History of Port Shepstone

Port Shepstone - The Heart of the Hibiscus Coast

A harbour was immediately built at the opening of the river mouth for marine trade. The first coaster entered the harbour on the 8 May 1880, initiating regular trade between Durban and Port Shepstone. The main exports for many years after that were marble slabs, sugar and lime.

Port Shepstone LighthouseThe development of the village was boosted by the arrival of 200 Norwegian settlers who were brought out to farm the area. On their arrival, some of the settlers immediately noticed the potential for seafaring trade and devoted their time and energy to developing the harbour and its facilities.

By 1893 Port Shepstone was functioning as a full fiscal harbour. However, when the railway from Durban reached Port Shepstone, the harbour was doomed. It fell into disuse and eventually the river silted up again, making the harbour impossible to use.

Port Shepstone Lighthouse developed out of the signal station, which was a natural requirement during the period that Port Shepstone was actually a harbour. An ordinary ship masthead lantern was exhibited from the top of a ladder- like structure and came into operation during 1895.

The present cast iron lighthouse was erected during 1906. It was first located at Scottburgh where it marked the southern extremity of the infamous Aliwal Shoal and thereafter it was transferred to its present position.

Port Shepstone was named after Sir Theophilus Shepstone, a South African statesman.

During June of each year, Port Shepstone becomes famous for the sardine run which has Kwazulu-Natal abuzz with activity, a strange phenomenon which not only feeds man but the whole marine ecology for a brief spell each year. Southern Right whales and dolphins are also sighted.

The closest wreck is that of the Defiance which ran aground during the night of 6 October 1871 near the mouth of the Umzimkulu River, bound from Bombay to Liverpool with a cargo of cotton and buffalo horns on board.

Today Port Shepstone is the administrative, commercial, distribution and transport centre of the South Coast. On the outskirts of the town is a charming church, which is the cultural and social focus of the Norwegian settlers’ descendants.

Aerial photo of Umzimkulu river mouth port Shepstoneaerial phot of port shepstone

port shepstone cbd from google earth

Port Shepstone golf clubGolfer at Port Shepstone Country Club

The Port Shepstone Jail

The Port Shepstone Jail that is in Courthouse Road was built in 1891, of stones that had been quarried below water level near the Umzimkulu River mouth. In 1892, the listed surgeon reported that there was an increase of illness amongst the prisoners due the dampness in the rocks that had been used to build the prison walls.

Dick King Ndogeni Statue

This monument is to remind us that Dick King and his servant Ndongeni passed through here on his famous ride form Durban to Grahamstown in 1842 to go and obtain help from the British soldiers who were in danger of surrendering because of starvation. Riding mostly at night Dick and Ndongeni stuck close to the coast, swimming across the Umkomazi and Umzimkulu Rivers. At Mpenjati River, they cut inland and rode together as far as Mgazi in the Eastern Cape where Ndogeni continued back on foot. Dick King continued to Grahamstown where he succeeded in getting help for the soldiers. Port Shepstone has also named one of the streets after Dick and even though it is one of the lesser roads, it recalls an epic ride by two gallant men. Ndogeni was given a farm in the Umzimkulu valley near St Faith’s in 1898 as a reward for his participation in the ride that saved Durban from the British. The farm stills bears the name Ndogeni.

Norwegian Settlers Church

After the New Norwegian church had been built in 1998, part of the older church which was originally built by the Norwegian settlers who arrived in Port Shepstone in 1882 aboard the Lapland, was converted into a museum. Mary Neethling, who was responsible for establishing the Port Shepstone museum, has also played a large role in establishing the Norwegians Settlers museum, the museum contains artifacts, costume and memorabilia of the early settlers. A book containing historical facts and family trees of the Norwegian settlers can be purchased at the museum. Although church services are no longer held in the old church, it is still used for weddings and funerals.

Port Shepstone Golf Course

The first 9 hole golf course in Port Shepstone was laid out in 1912, situated between the present sight of the Dutch Reformed Church and Port Shepstone High School with the southern boundary being the Umbango River. The greens were sand in those days. In 1928 Mr Neil McKenzie and the committee decided to engage Syd Brews to design a 9 hole golf course and the present site. Mr McKenzie with the help of the club members, local farmers and farm labourers, ploughed, harrowed and leveled the golf course and duly planted the grass for the fairways and greens. Whilst digging a fossilized elephant’s tooth was found which is presently still housed at the local museum. Mr. Young was engaged to build the First Club House. Mr. Neil McKenzie, the first President and Founder of the Club passed away in March 1938. The McKenzie Trophy Competition, in memory of him, still takes place every at Port Shepstone Country Club.

Last Updated (Saturday, 12 July 2008 14:09)

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