11 Best Things to do in St Lucia, South Africa

Are you looking for the best things to do in St Lucia? Here are my recommendations.

Tucked away in the northern region of KwaZulu-Natal, within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the small town of St Lucia serves as the gateway to exploring this ecological wonderland. Around 240km from Durban, it is a charming town where hippos roam the streets, vervet monkeys swing from the trees, bushbuck peek from the shrubs, and dung beetles have right of way.

Hippo at the hotel swimming pool in St Lucia

Hippo at the hotel swimming pool

Surrounded by natural beauty, St Lucia has a variety of activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers, and the town can be explored by car, by bicycle, on foot, or on horseback. We’ve been there several times and feel that it is a must-visit town in South Africa.

Here are the 11 best things to do in St Lucia

1. Explore iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Birds in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Birds in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Covering about 332,000 hectares, iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage site and a treasure trove of biodiversity. The park incorporates a range of ecosystems from dunes and forests to wetlands and coral reefs. You can spend days exploring this ecological wonder, either on self-guided drives or via guided tours.

Noteworthy spots within the park include Lake St Lucia, Cape Vidal, Kosi Bay and the Eastern and Western Shores, where you can spot wildlife on a safari.

2. Go on a Boat Cruise

St Lucia South Africa

Hippos in Lake St Lucia

One of the most popular activities in St Lucia is taking a boat cruise along the winding waterways and lakes that make up the St Lucia estuary system. Look out for the resident hippo pods bobbing in the water and crocodiles basking on the sandy shores. The boat guides will share facts about the area's rich ecosystems as you glide past mangrove forests and spot a kaleidoscope of birdlife. These cruises typically last about two hours and are both educational and entertaining. Book your cruise ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Tip: Take a late afternoon cruise so that you can enjoy the sunset views over the water too.

3. Enjoy the Beaches

St Lucia South Africa

St Lucia beach

The beaches near St Lucia are relatively untouched and offer peace and tranquillity. The main St Lucia Estuary Beach is accessible via a wooden walkways and is a relaxing spot to soak up the sun (although it is not great for swimming). Alternatively, you can head to the picturesque Cape Vidal beach a bit further north to swim. However, always heed local advice regarding safety for swimming, as wildlife is abundant in these waters (especially hippos, crocodiles and sharks).

4. Visit Cape Vidal

Expansive beach

Cape Vidal beach

Cape Vidal has a unique blend of marine and wildlife experiences, including snorkelling, fishing, and game viewing. It's a great place to experience both the bush and beach in one picturesque location as you drive through the game reserve to get to the beaches. We saw elephants, rhinos, buffalos, zebras and myriad birds on our game drive, and stopped at both Mission Rocks beach and Cape Vidal beach.

Snorkellers can witness the underwater world of coral reefs teeming with colourful fish and can also see the remnants of the Dorothea ship which was wrecked in 1898, and was believed to be carrying a cargo of stolen gold. After snorkelling and swimming in Cape Vidal, you can enjoy a braai there too.

5. Take a hike

Beware of wildlife sign in St Lucia

Beware of wildlife sign

St Lucia has several hiking and walking trails where you can appreciate its scenic beauty at your own pace. The Igwalagwala Trail is relatively easy and you can spot plenty of bird species, while the Iphiva Walking Trail offers wildlife and bird-watching. For more rigorous hikes, the trails in the surrounding iSimangaliso Wetland Park provide more challenging terrain and spectacular views.

6. Visit local markets

Beachside craft vendors in St Lucia

Beachside craft vendors

Most of the shops and restaurants in St Lucia are located along the main road. You can pick up unique crafts, art pieces, and souvenirs made by local artisans at the market at the end of McKenzie Street or at the beachside vendors. It’s a great way to support the local economy and take a piece of your travels home with you.

7. Take a guided night drive

For a different perspective on wildlife, take a guided night drive with spotlights through iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The darkness brings out a different set of creatures, from nocturnal birds to elusive predators like leopards and caracals.

8. Experience a turtle tour

From November to March, the beaches around St Lucia and Cape Vidal become nesting grounds for loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Night tours to witness these magnificent creatures laying eggs or hatchlings making their first journey to the sea are truly special experiences. The tours are conducted with respect to the animals, ensuring minimal disturbance.

9. Enjoy whale watching

Between June and November, the waters off St Lucia are bustling with whale activity. Humpback whales migrate through this region and can often be seen breaching and playing in the water. Whale-watching boat tours are available too.

10. Visit Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Things to do in KwaZulu Natal

Elephants in Hluhluwe -Imfolozi Park

Established in 1895, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa. Prior to that, it was the hunting ground of Zulu kings like Shaka, as well as European settlers. Encompassing over 96 000 ha of hilly bushland, the park is a protected wildlife sanctuary with 86 species of mammals and over 400 species of birds, including the Big Five, cheetahs, and wild dogs. It is world-famous for its rhino conservation initiatives which saved the white rhino from extinction. One can self-drive or go on a guided game drive here.

11. Discover Local Culture

In between all your outdoor adventures, learn about the rich cultures that shape this area too. Arrange a tour with a Zulu guide to learn more about their traditions and way of life, which is still preserved in rural communities around St Lucia such as the Nkundusi Village, where you can see demonstrations of activities like basket weaving, local cuisine, and warrior dancing.

St Lucia's slower pace of life makes it an ideal place to unwind and experience so many different facets of South Africa's immense beauty in one convenient destination, at a leisurely pace. Go there for a relaxing vacation.

Where to stay in St Lucia

St Lucia South Africa

Road sign

Stay at Elephant Lakes Hotel or find more accommodation options here.

Have you been there? What are your favourite things to do in St Lucia?

11 Best Things to do in St Lucia, South Africa

3 comments on “11 Best Things to do in St Lucia, South Africa”

  1. Wow this is a part of South Africa I am not familiar with. Love the photo of the dung beetles having the right of way! Sounds like a great place to have many different experiences.

  2. St Lucia looks like a great base for a visit to South Africa. As a bird lover, I’d love to spend some time in iSimangaliso UNESCO site.

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