The town of Ramsgate owes its existence to the foresight of a travelling violin-maker, Paul Buck, who settled here in the early 1920s. He carved a simple, solitary existence for himself on the edge of Blue Lagoon, as he called it, but it wasn’t long before others followed.
The name Ramsgate is presumed to come from the English resort town of the same name, and there are similarities between this vibrant little spot in the sun and its northerly namesake.
Unlike its bigger, noisier neighbour, Margate, Ramsgate is a place to come to unwind and relax, taking in the sights and sounds of the ocean, enjoying the attractions of the beach and generally doing as little as possible. The lagoon offers canoes and pedal boats, while the swimming beach is guarded by both shark nets and lifeguards.
The combination of a lovely Blue Flag-accredited swimming beach, of which there are only six on the entire KwaZulu-Natal coastline, and a tranquil, laid-back atmosphere, makes Ramsgate a lovely spot to retire from the madding crowd, be it permanently or just for a beak.
That’s not to say there is nothing to do, though. A number of restaurants, including the famed Pistols Saloon and The Waffle House, are social hubs, while there are all sorts of interesting shops and craft centres to browse through.
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Pistols Saloon doesn’t sound much like a place for the whole family, but that’s exactly what it is. A live donkey, Huckleberry, wanders around swigging a can of Coke, while more donkeys and ponies linger outside waiting for children to ride them. The food’s good, too, and there is regular live music.
On the edge of the Ramsgate lagoon is The Waffle House, a local institution that should on no account be missed. Don’t have a sweet tooth, I hear you say? That’s no excuse, because waffles here come in savoury form too, even with a good old Durban curry on top.
The South Coast is banana country (Natal’s sporting teams used to be called the Banana Boys), and if you feel like a bit of agricultural education, head off for a tour of a banana farm.Arts and crafts venues have sprung up all along the south coast, such as Inandi Crafts and S’khumba Crafts. S’khumba offers all manner of leather crafts, while Inandi produces handmade jewellery.
A whale-viewing deck has been established by the local conservancy and all sorts of marine life can be seen from here, especially when the sardines come to town.
Marine Ramble is a six-kilometre path that joins Ramsgate with Southbroom, wandering through bush and along the beach. Watch birds, take the occasional dip and keep an eye out for small game.