Cool and relaxed mood

For some reason, the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal has always played second fiddle to its more glitzy rival north of the Umgeni River.

For some reason, the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal has always played second fiddle to its more glitzy rival north of the Umgeni River.

It has never carried the prestige or glamour of some of the North Coast towns. Mention Ballito, Umhlanga Rocks or even La Mercy and you better have deep pockets if you wish to stay a week there.

In contrast, the South Coast tends to be a lot more reasonable on the back pocket and for the majority of its coastline, more attractive as well.

Although parts of it have been severely damaged by the tidal waves that pounded the region earlier this year, most of the beaches are picture-perfect and, best of all, largely deserted.

My base for a couple of days was the Protea Karridene Beach Resort in Illovo, a comfortable 30-minute drive south of Durban.

Depending on how much time you have and how much of a hurry you are in to reach your destination, there are two roads to explore the South Coast.

The N2 is by far the quickest way to head south, but if time is on your side use the old South Coast road which hugs the coastline and takes you to your destination via some of the most spectacular beaches imaginable.

Just south of Amanzimtoti lies Warner Beach, which is like stepping back in time.

The main road that runs through it is lined with antique shops that sell anything and everything from bygone eras.

Stinkwood beds, oak dressing tables, cutlery sets and even antique clocks are all for sale at prices that are negotiable.

Keep on driving south and you pass through Doonside and Winklespruit and eventually arrive in Illovo.

If its bright lights, busy malls and the club scene you are after, then this is definitely not the place for you.

Remote and away from it all is probably a better description. Cross the railway line via an overhead walkway next to the hotel and the beach seems to stretch forever. Wide stretches of open, golden sand with not a soul in sight provide for a relaxing time.

Out of season, expect only to see the odd fisherman or perhaps young couples enjoying a few days away. A definite plus, though, is that the beach is patrolled by lifeguards seven days a week, which is reassuring if you are not a strong swimmer.

Breakfast at the hotel provides one with the usual selection of delicacies. Fresh fruit, cereals, cold meats, cheeses and of course bacon and eggs are all available along with fresh juices.

The atmosphere is relaxed and, depending on what you have planned for the day, you can take your time - either in the restaurant itself or outside by the pool - and savour the unhurried pace with that extra cup of coffee.

Facilities include squash courts, games room, tennis courts and a putt-putt course.

Rooms are air-conditioned, which will come in handy on those humid summer days.

The Illovo Nursery and Bird Park, just around the corner from the hotel, offers a pleasant way to while away an hour or two as you stroll through the immaculate gardens and check out the many water features. A wide range of seedlings, herbs and plants are on sale along with a shop selling gifts for every occasion.

Depending on the time of day you visit, various meals are available - ranging from toasted sandwiches to a three-course lunch or just cake and coffee for R25. This can all be eaten on the wooden deck which overlooks a small dam.