • The To and Fro of the Tides

    On Monday I was waiting to attend a meeting (some people from Durban was to do an event here) at St Michaels and had a few hours to kill. I watched the coming in of the tide as well as the flow of the hundreds of people who came and went as time moved on. It was a busy but not overcrowded beach day.
    The waves were rolling in as swimmers body surfed or just bobbed up and down as they thrust through each wave front. Nearby the inflatable water slide was ever busy (as were the nearby restaurants) and in the lagoon, people paddled peacefully upstream in their hired boats.
    Moms and dads accompanied their children whilst they fished or just explored the rocks and big logs that had been washed onshore. Couples sat quietly as the sun began to set having refreshments and a picnic on the grass banks or on the waterside rocks.
    Local vendors plied their trade and in one corner a Christian group with an oversized cross had gatherings whilst adherents to the Muslim faith relaxed happily nearby with their families.
    School and youth groups did their beach fun stuff as the ever vigilant lifeguards ensured that bathers kept between the beacons.
    The tide was coming in at a pace and people crossed the lagoon holding hands and in some cases allowed themselves to be washed by the surge into the lagoon.
    All ages, dimensions and origins were there and I could not help but appreciate how all and sundry were respectful of each other’s presence on the beach. People like the tide came and went- those with young children left early and were replaced to the sunset leisure strollers and dog walkers (off beach).
    Then at last the water slide gave a sigh of resignation as it was deflated- the boats were put to rest and then the beach was nigh empty whilst the restaurants hosted the last of their hungry and thirsty customers. In the apartments, guests sat on their balconies and bade farewell to a lovely warm day. The hotel lights provided lovely reflections on the still water as the evening closed in.
    This is the essence of what the South Coast is and that is why we do host people from afar even over long weekends. We are a place where external things can be put aside and true leisure prevails.
    It is not over yet- there is also the South Coast Bike Fest (www.southcoastbikefest.co.za) coming up at month end so let’s make this time of year somewhat special. 

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  • More Than Meets the Eye

    Many perceive Gamalakhe as a fairly congested urban area without very much to offer the tourist but after field analysis last week, our team has uncovered a number of sites that in future could well be an integral part of our tourism marketing mix.

    We found religious sites, an outdoor entertainment area, green belt areas with natural parkland that could be used for eco- trails.

    Plans are afoot to develop a cultural centre based on the original clans that lived in the area which could be a great introduction to the township which has a story to tell. At “Tin Town” for example locals have been offering time travel experiences which is an exemplar of Gamalakhe’s heritage.

    Up on the high escarpment there are superb view sites over the Uvongo River Valley and the Esayidi TVET College with its own tourism and hospitality school is an ideal launch pad for future reception and hosting of groups. Did you know they have 162 beds for overnight accommodation?

    Down in the valley lies a unique and very creative entertainment centre with all sorts of quirky outdoor art and colourful structures much akin to what one finds at the popular Nieu- Bethesda in the Karoo- this I believe will develop into a unique must see attraction on the South Coast.

    With the Ugu Sport and Leisure Centre at its entry and the Gamalakhe Stadium opportunity for events and sports competition also arises.

    The town has its fair share of homestays, taverns and commemorative sites and all this coupled with the warm vibrancy of its people establishes a basis on which to develop tourism and leisure in the area.

    When we started our surveys, I was concerned that there may be little to write home about- however after a full morning plotting the spots, taking photos, talking to people with much local knowledge and finding some real gems, there is in fact a case for more tourism activity there.

    Oh and we found a little golf course up on the plateau - but that is a great story for another day.

    The more we investigate our hinterland, the more it reveals. It’s just a matter of keeping one’s eyes open and taking to the open roads.

    Full story


    It’s March and I am still seeing a number of our delightful spots hosting not only a lot of foreign visitors but also many folk from up country- it is after all probably the beginning of the best and most comfortable time of year to visit.

    I usually return to the South Coast from my home in the Midlands on a Sunday and being a very poor DIY cook I go to some or other local to have a supper and prepare on my laptop for the week ahead.

    Last Sunday was one of those magic South Coast days- sunny skies, beautiful sea and hardly a breeze.   I parked off at St Michael’s beach and in between writing up the beginnings of the tourism plan for nearby Gamalakhe I took in the sights and sounds of sundowner time at one of our favourite beaches.

    A family of eight from up country (Vereeneging I think) was at the table next to me and as their children played happily on the generous lawns the adults sipped away at cocktails as if they were on some exotic tropical island. Then at supper time their order arrived accompanied with gasps at the generosity of helping for what the inexpensive menu may have suggested. One happy family- tick.

    Other couples were private and content in their togetherness and at a large table a birthday gathering was in exuberant swing. The mix of isiZulu, English, Afrikaans and German speaking people was there and all very content getting on merrily with the end of a lovely weekend and socialising.

    It’s days like this that capture the essence of the South Coast- unhurried, chilled, inexpensive and something for everybody. That is why we remain that special place with an endearing recipe that really reinforces us as a likable leisure land for weekenders and holidaymakers. As one visitor I spoke to said “Who needs to live in cities if we can have all of this”.

    For me it was a pity I had work the next day otherwise I would have stayed there a lot longer. Who knows one day I may take time out and holiday here-  the stay will not dent the pocket and I am sure the blood pressure will get to acceptable levels!

    What a pleasant Sunday in the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

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     Before we know it, the first school and long weekend breaks will be on us and as usual our beach activations will be clicking into gear up and down our coast. We and other event related service providers are ready to provide multiple activities and events which we have incorporated into our seasonal events programme. There will be lots to do and see for those who will be taking that well-earned first break in 2018. I feel that March and April are actually ideal time of year for a getaway. Our weather is classic and not as humid as January and February and the temperatures are excellent to really soak in the sun and enjoy the ocean to its fullest. At this time thousands of kids will come down for sports related training and events as presented by the Margate Sports School which will be presenting their programme for the 25th year. What a boon it will be if we can grow the number of sport codes at the same time and create a South Coast Sports Week? This is something we are in fact working on. At the end of April (27-30) we again host the vibey South Coast Bike Fest which will be a blast for motor cycle addicts and the general public who will be spoilt with an entertainment programme par excellence. This will be really rainbow festivity here in our palm fringed paradise. To locals I say invite your best pals and family from out of town to the event- we want the better our 60 000 attendances from 2017! We advise that people who know of visitors coming down to please access hospitality and accommodation options via the South Coast Tourism’s, Southern Explorer and South Coast Bike Fest websites and consider using accredited letting agencies to ensure that their choice of stay meets expectation. We want everybody to return home mega satisfied. Here’s to great upcoming time in our lovely leisure land.

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    Public safety in our seas is of critical importance especially when we are predominantly a nationally and internationally recognised seaside destination.

    Our beaches are considered of the best in South Africa but when a situation arises and people get into difficulty and the lifeguard teams are out of reach, it is the local NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) that springs into action and more often than not a good outcome results.

    The dedicated NSRI teams are selfless volunteers who at short notice are called upon to drop what they are doing, get to launch and go out and save lives.  They are local heroes who provide a year round service much to the comfort of the many thousands of beach and sea users.

    This is why we have made an award to the NSRI stations at Shelly Beach and Port Edward. I am told that another station is earmarked for Rocky Bay near Scottburgh and if true then we can be comforted that our entire stretch of the coastline will have excellent service coverage.

    From our own funds we have in the past provided much needed equipment for the NSRI and will consider doing so again. Tourism in both the private and public spheres does need to recognise the daring work carried from the stations.

    I suppose that this is a bit of a plea for individual donors, the corporate sector and philanthropists to donate to our own NSRI stations-  their sustained efficiency does depend on such gestures.

    When we go to tourism shows many people from up country (who may not be used to being in the sea or have limited swimming skills) ask “Is the sea safe down there?”

    Because we have a number of permanently managed beaches with life guards (and of course our Blue Flag beaches with beach stewards) and the additional support from the NSRI, we are in a strong position to neutralise their concerns.

    Let’s continue to keep our maritime gem on that even keel of being sunny and safe.

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    Laid back Munster now has a new tourism attraction to boast about.

    Besides some lovely seaside homes and hospitality properties there is now the Munster Motor Museum.

    Before the launch last week, I took a trip to the site and was shown around the property.

    In a nutshell the collection of classic cars, motoring library and motor racing memorabilia are really worth the gentle drive down to Munster. Rod (the owner) has plans to in time expand his collection and at times have “guest” displays of collectable vehicles.

    He also has a collection of things maritime which may well be of interest to curators at the Maritime Museum when is gets formally launched in Port Shepstone.

    His property overlooks a scenic lake and no doubt in time there will be some sort of outdoor hosting areas as well.

    Hats off to Rod and his team for their endeavours and may their attraction accelerate to success. What with the Dezzie South Coast Raceway at Oslo Beach and this new addition to our product mix I have a good feel that motoring tourism may well become a bigger feature in our destination sell.

    I believe that towards the end of the year some 150 Porsche owners are coming for a visit and will be hosting some sort of public display as well. It goes to show that car owner organisations love to travel and pout their mechanical wonders – so where better then here on the South Coast.

    With the South Coast Bike Fest at the end of April, we will encourage bikers to take rides out inland and up and down our lovely coastline.

    Full story


    We all know from recent experience how disruptive and infuriating an issue like water supply can be for the tourism and leisure sector. Thankfully it appears that most of the South Coast is sorted and we can look forward to a well hydrated Easter season.

    Just imagine what Cape Town is going through! Over 4 million people and this time of the year being a very important time for many hundreds of long haul tourists escaping the coldest months in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Cape Town Tourism has reported a worrying number of cancellations because of the Day Zero prospect and there is also the distinct probability that supply recovery will be a very long process. Given that scale of Cape Town’s tourism economy this has to be of dire concern in the short to medium term.

    I empathise with the tourism sector down there because the Western Cape is justifiably a must see destination that is often a springboard for visitors to tour the rest of South Africa. This is where we come in.

    Shortly we are to attend the Cape Getaway Show to promote the South Coast and our intention is to glean interest from the people of the Cape especially during their own cold (and hopefully wet) months. Now that there is an air service between Cape Town and Margate this too is something we want to push.

    We have noted that our golf courses are hosting an increasing number of European golfers and the unbelievable value they get here will be a plug we will use when engaging with the long stay foreigners at the show.

    The Cape is realising that there are great touring options beyond the scenic Overberg the charming Winelands and a bit further out the Garden Route and this is why we want to quench their travel thirst to come here. After all our winter waters are still noticeably warmer than down their way in Summer!- hence us being very much a 365 day destination.

    At Easter time, there are few places in Africa that can boast a better maritime climate than here on the South Coast and our ventures to the Cape and to the Beeld Holiday Show in Johannesburg will we trust bring loyal and new tourism customers over the next few months.

    Finally just a reminder that the South Coast Bike Fest (27-30 April) looms and we will soon announce a great biker and entertainment programme- who knows the Cape Bikers may trek up for that extravaganza as well?

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    In December our staff in conjunction with helpers from the WESSA Beach Stewards Programme conducted a visitor satisfaction survey in Ramsgate, Margate and Hibberdene and the South Coast did very well thank you!

    Some 94% indicated that they were likely to more than likely to return here in holiday- it’s our great beaches (again 94% were happy with the cleanliness of the beaches) and value for money folks! This is a high market retention and/or return prospect.

    92% Showed satisfaction with beach and visitor information staff and 91% were pleased at the beach activity options, family orientated activations and events- something the South Coast is famed for during our holiday seasons.

    There was also a good satisfaction level (90%) in terms of accommodation and given our variety of things to see and do 83% felt that there is ample choice based on their preferences- and we continue to add new experiences- take our enjoyable cultural outings in rural areas through our Great Drives Out brand for example.

    98% Found the attitude of VIC staff and residents on the plus side- well done South Coasters we did better than the grumpy gang may wish to think!

    Only 5% felt that product information was lacking- the rest gave us the big thumbs up. Hey all they need to do is check out our website or that for the Southern Explorer Route Guide or take a hard copy of the guide and also call in at any of our friendly Visitor Information Centres and all’s sorted.

    9% Of respondents were not satisfied with the presentation of ablutions and 5% relating to security. These are aspects that we do keep and eye (or nose) on so that even higher levels of satisfaction are achieved.

    So in a final analysis this sampling suggests that as a destination the South Coast is still a very worthy holiday option.

    We cannot be complacent about this good set of indicators- hence our commitment to our visitors to ensure they have a sunny (weather and happy) and safe time in our sub tropical pleasure-land.

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