If you have to ask what there is to do in Durban, water-wise, then baby you might have come to the wrong place! (hint: sea, sun). This is the famed Bay of Plenty where the weather report is pretty much always balmy to sweltering with isolated showers, so take your cozzie* and sunscreen and you're set for a good time. You can swim, tan, surf, paddle and dive. If you don't like the beach or ocean, there are plenty of land-based activities for you to enjoy in Durban.
As the old Jeremy Taylor song Ag Pleez Daddy says about Durbs: “There's spans of sea and sand and sun and fish* in the aquarium; that's a lekker* place for a ho-lee-daaaay!”
All swimming beaches in Durban, and indeed the entire KwaZulu-Natal coast, are protected by anti-shark nets (find out more about the Natal Sharks Board). There has not been an attack for many decades in protected areas. You can also see which stretches of beach have lifeguards by the red flags.
Beaches along Durban's six-kilometre Golden Mile, facing onto the Bay of Plenty, are divided roughly into North and South beaches.
The main surfing area is Dairy Beach, the focal point of North Beach opposite the main hotel precinct (just watch for where the surfers are hagning out and you're there). This is also the main swimming area, although the surf can get really big and rough, and on public holidays very crowded. You can arrange surfboard hire, lessons and even surfing safaris here through African Wild Surf Tours . This is where former world surfing champ Shaun Tomson learnt to cut the lip.
If the surf is too big for you on North Beach, head southwards towards the Harbour, where South Beach is divided roughly into Addington, Pirates and Ushaka beaches: the size of the surf diminishes southwards. At uShaka Beach you can hire a surfboard, surf-ski or canoe, and take lessons and guided trips if you want.
Yachting, Paddling and Diving
At Pirates Beach you'll find the Point Yacht Club clubhouse, as well as the Durban Undersea clubhouse from where scuba dives are conducted.
At Umhlanga Rocks, where many of the local sun-lovers now live, the surfing and swimming are not nearly as good as in the Bay of Plenty, but the crowd is generally younger and more hip. The main hangout is Bronze Beach – just watch out for dumpers and rip currents off the steep beach.
Much less known, and in fact you can thank me for the information, is that two of Durban's best swimming and surfing beaches are on the south side of The Bluff – the promontory that defines the harbour entrance. To get there involves a drive through dodgy industrial areas, but if the bay is messy it is worth the trip to Ansteys or Brighton beaches.
Fly a Kite, Go Surfing
Most kitesurfers take off from Virginia Beach in Durban North, that is north of Blue Lagoon, the Umngeni River mouth. The other spot is Umdloti lagoon, about 30 minutes north of Durban. If you want to hire or to learn, try Ocean2Air, also the Durban sea can be a bit hectic for beginners.
Serious surf-ski paddlers beach at the Point clubhouse (see above). You might even see local hero Oscar Chalupsky (10-time Molokai champ) out for paddle if you're there real early.
You really should not need to ask what to do in Durban, water-wise, just take the plunge.