St. Lucia
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 28 22.487 E 032 24.712 | pop. 1,000 | elevation 22 m/72 ft

St Lucia is a laid-back coastal town located at the southern tip of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and a great jumping off point for exploring the area’s diverse ecosystems and animal inhabitants. Crocodiles and hippos live in the St Lucia Estuary, which runs along town and into crashing waves and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. At night, hippos are known to roam the quieter streets of town, and locals caution against antagonizing them. After all, they were here first. The lively McKenzie Street is lined with restaurants and tour companies that will happily organize outdoor adventures for you.

KZN Crocodile Centre

KZN Crocodile Centre is an education and conservation facility and home to four species of crocodiles. To see the beasts in action, the best time to come is during the feeding demonstrations on Saturday at 3pm or Sunday at 11:30.


Advantage Tours

Advantage Tours is currently the only legally licensed company for boat-based whale watching within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and is approved by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa. Whale Watching season is late May through December, when giant humpback whales migrate to the warm waters near the coastline to calf and breed. Tours last 2 hours and sightings are guaranteed, otherwise you get a 40 percent refund. They offer late-night turtle tours to Cape Vital from November-February. They can also arrange a variety of activities including hippo/croc boat tours along the estuary, game reserve tours to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing and more.


Heritage Tours & Safaris

Heritage Tours & Safaris can organize safaris, nature walks, horseback riding, cultural tours, quad bike trails and other area activities.


Veyane Cultural Village

For a Zulu experience, you can spend a night in a traditional thatched hut in the Veyane Cultural Village and take part in Zulu dancing, food and beer. Their office also has an onsite Internet café.


Zulu Birding

Zulu Birding offers nature tours and hikes in the surrounding areas led by local guide, Themba, who has extensive knowledge of the 420 species found in St Lucia. Tours can be tailored to your specific interests and birding experience. Two to three-hour tours are on a hop-on, hop-off basis and will take you either along the iGwalagwala Trail or the Iphiva Trail near the entrance to the nature reserve. He also offers 6-day trips into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.


Fafa Tours

Fafa Tours is run by local Khula Village resident Sipho Msweli, who specializes in "living life" Zulu cultural tours. Whether you just want to have a traditional Zulu meal or learn about Zulu traditions, your experience will be customized to your needs and interests. Normal day tours include visiting schools, traditional healers and women weavers, and will give you insight into how old traditions fuse with modern day-to-day Zulu life. You can also stay in Sipho's home, which he is converting to a B&B.


iGwalagwala Hiking Trail

iGwalagwala Hiking Trail is an easy 2 kilometer scenic walk through the forest along the estuary just south of town. It is great for bird watching, and you may encounter other animal friends as well.


St Lucia Kayak Safaris

St Lucia Kayak Safaris can take you on a 2.5 hour guided kayaking tour through the estuary to catch a glimpse of the resident hippos and crocs. For a full day adventure, you can add on a trip into the game reserve and stop at Cape Vidal for a picnic and to dip in the ocean.


Swimming

Swimming off the main beaches in town is not recommended given the danger presented by the nasty swells and swimming in the estuary is generally reserved for crocodiles and hippos. For the best swimming, head to the pristine Cape Vidal beach inside the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, just 35 km north of town.


Pixies

Pixies is run by local surf expert Trevor who offers intensive surf lessons for all experience levels. A two-hour session in the crystal-clear waters of Cape Vidal is accompanied by one hour of snorkeling in the colorful reefs. Groups are limited to two to three people to ensure you get the most for your money. Make sure to book ahead; he's the only surf instructor in town. Expert surfers interested in braving the swells of the main St Lucia beaches should talk to Trevor for tips before going it alone.


Craft Market

Craft Market is where all the local ladies sell crafts and fruit on the main street. It's hard to miss.


Pixies

Pixies has curios, colorful dresses, beach gear and jewelry.


Budget

BiB's International Backpackers

BiB's International Backpackers is laid-back by day and party by night. The beds may leave you wishing for more, but with a Ping-Pong table, pool table, honesty bar and staff that can arrange activities, you're bound to have a good time.


Budget Backpackers

Budget Backpackers has a heavy backpacker vibe that sometimes verges on frat party, but it's quickly becoming mainstay in St Lucia. Dorm rooms sleep six to eight people, but the bunk beds have decent-sized mattresses. The guys who run Heritage Tours & Safaris and St Lucia Safaris own the hostel and can organize all sorts of area activities and volunteer programs.


Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife St Lucia

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife St Lucia is the central office for the two campsites in town. Both sites are equipped with electrical outlets and toilets/showers. The booking office is open 8am-12:30pm & 2pm-4:30pm Mon-Sat and 8am-2pm Sun.


Budget

Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf is located close to the water and has 92 campsites, but is always the first to get packed.


Eden Park

Eden Park is smaller campsite and therefore usually quieter.


Mid-range

Sunset Lodge

Sunset Lodge has private self-catering log cabins and beautiful views overlooking the estuary, which are best enjoyed next to the pool at sunset, hence its name.


Lai-La Log Cabins

Lai-La Log Cabins is a decent budget option for those looking for a quiet place to stay. Cabins, although basic and bare bones, sleep four to five people and are fully equipped, and there is a braai area in the garden. No outside visitors are allowed, and you should be sure to bring your own towels.


Top-end

Serene Estate

Serene Estate is a dramatic example of modern Dutch architecture. Five uber-posh rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the back garden. Your host Olga will whip up a mean breakfast served on the roof garden and you can sip cocktails on the martini deck by the pool. Hippos come to graze in the garden during the night, but don't worry, their legs are too stumpy to step over the small fence.


Lidiko Lodge

Lidiko Lodge is set in a 1930s colonial home surrounded by 16 private en suite garden units decorated in sleek African décor. Enjoy breakfast on the patio overlooking the manicured Tea Garden or lounge around the pool, all within a stone's throw of town.


St Lucia is not known for its gourmet dining options but here are the best picks.


Thyme Square

Thyme Square is a small café and tea garden and a much-needed addition to St Lucia's culinary scene. It serves high quality food, delicious gourmet breakfasts and light lunches including salads with homegrown herbs.


The Quarterdeck

The Quarterdeck serves up decent seafood and huge platters of saucy ribs. Its large deck is great for sunny lunches or breezy dinners.


Braza

Braza is a Portuguese/Mozambican-inspired family restaurant that serves hearty platters and tasty espetadas, Portuguese-style shish kabobs. It's one of the better chain options in town.


Key West

Key West is a local favorite. Heavy drinking turns into late night heavy dancing.


Babooshka Bistro

Babooshka Bistro is a dimly lit sports bar and bohemian lounge that depends heavily on the backpacker crowd. Wednesday is karaoke night and live music rocks the bistro Friday and Saturday nights. At the time of research it was also revamping its menu to include affordably priced pub eats.


Babooshka Bistro

Babooshka Bistro is a dimly lit sports bar and bohemian lounge that depends heavily on the backpacker crowd. Wednesday is karaoke night and live music rocks the bistro Friday and Saturday nights. At the time of research it was also revamping its menu to include affordably priced pub eats.


Key West

Key West is a local favorite. Heavy drinking turns into late night heavy dancing.