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History of Port Shepstone

Thousands of years before the holiday makers, it was the Khoi and San people who roamed the lovely land and coastline around the Mzimkulu River on the South Coast of the Kingdom of the Zulu where the bustling town of Port Shepstone now lies.

ZulusAfter the Khoi and San came the Nguni who formed small tribes and settled in “homestead” communities. Later came the Zulu influence.

It was not until the late 1820’s that European traders first appeared bartering beads and guns for ivory and Henry Francis Fynn, co-founder of Durban, entertained Shaka, King of the Zulu’s, near the present day Marburg in 1828.

The area south of the Mzimkulu River, named ‘No Mans Land’ was incorporated into the Colony of Natal by the Governor, Lt Col. Bisset in 1866 when the idea of establishing a township at the mouth of the river was mooted. It was to be called SHEPSTONE after the Secretary of Native Affairs, Sir Theophilus Shepstone and was eventually laid out in 1882.

English, German and Norwegian families settled in the area and grew tea, coffee and conveniently, sugar. Indentured Indian labour was introduced to work on the plantations, railways, marble and limestone quarries - still the key commercial activities in the area. Indian traders then followed. The descendants of these people form the basis of our multilingual and multicultural community which today numbers 35 000 people within the municipal boundaries and another 85 000 people in the Traditional areas.

Construction on the harbour at the mouth of the Mzimkulu, essentially to stimulate trade and commercial development was begun in the 1880’s. The sea wall and South Wharf were indeed massive when compared with Durban before Maydon Wharf and the Point with only wooden staging! The fact that the river was navigable for some 8km up to St Helen’s Rock was a great boon to the marble and limestone industries.

Port Shepstone LighthousePort Shepstone, the second port of the colony of Natal, had its own customs house, steam tugs and dredgers and in 1905 the cast iron ‘Checkerboard’ lighthouse shipped from Britain to Natal in 1890’s was erected in its present landmark position. The Port Natal railway line reached Port Shepstone in 1901, and, crossing the river upstream in 1907, gave over 2km’s of wharfage to the harbour. The present road/rail bridge across the river mouth was erected on 1959. Today the N2 Freeway puts Durban just an hour’s drive away from Port Shepstone.

Port Shepstone houses all the provincial government departments and is the seat of the Ugu Regional Council. The infrastructure is well developed with many recreational and shopping facilities, excellent schools, clinics, Provincial and Private Hospitals. The Town Council has initiated its own Development Company and Local Business Service Centre to stimulate new developments, business and employment opportunities, especially in the tourism industry.

The council has instigated a co-ordinated anti-crime campaign and the entire municipal area is under a 24-hour surveillance.

The diverse culture of its people instils a uniqueness that makes this bustling refreshingly different.