PORT SHEPSTONE - GPS : 30° 45′ 0″ S, 30° 27′ 0″ E
Hugging the southern bank of the mighty Mzimkhulu River – “the great home of all rivers” in Zulu – Port Shepstone came into being when marble was discovered near the river mouth in 1867. What is today KwaZulu-Natal South Coast’s largest town, Port Shepstone flourished from 1879 when William Bazley (see Bazley description on Scottburgh Home Page) – one of the world’s first underwater demolition experts – blasted away rock at the mouth to form the Umzimkulu breakwater.
Named after a Mr Shepstone, one of the area’s most prominent citizens at the time, Port Shepstone’s history – like that of the entire KwaZulu-Natal South Coast – covers two distinct periods - namely pre- and post-rail.
Prior the arrival of the newly constructed South Coast railway line on the northern bank of the Mzimkhulu River on 26 July, 1901, the region’s growth depended solely on a port that was developed inside the river’s mouth. This, as it turned out, was a stop/start affair, with boats being wrecked fairly regularly and blocking the harbour entrance. Difficulties aside, the port provided vital transport for the tea, coffee and sugar cane grown by the few intrepid 1880 farmers along the river’s banks, while bringing in needed supplies on the return voyages from Durban.
Then in 1882, with the arrival of 246 Norwegian, 175 Briton and 112 German settlers, this shipping service became even more important. Coming in by the boatload these new settlers were given the opportunity to purchase 100 acre lots around the town at 7 shillings and 6 pence an acre. This sudden influx helped swell the local population from one, to six hundred in just two years and their different cultural influences are still felt to this day.
Port Shepstone was declared “a full fiscal port’ in 1893 and – after Durban – officially became the region’s second harbour. Eventually though the ongoing wreckages and arrival of the railway was to see the gradual closure of the harbour and the start of the real Port Shepstone boom.