Life’s peachy at the beach
Sal Roux shares her delights in Pennington on the South Coast
PENNINGTON IS A REAL little coastal village. It is an hour from Durban and as the Kelso bridge over the umZinto River was damaged in last year’s floods and still hasn’t been repaired, you have to ignore the Pennington signs on the N3 and take the Sezela offramp instead.
You then have to ignore the two yellow Road Closed signs as you wind your way up the hill, playing dodgem with the potholes. Complicated, indeed. Perhaps the powers-that-be don’t want anyone else to find this place.
As you sweep past Lynton Hall, which is now closed, you drive through a tunnel of trees with the verdant fairways of Selborne Golf Estate on your left and, in front, your first glimpse of the sparkling sea.
This gem is a delight. On the southern border lies Umdoni Park Golf Club, a challenging, sweeping course that affords startling views of the Indian Ocean where you can see whales at play in the winter.
It borders the Umdoni Forest with its nature walks and trails and is an eden for twitchers. My friends spotted a Nerina Trogon in the canopy recently.
The Pennington Conservancy offers guided walks, bird and butterfly and tree spotting and, if you prefer to go it alone, you can cycle, jog or walk along the trails and chances are you may see a Bushbuck or Mphiti or porcupine. Certainly, monkeys are bound to entertain you on your way.
The Indian Ocean along this coast is fickle – one moment seductively clear, calm, warm and inviting and the next pounding in some grey anger with scary rip tides. There are no shark nets here and lifeguards only do duty during peak holiday periods.
The first road into town leads down to the beach past Pennington Superette where they bake divine bread.
Drive across the railway line, that interminable railway that hogs the best seafront positions all the way down to Port Shepstone, and you can park across from the shops.
Have a little wander as this spot has a kiddies’ play area, a viewing deck and, if you are there early enough, you can even enjoy breakfast from the kiosk while watching the waves.
This kiosk is non-profit and all proceeds go to the conservancy. They also offer burgers, toasted sandwiches and salad options at lunch. This is the most popular beach and from here you can walk for kilometres, stop off at coves and have a dip and search for shells or throw a line in from the rocks or shore.
Head right and you will come to a fine fishing spot at the point. During low spring tides there are mussels to be gathered (remember licences and quotas) and rock pools to explore.
Dogs run and dig (the northern aspect has been declared dog-friendly), families build sandcastles, kids shriek in the shallows and parents still rush to the dunes for the succulent plants to rub on stings when the bluebottles come in with the north-easter. The tidal pool is perpetually sanded up, so don’t raise your hopes of a swim in it.
The fun thing about seaside towns is that they are reminiscent of those old bucket and spade days when the seaside shops stocked everything from Boxer tobacco to blow-up beach balls and fat cheeseburgers.
Palms Beach Shop, on the Salmon Drive side, still does, and on a hot day you can grab an ice cream from the freezer and trot back to the beach. Wilkies, near Main Beach, has fishing tackle, a full plant nursery with fertiliser, a book exchange and the postal agency.
Crafts are sold at the Community Centre on the R102 where all goodies are made by local women in a worthwhile self-help scheme, and rather ingenious use is made of old video tapes.
The only gift/coffee shop is in the centre alongside the pub. For a really excellent home-cooked Sunday lunch, head for the garden restaurant at Yellowwood Nursery, but book in advance.
This indigenous nursery is on the R102 and the chef is the former town clerk, Joyce Mann, ably assisted in the nursery by Gaylene Small. Here you will find Maggie
Thatcher, a much-loved bull terrier.
If you want to hit a few balls, head out to Lynton Hall Golf Academy and Driving Range and, after practising your putting on the enormous green, you can enjoy a waffle or sandwich and a cup of coffee. Golf and bowls are both on offer at the retirement village … and not only for retirees.
Pennington has a skiboat club that annually hosts the Easter Couta Classic, a weekend competition with activities and prizes and their very own Miss Pennington competition.
Over weekends it all happens out on the water. Guys fish from their skis, others paddle, some spearfish and, if the break is right, the surfers will be out.
There are some lovely snorkelling spots and child-friendly little pools, especially if the weather is clear and the sea clean and calm.
I have seen some unbelievable activity at Pennington during a good sardine run, bronze whalers thrashing almost on the shore, fishermen frenzied, nets bursting with the weight of sardines, folk gathering packets full of fish and hundreds of wheeling, calling birds circling above schools of feeding dolphin.
Accommodation-wise there is Botha House, which is now a B&B, Ironwood Lodge, which is petfriendly, and Langlois.
For other accommodation options, it’s advisable to rent a cottage or holiday home, of which there are many. And, if you are into caravaning, there are a couple of caravan parks as well.
Otherwise dig a bit deeper and indulge yourself at Selborne Hotel, Spa & Golf Estate. This elegant property has 49 rooms and current rates are R1 000 a night, breakfast included, but watch out for their specials, which are most attractive.
The lodge is gracious and has extensive fabulous grounds, a cosy bar, tennis and pool, a beach club and spa and a restaurant, not forgetting a wonderful golf course.
A great little village, a smudge of history, glorious quiet beaches, stunning sunrises and a special place to take a break.
Pack your bag, fill the cooler box, load the bikes, boards and dogs and spoil yourself.
You may even find you have the beach all to yourself.