Top 10 budget beach stays in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Wild Coast

Swell Eco Lodge, Mngcibe
Offering a stylish and serene alternative to the sometimes rowdy backpacker lodges in nearby Coffee Bay, Swell Eco Lodge is a clutch of thatched rondavels on a grassy hillside at the mouth of the Mdumbi river, with sweeping ocean views. Each unit is spacious, with handmade furniture and cute, upcycled touches, such as plant pots and toothbrush holders made from old cans and jamjars. Power comes from a wind turbine, and the lodge conserves mains water thanks to a borehole and rainwater collection tanks. It’s a wonderfully remote spot – at night you’re dazzled by a dome of stars.
Self-catering rondavels for two from £38, +27 72 346 5636,

Bulungula Lodge, Nqileni

Bulungula Lodge, Nqileni, South Africa

Bulungula is a legend among the handful of back-to-basics, mildly hippyish lodges scattered over the rolling green hills of the Wild Coast, a deeply rural region far from the main highway. Set up in partnership with the local community and staffed by villagers, this is an eco-lodge with integrity. Local youngsters fund their studies by offering tours and activities, such as canoeing and traditional Xhosa cooking, but there’s no fixed programme and definitely no hard sell – it’s up to you to make your stay your own. The rooms, ablutions and meals are all basic but the coastal setting is sublime.
Self-catering rondavels for two from £21, +27 47 577 8900,

Garden Route (East)

Tranquility B&B, Nature’s Valley

Tranquility B&B, South Africa

Tucked into a wide band of protected coastal forest on a pristine Indian Ocean beach, Nature’s Valley is one of the most secluded spots on the Garden Route. Tranquility is a modest but attractive B&B that has been recently revamped by the people who operate the bloodcurdling Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump, a 20-minute drive away. If you’ve taken the plunge, you can spin out the buzz with a little gentle kayaking, surfing or stand-up paddleboarding, or go for a hike through the forest. There’s a pub with a popular beer garden next door.
Doubles from £57 B&B, +27 44 531 6663,

Storms River Mouth Rest Camp, Tsitsikamma

Sunset at Tsitsikamma, South Africa
Sunset at Tsitsikamma

The Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route national park includes one of the best stretches of coast in Eastern Cape Province to see dolphins, porpoises and, between June and November, migrating southern right whales. The park offers simple accommodation units, some perched right on the wild shore, so you can watch from the moment you awake. Other units are backed by luxuriant forest, laced with hiking trails. Set out on foot and you’re likely to catch a glimpse of a bushbuck antelope or a knysna lourie, a green bird with magnificent scarlet wing feathers.
Self-catering cabins for two from £52, +27 12 428 9111,

Funky Town, Jeffreys Bay

Funky Town, jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Jeffreys Bay, nicknamed J Bay, is a surf-mad town stuffed with bright, breezy backpacker hostels. If you’d prefer something a little more grown up, try Funky Town, a super-cool pad with colour-blocked decor and lively splashes of local contemporary art. The rooms have mini fridges but are purposely TV-free to encourage guests to socialise in the shared kitchen, lounge, garden and plunge pool. The central location, close to J Bay’s shops, restaurants and Main Beach, is a real bonus, and for surf fans, there’s a clincher: Super Tubes, one of the world’s top breaks, is just a mile and a half up the coast.
Self-catering doubles from £39, +27 42 293 3860,

Hibisucs Coast and Dolphin Coast

Wailana Beach Lodge, Ramsgate

Wailana pool from sundeck, Wailana Beach Lodge, Ramsgate, South Africa

The twin beach resorts of Margate and Ramsgate in KwaZulu Natal are holiday central, with Ramsgate the smarter of the two. At Wailana, you’re the guest of a Swiss expat and his wife in their large, laid-back house with a sub-tropical garden and a small but inviting pool. Each of the five bedrooms has a private balcony or sundeck; grab The Captain’s Cabin upstairs for the best views of the Indian Ocean. The nearest stretch of sand is just minutes from the door and Ramsgate’s safe and sparkling Main Beach, which has a Blue Flag and lifeguards, is within easy walking distance.
Doubles from £49 B&B, +27 39 314 4606,

Chartwell Guest House, Umhlanga Rocks

Chartwell Guest House, Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa

About 10 miles north of central Durban, Umhlanga Rocks is a well-to-do coastal retreat with long, golden sands lapped by water that’s warm enough to swim in all year round. In a quiet residential neighbourhood close to the beach and within walking distance of appealing shops and restaurants, Chartwell Guest House offers affordable comfort in a choice of seven rooms, some of which open onto the garden. The owners keep things eco-friendly by being energy efficient, using heat pumps for hot water, irrigating with rainwater and recycling as much as possible.
Doubles from £46 B&B, +27 83 280 2102,

Petite Provence, Salt Rock

Petite Provence, Salt Rock, South Africa

Lovingly furnished in a romantic, shabby-chic style, inspired by villas in the south of France, Petite Provence is a boutique B&B with bags of charm and a small but attractive pool. Each room has polished or painted floors, softly draped fabrics and pretty chandeliers. As with its neighbours, the house stands in a garden of lush sub-tropical trees and shrubs, close to the beach. Breakfast on the terrace is a highlight: you can expect fresh pastries, croissants and homemade jam as well as perfectly cooked eggs.
Doubles from £68 B&B, +27 32 525 5316,

Elephant Coast

St Lucia Wetlands Guest House, St Lucia

St Lucia Wetlands Guest House, South Africa

Whenever you check into a place to stay in St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal, you’re always warned to watch out for the hippos – they have a habit of hauling themselves out of the St Lucia river after dark to munch on lawns and verges. For the eco-tourists who are beginning to outnumber the anglers in this peaceful village, hippos are, of course, an attraction, as are the loggerhead and leatherback turtles which nest on the Indian Ocean shore. The award-winning St Lucia Wetlands Guest House makes an excellent base, with friendly, considerate hosts, a pool and five homely rooms.
Doubles £57 B&B, +27 35 590 1098,

Mseni Lodge, Sodwana Bay

Mseni Lodge, Sodwana Bay, South Africa

Sodwana Bay in iSimangaliso wetland park is a magnet for scuba divers, as some of the world’s southernmost coral reefs are found here. While many visitors stay in the national park camps run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the simple timber chalets at Mseni Lodge are a more comfortable alternative. It’s a peaceful spot, with nothing but forest between you and a coral beach where turtles lay their eggs between November and February. There’s a braai area where you can rustle up a barbecue and a bar that serves meals and looks out over the treetops to the Indian Ocean.
Self-catering chalets for two £48, +27 35 571 0284,